Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Which is better in 2023?
Planning a trip to Mexico and can’t decide between Cozumel and Isla Mujeres? You’ve come to the right guide!
As a travel blogger that lives in nearby Playa del Carmen, I know all about these two popular island destinations and I’m here to share what each one is really like!
While both make amazing destinations for a beach vacation, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres have some key differences, and are suited for different types of travelers.
In this ultimate Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres comparison guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about how the two island destinations compare when it comes to hotels, beaches, nightlife, safety, costs, and more.
Plus, you’ll learn more about the pros and cons of each one!
Ready to find out which of these Mexican island destinations is best for you? Let’s get started!
Planning a trip to Mexico? Use my favorite travel resources!
🏨 Hotels: Expedia or Booking.com
✈️ Flights: Skyscanner
🚗 Rental Cars: Discover Cars
🤿 Tours & Activities: Viator
🚨 Travel Insurance: Travel Insurance Master
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Overview
In my opinion, both Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are worth a visit!
But if you’re limited on time and are trying to decide where to spend your vacation days, here’s a quick overview of each destination:
Cozumel is Mexico’s largest Caribbean island, located about 7 miles to the east of Playa del Carmen.
At 30 miles long, the island is more developed on the west side, where you’ll find San Miguel de Cozumel, the island’s largest town and main city center.
Thanks to its stunning Caribbean beaches, incredible coral reefs, and jungle landscapes, Cozumel is a popular tourist destination for beach and sun-seekers.
It is also one of the most visited cruise ship destinations in the Caribbean and welcomed over 3 million cruise ship visitors in 2022.
Cozumel’s abundant snorkeling and scuba diving sites attract tourists and diving enthusiasts from all over the world.
The impressive coral reefs surrounding the island are part of the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second-longest barrier reef system in the world, only second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
About Isla Mujeres
Meaning “Island of Women,” Isla Mujeres is a beautiful small island located just 15 minutes off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.
Isla Mujeres was named by the Spanish when they first arrived to the island and found many images of goddesses dating back to the time when the island was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine.
At less than 5 miles long, Isla Mujeres is much smaller than Cozumel but still offers plenty of restaurants, shopping, and all-inclusive resorts.
The island is known for its stunning beaches, snorkeling excursions, catamaran sails, private yacht charters, and many adventurous Isla Mujeres activities.
The prettiest beaches on Isla Mujeres can be found on the northwestern side of the island, most notably Playa Norte, where you will find the most stunning turquoise water and white sand beaches.
It definitely makes for a jaw-dropping first impression!
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres Map
Here is a map of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres to give you an idea of where they are in relation to each other:
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Who are they suited for?
Here’s an overview of the types of travelers each beach town is best suited for:
Who is Cozumel suited for?
Cozumel is a great destination for those looking for a relaxing beach getaway but still want some options for dining and entertainment.
While still small, Cozumel is more developed and spread out than Isla Mujeres offering more options for restaurants, bars, and attractions.
The island tends to attract families, couples, and older individuals to its beachfront all-inclusive resorts and is not really considered a party destination.
You’ll still find plenty of adventurous things to do in Cozumel, but it is best suited for those who truly want to escape to an all-inclusive resort.
With its incredible coral reefs, Cozumel is also a popular destination for scuba diving enthusiasts, as there are many dive sites around the island suitable for beginner or experienced divers.
Who is Isla Mujeres suited for?
Isla Mujeres is a popular tourist destination for people who are looking for a quiet and relaxing getaway.
The island has beautiful beaches, crystal-clear water, and there are plenty of things to do in Isla Mujeres to keep visitors busy.
Isla Mujeres is perfect for couples or families who are looking for a relaxing vacation.
The island has plenty of activities, but it’s also small enough that you can easily find a quiet spot to relax.
With its small size and golf cart transportation, it definitely has more of a remote island vibe than Cozumel.
If you’re looking for a party scene, Isla Mujeres is probably not the best place for you as the island is more quiet and laid-back with limited nightlife.
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Pros and Cons
Here’s a look at the Cozumel Isla Mujeres pros and cons to help you make your decision:
Pros of Cozumel
- Larger island
- More restaurants, bars, and attractions
- Incredible snorkeling and scuba diving
Cons of Cozumel
- More expensive
- Need a car to get around
- Beaches can be rocky
Pros of Isla Mujeres
- Small island vibe
- Beautiful sandy beaches
- Closer to Cancun Airport
Cons of Isla Mujeres
- Less attractions
- Fewer restaurants
- Minimal nightlife
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Safety Comparison
Next, let’s take a look at how these two destinations compare when it comes to safety.
