A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Cozumel vs. San Diego for Scuba Diving & Snorkeling, Beaches, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Cozumel or San Diego?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Which city is more affordable and which is best for your travel style? If you're trying to figure out where to go next, comparing the travel costs between Cozumel and San Diego can help you decide which place is right for you.

Cozumel

Cozumel is a scenic, lively, and vibrant island. It's a beautiful place to visit, too. Visitors also love the food, scuba diving and snorkeling, and beaches.

San Diego

San Diego is a hip, dynamic, and energetic coastal city. Since it's a large city, you'll find plenty of things to do. It's a gorgeous place to visit. This is a quaint and attractive place to visit, too. Other reasons to visit include museums, nightlife, and live music.

Cozumel and San Diego: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Not as popular for scuba diving and snorkeling


Is there more to do in Cozumel or San Diego?

Tourists will generally find more to do in San Diego than Cozumel. It is bigger and it has more sights, attractions, and activities for travelers. San Diego is very popular for its museums, music, hiking, big city activities, and quaint atmosphere, while Cozumel attracts visitors for its resorts, scuba diving & snorkeling, and shopping. Cozumel is famous for its beautiful beaches and world class dive sites. San Diego is famous for its relaxed coastal atmosphere, its many kid-friendly sights, and its beautiful beaches with critter-filled tidal pools. It is also well known for The San Diego Zoo.

How is Cozumel different from San Diego?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between San Diego and Cozumel. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Cozumel or San Diego?

Cozumel
San Diego

San Diego is a great coastal city for its historical sights. Also, Cozumel is not as popular, but is still a nice island for its sights and museums.

Many visitors head to San Diego specifically to visit some of its top-rated museums and other sights. While the city is famous for it's beaches, zoos, and aquariums, don't overlook the museums and other landmarks. Popular options include the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, the Old Town State Historic Park, and Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument.

Cozumel offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. Check out the Island Museum, the Coral Reefs Monument, and some of the local Mayan ruins. Also worth a visit is Cozumel's Lighthouse.


Is the Food Better in Cozumel or San Diego? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Cozumel
San Diego

Both Cozumel and San Diego offer a number of nice restaurants to choose from.

There are plenty of up and coming restaurants around Cozumel. You'll find a mix of tourist restaurants and hidden gems that serve up authentic Mexican dishes. Wander off the main streets to find the restaurants that are tucked away from the cruise ship crowds.

Visitors will find a budding food and restaurant scene in San Diego. The city has great seafood and a diversity of cuisines. There are many casual dining options that serve informal foods like burgers or salads, but there are also award-winning fine dining restaurants with elegant atmospheres. Popular local dishes include fish tacos and California burritos.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Nightlife?

Cozumel
San Diego

If the nightlife is your priority, you'll find high quality options in both Cozumel and San Diego.

The nightlife in Cozumel has something for everybody. The nightlife scene is filled with cocktail lounges, beachfront bars, and wild weekend parties. There is something for everyone, whether you'll looking to sip wine by the ocean or party into the early morning.

San Diego offers plenty to do in the evening. The heart of the city's nightlife scene is in the Gaslamp District, which is filled with bars, clubs, and music venues. There's a young student population that keeps the nightlife scene casual and fun.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Music?

Cozumel
San Diego

San Diego is a great coastal city for live music. However, Cozumel is not a live music destination.

San Diego has a thriving music scene. Popular venues include the House of Blues, The Belly Up, and The Shout House.

Cozumel is not a live music destination.


Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Resorts?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel is great for its luxury resorts. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for its resorts.

There are plenty of resorts in Cozumel to choose from. There are hotels in the city center, and resorts by the beaches. For diving and snorkeling, stay in Southern Cozumel. Golfing and waterfront properties are popular in Northern Cozumel.

San Diego has a few great resort options. Most people prefer to stay in hotels or VRBOs, but several popular resorts include Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Paradise Point, and the famous Hotel del Coronado.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel is renowned for its diving and snorkeling. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for snorkeling and scuba diving.

People travel from around the world to go scuba diving and snorkeling in Cozumel. Many people visit Cozumel specifically for the world class diving. Palancar Reef is one of the best dive spots in the area, and thanks to conservation efforts it is rebounding and offers a diverse environment.

San Diego has a few good snorkeling spots. Popular snorkeling and diving spots include La Jolla Cove, Mission Bay, and Turtle Town. The water's a bit chili, but it's still worth going for a dive or popping on a mask and snorkeling around for a bit.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Beaches?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel and San Diego are first-rate choices for a beach vacation.

