If you’ve ever imagined yourself lazing on a tropical island, cold drink in hand, and wriggling your toes in the warm, clear aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea, the island of Cozumel in Mexico could be perfect for you.

Just 12 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen, along Mexico’s famed Riviera Maya, Cozumel is a well-established, world class vacation destination. Especially known for its warm, tropical water, snorkelers and scuba divers from across the globe enjoy exploring the island’s reef, teeming with aquatic life.

Average temperatures in the 80s F make for comfortable weather with breezes off the Caribbean providing some cool air during the hottest months—when temperatures can climb into the 90s F.

At 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, Cozumel is just the right size to get around on a bicycle or motor scooter, but taxis are abundant too. The island’s largest town is San Miguel. With some 100,000 permanent residents, San Miguel is a lively tourist town. With hundreds of small gift stores, restaurants, night clubs, and bars attending to millions of tourists each year, San Miguel serves its purpose flawlessly.

Tourism provides the high-octane fuel for the island’s economic engine. The bustling port in San Miguel accommodates between 4 to 5 million cruise ship passengers annually. Huge ships arrive each week (more during winter than summer), dropping their passengers into the central area of San Miguel, staying just long enough for passengers to enjoy the day, take an excursion, and rack up a few charges on their credit cards.

Cozumel also has a busy international airport and a regular ferry service from the mainland in Playa del Carmen. A small fleet of modern, fast catamaran shuttles charge $20 for a roundtrip ticket and the ride takes about 45 minutes each way.

Retire in Cozumel


Those wanting to enjoy an active, lifestyle while also appreciating the pleasures of island life may wish to consider Cozumel for their retirement home. In addition to unlimited water-born recreational opportunities such as boating, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and kayaking, Cozumel also provides modern infrastructure with a stable electrical grid and high-speed internet.

Warm, tropical weather throughout the year is a draw for many people and Cozumel offers that in ample supply. This is an area subject to hurricanes, however, and Cozumel took a couple of heavy hits in 2005 from hurricanes Emily and Wilma. And while they don’t happen often, residents pay close attention to the weather during hurricane season.

Shopping opportunities are abundant with modern grocery stores offering a large variety of goods. Residents can enjoy the benefits of a thriving tourist community with ample selections of restaurants serving all kinds of food from around the world. You can even catch a movie at a local theater, if you wish. As with all islands, prices for goods and services are higher than those on the mainland by some 20% to 30% on average.

Medical care on the island is provided by three hospitals and a number of clinics for routine care. And of course, the mainland is only 12 miles away, so access to larger hospitals in Playa del Carmen and Cancún is readily available, as well.

Lifestyle in Cozumel


Cozumel is a great choice for expats looking for island-life. It’s large enough to offer many conveniences without going to the mainland, but its proximity also allows residents to quickly catch a ferry and spend some time in Playa del Carmen, Cancún, or even to explore the historic Yucatán Peninsula.

Permanent residents on Cozumel can choose to live in San Miguel or several smaller communities on the island. Las Fincas, Kilómetro Cuatro y Medio, La Estrella, San Lorenzo, La Esperanza, and Huerto Familiar are all smaller villages primarily occupied by locals of Maya and Mexican ancestry.

Cozumel’s primary draw is the surrounding, clear Caribbean water and the easy access to shallow reefs for divers and snorkelers. The island offers a choice of many beaches. Some are rocky limestone, perfect for snorkelers, while others are covered in powdery white sand and are just right for lounging and reading a book.

Hundreds of dive boat operators compete for business in the harbor while several private access points along the shore permit divers and snorkelers to enter for a small fee. Public beaches, of course, have no fees.

If you’re looking to get away from the water, plan a trip to the El Museo de la Isla de Cozumel (The Museum of the Island of Cozumel). It provides an insight into the history of the island and its ancient Maya inhabitants.

Afternoons allow time for catching a movie at the modern theater or even visiting the local library. The very active night scene offers live music and dancing in clubs and bars, as well as free performances in the central park.

Spanish is the official language; however, many restaurant and tour employees speak some English.

Cost of Living in Cozumel


Cozumel offers good value for dollars spent, even when it comes to housing. However, it can be hard to find an apartment as the market is geared toward short-term vacation stays. You will most likely have to rent a place, short term, while you search for a long-term rental. Also, most long-term rental properties come unfurnished. Those advertised as “furnished” may be sparsely furnished, at best.

With limited land available, condos are the most popular housing option on Cozumel and good deals can be found in the range of $150,000 for one-bedroom units. Two-bedroom units can run upwards of $180,000.

Here are some examples of regular monthly expenses for a couple living in Cozumel:

ExpenseU.S. $
Rent – one-bedroom condo$450 to $700
Rent – two-bedroom condo$500 to $800
Lunch for two$10
Dinner for two – mid-range restaurant$25
Dinner for two – upscale restaurant$65

Main Image: ©iStock.com/agustavop

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