Cozumel Beach Tours

It would take days to stop and look at all the beaches on Cozumel, much more time to enjoy a few minutes at each. The following discussion takes the form of a drive around the Island, starting at the the corner of Ave Melgar and Calle11 and driving south.

Local law and custom allow tourist (and locals) access to hotel beaches. You should feel no qualms about walking through a hotel lobby to get to “their beach” or in buying a drink or meal or using the pool or rest rooms while you are there.

  1. credit: bobbyedwards on Flickr

Driving south from Plaza Las Glorias, you will leave town and eventually come to the South Hotel District. In this area, the most convenient beach for a shore dive or snorkeling is at El Cid La Ceiba Hotel. The sunken airplane, a leftover prop from a locally filmed movie, is the main attraction. There is a dive shop renting tanks and gear on the beach. The shop also organizes night dives of the plane and the International Cruise Pier. 

As you pass Hotel El Cid La Ceiba, check your gas gauge.  Just after the next light, you will pass the last gas station you’ll see before you return to town.

At this point, the new highway veers away from the shoreline and takes you a short ways off from the beach. There is an access road that you can pickup by bearing right at the turn for the Caletta Marina, where many of the dive boats dock overnight. You will reach it just before you come to the Presidente Inter-Continental. This was one of the first luxury hotels to be built in Cozumel and as a result, the builders were able to select one of the prettiest natural beaches on the west side of the island. Rumor has it that the hotel is trying to charge non-guests for use of the beach but if you want to try anyway, just walk right through the main entrance and bear left like you know what you’re doing and you’ll soon reach the beach area. There’s a dive shop on the beach for rentals.

As you drive south, you will pass a number of beach clubs. Different ones will offer snorkel gear or Jet Ski rentals or a pool. All serve food and drink. There is no admission charge at most of these clubs so it you see one you like, feel free to stop and explore.

As noted in the snorkeling section, The Money Bar at Dzul Ha is south of the El Presidente hotel and even though the setting is not as picturesque, it offers snorkeling that is close to what you’ll find at Chankanaab without the admission charge. There is a small restaurant and bar for food and drinks and you can rent snorkel or scuba gear there.

One of the nicer clubs is the Reef Beach Club located across the street from the Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa  (formally the Reef Hotel, formally the Holiday Inn). It offers a pool, palapas for shade and a restaurant. The food and service are good. On occasion, the black flies are bad. The snorkeling in front and beside the club is not great by Cozumel standards but really, not bad.

The next major attraction you’ll come to is the famous Chankanaab Park. This is one beach where there is an admission charge, but if you’ve never been there, at some point during your stay you should visit this lagoon, botanical garden and beach. Admission to the park is $10 (US) per adult. While there, spend some time walking through the gardens and the museum. Attended rest rooms with showers and lockers are available. The beach snorkeling is a little crowded but considering that, the fish life is impressive. There is an interesting shore dive of some caves where you’ll find large tarpon and clouds of small silver side fish. Snorkel and scuba gear rental is available and beach chairs are free if you can find one.

Dolphin Discovery has a location at the park for those wanting to swim or even dive with dolphins. There is no additional admission to see the dolphin exhibit but there is for the in-water encounters.

La Laguna Restaurant is in the park and offers a beautiful setting, but the food is no better than average and the prices are on the high side. If you’re not driving, the park is a short cab ride. You’ll have no problem getting a cab back to town.

As you pass Chankanaab, you will round a curve and see Playa Corona in the distance. While it’s not a beautiful beach, about 2/3 way between Chankanaab and Corona is a good snorkel spot. Pull off the road at the second of two paths to the beach and look for a white buoy in the water. The shore is very rocky here so be careful but once you make it to the water, swim for the marker, turn right, and you will find a nice little shallow reef. Depending on the time of day you may see a glass bottom boat or one of the snorkel catamarans tied off at the buoy here. Noting where the glass bottom or snorkel boats drop swimmers is an easy way to find other snorkel spots.You’ll find decent snorkeling at Playa Corona. As you face the water, swim to the left of the pier for a nice display of sea fans. In warmer months you might even find some sea horses in the area. The beach here is OK, but if there is no breeze, it is sometimes heavy with flies. This is a great spot to watch the sunset.

A short drive further south is San Francisco Beach, known as a good place to meet people. Rest rooms and equipment rentals are available. Because of the boat traffic, the snorkeling is not great right in front of the restaurant but if you walk north for about 10 minutes to the point, you’ll find shade trees and superior snorkeling. This is close enough to town to take a cab but you might want to arrange with your driver to wait for you.

