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Cancun vs Cozumel: The Ultimate Guide for Planning a Family Trip in Mexico

Cancun vs Cozumel: The Ultimate Guide for Planning a Family Trip in Mexico

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Are you debating between a Cozumel or Cancun vacation? Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about choosing a trip to Cancun vs Cozumel.
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Are you debating Cancun vs Cozumel for your next Mexico family vacation? Keep scrolling for a comparison of Cancun vs Cozumel to see which Caribbean hot spot you should visit!

Cancun and Cozumel are popular tourist destinations for families and solo travelers. Each Caribbean hot spot has powdery sands, white sand beaches, luxury resorts, and endless palm trees.

However, Cancun and Cozumel are very different places with different family activities. Keep reading to find the best choice for your next family trip to Mexico!

Overview of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is located in southeastern Mexico, renowned for its stunning beaches, natural beauty, rich history, and loaded cultural history.

The Yucatan Peninsula, including both Cozumel and Cancun, is deeply rooted in Ancient Mayan civilization, evident in the many archaeological sites, or Mayan ruins, that offer a brief glimpse into the region’s extraordinary history.

Swimmeres in X-Canche cenote in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico.
This cenote is 30 km from center of town Valladolid near Mayan site Ek Balam. Yucatan peninsula, Mexico.
X-Canche is one of the many cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Yucatan Peninsula is the only place you’ll find cenotes worldwide. Cenotes are like freshwater swimming holes connected via an intricate underground cave system.

And don’t forget about the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef in the world that stretches from Mexico through Belize to Guatemala and Honduras. This expansive reef system makes this region excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving.

This region is full of wonder, history, and adventure. No matter where you end up, there are endless options for you and your family.

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When to Visit Cozumel vs Cancun

Cancun and Cozumel are most popular during their dry season, from November to April, with December to February being the busiest times. The dry season means pleasant temperatures and minimal rainfall.

Beautiful sandy beach on Cozumel island, Mexico
I suggest visiting Cozumel in April, May, October, or November.

In Cozumel, the dry season brings more cruise ships to the main port. Some people estimate that Cozumel sees almost 100,000 weekly island guests during the high season.

Conversely, Cancun attracts many tourists during the holidays and winter months. Many people travel to Cancun’s beaches and around downtown Cancun to attend various winter music festivals and events, causing the streets to get even more crowded.

I believe April, May, October, and November are the best months to visit both Cancun vs Cozumel, as the weather is still nice, and there are fewer tourists.

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Getting to Cancun vs Cozumel

Cancun International Airport is the 10th busiest airport in the world, with an average of over 500 daily flights. Most major international airlines offer direct flights into Cancun at competitive prices.

Runway in Cancun Airport, Mexico
The Cancun airport is a pretty busy place.

Cancun international airport is also close to the city center of Cancun, making transportation in and out of the airport pretty straightforward.

On the other hand, Cozumel International Airport is significantly smaller and much simpler to operate. However, there are direct flights to Cozumel, typically from Canada, the United States, and other Mexican cities.

Where to Stay in Cozumel vs Cancun

Here are some of the best resort options for Cancun vs Cozumel.

Best Kid-Friendly Cozumel Resorts

InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa, an IHG Hotel

InterContental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa is one of the best all-inclusive resorts on the island that is excellent for families and children.

Cozumel Hotel

It has extensive hotel grounds, a swimming pool, children-friendly activities, and beach clubs with beach access.

This is the best option for large families looking for a whole package and complete pampering on Cozumel. Check the latest rates and availability.

Hotel Playa Azul Cozumel

Hotel Playa Azul is another top choice for those seeking high-end resorts near the Cozumel Reefs National Park.

Cozumel Hotel

You can easily snorkel right from the private beach here to experience all the thriving coral reefs offer.

Additionally, it’s an excellent choice for families with a special kids’ pool and game room near the beach clubs. Check the latest rates and availability.

Casa del Mar Cozumel Hotel & Dive Resorts

Casa del Mar Cozumel Hotel & Dive Resorts is a more affordable option for your fun beach vacations.

Cozumel Hotel

This hotel is across from Stingray Beach and has a relaxing outdoor pool, game room, and tennis courts. Check the latest rates and availability.

