Vacation

5 min read

Cozumel or Cancun: Ultimate 2024 Vacation Smackdown!

Ever found yourself in a Mexican standoff between two tropical paradises? Dive into the Cozumel vs. Cancun showdown to discover your dream vacation spot!

Tobi Miles
July 20, 2023

Mexico is home to no shortage of idyllic summer vacation destinations, but few are as iconic as Cozumel and Cancun. Cozumel and Cancun are both located in the same beautiful state: Quintana Roo. So, how are Cozumel and Cancun different?

Cozumel is much safer than Cancun as Cancun is the 6th most dangerous city in Mexico. It’s also cheaper to visit Cozumel than Cancun because resorts cost at least $60 less per night in Cozumel, on average. The beaches are nicer in Cancun because you can find up to 7 miles of uninterrupted beach space, but the beaches in Cozumel are far less crowded.

Both Cozumel and Cancun are known for having lavish resorts and pristine, white-sand beaches. The weather is typically the same between Cozumel and Cancun with highs in the mid-90s and lows in the upper-60s-low-70s throughout the year. Follow along as we compare Cozumel to Cancun and see how they differ.

Cozumel Vs. Cancun- Which Is Better?

When it comes to activities and beach space, Cancun is better than Cozumel. However, Cozumel and Cancun are equal when it comes to dining. Cancun boasts better seafood, but Cozumel is home to amazing dishes like ceviche, empanadas, and pozole.

Is Cozumel or Cancun Safer?

Cozumel and Cancun both feature high levels of crime. However, Cozumel is generally safer than Cancun when it comes to both property crime and violent crime. Crime in Cozumel drastically dropped between 2018 and 2019, but the same cannot be said for Cancun.

With that said, the hotel zone in Cancun is considered much safer than the rest of the city. This has a lot to do with the high volume of reputable businesses in the area as well as the police presence. Cozumel and Cancun are in the same state, however, so both cities are susceptible to violence and property crime.

Stick to tourist-centric areas when you visit either Cozumel or Cancun. This will ensure that you have the safety of visibility and police in the area that work hard to protect areas with a high volume of tourists. Cancun is considered the 6th most dangerous city in Mexico, and Cozumel doesn’t even rank in the top 13 most dangerous cities in the country.

Is Cozumel or Cancun Cheaper?

Vacationing in Cozumel is cheaper than vacationing in Cancun. The overall cost per night of resorts, meals, and activities is cheaper in Cozumel than in Cancun. For example, the average cost per night for a resort in Cozumel is $139 per night, whereas the average cost in Cancun is at least $200 per night.

The cost of dining in both Cozumel and Cancun is quite similar with $25-$30 per person being standard in each city. Cancun is a bigger tourist attraction with nearly twice the amount of visitors per year, so the inflated cost of lodging and transportation is understandable.

Cozumel

Weather

Cozumel wouldn’t be as popular of a vacation destination as it is if it weren’t for the idyllic weather. Cold weather is quite rare in Cozumel, and the coldest month of the year is January when temperatures drop to 69 degrees on some days. Besides that, you can expect temperatures between the low 70s and mid-90s throughout the year.

The best weather that you will experience in Cozumel is from March to May when temperatures fluctuate between 72 degrees and 89 degrees. After that, temperatures soar throughout the summer with highs in the low 90s during July and August.

However, it’s important to consider that hurricanes are possible in Cozumel. The hurricane season in Cozumel lasts from June to November.

Resorts

Cozumel island, Mexico

Like many Mexican vacation destinations, Cozumel is known for having many lavish resorts. The most popular resorts in Cozumel include Grand Park Royal Cozumel and Occidental Cozumel. It costs an average of $139 per night to stay at a resort in Cozumel, but rates cost as much as $440 per night.

The resorts in Cozumel are also quieter than the ones in Cancun because Cozumel sees fewer visitors per year. An average of 3.5 million people visit Cozumel per year, whereas 8.5 million people have visited Cancun in the last few years, on average. While the resorts in Cozumel see millions of visitors per year, they are far less crowded than what you will find in Canun.

Activities

Cozumel is home to endless activities, and many of them revolve around spending time in the water. Scuba diving is a popular activity in Cozumel, and the clear blue water is the perfect space for exploring the ocean. Snorkeling, diving, and swimming at the beach are all popular as well, and there is plenty of space for these activities.

Playa Palancar is a popular free beach in Cozumel that you can spend your whole day at. Cozumel is also home to many amazing hiking trails and outdoor recreation areas, such as Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park. It’s also worth visiting the Cozumel Museum which features 11 interactive exhibits that explore the history and diversity of the island.

You won’t run out of things to do in Cozumel quickly, whether it be island tours or days at the beach.

Dining

It’s no secret that Cozumel is a hotspot for Mexican cuisine, and that’s one of the biggest draws for visiting this unique city. Cozumel is known for signature dishes such as ceviche, pozole, huarache, and empanadas. Many of the top resorts in Cozumel, such as Secrets Aura Cozumel and Cozumel Palace offer a great mixture of authentic Mexican cuisine as well as Italian and American dishes.

Cozumel is also known for seafood, such as Pescado frito which is a delicious fried fish dish. Some of the best and most popular restaurants in Cozumel include La Choza, Mister Taco, La Monina, and Guisados.

