The premier Caribbean island of Cozumel – Mexico’s largest – has the lot. White beaches, jungles of wildlife, Mayan temples and some of the best, most vivid diving reefs in the world. The cuisine is irresistible: think tacos loaded with seafood straight off the boat, succulent steaks, exotic juices and – of course – lots of tots of tequila. Here are the best hotels.
Perfectly placed on a natural bay, this chic boutique bolthole is a dream spot for swimming and snorkelling – you can do it directly from the hotel (not the case for much of the island’s windward coastline). Water-based activities predominate here: try paddleboarding, kite-surfing, sailing and kayaking, or morning yoga sessions on the shoreline. The 45 rooms are bright with pops of pinks and turquoise. For privacy book the floating bar; a private pontoon offshore, with two loungers, bespoke cocktails and a sound system.
Here’s an enchanting hotel with lashings of local personality: Casita de Maya radiates a homely feel, both in the sunny- and fruity-colored interiors of its eight rooms (there are twin beds and doubles, a single and a family suite) and the warmth and friendliness of the staff. This phrase is bandied about a lot, but being here really is like staying with a family. The food is lovingly created, great-value authentic Mexican fare.
A shout-out, first, for the amazing sunset views you get from this mid-rise hotel overlooking the beach. Rooms are smartly, if unobtrusively, decorated, most with ocean views. Pick one of the cabana suites on the ground floor: as well as your own plunge pool, you get direct access to the beach for a little seclusion. The hotel has a gym, its own PADI dive centre and a kids club – so if drinking frozen margaritas by the pool is too relaxing, you’ll be well catered for.
In the heart of the action in San Miguel de Cozumel, Casa Mexicana has guests at an elegant remove from the surrounding shops and nearby cruise liner dock. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re booking early-morning diving trips. All the rooms have balconies facing either the city or the water – we suggest you choose the latter. The lobby is wonderfully open and bright, featuring an enormous glass atrium and bold Mexican art. Buffet breakfast is included.
Expect a friendly, personal hotel with a warm welcome when you check in at Flamingo. It’s the number-one choice among returnees to Cozumel for its spectacular diving. For the past 20 years, the hotel has worked alongside the Aquatic Sports Dive Shop to provide exceptional subaquatic experiences for guests. After a day flippering around below the surface of the vibrant Cozumel channel, roll up to the small bar to socialise with locals and guests, exchanging “It was this big!” stories while sharing tapas-style plates of tacos and ceviche.
Only a few minutes’ walk from the shops, bars and restaurants of Cozumel’s main town, this clean and friendly hotel is the biz for budget travellers wanting the freedom that a chain hotel won’t deliver. A particularly nice touch is the delivery, by staff, of free coffee and pastries to your rooms every morning. So it’s worth splashing out on the ocean-view room so you can eat, drink and be mellow on the balcony as the sun rises over the waves.