Surrounded by the glittering Caribbean Sea, Cozumel is one of Mexico’s most popular holiday spots to sunbathe, swim, snorkel and scuba dive. It’s easy to see why as its picture-perfect white sands are bordered by twinkling turquoise waters and gently waving palm trees.
The nation’s largest island, it lies just off the Yucatan Peninsula with dense jungle coating its interior and atmospheric old Mayan ruins dotted here and there. While most come to relax and unwind at its resorts, its capital San Miguel de Cozumel does have some lively nightlife to enjoy.
What’s more, rich reefs and marine life can be found just offshore with snorkeling, scuba diving and watersports all being hugely popular pastimes. With so much things to do in Cozumel, the island really does offer up a slice of tropical paradise.
18. Mia Grand Beach Park
A very fun and family-friendly place, the Mia Grand Beach Park boasts lots of brilliant watersports, a beautiful beach and countless other activities and amenities besides. Set along the island’s western shore, it is particularly known for its superb snorkeling and delicious local cuisine.
Whether you arrive by car or cruise ship, you’ll be greeted by sparkling white sands and pretty pools surrounded by lush fauna. Asides from topping up your tan and swimming or splashing about in the sea, you can rent kayaks, pedalos and snorkeling gear with colorful reefs lying just offshore.
The popular park also has some fantastic cooking classes to take with a swim-up pool bar, several restaurants and shady outdoor areas being on offer. As well as shooting down its water slides, guests can also attempt its exciting Adventure Floating Park or arrange some unforgettable excursions.
17. Cozumel Pearl Farm
Lying just off of the island’s northern coastline is a very interesting, idyllic and isolated spot to visit: the incredible Cozumel Pearl Farm. Only accessible by boat, its pristine white beach and turquoise waters need to be seen to be believed such is their startling beauty.
Now the only active pearl farm in the Caribbean, it occupies a thin, secluded strip of sand. While a mangrove lagoon lies to one side of it, the sea’s swirling waters border its other beach. Since 2012, a handful of visitors each day have been invited to learn about their pearl farming techniques and the local ecosystems.
After snorkeling about and seeing some of its amazing sea life, you’re free to amble along the beach and explore its lovely lagoons. The farm also serves up a mean lunch with the boat trip to and from the island being just as special due to the phenomenal views on show.
16. Chankanaab Reef
If you want to swim amidst shimmering shoals of fish and colorful corals, then Chankanaab Reef is one of the best places to go. Suitable for all ages and abilities, its shallowish waters are situated just off of the action-packed adventure beach park of the same name.
Ideal for both beginner snorkelers and scuba divers, the reef only reaches seventy feet in depth with barracudas, stingrays and nurse sharks all sometimes spied at the site. Its mild currents and plentiful fish also make it a great choice though the visibility is not quite as good as at some other reefs.
As it is part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world, Chankanaab’s rich waters are well worth checking out if you have the chance.
15. Playa Palancar
Also located along Cozumel’s western coast is the peaceful and picturesque Playa Palancar. Fringed by gently swaying palms, its white sands are perfect for lounging on lazily while basking in divine views over the twinkling sea.
Invariably described as paradise by visitors, it is bordered by wonderful warm waters while playful raccoons, regal peacocks and languid iguanas are regularly spotted in the surrounding trees. Besides sunning yourself and swimming in the sea, you can stroll about the beach or snorkel in its shallows.
From its beach bars, you can rent umbrellas and sun loungers or sample some of the tasty food and cocktails they serve up. While it is a sublime spot to relax and unwind, you can also enjoy kayaking and parasailing if you’re feeling a bit more active and adventurous.
14. El Mirador
A neat and unique place to stop by along the island’s southeastern shore is the awesome El Mirador. Over untold years, the pounding waves have carved a natural arch into the exposed coral reef which now makes for some fabulous photos and views.
At the scenic site, you can clamber over jagged rocks and corals to get the best possible photo of the attractive arch and rough waters around it. Its dramatic landscapes also have loads of hidden nooks and crannies for you to poke about in. A bubbling hollow in the rock named ‘the Jacuzzi’ is another of its standout sights.
After having snapped some photos and explored the exposed coral, visitors can grab a bite to eat or drink at its little local restaurant.
13. Catamaran Excursion
A wonderful way to see more of Cozumel’s stunning shores and surroundings is to take a Catamaran Excursion about its glinting waters. Countless companies around the isle run terrific trips to lagoons and beaches, mangroves and reefs with stupendous scenery and views guaranteed wherever you go.
