Though one could easily spend a week exploring the island’s many bars, restaurants, and hotel grounds, Cozumel is really meant to be experienced out-of-doors, and it offers vast opportunities to have encounters with nature.
The most popular activity here, of course, is scuba diving. Dive masters offer lessons and trips for all levels and styles. If you happen to be a novice, one of the best, most experienced (over 40 years), and yet least expensive, dive centers on the island is Aqua Safari. They have a great group of divers and a bare-bones, but very clean and comfortable, hotel next door for divers on a budget. No matter where you rent your gear, Palancar and Punta Sur will impress even the most experience divers.
Of course, for those who prefer a shallower (literally) experience, there’s always snorkeling and swimming at the island’s many beaches. Sergio is an invaluable person to contact for diving gear and guidance as well as snorkeling, and Palancar and Chankanaab offer some of the best snorkeling on the island.
However, if one simply wants to hang out at the beach… let me count the ways. Starting at the north, there’s Playa San Juan. This beach is good for snorkeling and (most days) is great for windsurfing and kiteboarding. For calm, crystal waters, one should head south, to the white-sand beaches of the west side of the island. Of course, these tend to be crowded with tourists. To find full service and beach amusements, head to one of the beach clubs like Playa Sol or Paradise Beach. Playa Corona offers a less crowded alternative, and Parque Chankanaab is a genuine beach amusement park.
An ideal beach option, and an all-around nature and sightseeing event, can be found at Parque Punta Sur. This reserve is near the Caracol ruin as well as the Celarain Lighthouse and museum, and is easily a day’s worth of fun and nature.
For fewer crowds, but harsher surfs and currents (ideal for kiteboarding), the east side of the island is virtually undeveloped and protected. Just north of Punta Sur lies Playa Chen Rio, which is one of the few spots on the windward side that’s good for snorkeling. There is a restaurant here that serves freshly-caught seafood, and just a bit farther north is Playa Chiqueros, who’s currents are also calm for this side of the island. Past this is Playa de San Martin, where, during the summer months (and often into the fall) turtle eggs hatch and preservationist (and visitors) can gather, learn, and assist the baby turtles out of their nests and into the sea. Lastly, for surfers and boogie-boarders, but not for swimmers, Punta Morena is farther north.
Finally, for a non-beach outing, but one connected to nature nonetheless, Cozumel offers horseback riding (see Rancho Buenavista – on the eastern side of the island), golf (at Cozumel Country Club – in the north), and Mayan ruins which are surrounded by flor and fauna (also on the eastern side).
Image Courtesy of Lena Hyde