Cozumel Quick Facts

Written on 10/30/2019

  • The predominant language on Cozumel is Spanish (Mexican Spanish.  Castellano from Spain is slightly different and not what is used here), although you may also hear Mayan on the island.  There are also many people that speak English as a first or second language.  If you are English speaking and staying in the main tourist area, you'll manage fairly well.  However, just in case, you'll find a link to a translator in the "Mi Vida" section.   Most translators do not work perfectly but they will usually help when needed and this particular one is quite accurate.  Keep in mind the translator will need WiFi or data to function as it is a linked website.
  • Mexico is a Catholic country, however, there are multiple denominations on the island with churches, temples, places of worship.  As a Catholic country, with a strong sense of culture, please bear in mind standards of respect and modesty may be different from yours. 
  • Cozumel has a tropical savannah climate, with a rainy season and hurricane season.  With this in mind, you may want to check online for the average temps during the time you're planning to be here.  If you're planning to be here during hurricane season, be sure to get travel insurance, and read some information (English version only) about what to do here if a storm does hit - just in case.  
  • Island currency is the Mexican Peso.  Many places will accept USD but keep in mind, it doesn't happen often but they also have the right to say no, afterall, it's foreign currency.   Your best bet may be to bring pesos, or to withdraw them from an ATM depending on your bank fees for foreign withdrawls and the local bank fees & exchange. 
  • Teens and seniors you see bagging groceries in the stores are not paid employees.  You may be used to seeing cashier "baggers" where you live but odds are they are paid store employees, so it's no big deal if you don't tip or go to the self-check ailse, they'll still make their wages.  However, it doesn't work that way here.  The seniors live off the tips they make and for the teens, it often goes towards paying their school fees.  
    Please be kind.
  • What to tip?  The local average tip rate on the island is 10% - 15%  and as high as 20%   Particularly if they've received good service.  Be aware a tip should never be added onto your bill by the business.  This is an illegal practice and can result in a substantial fine to the business.  A suggested tip is allowed and may be listed (some businesses will list several "total" options based on different percentages) but it should never be automatically added on to your total.   If you notice this on a bill, point it out to your server and ask for a new bill. 
  • What is Cozumel "Ironshore"?  Many of Cozumel's beaches aren't what people think of as "beaches" at all.  They are not all sand, some may be mostly Ironshore, perhaps combined with some sandy areas.  Cozumel is primarily made of limestone and Ironshore is the result of sea water beating against it and dissolving it in areas.   Microbes and algae work at dissolving it as well.   Although it sometimes looks almost like a dried sponge in appearance, it's very hard, rough, pointed and jagged.  Walk on it with extreme caution.  It takes a split second for your foot to slide out of a wet flip-flop and for you to discover what a tender-foot you really are!
  • To flush or not to flush... Wait.  What???
    Yes, you read that correctly.  In many bathrooms on Cozumel, you will see printed or painted signs asking you not to put paper in the toilet.  What you may not realise is this doesn't just apply to hand towels or sanitary products - it means toilet paper as well.   For some, this is nothing new.  There are plenty of places in Mexico, Canada, the U.S. and other countries where this is common - but for some others, this is a completely foreign and horrifying concept.  The two main reasons for this are the aging infrastructure of the island and the low water pressure, so please, even if you are in a newer building or hotel, put all your paper in the basura (garbage).   It's not really as bad as it first seems (once you get used to it) and your host will thank you!  And if you do forget and clog the toilet - please be considerate and let the host or business know.
  • One way confusion.  New residents or visitors don't always realise the vast majority of island streets are one way - and this can result in some interesting, or downright dangerous situations.  You will find more detail regarding this in the article, "Getting Around" (coming soon!)