Are you planning a holiday to Mexico and having a hard time deciding between Isla Mujeres or Cozumel? That’s a pretty great problem to have! While both islands offer similar attractions like snorkeling in coral reefs and sugar soft white beaches, they also have distinct differences that certain travelers may prefer over others. These two beautiful islands are located in the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo i.e. the Mexican Caribbean.
Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel At A Glance
For a quick overview of the differences between the two islands, here’s a table of key points to consider.
Ferry, private plane
Ferry, international flights, local flights
Range of Activities
Numerous beachfront night clubs and bars
A handful of bars in town and beach clubs
Yes, from Cancun
Yes, from Cancun
Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel Key Points in Detail
Plan your arrival
Cozumel has an international airport so getting a flight directly into Cozumel is much easier. From the USA, you can fly in to Cozumel from Denver and Houston. You can also fly in from Cancun and Mexico City.
A ferry departs daily from Playa del Carmen, a beach town 1 hours outside of Cancun. The ferry ride is a quick 30 minutes.
When visiting Isla Mujeres, the most popular option is a 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun. The other option is a private jet which is too costly for the average man on the street.
In terms of transportation to the two islands, your arrival options for Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel are much the same.
Selection of activities
The range of activities on Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel directly link to the respective sizes of each island. Cozumel is much larger than Isla Mujeres so naturally there is a wider range of activities on offer. For travelers who like to keep busy all day, Cozumel can be a better choice because of the variety of activities you can do:
- Punta Sur Eco Park
- Scuba Diving
- Mayan ruins
- Chankanaab Lagoon
- Celarain Lighthouse
In Isla Mujeres, there are still a great number of activities to enjoy including:
- Golf cart tours of the island
- Playa Norte
- Underwater museum
While Cozumel does have a thriving nightlife, it is much quieter than Isla Mujeres overall. Leave the bustling San Miguel town centre and you’re surrounded by the tranquility of beaches, gently crashing waves and sea air.
On the other hand, Isla Mujeres has more of a party atmosphere considering the majority of attractions lie close to the vibey Playa Norte. By night, when the hordes of day visitors have ferried back to Cancun, the island feels much more peaceful and quiet, especially on the Punta Sur side.
Being a bigger, more commercialized island, Cozumel is very expensive and not for the budget traveller. Finding a meal for under $15 can prove impossible. Accommodation also comes at a steeper price on Cozumel.
Food on Isla Mujeres is a lot cheaper with plenty of laid back restaurants, bars and takeaways to eat at. There are also cheaper accommodation options including luxury backpacker style resorts for a lot less than you’ll find on Cozumel.
When you look at Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel costs, Isla Mujeres definitely comes out on top.
If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen or Cancun, day trips to both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are easy. Ferry rides range from 20 to 30 minutes making for a quick passage across to your destination.
However when comparing day trips from Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel, Cozumel makes taking day trips a little easier. Cozumel is a much bigger island with a lot more hotels and visitors driving up demand for ferries departing the ports. Places you can visit for the day from Cozumel:
- Playa del Carmen
There are still a few fun day trips to take if you’re staying on Isla Mujeres, including:
- Playa del Carmen
The majority of travelers take a day trip from Cancun to Isla Mujeres as opposed to staying on Isla Mujeres itself. It is a small island and while there’s lots to do, busy bodies might get antsy to move on to their next destination or head back to the mainland.
Beaches on Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel are both the same as one would come to expect from premier island destinations. Expect white sand beaches, turquoise oceans teeming with tropical fish, swaying palm trees and thatched beach bars.
The beaches in Isla Mujeres tend to be “cleaner” as Cozumel has a rockier landscape so seaweed and debris can get caught up in the rocks. Isla Mujeres has long, winding stretches of powdery white beaches with the main North Beach being free to access with numerous beach bars.
To visit a less rocky beach in Cozumel, you’ll most likely need to pay for beach club access or hang out at your resort’s private beach.
Deciding on Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel ultimately comes down to a few factors. The number one consideration is whether you’re planning to make one island your base or whether you’re just interested in a day trip. If it’s only a day trip you’re planning, schedule a visit to both. Isla Mujeres is a much more budget-friendly option than Cozumel so if you’re on a tight budget, consider Isla Mujeres.
With vibrant marine life and coral reefs in both locations, snorkeling and scuba diving are equally good in both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Finally, it comes down to preference. Perhaps reading through this information and looking at pictures of both islands, one will pull on your heart strings more than the other. And as the saying goes, you should always follow your heart!
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