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Solo Travel in Cozumel, Mexico- The Good, Bad and THE Ugly


Abandoned Villa Dolores in Cozumel with graffiti

Thinking about solo travel to Cozumel, Mexico but worried about the safety and cost of the island? Rest assured, these are natural concerns when traveling alone to a foreign country. This gal has spent a month in Cozumel and shares the good, bad, and ugly aspects of solo travel to help you make an informed decision.





The Good in Cozumel


1. Scuba Diving and Snorkelling


colorful coral reef in Cozumel Mexico
Palancar Reef

When I decided to take a hiatus from solo travel in Thailand, I chose Cozumel due to its proximity to the US and reputation for amazing scuba diving. The colorful reefs and crystal-clear visibility exceed expectations.  


Cozumel has a plethora of dive operators and everyone has their favorites. There are a few spots where you can rent tanks and do shore dives but the best diving is drift dives from a boat. I was lucky enough to get hooked up with Alex Scuba.


Alex has lived on Cozumel for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge of the reefs. His boat is comfortable and even has a marine toilet, which is not a common feature on other boats in the area. Martin, Alex's right-hand man, is safety-focused and always makes sure everything is easy and smooth. The divemasters and instructors who led the dives were also excellent.


scuba diving boat on blue water in Cozumel

The diving experience was, without a doubt, one of the best I've had anywhere in the world. From towering coral swim-throughs to the abundant marine life, every dive left me wanting more. 


In total, I did 24 dives with Alex and three shore dives with a buddy. I also enjoyed exploring different parts of the reef with my snorkel and getting to know my new Olympus TG-6 camera on my days off from diving.


2. Delicious Local Tacos


Three tacos in blue corn tortillas

Mexico wouldn't be Mexico without its Mexican food and by Mexican food I mean tacos! There are hundreds of taco restaurants on the island; some are more spendy than others and everyone seems to have their favorites.


For meat and vegetarian tacos, I recommend Guisdos. Home-cooked by a Mexican abuela, Guisido is my go-to taco joint in Cozumel. Located on Avenida Benito Juarez between 15 and 20, you can easily get some of the best tacos in the world for about 35 pesos ($2 USD) each. 


Mexican grandma making tacos in Cozumel

My favorite place for seafood tacos is on Avenida Rafael E. Melgar beside Hemmingways on the way to the northern marina. I'm unsure if it has a name, but this place is right on the water and full of locals. The shrimp ceviche and grilled garlic tacos are mouth-watering and the sauces are so flavorful! The price is affordable at about 42 pesos a piece and beers are only $2. 


Fish tacos and hot sauces on the beach in Mexico

Avenida Pedro Joaquin Coldwell is a street that every foodie must visit when in Cozumel. It has about 30 local taco restaurants, including Los Seros and Pique, that serve some of the best tacos in town.


3. Friendly Locals


scuba diving monument in Cozumel Mexico

My experience with the people who live in Cozumel is that they are a little guarded, especially with US tourists. At times I felt invisible, yet there were countless times I had questions about how things work here, and each time I had a local Mexican person kindly help me out. 


My go-to guy was Alex who responded immediately to any question or concern I had about anything, even if it wasn't dive-related. Other kind locals include Jorge and Mila at my first accommodation, Amaranto Bed and Breakfast. It's a gorgeous place and has the most delicious breakfasts in all of Cozumel.


Airbnb in Cozumel Mexico called Casa Darcy
Casa Darcy

Also, Karina and her husband were lifesavers. They take care of Casa Darcy (my second accommodation... also awesome!) when the owner, Marnee, is in Canada. These caring humans took me to the police station on a Friday evening after I got robbed at an ATM (more on that later...) And their lovely daughter, Noely, drew me the sweetest picture when I was feeling down. 


drawing by a little girl in Mexico on a mirror


Challenges in Cozumel (The Bad)


1. High Cost


A blue spotted flounder fish

To be fair, the last time I was in Cozumel was in 1995, but the current prices were outrageous. Having lived abroad mostly in Thailand for the last 3 years, I had some serious sticker shock on the costs in Mexico. From groceries to drinks out on the town, to food, everything seemed to cost $30 or more (until I discovered local taco places.)


The diving experience in Cozumel is expensive, but it's worth it. The average price for a 2-tank dive is about $110, but if you book more than 3 days of diving, you can get a discount. After several dives, I was able to bring the cost down to about $40 per tank. Shore diving is a more economical option if you can find a buddy. Tikila offers tanks and weights for approximately $10 each.



Colorful coral reef with fish


Cozumel is ultimately a tourist town, and therefore the cost of goods is driven up by demand. In my month there, I found it not sustainable for my budget in the long term.


2. Crowded Cruise Ships


a very large cruise ship


I visited Cozumel towards the end of high season in April and on any given day there were up to 7 cruise ships docked there. These ships can hold up to 10,000 passengers and crew which equals a shitload of people.