U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory
The official U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory for both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel is currently “Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution” due to the high levels of crime and violence in the overall state of Quintana Roo.
The United States Mexico travel advisory mentions that criminal activity and violent crime may occur in popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, but does not specifically list Isla Mujeres or Cozumel as areas of risk.
Crime and Safety Index
Numbeo reports the following crime and safety indices for Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. Basically you want the crime index to be low and the safety index to be high.
- Crime Index: Cozumel: 34.38 (Low) | Isla Mujeres: 10.78 (Very Low)
- Safety Index: Cozumel: 65.62 (High) | Isla Mujeres: 89.22 (Very High)
Is Isla Mujeres safer than Cozumel?
Compared to Cozumel, Isla Mujeres has lower crime rates and a higher safety index according to Numbeo.
Both islands are considered very safe compared to other destinations in Mexico.
However, as in any destination, you’ll want to take proper precautions, avoid illegal activity, and keep an eye on your belongings at all times.
Related Reading: Is Cozumel Safe? Top Cozumel Safety Tips
🚨 Do you need travel insurance for Mexico? Yes! Most insurance plans in your home country will not cover incidents abroad. I recommend using Travel Insurance Master, which is a handy travel insurance marketplace where you can compare policies. Get a FREE quote by clicking here!
Cozumel vs. Isla Mujeres: Cost Comparison
Here’s a look at how travel costs compare between Isla Cozumel and Isla Mujeres:
In general, the prices in Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are pretty comparable for food and drink, and activities.
However, Cozumel can be more expensive than Isla Mujeres, mainly due to accommodation and transportation costs.
Isla Mujeres is closer to the Cancun Airport, which makes transportation costs lower as flights to Cancun International Airport are generally cheaper than flying directly to Cozumel International Airport.
In addition, Cozumel is a larger island so you’ll need to pay for a rental car or taxis to get around. In Isla Mujeres, you can rely on walking or golf cart rentals for transportation.
In terms of accommodation, the majority of the resorts in Cozumel are large all-inclusive resorts so the prices will be much higher for an all-inclusive package with all of your food and drinks included.
In Isla Mujeres, there are just a few all-inclusive resorts so you’ll find a wider range of accommodations from boutique hotels to hostels to apartment rentals.
If you’re on a budget, Isla Mujeres is probably the better option. However, there are definitely ways to save money to make either destination work for your budget whether by eating at local restaurants or choosing more affordable accommodations.
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Beaches Comparison
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are both world-famous beach destinations. But which has better beaches? Let’s compare the two side by side.
What both Cozumel and Isla Mujeres have going for them in terms of beaches is that they are usually always seaweed-free!
The beaches on the western sides of the islands typically don’t get hit with the large amounts of seaweed that can often show up on other beaches in Riviera Maya.
It should also be noted that the beaches on the eastern side of both islands are typically very rocky with much stronger currents.
Though they offer beautiful ocean views, they are mostly unswimmable. So it’s really the beaches on the western side of the islands that are worth comparing.
Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres is widely considered one of the best beaches in Mexico, if not the world!
This beach has powdery white sand and turquoise waters that will make you feel like it’s straight out of a postcard.
Playa Norte is great for swimming, sunbathing, and simply taking in the incredible views, and is a popular spot for catamaran tours, yachts, and private charters to anchor at.
Isla Mujeres also has some amazing coral reefs, but Playa Norte is the real star of the show 🤩
On the other hand, Cozumel’s beaches are well known for their coral reefs, which provide great opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The best beaches in Cozumel can be found on the west and southwestern side of the island, where the waves are calmer.
However, Cozumel’s many coral reefs make some of the beaches rocky and unswimmable–though they still offer stunning ocean views!
There are still some beautiful white sand beaches on Cozumel (like Playa Palancar), but overall Isla Mujeres is known for having better sandy beaches.
So, which beach is better? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to scuba dive or snorkel, Cozumel island is the place for you.
But if you’re just looking to relax on a stunning beach, Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres can’t be beat.
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Hotels Comparison
Cozumel is home to more all inclusive resorts than Isla Mujeres, making it the more expensive option of the two.
You can still find affordable accommodations, VRBOs, and boutique hotels in Cozumel, but overall it’s known for its large all-inclusive resorts.
Additionally, the resorts in Cozumel tend to be more spread out and immersed in nature, with expansive pools, spas, fitness centers, and resort activities–perfect for those who are looking for more amenities.
Isla Mujeres, on the other hand, offers a more budget-friendly option for tourists looking to enjoy the island experience.