With world-famous beaches, Cozumel is a very popular vacation destination. The island is lined with beautiful beaches and you'll find great snorkeling and tourist-friendly amenities. Some of the best beaches are Playa Punta Morena, Playa El Cielo, and Playa Chen Rio.

The beaches in San Diego are among the best in the world. The city has great beaches with tidal pools and interesting sea life at low tide. Adults and kids alike will enjoy hitting the beach when the tides are out and looking for local critters in the tidal pools. Popular beaches in the area include La Jolla Cove Beach, Coronado Beach, and Pacific Beach.


Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Hiking?

Cozumel
San Diego

San Diego is a great coastal city for hiking. However, Cozumel is not a hiking destination.

Many visitors go to San Diego for the hiking trails. The city is filled with parks and has tons of natural beauty. There is plenty of urban hiking in town, or you can visit more natural areas just out of town. Head to Torrey Pines State Park or Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail for some nice hikes.

Cozumel is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Cozumel or San Diego?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel is great for its shopping opportunities. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for its shopping areas.

Cozumel is well-known for its shopping. For the best shopping head to Plaza del Sol, the Royal Village Shopping Center, or Los Cincos Soles. Expect cruise ship crowds and no shortage of tourists.

Many visitors go to San Diego to go shopping. Head to Fashion Valley or Westfield UTC for some fun shopping. There are suburban shopping malls in the area as well as souvenir shops in the more touristy areas.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Families?

Cozumel
San Diego

San Diego is a must-visit destination for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Cozumel is not as popular, but is still a nice island for its family-friendly activities.

San Diego is one of the most popular family destinations. The city is filled with kid-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy. There's the world-class zoo, several amusement parks, the beaches, aquariums, and more. The year-round warm weather makes it easy to spend plenty of time outdoors in parks, playgrounds, and beaches where kids can stretch their legs and run around.

Cozumel is a very kid-friendly island. The area is filled with water parks, snorkeling opportunities and, of course, fun-filled beaches. There are also wildlife reserves and Mayan ruins that aren't too far away.


Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Couples?

Cozumel
San Diego

San Diego is a must-visit destination for romance. Also, Cozumel is not as popular, but is still a nice island for its romantic activities.

For those traveling as a couple, San Diego has plenty to offer. For adventurous couples, there are many outdoor activities that you can enjoy together. The beaches offer a great playground for adults who enjoy the water and warm weather. There are also restaurants and a great nightlife in San Diego.

Cozumel is a very popular place to visit for couples. Beaches, resorts, and adventure sports make this the perfect couples destination. There are also great restaurants and plenty of interesting places to explore.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel is great for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for backpackers.

Many backpackers visit Cozumel. There are a few hostels in town and it's a safe and easy place to explore independently.

Plenty of budget travelers visit San Diego. Backpackers will enjoy the young vibe of the city. There are a few great hostels near the beach or in town.

Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Students?

Cozumel
San Diego

San Diego is a must-visit destination for its student-friendly activities. However, Cozumel is not popular with students.

Students come from all over the world to visit San Diego. With its young population and many universities, international students will feel right at home in San Diego. There are also many great outdoor activities for the adventurous.

Cozumel is not popular with students.


Is Cozumel or San Diego Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel and San Diego both offer reasonable public transit to get you around.

Public transit is mostly limited in Cozumel. Local buses don't efficiently travel to the beaches or the hotel areas, so most tourists don't use them.

Public transit is generally limited in San Diego. The city has a trolley (light rail system) as well as a bus system. Most people depend on cars to get around, and you'll likely enjoy your trip a bit more if you have your own vehicle.

Is Cozumel or San Diego a more walkable city?

Cozumel
San Diego

Cozumel is great for its high level of walkability. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for its ease of walking around.

Cozumel is a very walkable island. It's easy to walk around the downtown as it's compact and fun to explore on foot.

San Diego is a somewhat walkable island. The downtown area is walkable, but if you want to travel further, you'll need to find a different form of transportation.

For even more information, also check out Is Cozumel Worth Visiting? and Is San Diego Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in San Diego or Cozumel?

How long in Cozumel or San Diego?

In either Cozumel or San Diego, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Cozumel than San Diego because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 3-7 days is a good amount of time for Cozumel, and 3-5 days is enough time in San Diego.

