Best beaches & outdoor activities in Cozumel

Julia Holland | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Cozumel is one of the best-known islands in the Mexican Caribbean. Located directly across from Playa del Carmen, Cozumel´s skyline can be seen off the shore both day and night demonstrating its vastness. Cozumel is accessible via ferry from both Playa and Cancun. Ferries run every hour from 6 am until 11 pm from Playa and take around 30 to 40 minutes depending on the weather. Cozumel has a lively and substantial town center and surrounding neighborhoods; however, the main attraction that the island has to offer is definitely its natural beauty, nature reserves, and amazing snorkeling and scuba diving. Cozumel is a magical island with a lot to offer both as a day trip or for a long weekend. Here are a few of my favorite spots and activities that showcase Cozumel´s natural beauty.

© Conde

Beaches: playas del norte, punta sur, and the ruins of San Gervasio

As you disembark the ferry, you arrive to the central-western region of the island which is the most inhabited area of Cozumel; the town center is replete with grocery stores, movie theatres, shopping mall, hotels, hostels, and a big main plaza where local delicacies and souvenirs are sold. The town center has all of the comforts imaginable and is a good starting off point for a nice breakfast, cup of coffee or grocery shop for a long day of beach hopping, snorkeling and swimming you have ahead of you. If you plan to make Cozumel a day trip, I recommend either a guided tour, or that you rent a car or motorcycle because the island is quite large, and there are many beautiful beaches from north to south and everywhere in between that you will not be able to experience without a personal mode of transportation.


The best natural attractions of the northern region of Cozumel are Playa Azul and Isla Pasion. Playa Azul is a large public beach with restaurants and hotels. Playa Azul is a great beach for families and the water is always the clearest and most turquoise imaginable year-round. Isla Pasion is an uninhabited island off the north coast of Cozumel that can only be accessed via boat tour. The island has a large number of bird species and plant species not native to the island like flamingos and pine trees. There is a Mayan myth surrounding Isla Pasion as it was reigned over by the goddess of love and fertility Ixchel. According to the story, couples who could not conceive were sent to the island alone for a week to receive Ixchel's blessing. The island of passion (Isla Pasion) maintains a mythical, magical beauty that validates its name and will surely put butterflies in your stomach.

The Eastern region of the island is the most virgin and is home to the island´s only excavated Mayan ruins, the ruins of San Gervasio. The beaches surrounding the ruins are incredibly beautiful and almost completely crowd-free. Some of my favorites are Chen Rio, San Martin, Playa Bonita, and el Mirador. These are great beaches for solitude, swimming, and picnics.

© Kolar

The southernmost region or punta sur is a giant nature reserve with large crocodile-filled lagoons and a ton of wildlife. There is also a giant lighthouse that is accessible to the public with amazing views of the lagoons and the surrounding beaches. Boat tours of the nature reserve are highly recommended if you are a nature buff, or even if you are not, you will surely be fascinated by the wildlife and your tour guide´s vast knowledge of the local flora and fauna. The most beautiful beach in Punta Sur is by far el Cielito. There is a giant coral reef system surrounding the southern region of Cozumel, and one large part of the reef is called El Cielo. Unfortunately, due in large part to contamination from tourism, el Cielo is closed for snorkeling and scuba diving as it is in a process of rehabilitation and regeneration.


Snorkeling and scuba spots


If snorkeling and scuba diving are in your repertoire of activities for a Caribbean vacation, Cozumel is the spot for you. While el Cielo is closed, nearby reefs Colombia and Palancar are thriving coral reef ecosystems and a veritable feast for your eyes. Tours in both motor and sailboats are offered to spend the day in the colorful and lush depths of the Caribbean. This is truly an experience of a lifetime and epitomizes the surreal and vibrant Caribbean that is so romanticized and idealized by travel magazines.

Cozumel is the best-known island in the Riviera Maya for good reason; natural beauty abounds and can be enjoyed in many different ways that suit all age groups and abilities.

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