Everyone loves an island paradise and the Mexican Caribbean is home to some of the best island living around. Isla Mujeres is directly off the Cancun mainland, and Cozumel can be found a few miles out from the Playa del Carmen shoreline. But in the battle of the islands, is Isla Mujeres or Cozumel better? Let’s find out.
Which island is easier to get to?
Most visitors to Isla Mujeres or Cozumel will take a ferry – Cancun to Isla Mujeres takes around 20-25 minutes and Playa del Carmen to Cozumel around twice as long, at 45 minutes. Getting to Cancun or Playa del Carmen is easy from the main Cancun airport, with direct buses and taxis available to each destination.
Cozumel visitors also have the option of flying into the island’s own international airport. However, prices can be high and routes are limited, meaning this will be an option for only a limited number of visitors.
Winner: There’s no standout winner, so we’ll call this one a TIE.
Which island has better beaches?
This will be another close-fought round, with both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel home to some of the region’s best stretches of beach.
Cozumel has sections of almost deserted coastline to be enjoyed, as well as fully developed areas offering facilities and quality beach clubs.The southern side of the island has great beaches that are easily accessible from the cruise ports. Most are sheltered, making them perfect for snorkeling and swimming. The wilder eastern beaches are more secluded, but have stronger currents and more waves, making them less attractive to visitors.
Isla Mujeres boasts a beach that’s often named the best in Mexico. Playa Norte has become very developed over the last fifteen years or so, with beachfront bars, hotels and beach clubs, as well as an active boat tour scene. But it retains its staggering beauty, as well as offering respite from the worst of the sargassum that blights this part of Mexico each year – although this can still be a problem at times. The island’s central beach is another popular white-sand turquoise-ocean option and both beaches are easily accessed straight from the ferry port.
Winner: ISLA MUJERES. Although Cozumel has some enviable beaches, Isla Mujeres has to win thanks to the unbeatable charm of Playa Norte beach.
Which island has better diving?
Both Cozumel and Isla Mujeres benefit from fantastic access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, meaning coral, tropical fish, and turtles can be easily spotted on a dive trip.
Cozumel has a reputation for the best diving, and boasts around 40 dive sites, which are enough to keep even the most experienced diver happy. There are dive sites suited to all experience levels, from novice to dive master. Also, the island has a huge number of dive shops offering trips to the island’s swim-through, wall, and wreck sites at very reasonable prices.
Isla Mujeres is also popular for snorkel and dive trips from the mainland. Whale sharks pass through the waters as part of their migration route from early-June to mid-September each year, and this is one of the most popular times to dive. Isla Mujeres is also home to the MUSA underwater museum, which is an artificially constructed reef made up of art installations that offers a unique dive experience.
Winner: COZUMEL. Despite Isla Mujeres having much in the way of enticing diving, Cozumel has to win this category for the sheer number and variety of dive sites.
Which island has more things to do?
Isla Mujeres comes in at a petite 1.7 sq miles, while Cozumel is a much larger 185 sq miles. Despite the difference in size, both islands have plenty to do.
Some of Cozumel’s main attractions are:
- Dive and snorkel sites aplenty
- Passion Island – a deserted island paradise
- Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park
- Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
- Mayan architectural site at San Gervasio
Isla Mujeres offers the following activities, among others:
- Dive the MUSA underwater museum
- Visit Garrafon Reef Park
- Punta Sur Park with a small Mayan site dedicated to the goddess Ixchel
- Take a day trip to nearby bird-filled Isla Contoy
Winner: COZUMEL. For its size, Cozumel packs a big punch when it comes to things to do.
Which island is more expensive?
A vacation to Cozumel or Isla Mujeres will generally be more expensive than staying on the mainland of Mexico, as goods have to be transported over from the mainland.
Cozumel’s main town of San Miguel can see inflated prices in stores and restaurants, due to it being the gateway to the island, as well as being where most cruise ship visitors will spend their time. Accommodation prices vary wildly in Cozumel, with budget hotels as well as ultra-luxe options available. Restaurants may be slightly cheaper in Cozumel, where there is a less well-developed food scene.
Isla Mujeres can be very expensive, with plenty of luxury resorts and foodie-friendly restaurants, but it does also have a decent budget scene, with some reasonably priced hotels and resorts, and budget eats to be found. Transportation costs vary on Isla Mujeres, as there’s a well-developed – and relatively cheap – bus system running routes around the whole island. But equally, golf carts are popular, but are pretty expensive at around 50 USD per day.
Winner: TIE. It’s too hard to call this one – both islands are expensive when compared to mainland Mexico destinations.
Cozumel just beats Isla Mujeres in this island battle. However, it’s a close-fought race and both islands are worth visiting in their own right.
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