Families should spend more time in San Diego than Cozumel. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in San Diego, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in San Diego than Cozumel. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in San Diego that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Cozumel than San Diego if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Cozumel.


  • How many days in Cozumel or San Diego? Ideal Length of Stay
    Cozumel 3-7 
    San Diego 3-5

One day in Cozumel or San Diego?

You'll find nightlife and food around the island of Cozumel. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

In San Diego, you'll find food and scuba diving and snorkeling. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. One reason most visitors come is for the beaches. This coastal city offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.


A weekend in Cozumel or San Diego?

You'll find food and scuba diving and snorkeling around the vibrant destination of Cozumel. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. This island offers a variety of activities to choose from.

In San Diego, you'll find scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One reason most visitors come is for the beaches. Since there is so much to do in the area, a weekend is probably not enough for all of it.

Five days in Cozumel or San Diego?

You'll find scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping around the colorful island of Cozumel. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. If you have five days, this island makes for a great vacation. It's also a relaxing resort destination. Five days should give you a good understanding of everything this island has to offer.

San Diego is a great place to explore. It is common to spend five days here. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that San Diego has to offer. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

A week in Cozumel or San Diego?

Cozumel is a popular choice for travelers. One week here is typical. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Cozumel, one week is sufficent for most. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in San Diego. Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting San Diego. One reason most visitors come is for the beaches. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.


For some great organized tour ideas, see Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in Mexico, The Best Adventure Tours to Mexico, The Best Tours for Seniors to United States of America, and The Best Contiki Tours to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, San Diego or Cozumel?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Cozumel is $118, while the average daily cost in San Diego is $202. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Cozumel and San Diego in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cozumel $70
    San Diego $115
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cozumel $140
    San Diego $230
Compare Hotels in Cozumel and San Diego

Looking for a hotel in Cozumel or San Diego? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Cozumel


Hotels in San Diego


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Cozumel Hotel Prices and San Diego Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cozumel $23
    San Diego $24

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cozumel

Also for Cozumel, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Cuban Cigar Master Class & Beach Break® with transfer: $153
  • Private Transfer from Cozumel Airport: $110
  • ATV Adventure to Jade Cavern with transfer: $93
  • Mexico Cozumel Airport (CZM) Cozumel - Roundtrip Private Transfer: $87
  • Wild Jade Cavern Private ATV Tour With Transfer: $86
  • Cozumel Airport or Ferry/Cruise Port Transfer to/from Cozumel: $80
  • Cozumel Cruise Port to Mexico Cozumel Airport (CZM) - Departure Private Transfer: $44
  • Mexico Cozumel Airport (CZM) to Cozumel Cruise Port - Arrival Private Transfer: $44
  • Cozumel Cruise Port to Cozumel island hotels - Arrival Private Transfer: $44
  • Cozumel to Mexico Cozumel Airport (CZM)Departure Private Transfer: $44
  • Mexico Cozumel Airport (CZM) to Cozumel -Arrival Private Transfer: $44
  • Cozumel Cruise Port to Cozumel hotels Arrival Private Transfer: $44

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Diego

Also for San Diego, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Tijuana Intl Airport (TIJ) to Playas de Rosarito -Round-Trip Private Transfer: $239
  • San Diego Private Transfer to Orange County, CA.: $223
  • San Diego Airport (SAN): Private Transfer to San Diego: $188
  • Private Transfer Airport Tijuana/Valle de Guadalupe (Ensenada) or back.: $182
  • RoundTrip transfer in private minivan from-to Airport(SAN) in San Diego Downtown: $173
  • Private Transfer from Tijuana to Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe: $154
  • San Diego Airport (SAN) to San Diego hotel/address - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $148
  • Arrival Private Transfer San Diego Airport SAN to San Diego by Executive SUV: $134
  • San Diego Airport (SAN) to San Marcos, CA - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $128
  • Tijuana Intl Airport (TIJ) to Playas de Rosarito - Arrival Private Transfer: $119
  • Arrival Private Transfer: San Diego Airport SAN to San Diego in Luxury SUV: $114
  • Tijuana to Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $108

Is it cheaper to fly into Cozumel or San Diego?

