Cozumel, a largely underdeveloped island located 45 minutes off the coast of Mexico’s Northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, contains some 200 square miles of precious ecosystems, and is best known for its reefs–some of the most well known in the world.
But even Cozumel’s popularity among sea life aficionados has not prevented the harmful effects of global warming from encroaching upon its shores; the reefs are dying, compounded by the surrounding Caribbean Sea’s warming temperatures, ocean pollution, and the disruptive presence of cruise ships that make stops at its main port, San Miguel de Cozumel.
The peril of Cozumel’s fragile ecosystems is a major concern of both the Mexican government and local tourism industry. Both entities are making concerted efforts to protect the natural land and seascapes that define Cozumel as a dream destination for nature lovers.
These efforts are part of a larger trend of ecotourism in the travel industry as a whole in which governments, tour companies, hotels and restaurants are adopting sustainble practicies to lessen their carbon footprint.
I visited eco-friendly sites, hotels and restaurants in Cozumel for one week., and created this curated list of resources for a sustainable vacation.
Be sure to bookmark this list of recommended eco-friendly services for your dream trip to Cozumel.
Sharing is Caring!
Please click the icons above to share by email and on social media!
This post may contain affiliate links that allow us to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you
What is Ecotourism?
The term Ecotourism refers to a nouveau, mindful approach to travel in which both tourists and tourism services embrace sustainable practices to help contribute to environmental protection and prevent the ominous impact of global warming. These practices can be as simple as using refillable metal or glass water bottles rather than plastic, and as far reaching as designating entire sections of land and sea as protected areas that cannot be developed or polluted.
Ecotourism in Cozumel: Eco-Friendly Hotels
In Cozumel, Iberostar wins this blog’s award for most eco-friendly. The Iberostar hotel group as a whole bills itself as “leaders in responsible tourism,” according to its website. With more than 100 hotels in 16 countries, the company serves as responsible tourism advisors to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative of the World Tourism Organization and to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The property embraces sustainable practices including serving seasonal, local food, banning single-use plastic and prohibiting smoking. As part of its Wave of Change initiative, the facility also avoids sending any waste to landfills or incinerators. Furthermore, the management is helping to improve the ecosystems surrounding the property by restoring seagrass meadows, forests and wetlands, and by opening three coral nurseries in teh nearby Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, which helps to increase species diversity, and where staff can analyze water temperature changes and monitor coral growth.
This all-inclusive family resort was awarded a ETIC Bronze Certification for being both ethical and sustainble. Located on the southwest coast of Cozumel near to the famous Palancar Reef, the hotel boasts a long list of eco-friendly features including conserving water and energy, limiting pollution and garbage, and supporting protection of wildlife, biodiversity and cultural sites. In fact, the carbon footprint of a guest stay is promoted on the hotel web site as being minimal.
Artisanal Eco Friendly Private Cabin-Casa Ixchel
Located on the rugged east side of the island, this afforable, eco-friendly private cabin comes with one bedroom, a fully-equipped kitchen , bathroom with a shower, garden, and terrace. The cozy abode is a short walk to the beach and offers access to water sports.
Secrets Aura Cozumel
Honorable mention for eco-friendly hotels in Cozumel goes to Secrets Aura Cozumel for the impressive number of plant-based dishes avaiable at the restautants of this adult-only all-inclusive resort. As mentioned in my article on teach yoga as a guest instructor at Secrets Aura, the restaurants all feature vegan menus, including an excellent vegan steak at Windows and delicious tofu civiche at Oceana.
Eco Tourism in Cozumel: Eco Tours
There are no shortage of nature-themed activities to choose from in Cozumel. Outside of the hotel zone on the Northwestern side of the island, large sections of the island have either been designated protected nature reserves, or feature quiet stretches of undeveloped rocky coast where locals reside and Mayan culture thrives. Eco tour companies guide tourists to these natural and cultural sites using a light footprint by visiting the reefs, eco parks and cultural sites for limited amounts of time, discussing the importance of ecotourism, and encouraging economic support of the local community by shopping for handmade crafts and tipping.
One hour south of the crowded hotel and cruise ship scene, you’ll reach Punta Sur Eco Park, one of the island’s protected national parks with a series of stunning features, including a Banyan-tree filled crocodile lagoon, towering vintage lighthouse, small Mayan ruin and pristine beachfront with snorkeling reef. Not only are cruise ships conspicuously absent from the area, but you won’t see so much as a fishing boat within sight. A trip to Cozumel would be incomplete without a visit to the stunning and precious Punta Sur Eco Park.
Ecotourism in Cozumel: Healthy Restaurants
Ecotourism translates not only to hotels and tours, but to restaurants as well. Eating organic and/or plant-based food is more eco-friendly and helps support local businesses who follow sustainable practices. Among the gaggle of shops and restaurants in San Miguel de Cozumel, you’ll find a nice selection of restaurants serving plant-based, biodynamic, organic and/or vegan food.
Amparo’s Breakfast Bistro
Esquina ave 10 nt con calle 2nt 198 Centro
77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R.
This cozy restaurant decked out with colorful Mexican murals and handcrafted pottery sells hearty breakfast-style dishes until 3 pm. The menu includes an entire vegan section with combination platters of flavorful rice, beans, vegetables and tortillas served in warm cast-iron skillets.
Miss Deleites Cozumel
Calle Dr Adolfo Rosado Salas entre 10 y 15, Centro
77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R.
This charming, authentically Mexican hole in the wall café with its entire menu written by hand on an oversized chalkboard offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, including a lentil burger, vegan lasagne, tacos and oversized custom-made smoothies.
Nutty Treesome Cuisine Botanique
5a Avenida Sur 217, Centro
77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R.
This 100% vegan and gluten-free restaurant only open for dinner has a mouth-watering selection of gourmet rolls, smoothies, sandwiches and frozen treats.
25 Avenida Sur 498, Centro, 77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R.
This all-vegan café in the heart of town doesn’t have a website or Instagram account. What it lacks in marketing it makes up for in impressive options even onmivores would be thrilled by. With a robust menu that includes make your own vegan tortas, burritos, enchiladas, pizza and tacos, you could easily return day after day to feast on sizable Mexican plate lunches.
Av Lic Benito Juárez 248, Centro
77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R.,
This kosher Mediterranean café sells vegan and gluten-free options including falafel, hummus, French fries and Israeli salad.
Ecotourism in Cozumel–Final Thoughts
A visit to Cozumel should undoubtedly be done with ecotourism in mind. Avoid using plastic and creating garbage in general. Stay at a hotel that embaces sustainable practices. Book an eco tour to visit protected areas and support the local economy. Eat responsibly by choosing local, seasonal, organic and vegan food. This sustainable approach to travel won’t be hard to pull off in Cozumel considering the eco-friendly hotels, tours and restaurants to choose from. It is up to us as ecotourists to make eco-friendly choices when we travel to lessen our carbon footprint and honor the earth’s incredible natural environments.