Islands of the Yucatan Peninsula – Isla Mujeres or Cozumel?

JUAN MARTINEZ

April 15, 2021

Islands of the Yucatan Peninsula – Isla Mujeres or Cozumel?

Located in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are two very diverse paradises.
The question is: which one is better?  

Minutes away from Quintana Roo’s coastline in the Mexican Caribbean, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are two of the most popular islands not only in Mexico, but in the whole region. I visited the Yucatan Peninsula looking for relaxation, fun and an outstanding marine life. However, I found out very difficult to choose one of these two islands to travel to.

Both islands are gorgeous, and while visiting both of them will offer a more complete picture of the beauty that the Mexican Caribbean has to offer, exploring only one of them can be for most travelers enough.

In this article I want to answer the question many travelers in the Cancun area ask themselves. Isla Mujeres or Cozumel – which one should I visit?

Pier of Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Pier of Isla Mujeres in Mexico

Same, Same – But different

Your time, interests and budget could easily determine your choice. Out of the two islands, Cozumel is larger, way much larger.

With an area 435 times bigger than Isla Mujeres, Cozumel will offer a better infrastructure, more variety of activities and better quality of service. At the same time, due to the greater influx of foreign tourists, Cozumel tends to be more expensive.

But don’t let the amount of tourists scare you off. As the third largest island Mexico, Cozumel has also some of the best places in the Caribbean for diving and snorkeling. Divers from all over the world agree that Cozumel’s coral reefs are some of the best in the Caribbean.

View of Isla Mujeres from the air
View of Isla Mujeres from the air

But Cozumel is not better than Isla Mujeres if we just determine it by size and activities. As a way smaller island, Isla Mujeres offers the simplicity and peace Cozumel can’t have. Life moves slower in Isla Mujeres and after spending more than a week in this island, you might even feel you know who works and lives in the island and who doesn’t. This is also the perfect place to forget time and simply enjoy those Caribbean vibes, most of us expect to see in this part of the world.

If Cozumel prettier than Isla Mujeres or vice versa is something I can’t tell you, but more something you choose depending what you are looking for.

Sunset in Isla Mujeres at Playa Norte
Sunset in Isla Mujeres at Playa Norte

Diving and snorkeling – These are the hotspots in Mexico

Cozumel’s underwater beauty is incomparable. Coral reefs like El Cielo, Dzul Ha, Palancar, Paraíso, Colombia, Santa Rosa, Villa Blanca, and Chankanaab are known worldwide as some of the most biodiverse and splendid to visit.

In this area you will observe the greatest range of marine fauna in the entire Mexican Caribbean.

Even while snorkeling, travelers can see lobsters, starfish, sea cucumbers and seahorses close to the shore. But also larger and more impressive species such as rays, turtles, sharks, blue sharks, groupers, among others if you book a tour visiting one of the coral reefs.

Mobula Rays in the Gulf of Mexico
Mobula Rays in the Gulf of Mexico

On the other side, Isla Mujeres might not be as famous for diving as Cozumel, but the marine life can leave you also speechless. Expect to see some of the most beautiful coral in Mexico, while also explore underwater wonders like the Cancún Underwater Museum (MUSA) – more of 100 statues located underwater and serving as artificial coral to recover the marine life affected due to climate change.

Which are the best diving places in Cozumel

Palancar is a splendid reef in the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, a protected area on the western coast of the island.

Its coral structures form caves through which sea creatures circulate, including a multitude of fish of all colors.

For expert diving, Cozumel also offers Santa Rosa, a vertigo wall with coral formations where is possible to admire turtles, parrotfish, toadfish and giant eels.

Dzul Ha, Colombia, Paraíso and Chankanaab, also stand out for their beauty and variety of marine fauna.

Read more: Explore the volcano route of Nicaragua

Sea Turtles are very popular in Cozumel
Sea Turtles are very popular in Cozumel

Which are the best diving places in Isla Mujeres

Although it does not have as many places to dive and snorkel as Cozumel, Isla Mujeres does not dissapoint

The best places for diving and snorkelling here are the Arrecifes Garrafón Natural Park, Isla Cantoy National Park and the El Farito National Aquatic Park.

To the south of the island you can also find the Ixlaché reef, a space with a regulated flow of visitors due to its vulnerability, but a great experience if you are a diving lover.

Also, at El Farito, 2km away from Isla Mujeres, you can find the MUSA, an attraction you definitely have to visit, no matter if you are a marine life lover or not.

Read more: Which are the most beautiful waterfalls in Central America

Snorkeling in Isla Mujeres can also bring very nice suprises
Snorkeling in Isla Mujeres can also bring very nice suprises

I visited Cozumel and Isla Mujeres in two separate times and experienced both islands’ vibes with a completely different mood. If I want a short adventure and activities every day, Cozumel is the place to go. If I want to relax and forget work back at home, Isla Mujeres awaits. Which one you should go, depends only on you.

Insider Tip:
Bookaway is the right platform to get your tickets online and fast if you want to travel around the country using public transportation. No waiting lines at bus stations or asking around which bus goes where.

Check out their offers in Cozumel and Isla Mujeres.

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