Cozumel is known primarily as a diving destination, but it does have some wonderful beaches. This island, located just off the coast of the Mexican Caribbean across from Playa del Carmen, is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. That means it has plenty of coastline to enjoy! There are many options for things to see and do in Cozumel, but exploring the underwater world and enjoying the beaches are usually at the top of visitors’ lists when planning a trip here.
Cozumel’s west coast (the side facing Playa del Carmen) has calmer beaches and better snorkeling (the coral is protected from the waves, so it can thrive). The cruise ship ports are on this side, and folks coming in for the day on cruises tend to stay nearby, so the beaches closest to the port tend to be more crowded. The beaches on the east coast of the island facing the open sea are often more scenic, but usually have rougher waves and stronger currents. Since they’re farther from the port, they tend to be much less crowded, but aren't the best bets for either swimming or snorkeling.
Much of the island’s coastline is rocky, which provides space for sea life to linger, making for great snorkeling, but not necessarily for the prettiest beaches. However, Cozumel does have some beautiful sandy beaches that are great for swimming, enjoying watersports, or just taking in the scenery, as well as for snorkeling — you just have to know where to find them!. Here’s the lowdown on Cozumel’s best beaches so you can choose the one that’s best for you.
Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park
This park is part of a larger protected area that extends over 35 acres of land. The name Chankanaab means “little sea” in the Mayan language, in reference to a saltwater lagoon which is located here and contains the world’s only inland reef. The lagoon is a natural aquarium with over 60 species of tropical fish, crustaceans and corals. The park offers adventure, fun and tranquility, with a botanical garden, nature walk and dedicated areas for scuba diving and snorkeling and other activities including a zip line, tequila tasting and a dolphin encounter. This beach is best for people looking for great snorkeling opportunities, and it’s a perfect spot for a first snorkeling experience if you’ve never done it before!
With a wide sandy beach and activities for all ages, Playa Mia is a beach club that families will enjoy. There are twin 200-foot long waterslides, a floating obstacle course, a kids' pirate-themed water park, a sunken Maya village to explore under the water, kayaks and other water vehicles to use, and more activities for an extra fee, such as parasailing and wave runners. This park even has wheelchair access, so no one has to be left out. Located on the west coast of Cozumel, south of the cruise ship pier, on a stretch of beach with several other beach clubs, this one has the most activities, but can get crowded, so if you're just planning to swim a bit and spend the rest of the time lounging, you may prefer to choose a different club.
A beach club located near Playa Mia, with a gorgeous beach and huge, Vegas-style heated pool, you can relax in the shade, or have fun in the sun, or go back and forth between the two throughout the day. For a low fee to access the beach and its facilities and a lounger by the pool or beach, you can pay as you go for meals, drinks, and activities, or choose the all-inclusive package to have as much as you’d like to eat, drink and play all day.
Palancar beach, named after the Palancar coral reef just off the shore, is a good option for those who want to get away from the crowds and still enjoy a beautiful swimmable beach. There's good snorkeling close to the shore, and pleasant swimming conditions and powdery white sand too. This beach is located farther south from the larger beach clubs on Cozumel's west coast, Palancar beach has free access, but there is a cost for tables, chairs, and loungers.
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
At the southernmost tip of Cozumel Island, there’s a lighthouse called Faro Celerain. Near the lighthouse, you'll find a lovely white sand beach with gorgeous ocean views and an ecological reserve that is home to iguanas, turtles, a couple of crocodiles, and a large number of birds. This beach is ideal for adventurers and nature lovers. You’ll have the opportunity to spot birds and wildlife, take a catamaran boat ride in the Columbia Lagoon to see the crocodiles and climb to the top of the lighthouse for a panoramic view of the surroundings. These activities, as well as the use of hammocks and beach loungers, are included in the price of admission.
Playa Chen Rio
Located on Cozumel’s east coast, Playa Chen Rio is great for walks on the beach enjoying the crashing waves and ocean vistas. There are rocky outcroppings that provide some protection from the waves, and you'll usually find some small tide pools for wading or paddling, but the water is generally too rough for swimming. There are no public facilities here, but there is a restaurant, the Chen Rio Restaurant, and if you order something (we recommend the ceviche), you can use theirs.
If you enjoy baring it all, you'll be welcome at "Naked Beach" near Mezcalito's Restaurant & Beach Bar. Not everyone who goes there strips down, most just enjoy the place for the beautiful ocean views, crashing waves, laidback atmosphere, and legendary margaritas, but they have a strong live and let live attitude. It may be because this beach is somewhat secluded, and best reached by ATV, buggy or scooter.
If you're the kind of traveler who really likes to get away from it all, Playa Bonita, on the northern side of Cozumel's east coast, doesn't have any facilities at all, so it's ideal for cutting loose and relaxing, just be sure you bring everything you'll need for the day, and be sure you bring everything back with you when you're through.