Visiting Cozumel - What to See and Do
(Cozumel International Airport CZM, Mexico)
This small yet thriving island off the Quintana Roo coastline is a magnificent tourist destination. Cozumel
Island has a repertoire of outdoor adventures fit for both active and relaxation-seeking tourists. From the calm golden beaches of Cozumel's leeward side, to the rocky limestone outcrops of its windward coast, this island is not to be underestimated.
The island boasts some of the bluest water in the Caribbean, so snorkelling and scuba diving have become popular activities, allowing visitors to see the plentiful underwater sights. Of course, the grandeur of the surrounding sea can be explored in other ways, such as glass-bottom boats, sailing, deep-sea fishing and beach activities. Cozumel is also a popular cruise ship destination. It is not uncommon to see several cruise liners moored off the island's coast at any one time, packed with sightseeing tourists.
Even though Cozumel is a renowned beach getaway, it offers much more than just surf, sun and sand. Attractions worth visiting include many ancient Mayan remnants across the island. The resident nightlife scene is more relaxed than its mainland neighbour, Cancun. Many of the nightspots are located along the beachfront near San Miguel, the largest town.
Ten things you must do in Cozumel
- Scuba diving is the premier activity available at Cozumel. The island boasts a reputation as being the best scuba spot in the Americas. Drift diving is a popular attraction, as there are a number of famous places to do such an activity just off-shore. Finding equipment is no problem, as several dive shops and dive agencies operate in San Miguel.
- Those who are afraid of the water pressure can still enjoy the beauty of Cozumel's underwater marine life. Snorkelling is a much easier activity, allowing visitors to stay at or near the surface. The western coastline is the best spot for viewing breathtaking coral gardens and tropical sea species. Reef excursions can be arranged with local tour operators, offering food, music and several snorkel adventures.
- Forget the troubles of life by lazing upon the beautiful beaches of Cozumel. The Playa San Francisco is one of the most visited beaches on the island. Many of the sandy beaches have been transformed into rather 'touristy' areas, with parks, restaurants and amenities onsite. Some charge a small fee, but this usually includes beach chair rental and umbrella hire. Paradise Beach is another busy stretch of sand on Cozumel.
- If tourists don't like getting their hair wet, but the call of the reef is just too strong, then satisfy the urges on a glass-bottom boat tour. Available through several reputable tour agencies, the glass-bottomed excursions take passengers across the most famous reefs. The wonders of the marine world pass by the boat, oblivious to what is happening at the surface. This gives younger children and elderly visitors a great chance to see what all the scuba diving fuss is about.
- Even though the leeward side of the island is calm, surfing is still a popular activity on Cozumel. This is largely because the windward side experiences heavy breaks throughout the year, making it possible to lure surfers. The water can be dangerous at times, so novice surfers need to take extra precautions. In some places, rocky outcrops rest underneath the water too.
- The Chankanaab National Park is the most notable beach resort (balneario) on the island. Even though it contains restaurants, changing rooms, beach activities and rentals like other spots around the island, its nearby lagoon places it at the top of the list. A huge population of iguanas live at the lagoon, so visitors can view these intriguing creatures when bathing here. The entrance fees are relatively high, but the Chankanaab National Park has so much to offer that it is great value for money.
- Deep-sea fishing is among the most treasured activities based here. The island boasts one of the world's best deep-sea fishing environments, as the channel separating it from the Yucatan Peninsula pulls a huge number of sport fish into the region. This fishing hotspot attracts thousands of fishing enthusiasts year round. Boats can be chartered at the Puerto Abrigo Marina.
- Explore the ancient Mayan attractions of Cozumel. There are several different sites to discover, including the El Cedral ruins, the remnants at San Gervasio and the El Caracol Temple. Most of these landmarks require an entrance fee and, if possible, finding a local guide is recommended.
- At the end of April / beginning of May, the southern Cozumel settlement of El Cedral hosts a famous celebration over the course of five days. It is known as the Festival of El Cedral and includes plenty of food, dance, music, bullfights and other competitions. This celebration has been a tradition for more than 160 years.
- Dance the night away at the main plaza in San Miguel. Every Sunday evening, a fiesta is held at the centre of town, giving locals and tourists a chance to unwind and greet each other. The food here is spectacular, and the party atmosphere on a Sunday night awakens the town from its weeklong slumber.