Transportation

It’s easy to get to and from Cozumel because of the Cozumel International Airport. This makes it easy to get to your destination without stopping at another city in Mexico and taking a long shuttle to your hotel. Getting around Cozumel is also quite convenient because there are plenty of taxis.

Cozumel is also home to a great public transportation system. Luckily, you can also get around on foot in Cozumel, especially if you spend time downtown where many of the bars and restaurants are within walking distance. You can also rent scooters throughout Cozumel, and that’s a great way to explore the area at your pace.

Cancun

Weather

There is no bad time to visit Cancun because there is consistently great weather throughout the year. January and February are the coldest months of the year in Cancun with temperatures between 67 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit. While this isn’t cold by many traveler’s standards, it’s cool compared to the consistent low 90s temperatures from June-August.

However, hurricanes are always a possibility in Cancun between June and November. Luckily, there hasn’t been a major hurricane in Cancun since Wilma in 2005. Rain and tropical storms are still possible, however, and September is the rainiest month of the year in Cancun.

Resorts

Cancun is known amongst travelers throughout the world for the city’s iconic hotel zone. The most popular resorts in Cancun include Hilton Cancun and The Westin Resort & Spa. Cancun offers an even mix of hotels, resorts, and all-inclusive resorts.

With that said resorts in Cancun cost more on average than resorts in Cozumel. It costs up to $200 per night to stay at a standard hotel in Cancun, but high-end resorts exceed $300 per night. The resorts in Cancun can get quite busy because 8.5 million people visit the city per year on average since the post-COVID-19 travel resurgence.

Activities

While you may immediately picture the lavish resorts when you think of Cancun, it’s the beaches that will take your breath away. You can find up to 7 miles of continuous beach space in Cancun, and that comes in handy considering how many people visit the city per year. While millions of people visit Cancun’s beaches per year, the amount of free space means you’ll be able to enjoy some time at the beach without feeling crowded.

There are 20 beaches to choose from in Cancun, but it’s the 11 beaches within the hotel zone that are most popular. Watersports such as parasailing are quite popular in Cancun, especially at Playa Delfines.

Cancun is also known for cenotes, which are underground channels with water. Exploring the cenotes in Cancun is an unforgettable experience, and the best cenotes in the area include Chichen Itza and Cenote Azul. If you need a break from physical activities, you can always visit one of the many museums in Cancun, such as Museo del Automóvil Antiguo del Sureste.

Dining

Cochinita Pibil Mexican food with pico de gallo lemon and chili

Whether it be shrimp ceviche or panucho, you won’t struggle to find some breathtaking dishes in Cancun. Cancun is known for amazing seafood, but staple Mexican dishes like tamales and castacan are also quite popular in the city. While many of the resorts in Cancun boast impressive and authentic cuisine, the best food you will find is when you explore the city.

Visit Taboo Cancun and Restaurante Benazuza if you’re interested in fine dining. Other options like Restaurante Careyes and El Oasis Mariscos are great examples of local food that won’t cost you a fortune. The average cost of a sit-down meal in Cancun is $25 per person when dining within the hotel zone.

Transportation

Flying to Cancun from the U.S. is easy because of the large and impressive Cancun International Airport. You can also find nearly 40 direct flights from the United States to Cozumel from major cities, such as New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and more. Once you’re in Cancun, you won’t have a hard time finding taxis, shuttles, rentals, and rideshare services.

It’s slightly easier to get around Cancun than Cozumel because of how many options there are within the famous hotel zone. Cancun also boasts an easy-to-use public transportation system that is useful if you don’t want to spend a fortune on taxis during your stay. There are also several bike and scooter rental services near the beaches and hotels in Cancun.

The average cost of a taxi from the Cancun International Airport to the hotel zone is $35. However, the average cost of a taxi cab in Cancun is just $12. Of course, costs vary based on passengers and distance, but it’s cheaper to get around Cozumel than Cancun.

Are The Beaches Nicer In Cozumel or Cancun?

Cancun features nicer beaches than Cozumel. The beaches in Cancun are bigger, with one that features 7 miles of continuous space. While Cancun features nicer beaches than Cozumel, the beaches in Cozumel are far less crowded than what you’ll find in Cancun.

However, the beaches on Cozumel’s west side are quite impressive and keep up with Cancun’s beautiful beaches. Playa del Carmen in particular is one of Cozumel’s most beautiful beaches, and it can keep up with Cancun’s white sand beaches. Otherwise, Cancun’s beaches are nice than what you’ll find in Cozumel because there are 20 to choose from and they all feature smooth sand and calm water.

Is It Cheaper to Fly to Cozumel or Cancun?

It costs slightly more to fly to Cancun than to Cozumel, but the price difference is minimal. For example, a roundtrip flight to Cancun from St. Louis costs $574 whereas the same roundtrip flight to Cozumel costs $568. The difference is small enough that it shouldn’t impact your choice between both destinations.

So Which Destination Should I Go For?

You should go to Cancun if you want more options for dining, lodging, activities, and beaches. However, Cozumel is a better option than Cancun if you want to avoid crowds. Cancun sees an average of 5 million more visitors per year than Cozumel which means you will have to navigate large crowds throughout the year.

Both Cancun and Cozumel are known for iconic dishes like ceviche, pozole, empanadas, and huarache. However, you should consider visiting Cozumel instead of Cancun if you are worried about avoiding crime. Crime dropped by 50% between 2018 and 2019 in Cozumel, but Cancun remains the 6th most dangerous city in Mexico.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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