The minute my feet hit the white-sand beaches I fell in love with the Mexican Caribbean. It was love at first scenic ocean view as the warm, deep, cobalt waters faded to vibrant turquoise and aquamarine against my feet on shore. Looking out to sea, I watched dolphins play happily in the pristine waters. I was home.
Cozumel Island in the Riviera Maya region of the Yucatan Peninsula was it. After traveling and exploring many other places in the area first, along with other regions of Mexico…Tulum, Cancún, Playa del Carmen…all the usual hot spots had been covered. They all had their own charms and reasons why you might want to live there.
Ancient Maya ruins, an incredible network of cenotes, and swimming with whale sharks all fed my appetite for adventure in the natural world. Meanwhile, the seemingly endless array of restaurants fed my soul and fueled my explorations.
For me, Cozumel beat the other Riviera Maya hotspots. Here’s the three main reasons why:
There are a lot of safe places to live in Mexico. And, as a single woman, making sure I felt safe in my new surroundings was extremely important to me. I know I’m not alone in that, it’s one of the first questions asked by most people who are thinking of living abroad.
I’ve been here in Cozumel for nearly two years and never once have I felt unsafe walking around alone. Of course, after dinner with friends later at night taxis are always called, but that is the same in every country.
As a rule, the Riviera Maya region is one of the safest in Mexico so Cozumel’s laidback island lifestyle and sargassum-free (problematic seaweed) beaches are a winner.
Because the cost of living is a lot cheaper here, you can afford to get out and do more. Visit other cities, take day trips, have adventures, and explore the region freely. You find yourself saying things to friends like, “I’m off to Mérida for a week,” just because you can.
Luxurious fast boats from the island to Playa del Carmen leave hourly from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and are only $5 return for residents. Tourists and visitors pay more at $20 return. Even so, it’s still well-priced for a smooth, 35-minute (each way) trip. Sit below deck in large, comfortable chairs or listen to live music on the outdoor deck as you glide along.
For the more adventurous, MayAir will wing you away to Cancún in 20 minutes if you don’t mind stuffing yourself into a tiny Cessna 206. Fitting five people, including the pilot, you are treated to amazing aerial views of the Caribbean, buzzing over giant cruise liners and pristine coastline. It’s cheap at $35 (one-way) and leaves at 7:30 a.m. each morning, returning from Cancún at 7 p.m.
The rest of Mexico is at your fingertips aboard one of the ADO buses. With great air conditioning, plenty of leg room, and a quick, smooth ride, their network spans Mexico, getting you anywhere you want to go cheaply and safely.
3. Easy Immigration
It sounds weird but I love the Immigration Office on Cozumel. The joys of a smaller immigration office means I’m free to spend more time doing fun things like swimming in the Caribbean or enjoying a fruity cocktail rather than spending hours stuck in line.
The staff are English-speaking, very friendly, helpful, and efficient, so you aren’t waiting for hours or having to allow an entire day just to do your paperwork. As an expat, this is a huge bonus.
My longest wait there has been 35 minutes. That was due to it being the day before a major holiday and the lady who takes fingerprints for your residency card was very busy. My shortest wait was, well, I didn’t even get to sit down.
This makes your expat experience a breeze when dealing with the legal side of things.