Tulum or Cozumel or Both (and things to do)?
July 13, 2010 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Tulum and Cozumel - which one or both, and what to see and do for an outdoorsy / photographer / SCUBA type...

Myself and the girl are looking to visit Mexico in mid September, specifically Tulum and / or Cozumel. We want a tropical feel, but we're much more into hiking / quiet beaching than we are into the Cancun luxury resort sort of experience. I am also an avid photographer and would love to see some beautiful unspoiled scenery. I must see the Coastal Ruins in Tulum, but beyond that I'm looking for other must-see / must-do things in the area. I am SCUBA certified and would love to do some scuba diving...but my girlfriend only snorkels...so ideally we are looking for an area that offers both. I am open to exploring nearby cenotes as well...

That all being said...I know I want to see Tulum...knowing that, is Cozumel worth it? We plan on being there for a week and would like to know which one to focus on. Would it be better to stay in Tulum and explore outward from there in day trips (perhaps visiting Cozumel for a day) or vice versa? Are they close enough that day trips between the two are feasible? Skip one or the other all together?

For reference, in the past I have enjoyed hiking in national parks in Thailand, camping in the jungles of southern Belize, Scuba diving in the Caribbean and sightseeing in the Mayan Ruins of Guatemala and Honduras...so that's kind of where I'm coming from. Knowing that...what would I enjoy most to do in Tulum / Cozumel? Thanks!
posted by jnnla to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to both places. Tulum is amazing. A great place for some photography. If I remember right the waters around there were a bit rough for snorkeling, but fine for quiet beach lounging. There weren't many crowds, either (I went in July so ymmv). I would probably spend the bulk of my time there if I were you.

Cozumel has some neat scuba parks, there was one with "sunken ruins" to explore for both scuba-ers and snorkelers. We went to Paradise Beach which is (was) SUPER touristy, but very pretty and very fun. You may want to go there for a day or two for some underwater fun.
posted by geekchic at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2010

I love Tulum's beaches. They are, so far, the prettiest, cleanest beaches I've ever seen. I spent a month in Tulum a few years ago and I do recall making a day trip to Cozumel (which was underwhelming), so that is doable. However, I've not done any diving in either place, so I'm not qualified to give advice on that aspect. In fact, my days in Tulum were filled with a lot of day trips to other spots in the Yucatan, followed by evacuating from a hurricane, so I'm kind of useless as far as activities in the area in general. I know lots of folks at the hostel in town recommended going out to do diving/snorkeling in the cenotes. That's top of my list for when I go back.
posted by wending my way at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2010

We found Cozumel a little too overrun and loved our time in Tulum. I'd recommend going to the ruins as well as going to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. It was a really awesome way to get into the jungle without feeling like you were never going to come back! We also really liked the beach at Sian Ka'an.
posted by advicepig at 12:02 PM on July 13, 2010

Another vote for Tulum. Cozumel is crazy and full of people shoring from Disney Cruises. It is not pleasant.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:06 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yet another vote for beautiful, beautiful Tulum. As for the islands, we opted for Isla Mujeres, which is gorgeous, much quieter and less touristed than Cozumel.
posted by changeling at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: I've never been to Cozumel, but I did spend a fantastic week in Tulum recently. We spent a day with the folks from Edventure tours and they took us ziplining, snorkeling in a cenote, where you can scuba too, we jumped off a small cliff, swam with sea turtles in Yakul, and swam in this gorgeous lagoon filled with fish. I highly recommend them.

We also rented a car to go out to Chichen Itza. It was about a 2 hour drive from Tulum and spectacular for photos.
posted by mrsshotglass at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stay in Tulum, but if you really want to see Cozumel, a day trip would be the way to go. On the other hand, I'd suggest you skip Cozumel altogether and instead visit Playa del Carmen (in fact, you'd probably have to pass through Playa del Carmen anyway to get to Cozumel.

If you want to do a little touristy walking, eating and people-watching, Playa's "5a Avenida" is fun in the afternoon/evening, in a much calmer way than anything in Cancun.

I've been to Cancun and Riviera Maya several times, and I plan on going back. I was in Cozumel just once because I was on a cruise and I don't plan on returning. It's overrun with cruise-travelers and most of the shops are either jewelries or cheap "mexican" souvenirs.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:24 PM on July 13, 2010

Response by poster: These are all great suggestions! Based on your advice so far, it looks like we'll be staying in Tulum, with maybe a day trip to Cozumel. I'd be interested in hearing about things to do in that general area of the Yucatan if you have specifics (specific cenotes to google? names of interesting places in the Tulum area). Keep em coming if you got em!
posted by jnnla at 1:35 PM on July 13, 2010

Have you heard of Puerto Morelos?

It's a cute little town where you can go to the beach and maybe get a "lanchero" to take you out snorkeling and then come back and have some good seafood. There's a restaurant called Pelicano's that has good ceviche and a great view of the beach while you eat.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:52 PM on July 13, 2010

You should also consider a morning trip to Coba - beautiful site, and I took some gorgeous photos there last winter.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:39 PM on July 13, 2010

I don't remember what the names of the cenotes were that I visited; we just took a tour and were driven around. If I hadn't been with my family, I probably would have rented a car and gone at it alone. Either way, though, don't miss it! It was truly one of my favorite experiences of all time.
posted by nosila at 3:59 PM on July 13, 2010

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