Best Kid-Friendly Cancun Resorts

Iberostar Selection Cancun All Inclusive

Iberostar Selection Cancun is one of Cozumel’s largest, most well-known all-inclusive resorts. It has a large outdoor pool, only steps away from the powdery sand that only Cancun offers.

Cancun Hotel

The resort also offers babysitting options, a kids club, a kids’ pool, and a games room. So, if you need a break or want more activities for the little ones, this is the best choice for you. Check the latest rates and availability.

Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla

Canopy by Hilton Cancun is another excellent in this popular tourist destination.

Cancun Hotel

It has several outdoor pools, including a rooftop pool with a stunning view, a playground for kids, and bicycle rentals. The rooms themselves are large, spacious, and clean. Check the latest rates and availability.

Residence Inn by Marriot Cancun Hotel Zone

Residence Inn by Marriot Cancun Hotel Zone is a smaller hotel with a large rooftop view and spectacular sunset views.

Cancun Hotel

It is only a 4-minute drive from popular Playa Delfines and many other popular destinations in the Riviera Maya. Check the latest rates and availability.

Check out my favorite all-inclusive Cancun resorts for families!

Best Things to do in Cancun and Cozumel

Cancun and Cozumel have many activities for the whole family, including beautiful beaches, quality scuba diving, and vibrant nightlife. Let’s look at some of the best activities in Cozumel and Cancun.

Things to do in Cancun with Kids

Chichen Itza

You can’t visit the east coast of Mexico without trying to make time for Chichen Itza. After all, it is one of the ten Man Made Wonders of the World.

Kukulkan pyramid in Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
I highly recommend a day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun.

This tour to Chichen Itza includes all transportation, planning, and entrance fees, as well as stops in some of the best cenotes and the town of Valladolid. Check the latest rates and availability.

Tulum’s Archeological Ruins

Tulum’s Archeological Ruins are no Chichen Itza, but it is interesting and a great way to spend time away from the beach.

Ancient mayan ruins at the Tulum archaeological site, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
It’s worth checking out the ancient Mayan ruins at the Tulum archaeological site.

For culture enthusiasts, this full-day archeological tour takes you to Tulum Mayan Ruins and Coba Ruins to experience every piece of the Mayan culture. Check the latest rates and availability.

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a small island about 12 miles (20 kilometers) off the Cancun coast. Isla Mujeres is infamous for having some of the best beaches in the Mexican Caribbean.

perfect tropical sea landscape. island Isla Mujeres (Women Island). Mexico, Yucatan
Isla Mujeres is a fun Cancun day trip.

This catamaran boat tour from Cancun includes an open bar, buffet lunch, and a stop at some of the best snorkeling spots in the Riviera Maya. Check the latest rates and availability.

Holbox Island

Holbox Island is about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Cancun and is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is known for long stretches of white sandy beaches and a laid-back vibe.

Hammocks in the water at Punta Cocos, Isla Holbox, Mexico
Aren’t these hammocks at Holbox Island cute?

This full-day tour takes you from Cancun to Holbox and is a great way to observe the local wildlife in the region naturally. Check the latest rates and availability.

Swim with Whale Sharks

If you’re in Cancun between April and August, you must look into swimming with whale sharks. Whale sharks come to feed not too far off the east coast of Mexico.

Whale Shark in Cabo San Lucas
See how many whale sharks you can spot!

Swimming with whale sharks is an unforgettable memory you can’t experience in many places.

This full-day whale shark tour is a great option, but it isn’t recommended for children under three years old. Check the latest rates and availability.

Things to do in Cozumel with Kids

Snorkeling

Cozumel isn’t all beach bars and beach clubs. Cozumel is also well-known for its stunning marine life, incredible snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Find out the top 15 Oahu family activities for kids featured by top US travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland
Cozumel is great for snorkeling with kids!

If you and your family want to make the most of the spectacular reefs in Cozumel, consider a snorkel tour that takes you to the best spots.

This glass-bottom boat tour takes you to three different reefs and is so much fun for everyone. Check the latest rates and availability.

Atlantis Submarine Experience

Cozumel is so much more than just Mexico’s largest Caribbean island. It is also home to a state-of-the-art submarine that can take you to the most beautiful parts of Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Check out this Cozumel submarine experience so everyone in the family can see what’s sitting right off the rocky beaches of Cozumel. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cozumel Water Parks

One of the best places to find fun for the whole family is one of the many water parks near the hotel zone of Cozumel.

