THINGS TO KNOW
Cozumel is the right size–not too big and not too small. With several international cruise ship piers, there are millions of visitors annually. Hence there are a lot of modern conveniences like high-end shopping, great restaurants and cafes and a well-developed infrastructure. It’s really a fun blend of modern glamour mixed in with authentic Mexican style. It’s a contemporary city but has a special island charm all its own. The city’s main square is haven for local events night and day, and a gathering place for merchants, artisan vendors, taco stands, etc.
Outside of the city of San Miguel, most of the island is wild and undeveloped, with large sections of mangroves and jungle. The scenic eastern side is open ocean. The western side of the island is sheltered and is excellent for snorkeling, and sometimes has strong currents to be aware of.
If, like most visitors, you arrive by ferry in Cozumel, you’ll be met by a barrage of sales representatives for car rental companies and various dive and snorkel operations. Also in the mix are representatives for hotels and resorts, often with photo-albums of resort pictures to entice you. Once you get through this bustling section, you are in the city of San Miguel, right in the middle of the turista (tourist) shopping zone.
TIP: There are public information booths, however these are manned by sales representatives for time-shares. Once you ask a question, you are a step away from a free lunch, tour and a wasted day [don’t get trapped into this]. Pass through the ferry terminal, cross the street and you’ll find a legitimate Tourist Information office.
The San Miguel tourist zone extends from the coastline inland several blocks and runs north/south several kilometers, with a seaside boardwalk. Outside of this you have the cruise ship piers, residential neighborhoods and general industrial zones. There are a few large grocery stores, a cinema, and airport as well. In the downtown core, most stores and restaurants have English-speaking staff and accept US currency.
The town of San Miguel, the airport, and the hotels are all located on the western side of the island. Nearly all the streets and avenues are one-way. The coastal highway is two-way and nearly circles the island. Fortunately, massive resort development is paralyzed by a lack of potable water and strong desire on the part of the citizens to protect the island’s delicate ecosystem.