While some simply take you out to secluded spots where you can swim, snorkel and see marine life, others actually teach you to sail the catamaran yourself. Skimming across the sea’s sparkling surface is an exciting experience with dolphins, sharks and sea turtles often spied in the depths down below.
Many offer snacks, drinks and meals either onboard or at picture-perfect spots with both sunrise and sunset excursions being another option. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong as the isle and its waters are just so breathtaking.
12. Paradise Beach
With wonderful white sands, pretty palm trees and twinkling turquoise waters, Paradise Beach more than lives up to its name. Lying just north of Mia Grand Beach Park on the west coast, it has tons of excellent activities and amenities for you to enjoy.
Lining its scenic shores are lots of sun loungers and umbrellas for guests to make use of with a pool, restaurant and shops also lying alongside the beach. Asides from soaking up the sun and swimming in the sea, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear and explore its inviting waters.
Although it can get crowded due to cruise ships, the beautiful beach is not to be skipped as it is one of Cozumel’s best. To top it all off, kids can try out its fun climbing wall, trampolines and inflatable playground while adults may instead prefer its spa and beach bar.
11. Santa Rosa Wall
Another absolutely incredible dive site to hit up is the spectacular Santa Rosa Wall on the west side of the island. One of Cozumel’s signature dives, its steep coral wall impressively plunges over 3,000 feet with colorful fish, sponges and anemones spotted throughout.
Only appropriate for intermediate divers and above, its rough and rugged coral cliff face drops off dramatically from the sandy ledge near the surface. While it obviously descends much deeper, most divers limit themselves to 50 to 120 feet as unpredictable currents can make conditions tricky.
Those who do venture along the Santa Rosa Wall are in for a treat as giant Parrotfish, groupers and turtles swirl languidly about here and there. Barracudas and Angelfish are sometimes sighted as are sharks, eels and rays. Overhangs, tunnels and deep crevices all make the dive yet more memorable.
10. Dolphin Experience
If you want to get even closer to some marine life than just swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving about, then an exhilarating Dolphin Experience is simply a must. At both Dolphinaris and Dolphin Discovery Cozumel, you can arrange to feed, swim with and pet the cute creatures.
Accompanied by an expert trainer, you’ll slip into the pool alongside some of their friendly residents and play with and pet them in the water. As well as feeding them fish and taking some pics together, guests can also watch the dolphins do some pretty cool tricks.
In addition to all of this, the trainers teach you all there is to know about the smiley, sleek cetaceans with sea lion and manatee encounters also being on offer. After drying off, you can sit at the on-site restaurants, take a look in the gift shop or lounge on the beach.
9. Take a Jeep Tour
While catamaran trips whisk you about the island’s shimmering waters, jeep tours instead take you around its steamy jungle-clad interior. As you cruise about its trails and tracks, you’ll see lots of fine fauna and flora and stop off at cenotes, caverns and historic sites.
As numerous packages and itineraries are available, these drives really can involve almost whatever you fancy. As such, you can either explore ancient Mayan ruins and isolated nature spots or head to astounding beaches and viewpoints.
What’s more, snorkeling, jet-skiing and horseback riding can also be included alongside snacks and lunches in authentic restaurants and atmospheric beachside bars. With craggy caverns and cool little cenotes to see amidst the jungle, a private jeep tour really is one of the best ways to explore the isle.
8. Isla Pasion
Rivalling the beach in terms of its beauty is the idyllic Isla Pasion to the north of Cozumel. Located just a fifteen-minute boat journey from downtown, its pristine sands, peaceful lagoon and palm trees are sure to set hearts racing and cameras snapping.
At the picturesque private island, happy holidaymakers can swing lazily in hammocks or recline on sun loungers while gazing out over the Caribbean Sea. Guests can either have delicious snacks and cocktails served where they’re sitting or head to its shady bar and restaurant.
You can also kayak and paddleboard along the coast and about the lagoon with sightseeing jeep and speed boat tours also being on offer. Fun beach games and limbo contests regularly take place with all the personnel being very friendly and welcoming.
7. San Gervasio
After all the sunbathing, watersports and swimming, it is good to experience a bit of Cozumel’s rich history and culture. While more than thirty Mayan ruins are scattered about the isle, one of the most important and impressive is San Gervasio in its dense jungle-clad interior.
Dedicated to Ixchel, the goddess of love and fertility, the overgrown oracle is thought to date to 800 AD or even earlier. The center of the island’s religious life for centuries, its striking stone structures were abandoned in the 1,500s after the Spanish arrived.