These water parks often include an open bar, all-you-can-eat options, floating water parks, and other exciting activities for the entire family.

This tour takes you to Playa Mia Beach Break, one of my favorite water parks in Cozumel reefs national park. Check the latest rates and availability.

Punta Sur Eco Park

Punta Sur is located at the southernmost tip of Cozumel, about a 30-minute drive from Punta Lagonsta Cruise Terminal and a 40-minute drive from downtown San Miguel Cozumel.

Here, you can relax on some of Cozumel’s most beautiful and exclusive beaches. You can also take lagoon tours to spot crocodiles, climb the Celarain lighthouse for stunning views, and more.

This private van tour can take the entire family to the other side of the island to visit Punta Sur. Check the latest rates and availability.

Catamaran Snorkel to El Cielo

El Cielo is perhaps one of the most well-known beaches in Cozumel. It has wonderful marine life and is the ideal location for any Mexican beach vacation.

You can take a boat tour to El Cielo, which includes snorkeling in some of the best spots on the island. Check the latest rates and availability.

Scuba Diving in Cancun vs Cozumel

When it comes to scuba diving, the Cancun vs Cozumel debate is tricky. Both have some of the best diving in Quintana Roo.

Image of scuba divers and a sea turtle
Cozumel and Cancun both have awesome diving opportunities.

Cozumel is known for stunning drift dives across mesmerizing reefs, while Cancun is a good starting point for the cenote cave dive. Either way, scuba divers are in for a real treat.

If you’re a certified diver in Cozumel, consider this 2-tank morning dive with a professional guide that will take you to the best spots in all of Cozumel. Check the latest rates and availability.

If you’re relaxing on the beaches in Cancun, consider a morning or afternoon dedicated to diving at the underwater museum just off Isla Mujeres. While this is not the best activity for young children, it’s great for beginners. Check the latest rates and availability.

Beaches in Cancun vs Cozumel

Regarding Cancun vs Cozumel beaches, Cancun just slightly wins here. Cozumel’s beaches are rough, with fewer public beach access points. Cancun beaches, on the other hand, are plentiful and excellent for families.

Playa Delfines in Cancun Mexico
Playa Delfines in Cancun Mexico

The best beaches in Cancun include:

  • Playa Delfines
  • Playa Caracol
  • Playa Chac Mool
  • Playa Langosta

The best beaches in Cozumel include:

  • Punta Sur Park
  • Passion Island Beaches
  • Playa Punta Morena
  • Playa Chen Rio

Day Trips from Cancun and Cozumel

Popular Cancun Day Trips

Cancun has the perfect location because there are so many wonderful areas nearby. Here are some of the most popular day trips from Cancun.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is only 42 miles (68 kilometers) from Cancun. Playa has excellent beaches, a great nightlife and party scene, and a few well-known all-inclusive resorts.

Aerial view of famous Playa del Carmen public beach in Quintana roo, Mexico
Playa del Carmen is a cool day trip from Cancun.

You can easily take a bus or taxi from Cancun airport, Cancun’s hotel zone, or anywhere around Cancun. It’s an easy and fun day trip from Cancun.

Tulum

If you’re just in the region visiting Cancun, try to break away and visit Tulum during your downtime.

Ruins of the Mayan fortress and temple near Tulum, Mexico
This is a temple near Tulum.

Tulum has incredible tour options, including nearby Maya ruins, stunning freshwater cenotes, and some of the best sandy beaches.

This Tulum Ruins tour has a great cultural lesson from a professional guide and the chance to swim with sea turtles. Check the latest rates and availability.

Valladolid

Valladolid is the closest city to Chichen Itza, so it’s a popular place to stop on their way to the wonderous Maya ruins.

Image of Fountain and main plaza - Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid is a cute place to walk around and shop.

If you have more time in Valladolid, visit some of the many cenotes surrounding the small city.

This full-day tour in Cancun includes a stop in Valladolid on the way to the marvelous ruins. Check the latest rates and availability.

Rio Lagartos

Rio Lagartos & Las Coloradas is a small region near Cancun with vibrant pink waters and tons of natural wildlife, including crocodiles and flamingos.

Unfortunately, Rio Lagartos is a bit far from Cancun, so it isn’t as popular.

But this full-day tour takes you from Cancun to Rio Lagartos for an unforgettable experience for the whole family. Check the latest rates and availability.

