Cozumel is an island paradise just off of Playa del Carmen’s shoreline. Cozumel (meaning “land of the swallow” in Maya)
was named for its many native bird species. Cozumel’s waters are filled with exquisite colorful fish, sea turtles and other rare marine life.
Jacques Cousteau, best known for his underwater television documentary series, first introduced the world to Cozumel’s strikingly beautiful white sand beaches and just off shore, the second largest coral reef in the world, the great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
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Cozumel is known throughout the world for its scuba diving conditions. Famous for its colorful coral reefs and marine life, the island promises a spectacular water sports experience, offering snorkeling, diving, deep-sea fishing, kayaking and more. Cozumel’s mostly undeveloped territory at the center of the island is made up of jungle and swampy lagoons, which are home to tiny mammals and endemic birds that have never left the island.
Cozumel’s main town, San Miguel, and most dive operations are on the west side of the island, but if you rent a car or scooter you can explore the east side of the island as well. The east side, aka “the wild side” of the island is mostly undeveloped and there are beautiful beaches, big waves and rocky outcrops over the ocean. (Be aware that the waves and undertows can make swimming on the east side very dangerous.) You will also find a bar-restaurant on the beach every few kilometers.
Cozumel is also home to several Mayan archaeological sites. In Punta Sur Park, at the southern tip of the island, you’ll find “El Caracol” temple, believed to have been used as a lighthouse by the Mayans. “San Gervasio” is an inland site a few miles north of the “Carretera Transversal” highway. Another site is located near the village of El Cedral, inland from the “Carretera Costera Sur” highway.
Cozumel is one of the premier scuba diving destinations in the western hemisphere. The island abounds with dive shops and many can provide you with a onetime dive certification. A boat dive for certified divers (two tanks) will cost around $100, plus any equipment rental fees.
Most dive sites are located south of downtown, as are a number of dive shops. Most diving in Cozumel is drift diving, where you are dropped off by the boat at the beginning of the dive, carried along the reef by the current, then picked up at the end of your dive by the boat. There is some shore diving, but it is limited compared with what you can enjoy further out at places like Palancar Reef and the walls.
If diving or tours are not what you’re looking for, there are still plenty of other things to do:
- Snorkeling: Many beach-side dive shops rent equipment for $7-10. Beaches with a rocky limestone shoreline on the west coast are the best for snorkeling since less sand is disturbed so visibility and coral growth are better.
- Glass Bottom Boat Tour: Visit two or three reefs from the comfort of a boat. The cost is around $50 a couple.
- Mini Submarine Tour: This is a way for non divers and non snorkelers to explore the reefs and sea life of Cozumel. Riding your underwater scooter with your head in an air filled helmet.
- Beach lounging: There are many beach clubs on Cozumel. The cover fee normally includes a beach chair and umbrella as well as access to washroom and shower facilities.
- Visiting the “wild side”: Despite the potentially dangerous swimming conditions, the beaches on the east side of the island are perfect for sunbathing, long walks or playing in the water very close to shore.
- Chankanaab National Park: Open 7am – 5pm daily. The park includes a beach, restaurant, bar, changing rooms, walking trails, and a lagoon with a large iguana population. Activities include snorkeling & diving, swimming with the dolphins, snuba, and Seatrek.
- Deep Sea Fishing: Puerto Abrigo Marina. Cozumel is rated as one of the top ten sport fishing “hotspots” in the world. The nutrient rich Caribbean waters around Cozumel support a vast array of sport fish with exceptional fishing opportunities all year long.
- Paradise Beach: A FunPass is available for unlimited access to over 14 land & ocean activities, including snorkel equipment, kayaks, paddleboards, waterslides, water trampolines, bungee trampoline, coconut tree climb, a 14-ft. climbing iceberg and more. Fabulous food and drinks served right on the beach or at the restaurant. Clean bathrooms, showers, change rooms and lockers.
- Playa Palancar: 10am – 5pm daily. This west-side park features a quiet white sand beach, lounge chairs and hammocks under shady palm trees and a well-stocked bar and restaurant. Equipment for shore-based snorkeling can be rented for $10 and it’s not difficult to find schools of colorful fish in the shallow waters.