Cozumel, 12 miles off of the Yucatan coast and just 28 miles long and 10 miles wide, is a SCUBA divers’ dream and a beach lovers’ Paradise. This tropical jewel is 35 miles south of Cancun and was put on the map in 1961 when French explorer and film maker Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the best diving locations in the world. Since then, Cozumel has seen tourists from across the globe descend to revel in its multi-hued turquoise waters, gleaming white beaches and mellow ambiance. Today Cozumel is a marine park to ensure that its spectacular tropical fish and coral reefs are protected and preserved.
Cozumel beaches are some of the most mesmerizing on the planet. The island has west coast beaches and east coast beaches, nearly 40 official and unofficial beaches in all. The majority of Cozumel’s beaches are to the south of San Miguel (the main and only town) on the west side of the island and are protected from the strong winds of the open sea. These are the best Cozumel beaches for swimming and snorkeling since the waters are usually calm, and the surf is gentle. Beaches on the eastern side of the island generally have large swells with strong currents. Since 95% of Cozumel remains undeveloped, most beaches back onto the jungle. Throw in some swaying palm trees and a Margarita, and it is heaven on earth.
The best Cozumel beaches for water sports are Paradise Beach, Chankanaab Park and Reef and Playa San Francisco. Paradise Beach is a new beach and has a wide array of water activity toys, from jet skis to snorkel gear, for rent, as well as two bars and a restaurant. Chankanaab (Mayan for “small sea”) Park and Reef is a national park and has botanical gardens, lagoons for snorkeling, dive shops and two restaurants. There is also a lifeguard on duty, and sand wheel chairs are available. On Playa San Francisco, the water sports shop rents windsurfing equipment, and parasailing and glass bottom boats for snorkeling are also available.
Cozumel’s best hidden beaches are Playa Escondida and Playa Chen Rio. Both are secluded and a great spot to enjoy a peaceful day without a lot of noise or other beach goers.
And, of course, Cozumel is renowned as a diving destination. With warm waters, visibility reaching nearly 250 feet and the world’s second longest coral reef, the Mayan Coral Reef, just off shore, divers flock to this gorgeous locale. Palencar Reef in particular delights with its abundance of colorful tropical fish and numerous ship wrecks laying at the bottom of the ocean, just waiting to be explored. The reefs and gentle waters off Cozumel also make it one of the world’s top snorkeling destinations.
When not on the beach or diving or snorkeling, Cozumel offers a variety of delicious restaurants and bars, as well as duty-free shopping. Jewelry and Mexican handicrafts offer some especially good deals.
Cozumel is a great vacation destination because it is easy to combine sun and surf with a bit of history. The people who call Cozumel home are of Mayan descent, and some well-preserved Mayan ruins, including San Gervasio and El Cedral, are on the island and worth a visit.
Cozumel has no public bus system, but taxis are plentiful (the taxis have no meters so settle on a fare before hiring one). For the more adventurous, bicycles, motorbikes and cars can be rented.