Located off the coast of Playa Del Carmen, part of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is one of Mexico’s most popular destinations, often receiving over 5 million cruise ship and scuba diving visitors to this island annually.
Thanks to the 2020 pandemic, visitor numbers don’t come close to normalcy. Yet, when many other destinations closed their border to travelers, Cozumel has remained open. Doing their best to follow health protocols, they continue to welcome those needing to escape these oppressive times and take a well-needed break.
But by no means are travelers allowed to go willy-nilly, ignoring responsible actions to control the spread of COVID. Citizens of Cozumel kindly remind you to abide by health protocols wherever you go on the island in the interest of everyone’s safety.
I recently returned from an enjoyable stay at Iberostar Cozumel where I was able to take in some remarkable diving with Dressel Divers and, when not getting wet, choose to relax around the resort or explore the island and its Mayan history. All while feeling safe due to health protocols in place.
The island seemed pleasantly quiet compared to its normal touristy hustle and bustle. Some stores appeared closed as we drove through San Miguel, but those that were open were eager for visitors. At larger businesses, including resorts, restaurants, grocery stores, parks, the ferries and the airport, your temperature was taken, mats were provided for you to disinfect your shoes, and hand sanitizer was in plenty supply in order to curtail the spread of COVID.
So, did the system seem infallible and perfect? No. Did I feel overall comfortable and safe to visit there? Yes. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Absolutely.
What was it like upon arriving in the airport?
My flights from San Diego to Cozumel were pretty full, but the airline did their best to maintain sanitized conditions. Of course, masks were mandatory throughout any of the airports I traveled through, and while flying.
Don’t expect the regular service onboard your plane. I was handed a sanitizer wipe upon boarding the plane to use as I saw fit. In some cases the wipe was provided in a baggie along with my water and biscuits as a snack.
If the airline did do some kind of service, it was merely to offer you a drink and provide a prepackaged snack such as cinnamon biscuits. If you require something more than that, they do suggest while waiting at the gate you get yourself some food and drink to bring onboard to chow down on while flying.
Upon arrival in Cozumel, I proceeded through Immigration pretty much as usual, except I had to show the health questionnaire I was required to complete at least 24 hours before our departure.
After retrieving my luggage, I proceeded to Customs where my temperature was taken prior to passing through inspection. Hand sanitizer was present should you require it, but everything else remained pretty much the same.
The one disconcerting experience was using the shared shuttle which crammed eight of us into the van to transfer us to our various resorts. I was under the impression the passenger number would be less, but everyone abided by the mask rule and things seemed to go fine from there. If you wish to limit your exposure in such close quarters, I highly suggest requesting private transportation for a few dollars more.
What’s it like to stay at a resort in Cozumel now?
It doesn’t take long to notice when arriving at your resort, that hotel occupancy is definitely down.
Entering the lobby at Iberostar Cozumel, initially you must cross a mat filled with disinfectant to sanitize the bottom of your shoes. Next, you grab a palm full of hand sanitizer, and then pass by the facial temperature monitoring screen, all before you are allowed to approach the registration desk.
Behind a glass panel, you are politely met by masked hosts who are careful to limit any physical interaction, such as sharing a pen. You must use a sanitized pen and then place that pen in the used container.
(I should take a moment here to mention with Iberostar you can download their app on your phone and check in via the app, as well as have all the property info, including restaurant hours, activities, and map, all at your fingertips for that contactless experience.)
Things appeared quiet in the lobby, and continued to appear the same as the bellboy transported me and my luggage to my room. With occupancy greatly diminished thanks to the pandemic, even the communal areas did not have a lot of people around.
Lounge chairs were strategically placed to maintain social distancing in the pool area and on the beach. Although the pool area seemed to fill up, there was plenty of chairs available on the beach each day during my visit.
There were no drunken crowds in the pool, which I greatly appreciated, and overall, things were quiet and in control everywhere I went on the property.
Restaurants continued with the social distancing and strict facial covering and sanitizing protocols. Once you were seated at your table, you were allowed to remove your mask to partake in your food and drink, but once you stepped away from the table, you had to return your mask to your face (especially when going through the buffet areas).
Diving was also similar. While you were gathering around the diveshop to wait to board your boat, facial coverings were required. Once you were on your boat and heading toward your dive site, then masks could be removed because you were out in the open air and enjoying the refreshing breeze. Boats were not overcrowded so that divers were not on top of one another as they geared up.
And as all divers remind one another, COVID doesn’t get you under water…so enjoy the freedom of scuba.
Because I felt so comfortable with all the precautions I saw the resort taking, even disinfecting large areas with a fogger when occupants were not present, I felt safe in partaking of a massage at the spa as well. Anyone who knows me knows I never miss an opportunity to check out the pleasure of a good massage when it is available wherever I go.
What’s it like to do tourist activities outside the resort?
One day, thanks to some strong winds blowing through, Cozumel closed the harbor to small boats, so I opted to travel over to Playa Del Carmen to partake of some cenotes diving.
This excursion required a ride on the ferry across the channel. As was usual, COVID protocols, including masks, hand sanitizer, and the taking of temperatures, were observed.
At this point, it had not become remarkable that the ferry had plenty of room to spare for passengers taking the crossing. Social distancing was definitely not a problem here as well.
When I got to the resort that was to serve as base camp for the excursion, all protocols remained the same. Even when we arrived at the two cenotes we were to dive, the owners of the property had all the same protocols in place, including disinfecting your shoes as you entered the bathrooms.
Just as with boat diving, for dive safety reasons as well as COVID, dive groups were kept small and separated from one another.
On my surface interval day, I rented a car and drove around the island to see the Mayan ruins and the lighthouse at Punta Sur. Don’t think you are going to escape the protocols here either. They are everywhere you go – from entering Punta Sur Park, to visiting the various ruins, to enjoying lunch at a beachside restaurant. Everything is in place for your health and safety.
What’s the bottom line?
I felt completely comfortable with the standards Cozumel had put into place for its residents’ and visitors’ health and safety. I felt spoiled that I was able to enjoy the lower numbers of visitors at this time. After being stuck at home for such a long period of time for someone like me, I thoroughly enjoyed my escape to some place else.
Bottom line – if you aren’t a high-risk individual, and you are comfortable abiding by the health protocols put in place to avoid the spread of COVID, then I think it a a wonderful time for you to take the opportunity to visit Cozumel. They are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to welcome you there.
Just remember, it is up to you to be a responsible traveler. Do what is asked of you to minimize the spread. If you suspect you have the tiniest of symptoms, then don’t stray from home. If you feel you may have been infected while you are still traveling, inform your resort or authorities. If we don’t act responsibly, we may never get to return to traveling as we used to enjoy it.
It is up to us. Let’s not abuse our freedoms so that we lose them for ourselves and others, please. Let’s stay safe, follow the precautions, and live to travel today and tomorrow. May our souls be filled with abundant experiences from around the world.
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