The Perfect Destination for a Dog-Friendly Getaway
We arrived in Cozumel after spending 5 months in Playa del Carmen with the expectation of only staying for a month before moving on to our next country. Well, 3 months later and we’re still here! Cozumel is one of those islands that encapsulates you and forces you to rearrange your travel plans because you're enjoying it so much with your best friend that a month just is not long enough.
Island Veterinarian specializing in International Health Certificates: Pet Oasis
Island life has always provided Sophie and I with a very nice balance, and Cozumel is no different in that regard. Unlike Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is very relaxing, and not overpopulated. Besides in the square located right across from the ferry port, or the area surrounding the cruise port that is a little more south, you won't be chased down by street vendors trying to hustle you into buying the same thing that all the other street vendors are selling. Even in those areas it's very few. The restaurants and bars close early, so you won't find any tourists that had one too many drinks stumbling down the street. Instead, you'll find tourists that are only here for a few hours or diehard diving enthusiasts that come to enjoy the best coral reefs in all the Americas, and possibly even the world. The island is also extremely safe in comparison to Playa del Carmen and some other places in Mexico. I've not once felt that I needed to look over my shoulders while walking the streets here like in many places in Latin America. The streets are well-maintained, the beaches are clean with crystal-clear water, tons of incredible sea-life, and the locals are extremely helpful, and genuinely kind.
Getting to the Island:
The two most popular ways to get to Isla Cozumel are either taking a ferry from Playa del Carmen or by direct flight to the Cozumel International Airport (CZM). Since we were already living in Playa del Carmen before moving to the island, we took the 40-minute ferry ride over, which happens to be the most popular transportation method. There are two ferries that come to the island from Playa del Carmen. We decided to take the newer of the two ferries called Ultramar. I would suggest that you buy your ferry ticket online in advance and arrive about 40 minutes early since the lines can get pretty backed up at times. It was an enjoyable ride over and you will have no issues bringing your pup with you. There are no pet restrictions, so you do not need to show any paperwork. It's an effortless process. The ferry we took has three floors and we always chose the top deck because Sophie really enjoys feeling the ocean breeze and being able to look around.
Downtown San Miguel, Cozumel
The downtown area consists of an approximate a 15-block radius, which is located directly in front of the ferry port towards the north side of the island. This area gets packed with tourists' multiple times a day as the ferries arrive and depart on the hour, from early morning until around 9pm. It is filled with street vendors, shops selling souvenirs, tons of incredible Mexican and seafood restaurants, people offering all types of tours on the island, and if you're looking to exchange your money for some pesos this is where you would do it. Most places here do accept USD, but they won't give you a very favorable exchange rate, so I'd suggest visiting one of these shops to do the exchange yourself or visiting one of the many local or international bank ATMS. This is what I normally do because of the convenience of it. I would suggest using bank ATMS and not random ones on the street.
Top Swimming Spots with your Best Friend
Now on to my favorite topic, and the entire reason we travel, which is the best places to have fun with your best friend! The island is filled with hidden gems along the coast. We have tried most of them. The beaches on the port side are mostly rocky and great for snorkeling. The water is crystal-clear and all different shades of blue and green, with some of the most beautiful sea life you'll ever see. I've honestly never seen anything like it in my life. However, unless you have a medium to larger size dog that is athletic like Sophie is, then the rocks might be a challenge for them. Sophie has no issues jumping over the rocks or climbing the rocks to get in and out of the water. She is quite an athlete. The further you go south on the port side, the less rocks, and the more sand.
Playa Mia - This is our favorite beach and it's about a 30-minute scooter ride south of downtown Cozumel where we live. Trust me, it is well worth the ride, and you will not want to miss it. It is miles of pristine white-sand beach for Sophie to run, and the water is crystal-clear. There are few fish, but if you're lucky you might run into a school of stingrays. It is also not uncommon to come across people horseback riding on the beach. The beach is lined with palm trees for shade. It is one of the more popular beaches on the island, so on the weekends it can get a little busy, but it's still not overcrowded. On the weekdays, you'll basically have the beach to yourself. We have been there about six times at the time of writing this and we will be going back a few more times before heading to our next destination.
To get there click on this link of Google Maps. It will take you to Playa Mia Beach Club. Once you arrive at the entrance of the beach club, there will be a green gate on the south side that you will need to walk through to get to the dog-friendly public beach. The beach club does not allow dogs, so you must go to the public beach.
Cruising Beach - Although the northern port side of the island is lined with tons of hidden gems like Cruising Beach, we find ourselves returning to this spot on a regular basis since it is much closer than Playa Mia. It is only a short walk north from downtown Cozumel. It is a bit hidden by trees, which we like because it makes it more secluded, but if you don't know where you're looking, you could easily pass over it. In the video below, it will show the small pathway that leads to it. This is more of a local's beach, so a lot of people won't know it exists if you ask. The rock formations attract tons of different smaller reef fish, which makes it a great spot to snorkel. You will often see people snorkeling or diving while drifting with the current along the beach and down the coast. Lots of people will do this and make a day out of it, by drifting and stopping off at various beach clubs along the way.