Prices for flights to both San Diego and Cozumel change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Cozumel $24
    San Diego $45

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cozumel

For Cozumel, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Authentic Mayan Cooking Class in Cozumel: $61
  • Cozumel Food Tour: $90
  • Cozumel Cooking Class: $115

Typical Food Prices in San Diego

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to San Diego:


  • Mexican Lunch for Two
    $27
  • Breakfast at Starbucks
    $20

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Diego

For San Diego, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Old Town Tequila and Tacos Walking Food Tour: $81
  • Little Italy Food and Drink Walking Tour - Pizza, Pasta & Piazzas: $85
  • Gaslamp Quarter Downtown San Diego Food Tour: $89
  • Gaslamp Quarter Food Tour: $89
  • San Diego, Seaport Village: Waterfront Walking Food Tour: $89
  • San Diego Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours: $95
  • Guided Secret Food Tour: $102
  • Scenic Buffet Dinner Cruise: $108
  • San Diego Dinner Cruise: $116
  • Gourmet Dinner Cruise: $118
  • San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise: $118
  • Thanksgiving Day Buffet Brunch or Dinner Cruise: $121

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cozumel $44
    San Diego $48

Tours and Activities in Cozumel

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Cozumel.

  • Island Tour With Private Driver : $56
  • Private Cozumel Jeep Tour & Jade Caverns Cenote: All-Inclusive: $85
  • 1 Hour and Half Private Tropical Fitness Experience in Cozumel: $6.04
  • 15-minute Private Parasailing Experience in Cozumel: $69
  • 2 Hour Discover Mermaid Experience : $20
  • 2 Hour Diving Experience in San Miguel de Cozumel: $88
  • 2 Hours ATV Jungle, Caverns and Mayan Ruins Tour: $85
  • 4 Hour Snorkeling Tour in Cozumel: $65
  • 4-Hour Jeep and ATV Tour with Snorkel in Cozumel with Lunch: $99
  • A Pirate's Adventure in Cozumel with Captain Draco : $80
  • A snorkeling adventure in a glass-bottom boat at Cozumel's reef.: $70
  • ATV Adventure to Mayan Jade Cavern plus Snorkeling and Lunch: $79

Typical Entertainment Prices in San Diego

For San Diego, here are some examples of average entertainment and activity prices from previous travelers:


  • San Diego Zoo
    $15
  • Sea World Parking
    $12

Tours and Activities in San Diego

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for San Diego.

  • Maritime Museum of San Diego Admission Ticket: $24
  • 1 Hour GPS Guided Scooter Tour: Harbor/Gaslamp Quarter: $92
  • 1-Hour Private Scenic Tandem Sidecar Tour in San Diego: $99
  • 1-Hour Voodoo Escape Room Experience in San Diego: $35
  • 1.5 Hour Walking Tour from La Jolla in San Diego: $59
  • 1Hr GPS Self Guided Scooter Tour: Harbor/Gaslamp Quarter: $63
  • 2 Hour GPS Guided Scooter Tour: Downtown & Balboa Park: $82
  • 3 Hours Guided Whale and Dolphin Watching Experience in San Diego: $139
  • 4 Hour Self-Guided Electric Bike Tour or Rental: $87
  • A Seaside Stroll: La Jolla's Hidden Treasures Self-Guided Tour: $7.99
  • All Day San Diego Scenic Tour: $125
  • Apple Pies & Desert Skies: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $13

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cozumel $11
    San Diego $21

Sample the Local Flavors in Cozumel

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Cozumel:

  • Cozumel 5-Hour Private Bar Crawl Tour: $110

Sample the Local Flavors in San Diego

Also in San Diego, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • San Diego Bar Hunt: Slammin' San Diego Bar Crawl: $13
  • Gaslamp Bar Crawls and Events: $20
  • History Tour Pub Crawl of Famous Gaslamp Quarter: $30
  • Brewery Tour with Tastings and Food Pairings: $85
  • Little Italy Wine Tasting Walking Tour: $119
  • Vino! Vino! Little Italy Wine Tasting Walking Tour: $125
  • Private Wine Tasting Tour in Valle de Guadalupe: $136
  • Baja Tour Guide wine tour: $169
  • Sidecar Wine Tasting Tour: $199
  • Brewery and Tap Room Sidecar Tour: $199
  • California Sunset Brewery Tour: $199
  • Brewery and Beer Tasting Tour in San Diego: $215


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Cozumel and San Diego, we can see that San Diego is more expensive. And not only is Cozumel much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Cozumel would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Cozumel and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in San Diego would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in San Diego than you might in Cozumel.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Cozumel Expensive? and Is San Diego Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Cozumel or San Diego?

San Diego has a larger population, and is about 20 times larger than the population of Cozumel. When comparing the sizes of Cozumel and San Diego, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.