Playa Sol is in the same general area and is the other large club that has an admission charge. The fee depends on if you want to take advantage of the all you can eat or drink restaurant and bar. There is a lot to do here for a fee including all water sports, climbing and a small zoo. This is a very pretty beach but be warned that the cruisers taking the “Island BusTour” and several snorkel party boats are dropped here each day.

Mr. Sanchos Beach Club is located between the Allegro and the Reef Club resort and offers a restaurant and water sports.

Because of the construction of new hotels on this part of the Island, additional beach clubs are likely to spring up so be on the lookout for signs. There are several serving very good, reasonably priced real Mexican lunches. One highly recommended is Mac Y Compania. Many of the dive boats stop here for lunch between dives.

As you continue around the Island, you will see a sign for the village of Cedral suggesting a visit to Mayan ruins. This can sometimes be hard to find but don’t let that stop you from trying. There are new signs on the road here making the village and ruins easier to find.

From this point, the main road leaves the shoreline and cuts through the jungle to the ocean or “other side” of the island. It will be very obvious when you get there. Unlike the western side, the water on this side is rough and powerful and the beaches are virtually undeveloped. As you round the corner and reach the ocean side there is a small stand that offers cold beer and soft drinks, a nice view of the south point light house, and hammocks on the beach. To the right you will see the road leading to the Punta Sur Lighthouse Park. Admission is $10 per person. Visitors are no longer allowed to climb the lighthouse but there is a small museum. There is a chance to interact with some tamed and wild animals including a crocodile living in the swamp. The real attraction is the shore where the wild open ocean crashes over coral rock.

A very pleasant beach day would be to pack a cooler, load your gear in a jeep and drive to the ocean side, stopping whenever the mood strikes you. If doing so, you’re likely to spend at least a little time on the next stretch of beach.Two warnings though: there are some strong currents on the ocean side so you should be careful about where you go swimming. And because of the very sharp coral on some of the beaches, you’ll probably want to wear some kind of sandals or shoes.

Now driving north, you will eventually come to what is perhaps the prettiest beach on the island offering convenient services and not too many people at Playa Bonita. Previous visitors may remember this location as The Naked Turtle but the restaurant has been sold, renamed and remodeled. The monkeys are gone, the parrots and iguanas remain. The only problem with the remodeling is that the ceiling and some of the walls were closed in which resulted in a reduction in breezes and proportional increase in the fly population. However, the beer is still cold and when available, the whole red snapper for two is about as good as fried fish can be. Beach chairs and bathrooms are available.

From Playa Bonita, it is a short ride until you will see a sign and small building at Punta Morena. There is a restaurant that usually offers very fresh seafood and cold beer. This beach is also one of the better surfing locations in Cozumel.

Coconuts Bar & Grill is located on a hill overlooking the beach. We’ve heard that one too many patrons had too mcuh to drink and fell on the walk down the hill so the bar no longer offers its full moon party. But it’s still a great view.

Chen Rio will be the next structure you’ll come to. It houses a popular restaurant and swimming spot frequented by Cozumelenós. The protected cove makes this an ideal swimming beach for families with children. The fish at the restaurant is usually very fresh but you do need to confirm the price of the whole fish entrées, as they are often unmarked on the menu. If you don’t confirm the price (depending on who your waiter is,) the total that shows up on your bill can be pretty expensive.

Travel Tip: If your car or moped breaks down while driving around the island, stay with the vehicle and wait for assistance from the government service known as Green Angels.

After a few more miles of beach you will come to a corner where the paved road turns away from the ocean and towards the middle of the Island. At the corner are Mezcalito’s Bar & Grill, a beach area and a few vendors. The rug stand here is a good source for unusual designs and (if you bargain) reasonable prices. Unless you have four-wheel drive, you should not drive further north on the dirt road along the beach.

  1. credit: garyjwood on Flickr
  2. credit: bobbyedwards on Flickr

You have two options on returning home. The quicker, but less scenic route is to continue driving in the same direction for the 10 miles across the middle of the island. This will take you right by the entrance of the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins (see “Day Trip” section). If you continue towards town, eventually, you will reach the Big Conch circle at 65th and then the Pemex gas station at 30th. Or…you can turn around and back track in the direction you’ve come from. This will take a little longer but sometimes, particularly at sunset, it’s worth the time.

Although not on our circular tour of the Island, another nice hotel beach is the El Cozumeleno, a few miles north of town next to the Melia Maya. It has a pretty sand beach and a small but picturesque pool.

One final beach note: Unless you have a lockable trunk in your car, don’t leave anything in it you don’t mind losing. While thefts aren’t frequent, they do occur occasionally.