There are just a few all inclusive resorts on Isla Mujeres, so you’ll find a wider range of accommodations from luxury hotels to boutique properties or apartment rentals.
Isla Mujeres hotels are typically smaller and more compact with limited beachfront space, giving visitors a more intimate beach experience.
So, whether you’re looking for a luxurious all-inclusive resort or a quaint and cozy beachfront hotel, both Cozumel and Isla Mujeres have something to offer. It just depends on what kind of vacation you’re looking for!
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Activities Comparison
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres both offer travelers a variety of activities to enjoy while on vacation such as exploring ancient Mayan ruins, shopping in local markets, and enjoying the beautiful beaches.
Diving Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel
Both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel offer opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving but Cozumel is better known for having some of the best coral reefs in the world.
So when comparing the Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres diving, Cozumel offers many more impressive dive sites around the island suitable for experienced or beginner divers.
Cozumel Activity Highlights
Here are some activity highlights exclusive to Cozumel:
- El Cielo: A popular snorkeling spot, El Cielo is a shallow sandbar known for its unbelievably crystal clear water and abundance of giant starfish. On the El Cielo tour, you’ll get to visit El Cielo, as well as snorkel at the famous Palancar and Columbia Reefs.
- Punta Sur Eco Park: Marking the southern point of Cozumel, the Punta Sur Ecological Park spans a whopping 247 acres of pristine beaches, natural lagoons, coral reefs, and low forest eco-systems. With activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and even a small history museum, there’s plenty to do and see at this popular Cozumel eco-park.
- Cozumel Submarine Expedition: The Cozumel Submarine Expedition is Mexico’s only submarine dedicated to tourism, diving up to 100 feet beneath the sea. While on the 2-hour submarine expedition, you’ll see the Felipe Xicotencatl sunken ship and pass near “La Pared”, a vertical drop that plummets to more than 2,000 feet deep at the edge of the island.
- San Gervasio Mayan Ruins: The San Gervasio Mayan Ruins are some of the most well-preserved and extensive ruins on the island and one of the top things to do in Cozumel. Visitors can explore the main plaza, temples, and other structures, which were originally used by the Mayans as a sanctuary to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. While not as grand as the Tulum Ruins or Chichen Itza, they are still worth a visit.
- Cozumel Pearl Farm: The only active pearl farm in the Caribbean, the Cozumel Pearl Farm lets visitors have an exclusive look at the pearl farm and lab and learn about the cultured pearl business. You’ll also have the opportunity to take a boat ride out to see the pearl hatchery and snorkel.
Isla Mujeres Activity Highlights
Here are some activity highlights exclusive to Isla Mujeres:
- MUSA: Located near Isla Mujeres, the MUSA Underwater Museum of Art offers visitors the chance to snorkel and scuba dive at a man-made underwater museum and sculpture park designed to promote the growth of coral reefs.
- Swimming with Whale Sharks: During the months of May-September, whale sharks arrive to the island of Isla Mujeres to feed in the plankton-rich waters off the coast of the island, offering visitors the chance to swim alongside these gentle giants for an unforgettable whale shark snorkeling experience.
- Playa Norte: The most popular beach on the island, Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or relaxing at a beach club. With clear turquoise water and powder white sand, it’s your quintessential Mexican Caribbean beach experience.
- Punta Sur: Punta Sur is the southernmost tip of Isla Mujeres, and is home to a beautiful lighthouse, sculpture park, restaurants and shops, and breathtaking views. With a small entrance fee, it is essentially an island landmark and one of the top places to visit in Isla Mujeres.
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres: Food and Restaurant Comparison
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico and are wondering whether to go to Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, one important factor to consider is the food.
Both destinations have their own unique culinary scenes, so it’s worth doing some research before deciding where to go.
Since Cozumel is larger and more developed, there are a variety of international restaurants available, so you can find whatever type of cuisine you’re in the mood for.
And in recent years, there have been a lot more trendy new restaurants and tiki bars popping up around San Miguel de Cozumel.
Isla Mujeres doesn’t have quite as much to offer in terms of dining options, but you’ll still be able to find some good food.
The majority of restaurants and beach clubs on the island serve standard tourist fare, but there are a few high-end establishments if you’re looking for something special.
Regardless of where you eat, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.
So, which destination is right for you? If food is a priority on your vacation, Cozumel is the clear winner.
But if you’re more interested in relaxing on the beach and don’t mind eating simple meals, Isla Mujeres may be a better option.
Isla Mujeres vs. Cozumel: Nightlife Comparison
When it comes to comparing the nightlife in Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, both destinations are pretty sleepy and are not really known as party destinations.
