As a world-class scuba diving destination, Cozumel, Mexico is an obvious travel destination for divers. However, with its breathtaking beaches, National Marine Park, and ancient history it offers something for anyone looking for a Caribbean vacation. In June, my husband and I joined a group of adaptive scuba divers for our second trip to this Mexican paradise.
Two major airports serve the area, Cancun and Cozumel. If you fly into Cancun then the next step is to take the ferry over to the island of Cozumel. We did not use this method but some of our traveling mates did. It is doable as a manual wheelchair user but labor intensive and not highly accessible. I recommend flying directly into Cozumel. It is a small, one-story airport but the staff is phenomenal at boarding and deplaning individuals with mobility impairments. There is no jetway and the stairs are fairly steep. However, airport staff is efficient and safe at assisting individuals into the aisle chair, carrying them down the stairs, and having wheelchairs ready. I felt very safe with the crew. There were 4 wheelchair users on our arriving flight and we were all off and in the terminal in 20 minutes. That’s a miracle!
A limited number of wheelchair lift taxis are available in Cozumel or if you are able to transfer take a car taxi to your hotel. Be aware, that once you get through customs you will be bombarded by people saying they can help with transportation, these are timeshare representatives. Taxi lines are outside.
The purpose of our trip to Cozumel was scuba diving. Cozumel has a plethora of reefs that have continued to thrive as the government has made the water surrounding this beautiful habitat a National Park and forbidden anyone from touching or taking anything. Adaptive scuba diving is one of the most freeing experiences I have ever participated in. The wonderful team at Lifewaters trained me to become a certified adaptive diver and then organized the two great trips I’ve been on to Cozumel. All levels of mobility/ability are able to dive pending approval by your physician. Some implanted devices or diagnoses will pose some restrictions. Your certification is rated based on how much assistance one needs. Our group had divers who were able to walk with difficulties to high-level quadriplegics.
I didn’t spend ALL of my time underwater. Within rolling distance of Hotel Cozumel is Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville. The sidewalks in this part of town are flat and almost all have curb cuts or less than 2-inch curbs. From Hotel Cozumel toward downtown, I recommend rolling on the ocean side of the street. Margaretville has a steep ramp to get in but the staff was available to help. Ramp access to all levels allows access to a huge outdoor patio on the ocean. Gorgeous! They also boast a large accessible bathroom with grab bars. Since Cozumel is a cruise ship port, the downtown area is filled with shops that range from typical tourist trinkets to jewelry and, of course, tequila. Avoiding downtown during port days will keep you out of the crowds and save money at the shops. The hotel can inform you of the days ships are in port. The majority of shops are accessible, some with ramps to get in. Very few accessible bathrooms exist in this area so plan accordingly.
We stayed at Hotel Cozumel, an all-inclusive resort whose property sprawls up from the ocean across the street. Hotel Cozumel has 10 accessible rooms, all located on the ground floor of 1 building with balconies facing the large pool. The rooms are spacious with a balcony large enough for a couple of wheelchair users. A large sliding glass door leads to this area. If you have limited upper body strength opening it may pose a challenge. The room comes with 2 full beds at a great height for a transfer. Leading to the bathroom, a roll-under sink and vanity is well designed for a manual chair user but will be too low for the majority of power chair users. The hotel has remodeled to create a roll-in shower with a hand-held adjustable shower head. The room comes with a non-padded, no-armed shower chair. The most pronounced accessibility issue is access to the toilet. If you can stand to transfer, you are golden. Hotel Cozumel has installed grab bars. However, if your wheelchair is wider than 28 inches you will not be able to get right next to the toilet, you’ll be stuck about 6 inches away.
The hotel has poured concrete ramps at all the entrances. These ramps are a little steep but both staff and other patrons were always helpful if needed a little extra power. The snack bar next to the pool is accessible and serves a mean fish taco. Be sure to ask for the guacamole, it seemed to be a top secret that they have it but they do and it’s delicious! Another secret, ask for ice cream at dinner, the coconut is phenomenal. Breakfast and lunch are served in the main area’s dining room. It has two levels with the buffet two stairs down. There is a buffet on the top level but we had to request they set food at this location. I recommend reviewing this with staff upon arrival.
The other half of the hotel is located across the street with picture-perfect ocean views. It is a flat roll with newly added curb cuts but be careful of traffic. Lunch is served on the ocean side in a colorful, open-air patio. Almost every level is accessible and concrete pathways lead through the sand by the ocean. Ocean access is available by descending multiple steep steps. The hotel’s dive shop, lockers, and dock (all accessible) are also located here.
The pool has various levels of shallow entries starting at a few inches deep but no lift. Brave wheelers pulled up to the edge and rolled into the deep end. I prefer pulling a beach chair to the shallow end and completing a multi-step transfer (chair to beach chair to shallow level).
Overall, I give Hotel Cozumel a 3.5 out of 5 stars. They have worked hard to improve accessibility and have more accessible rooms than other hotels. Nonetheless, you will still face obstacles. So just remember my travel mantra “Flexibility is the key to adventure.” I did not see any accessibility features to assist individuals with visual or hearing impairments. The food is middle of the road but does provide a wide variety. My favorite dishes are the fish tacos and the fajitas. The majority of the staff were friendly and helpful. Most speak limited English so brush up on key Spanish phrases. My recommended beverage of choice is the Seahorse.