Most of these cruise shops stayed during the day and left at sunset. The streets of San Miguel were bustling with tourists, many of whom were wearing funny balloon hats and seemingly drunk on tequila. Personally, I did not enjoy this atmosphere, but to each their own. When the ships were docked, I preferred to avoid the downtown areas.


3. Safety Issues


Hand painted art on a wall

As much as I hate to say it, Cozumel is one of the few places I have traveled solo around the world where I did not feel safe. My experiences are 100% my own and may not reflect the overall safety of the island.


To get around, I rented a motorbike and, fortunately, had no major issues. However, I did witness many crashes, particularly when people ignored stop signs in town. My only incident occurred when a pup ran into my bike. Thankfully, I was driving at a low speed, and the dog bounced off my lower leg, but it was still unsettling.


Big blue waves in Mexico

The east side of the island is stunning with turquoise waters and empty beaches. The wave surge here is very strong though and I only spent about 5 minutes in the ocean. If there is an incident on these isolated beaches, you're on your own. 


Although this was an isolated incident, on my second night here, a drunk woman was outside my Airbnb with a machete. It appeared to be a domestic dispute, my friend went to investigate, and someone called the police. Nevertheless, I'm not comfortable with violence and machetes, and I'm retired from mental health.





The Ugly Parts of Cozumel


1. The Search for Brad



a flyer of a missing person in Mexico

This story may break your heart, or it may confuse you. It did both for me. Brad was a passenger aboard one of the cruise ships who disappeared 3 days before my arrival. 


Brad was a retired VA nurse recently diagnosed with dementia and on a cruise with his wife. Brad's wife had an air tag on him but he disappeared while using the restroom. Brad was spotted on a close circuit camera 5 days after his disappearance but was unfortunately never found.


When I arrived in Cozumel, posters of Brad were distributed throughout the city. Local search parties were actively scouring the island. It became an all-out manhunt for about a week. I found myself walking back to my accommodation, constantly saying Brad's name in vacant lots.


About 2 weeks in the search was changed to a recovery. I don't know what happened to Brad but I am fairly confident it wasn't a criminal situation and most likely an accident in the ocean. I can't help but imagine Brad is somewhere in The Caribbean living his best life.


2. Trolls


Before my solo trip to Cozumel, I made a social media post on Facebook asking about shore diving. I wrote that I was a divemaster and owned my gear except for a regulator, which I have now acquired.

Scuba divers in the deep blue

To my surprise, the post sparked a heated debate, with many comments being unrelated to shore diving. Instead, people attacked me for being a divemaster without a regulator. One person who defended me was even banned from the page. The negativity was so overwhelming that I ended up deleting the post without getting any useful information about shore diving in Cozumel.


Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. I observed a similar pattern on posts about Brad, a person who went missing in Cozumel. Most comments were supportive, with people organizing search parties. However, there were also some rude and insensitive comments, with some even questioning the family's details about the disappearance and whether Brad had a life insurance policy.



Sunset under a palm tree in Mexico


It dawned on me that the negative behavior was mainly from US citizens who had visited Cozumel or were snowbirds. Cozumel, in a way, is an extension of the USA, and this divisiveness is one of the reasons I travel - to escape from people who engage in conflict, especially from the anonymity of a computer screen.


3. Crime


Posters in Spanish at a Mexican police station


I have been lucky to travel the world solo and not be a victim of a criminal act. That was before I came to Cozumel. 


Long story short, I got robbed at an ATM. I was alone in the usually crowded lobby and a tall Latino man intimidated me into giving him my PIN and stole my ATM card. By the time I got back to my Airbnb to call my bank to cancel, $1800 USD was stolen from my checking account.


Thankfully, my kind Mexican neighbors took me to the police station to file a report. I also sought advice from the US consulate. The man who robbed me, who was working with another man, was caught the next day but was later released. The police informed me that the men were bandits from Venezuela and had left the island.

2 men arrested by police with guns

In the grand scheme of things, I was very fortunate to cooperate with the man. I learned he had robbed a local school teacher 2 days prior and was not so gentle with her. 


Wells Fargo reimbursed my money 6 days later after investigating my claim, which in my opinion is way too long to leave a single woman stranded in a foreign country with no access to bank funds. 


Crime can happen anywhere in the world. It just so happened to happen to me, here, in Cozumel.


A yellow and blue Christmas tree worm


Final Thoughts on Solo Travel in Cozumel, Mexico


After having all these experiences, would I come back to Cozumel? For a scuba diving trip visit, absolutely! This place offers some of the best diving in the world.


However, would I live here in Cozumel? Not a chance... not even part of the year. It's just not my island, and that's okay. 


If you are planning to visit Cozumel for a vacation, I say go for it! It is a lovely tourist destination, and the diving is so worth it! And did I mention that the sunsets are some of the best on the planet?


Sunset on a rugged coastline with blue water

For any questions on solo travel in Mexico or anywhere in the world, contact me at jenvdotcom@gmail.com. I am more than happy to help!







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