Cozumel has a few more options for late night bars and restaurants. You’ll find sports bars, cocktail lounges, and fun tiki bars around the main downtown area of San Miguel de Cozumel but don’t expect a large party scene.
And Isla Mujeres is even more laid-back when it comes to nightlife. There are a few bars that stay open late, but the island is mostly known for its relaxation.
If you’re looking for a party and nightclub experience, you’re better off going to Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
Cozumel vs Isla Mujeres Day Trip Comparison
If you’re visiting Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or the Riviera Maya, you might also be wondering if Cozumel or Isla Mujeres is better for a day trip.
As Isla Mujeres is only 15 minutes away from Cancun by ferry, it’s best suited for those staying in Cancun.
You can also visit Isla Mujeres on a day trip from Playa del Carmen, but the trip takes about 1.5 hours each way so it’s a bigger time commitment.
But no matter where you’re coming from, Isla Mujeres is definitely worth a visit for a fun island experience whether you want to cruise around on a golf cart or spend the whole day chilling out at Playa Norte.
On the other hand, Cozumel is best suited for those staying in Playa del Carmen. A day trip to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen starts with an easy 45 minute ferry crossing.
Then you’ll be able to explore the island at leisure whether you want to visit a beach club, go on a snorkeling tour, rent a jeep, or go shopping in the cute downtown area of San Miguel de Cozumel.
So, which island is better for day trips? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to relax on the beach and enjoy some drinks, then Isla Mujeres is the perfect choice.
If you’re looking for more of an adventure, with plenty of activities and things to see, then Cozumel is the better option.
FAQs about Isla Mujeres versus Cozumel
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel:
Generally speaking, the snorkeling in Cozumel is better than Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres has nice coral reefs but is better known for MUSA, the underwater sculpture park.
Cozumel, on the other hand, has extensive coral reefs that extend far offshore. This means that snorkelers in Cozumel can explore a greater diversity of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, starfish, and rays.
The clear waters and abundant coral make Cozumel one of the best places in the world for snorkeling.
Isla Mujeres is definitely worth visiting! Aside from its beautiful beaches and clear turquoise waters, Isla Mujeres is also a “pueblo magico”, or magical town.
This official designation is given to towns in Mexico that are considered to be particularly special or charming.
Isla Mujeres definitely fits this description! In addition to its natural beauty, the island is home to a number of interesting sights and unique Isla Mujeres activities.
No, there is not a ferry from Cozumel to Isla Mujeres. In order to travel from Isla Mujeres to Cozumel, you would need to take the Ultramar ferry to Cancun, then take a ground transfer 1 hour south to Playa del Carmen, followed by a 45 minute ferry ride to Cozumel. The total journey from Isla Mujeres to Cozumel takes over 2 hours.
Final Thoughts: Is Isla Mujeres better than Cozumel?
When it comes to choosing between Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, there is no easy answer. Both destinations have their own unique charms and appeal to different types of travelers.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you are looking for in a vacation. If you want a very laid-back and relaxing beach getaway, Isla Mujeres may be the better choice.
However, if you are looking for more of an adventure-packed vacation with incredible snorkeling and scuba diving, Cozumel is probably a better fit.
Whichever island you choose, you are sure to have an incredible time!
Traveling to Mexico soon?
These are the Mexico travel resources I use and recommend:
🏨 Hotels: I always find the best deals for Mexico hotels and resorts on Expedia or Booking.com. If you prefer a vacation rental, check VRBO as they are often cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: I recommend using Skyscanner for the best Mexico flight deals. Be sure to sign up for their price alerts for your preferred travel dates.
🚗 Rental Cars: I like to use Discover Cars because you can compare multiple car rental companies and see detailed ratings for overall value, ease of pick-up, efficiency of agents, car condition, and overall time spent.
🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: I recommend booking a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation for the quickest and most hassle-free option!
🤿 Tours & Activities: I always use Viator or GetYourGuide for booking tours and activities in Mexico. You can cancel up to 24 hours before the tour for a full refund, plus they have excellent customer service if you were to have any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: After my Dad broke his hand in a taxi accident in Playa del Carmen, I always recommend buying travel insurance before your trip for added peace of mind! I recommend Travel Insurance Master for short trips or Safety Wing for digital nomads.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Don’t forget to add biodegradable sunscreen to your Mexico packing list! Regular sunscreen is prohibited when swimming in the ocean and cenotes in Mexico, so you’ll need to pack some biodegradable sunscreen for sun protection. I recommend Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is reef-friendly, vegan, and cruelty-free.