Cozumel Travel Guide
Cozumel is a Caribbean island just off the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. It has great beaches, nice people, and safe streets, with prices comparable to other Mexican tourist destinations. It was badly battered in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma, but, with few exceptions, has been completely repaired.
Most visitors travel to Cozumel to dive and see its wonderful underwater life. While there are quite a few beach clubs that offer snorkeling, the main attractions are the reefs offshore and the multiple dive shops and operations are always ready to take you there.
The main town, San Miguel, and dive operations are on the west side of the island, but if you rent a car or scooter then the east side of the island is the place to go. The east side of the island is mostly undeveloped, but there are beautiful beaches, big waves, and rocky outcrops over the ocean. If the waves are sufficient you can find a few small blow holes. (Be aware that the waves and attendant undertows can make swimming on the east side very dangerous, however.) You will also find a restaurant on the beach every few kilometers.
Cozumel also offers several Mayan archaeological sites. The most extensive vestiges are those at “San Gervasio” (admission fee is 77 pesos), 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. In Punta Sur Park, at the southern tip of the island, there is the “El Caracol” temple, believed to have been used as a lighthouse by the Mayans.
- Snorkeling — logically enough, the second most popular activity after diving. Many beach-side dive shops rent equipment for $7-10. Even though all beaches in Mexico are public some require fees to enter and use the facilities. Beaches with a rocky limestone shoreline on the west coast are the best for snorkeling or shore dives since less sand is disturbed so visibility and coral growth are better.
- Catamaran Sail and Snorkel Excursion — a great excursion operated by Cozumel Water Sports taking you snorkeling to 2 reefs with music, open bar, snacks of fresh fruit and guacamole, 2 daily departures.
- Glass Bottom Boat Tour — a twist to snorkeling. You visit about two or three reefs, which are small parts of the second largest coral reef in the world. It costs at the most about $40 a couple but you can get it a little cheaper depending on where you buy your tickets. While heading to the snorkeling sites you have the privilege of looking through the glass bottom of the boat to see all the sea-life you pass on your way. Very fun to do as a couple or a family.
- Mini Submarine Tour — a new way of exploring the underwater world. This new activity by Cozumel Water Sports offers all non divers and non snorkelers to explore the reefs and sea life of Cozumel. Riding your underwater scooter with your head dry in the air filled helmet, you can drive around the reefs. Especially great for people who wear glasses as you can have them on under water.
- Beach lounging — most of the calm western side of Cozumel has rough rocky beaches not suitable for swimming or sun bathing. The areas that are suitable have been turned into small parks. Some charge entrance fees which includes a beach chair and umbrella as well as access to the washroom and shower facilities; others are free to use, and offer many of the same amenities, while relying on visitors to purchase food or drinks. Playa San Francisco is located 20 minutes by taxi south of town and has a restaurant on site.
- The “Other Side” — the beaches on the east (windward) side of the island. Sandy surf and large waves alternating with rocky limestone coastlines on the east side of the island are beautiful but can be dangerous for swimmers. The roaring surf creates strong breakers and undertows in many areas. Never enter the water alone. There are now many areas where flags are displayed showing the level of safety for a particular area. Despite the potentially dangerous swimming conditions, these beaches are stunning and serene for enjoying sunbathing, long walks or playing in the water very close to shore. These beaches are popular with surfers and kite surfers, and with locals on the weekends.
- Chankanaab National Park, (About 9km south of town). 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. $2 coupon and packages available at their website.
- Deep Sea Fishing, Puerto Abrigo Marina. Cozumel is rated as one of the top ten sport fishing “hotspots” in the world. Fishing is enhanced by the deep-water channel between the Yucatan Coast and the Cozumel Island. The channel “squeezes” the Gulf Stream as it passes by Cozumel on its journey northward. This “funnel” effect causes an upwelling and an abundance of fish. The nutrient rich Caribbean waters around Cozumel support a vast array of sport fish with exceptional fishing opportunities all year long.
- Paradise Beach, Carretera Sur Km 14.5, Cozumel, Q.Roo (5 miles South of Int.Cruise Ship Pier, 7 miles South of downtown). Free admission, beach chairs $2. Beautiful sandy beach, one of Cozumel´s largest swimming pools opening Dec.15th, 2010, a $18 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. Beachwear boutique, parasailing, waverunners, massage, etc. also available. Located 9 miles south of San Miguel (Downtown) – Cozumel, 5 miles south of the International Cruise Ship Pier. Sometimes they do insist to buy $10 per person worth of food or drinks.
Culture & History
Cozumel (kōzə´mel), resort island, c.190 sq mi (490 sq km), Quintana Roo state, Mexico, in the Caribbean Sea off the E coast of the Yucatán peninsula. It is famed for its beaches and coral reef (declared a national park in 1996). The island was inhabited by the Maya before it was visited by Spanish explorer Fernández de Córdoba (1517) and by conquistador Hernán Cortes in 1519. Long a favored destination for sports diving, the island was not extensively developed for tourism until the 1960s. It is now a popular cruise and tourist destination; the mostly unpopulated northern shore and adjoining waters were declared a nature reserve in 2012.
Unlike Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is known for having a more casual nightlife scene. A stroll along the Malecon to admire the sunset is a great way to start the evening. Afterwards, head for one of the restaurants or bars located around Parque Benito Juarez to enjoy a delicious meal and a couple of cocktails. The fun continues on the Malecon, where you’ll find bars with DJs or live music. Worth mentioning are Carlos’n Charlie’s and Senor Frog’s. These places have been popular among tourists and locals for several years and they offer a casual atmosphere where the friendliness and good humor of the staff are the main attraction. The beaches on the east side of the island are a nice place to observe the night sky and offer an excellent alternative to the bars and nightclubs along the Malecon.
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