Nowadays, you can wander around the remarkable ruins which lie amidst a wildlife refuge. As well as a small pyramid, you can stroll about the Central Plaza and see ancient edifices, an eerie altar and a reconstructed arch. To learn more about the site’s history, it is well worth hiring a knowledgeable guide to accompany you around the ruins.
6. Columbia Reef
Yet another of Cozumel’s myriad of unmissable dive sites is the captivating Columbia Reef. Thanks to all its ample marine life, enormous coral formations and strangely alluring abyss, it is one of the most popular places on the isle to scuba dive.
As a winding series of tunnels, crevices and caverns lie one side with a deep drop on the other, there is always something new to see. Flitting in and out are huge shoals of fish and countless curious sea turtles with the odd nurse shark and moray eel spotted every now and again.
While the moderate current means it is only suitable for intermediate and experienced divers, all the hulking great coral formations do provide some protection. These make for some amazing viewing and exploration with most divers reaching a depth of between 50 and 90 feet on the dive.
5. San Miguel de Cozumel
The island’s capital and largest city, San Miguel de Cozumel is full of fun things for you to see and do. While its charming waterfront and nearby beaches naturally attract a lot of attention, all kinds of shops and restaurants, bars and nightclubs dot its downtown.
During the day when cruise ships are docked in the port, its streets hum with life as tourists shop for souvenirs, arrange tours and see its sights. While countless establishments, hotels and dive centers cater to its innumerable visitors, some delightful colonial architecture also lines its colorful blocks.
Besides diving into its thriving dining and nightlife scenes centered around Plaza Central, there are also some interesting historic sites to stop by. While the Cozumel Island Museum contains artifacts and exhibits on its fascinating past, the ruins of San Gervasio only lie a twenty-minute drive away.
4. Playa El Cielo
A serene strip of soft, sparkling sand, the phenomenal Playa El Cielo lies just off the southwest side of the island. Many sightseeing trips and scuba diving excursions stop off here so people can relax, unwind and enjoy its spellbinding scenery.
Surrounded by the brilliantly blue waters of the Caribbean, the appropriately named ‘heaven’ beach certainly makes for some fantastic photos and views. While there is no reef nearby, its shallows are famed for the innumerable starfish that dot its sands with stingrays, sharks and dolphins sometimes spotted swimming by.
Aside from splashing about in the sea and snorkeling, you can slowly wander along its white sands while taking in sublime views over the sandbar and sea. The friendly boat captains also provide you with drinks and snacks for when you’re soaking up the sun.
3. Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
Just a stone’s throw away, you can find the diverse scenery, nature and wildlife of the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. Occupying the southern tip of the isle, it encompasses not just picturesque beaches and reefs but lagoons, a lighthouse and an old Mayan temple too.
While its gorgeous coastline and calm lagoons offer up loads of excellent outdoor activities, visitors can also hike about its forested areas. Within its scenic confines resides a wealth of wildlife with sea turtles and iguanas, pelicans and vultures all regularly sighted alongside the odd crocodile.
Other than its natural riches, there is a towering lighthouse to check out and a crumbling Mayan site that is either reckoned to have been a temple or an early lighthouse.
2. Playa Chen Rio
Delightfully untouched and unspoiled, the quiet Playa Chen Rio lies along Cozumel’s oft-overlooked east coast. Unlike most of the other beaches on the windward side, its protected waters are perfect for swimmers and snorkelers.
This is because an offshore reef stops most of the strong currents and waves with rocky formations and tidal pools also providing some respite. As such, you can wallow in its waters or snorkel around its shallows without worrying about being swept along the coast.
As most tourists and cruise ships stick to Cozumel’s western side, Playa Chen Rio is never crowded. There are however less facilities with only one small yet highly rated restaurant to be found nearby. This though makes it ideal for those looking to sunbathe and swim with barely another soul in sight.
1. Palancar Reef
Awash with colorful corals, fish and marine mammals, Palancar Reef is, for many, the highlight of any trip to Cozumel. With giant formations and shady swim-throughs also dotted about the lovely underwater gardens, it really is one of Mexico’s best and most beautiful dive sites.
Suitable for everyone from complete beginners to experienced experts, it stretches over 3.5 miles in length and reaches depths of up to 115 feet. While snorkelers can already see countless sponges, sea turtles and shoals of fish in its shallows, further down there are incredible overhangs and tantalizing tunnels to explore.
As many tour operators take scuba divers to Palancar Reef, it sometimes feels a bit crowded though there are more than enough corals to go around.