To get there click on this link of Google Maps. It is hidden by trees, but there is a narrow path that leads to it. It is located almost directly across the street from the Cozumel International Airport.
As mentioned, Cozumel has hidden gems all along the coast. There are too many to list and make videos of, but below I've listed a few more that we've been to that might interest you. They are mostly snorkeling spots, but still wonderful places that both you and your dog will enjoy, nonetheless.
Local Dog-Friendly Parks
The island itself does not have any parks that are dedicated to dogs, but they do have a few parks that locals and expats will bring their dogs to socialize with. They typically do this before and after working hours. We have not come across any aggressive dogs during our time on the island. All of them have been very well behaved and taken care of. Local dog parks are also a great place to meet locals and expats that you will find all have one thing in common, and that is the love for dogs. During all our years of traveling, the dog parks are where I meet the best people that usually end up resulting in long-term friendships. Most of the time friendships do not end at the dog park. Many times, you will meet dog owners/parents that will want to show you around and bring their dogs with them for extra playtime, such as going to the beach or out to eat.
- 3 De Mayo Park - This park is in the more upscale Corpus Christi neighborhood, and since we live only three blocks from the park this is where I normally take Sophie to get her last bit of energy out at the end of the day. It is directly across the street from the Corpus Christi Church, and the sound of church bells makes it a very relaxing way to end the day. People start to arrive there with their dogs after work between 6-7pm.
- Palacio Municipal de Cozumel - This park is very wide open and is only a few blocks from the 3 De Mayo Park, so people tend to rotate between these two parks with their dogs. There is a lot of room for the dogs to run here, however, it is mostly asphalt. It is a good option if you live closer to this park than 3 De Mayo. It is also located right off the main street and across the street from a beach where you can take your dog for a quick dip in the water and to watch the sunset. People start to arrive there with their dogs after work between 6-7pm.
- Parque Hundido - This park is also located in the Corpus Christi neighborhood. Unfortunately, I found this spot a little late during my stay on the island, because it is now my favorite to bring Sophie for a late afternoon playtime. It is on a quiet side street, which allows her more freedom to run without the worry of being nearby traffic.
Restaurants and Bars
First, I don't consider myself as being on "vacation," since I normally stay in any one location for a minimum of two months while working remotely, so I typically stay away from the restaurants that cater solely to tourists. I do this for a couple of reasons. One is costs tend to be much higher, and the other is that I prefer to befriend locals and expats over tourists. Locals and expats always provide the best suggestions regarding things to do that the typical tourist probably would not know about. They help you find all the hidden gems. For me, that is the key to getting to know a place.
With that said, there are tons of options to choose from and with most of them offering optional outdoor seating. I have not found one restaurant that has not allowed Sophie entry. All of them have been extremely dog-friendly, they have all offered her water, and so far, she has always had her own seat at the table if she wanted. Yep, an actual seat at the table!
As I mentioned, there are a ton of great restaurants to choose from, but the five listed below are the ones that I find myself returning to the most. They also meet my criteria of being dog-friendly, great staff, great food and drinks, and catering more to expats and locals.
- Chile Tequila - This is our favorite spot to eat, have a drink, and listen to some good live music. The staff is super welcoming, and Sophie has pretty much become the official mascot of Chile Tequila. It is located on the main port street and faces the seawall. It's a wonderful place to catch the sailboats sailing through the beautiful Cozumel sunset.
- Dick's Dive Bar - This place has a fried Mahi fish sandwich that is to die for. It's not on their menu, so you'll need to request it. Trust me on this one. I consider myself a connoisseur of fish sandwiches. The only downside to Dick's Dive Bar is that it's located in the heart of the tourist district, so you won't have much of a view, but if it had a view, this would be my number one place.
- Hemmingway's Beach Club - Hemmingway's is considered a beach club, meaning it is a restaurant that is located on the beach where you can swim and snorkel. Beach clubs are all over the port side of the island, but this is one of the more popular ones. They are super dog-friendly, and have a DJ that plays some great remixes. It has lounge vibe and it is located just a few blocks north of downtown Cozumel. Instead of your normal restaurant tables, they have sofas and lounge chairs to relax in while watching the sunset.
- Thirsty Cougar - This another great spot that expats gather at which is only two blocks north of Chile Tequila on the main port street and has a similar scene as Chile Tequilas. The same crowd rotates between the two spots. Some prefer one over the other. My favorite of the two remains to be Chile Tequila. Both have great food, drinks, and live music.
- Wet Wendy's - This great dive bar attracts more of the biker crowd with live rock bands on some weeknights and most weekends. Wet Wendy's is directly across the street from Dick's Dive Bar, which makes it easy to hop back and forth depending on which one you prefer. Most of the seating is outdoors and lots of expats gather here. The only downside to this spot is that it's in the heart of downtown and does not have an ocean view.