Popular Cozumel Day Trips

Most people visit San Miguel de Cozumel for the incredible dive sites or as a quick stop on a cruise ship.

And because Cozumel is just an island near Playa del Carmen, day trips are a little more difficult as you’ll have to take a ferry to leave the island.

However, there are still some great options for those that want to escape the luxurious all-inclusive resorts or get some time off this massive rock.

Playa del Carmen

Playa is only about 30 miles (47 kilometers) from Cozumel, making it an easy and fast day trip via one of the two ferries running every hour.

Fundadores park at sunrise at the beach town of Playa del Carmen in Mexico
Playa del Carmen is a short ferry ride from Cozumel.

Because of the short, 45-minute ferry ride, this is the perfect way to get a quick escape, whether staying on the island or arriving via Punta Langosta Cruise Terminal.

Isla Mujeres

Unfortunately, there are no ferries that connect Isla Mujeres to Cozumel.

The best way to get from one island to another is to travel from Cozumel to Cancun via ferry and bus/taxi, then ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres.

Isla Mujeres Mexico boats turquoise Caribbean sea Quintana Roo
It’s worth the extra effort to get to Isla Mujeres from Cozumel.

However, once you make this journey, it’s well worth it. Isla Mujeres is nothing like Cancun vs Cozumel, and there is much more to see.

Tulum

Taking a brief day trip from Cozumel to Tulum is also possible. You would take the ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen and then venture to Tulum.

However, this tour will take you from Cozumel to the Tulum ruins, so you don’t have to worry about planning or navigation. Check the latest rates and availability.

Can You Do Both Cancun and Cozumel?

Cancun and Cozumel are only 70 miles (113 kilometers), land and sea miles apart. So, you can certainly visit both Cancun and Cozumel.

Depending on how much time you have, I would highly recommend this for the whole family.

How to Get to Cozumel from Cancun

Unfortunately, there is no direct way to travel from Cancun to Cozumel. You must take a bus, taxi, or private transportation from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. And then take a ferry from Playa to Cozumel.

Cancun to Cozumel ferry

Unfortunately, there’s no direct ferry from Cancun to Cozumel.

Cancun vs Cozumel FAQs

How far is Cozumel from Cancun?

Cozumel is 70 miles (113 kilometers) from Cancun. It takes approximately one hour to travel from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and 45 minutes from Playa to Cozumel. So, the trip from Cancun to Cozumel should take about 2 hours.

Is Cozumel Safer than Cancun?

Cozumel is statistically safer than Cancun. There are fewer crimes, possibly because there are much fewer tourists and it has a much lower population.

Is Cozumel or Cancun nicer?

There’s no easy answer to the Cozumel vs Cancun debate. Both Cozumel and Cancun are beautiful places. Cozumel is known for drift diving, high-end all-inclusive resorts, and rocky beaches. In contrast, Cancun is a great starting point for many day trips and has many family-friendly resorts.

What’s the difference between Cancun and Cozumel?

Cancun is a large Caribbean city with direct flights from Mexico City and all other major international airports. It is a busy place with endless activities for people of all ages. Cancun also has a reputation for being more of a party place.

Cozumel is a small island off Playa del Carmen with wonderful drift diving, exciting and adventurous water parks, and other activities. There is a large port in Cozumel, so you’ll see a lot of cruise ships coming in every day.

Final Verdict on Cancun vs Cozumel for Families

Regarding families, Cancun vs Cozumel is both excellent places for your next vacation. Your point of interest may entirely depend on your preferences and the needs and wants of your family.

Cancun is a large city with endless accommodation options for every type of traveler. Cozumel, on the other hand, is much more laid-back and slow-paced.

People go to Cancun for busy activities and high-end resorts. In comparison, people go to Cozumel to explore the reefs and beautiful national parks.

Cancun does have a reputation for being more dangerous, as it’s one of the largest cities in Mexico. Cozumel has much lower crime rates, which might be more appealing for families.

No matter what you decide, you and your family will have an excellent time on your trip to Cancun or Cozumel!

Looking for more Yucatan Mexico travel resources? Check out my top Cancun tips for first timers, best places to visit in Mexico, Cabo vs Cancun, Cancun vs Tulum, best Cancun day trips, Tulum family resorts, and the best all-inclusive Cancun resorts for families!

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