About Cozumel beaches
Cozumel’s biggest attraction is the Mesoamerica Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Reefs off the island’s shores are protected in a national marine park, and the diving and snorkelling are superb.
Cozumel’s beaches took a battering after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and are slowly recovering. Sand is still sparse in some areas, but the water is gorgeous and easily accessed from the limestone shore. Beach clubs with plenty of amusements line the southwest coast. The most gorgeous stretch of white sand is in Parque Punta Sur (Carretera Sur, near the junction with windward coast road), a national nature preserve.
Beyond the beach:
San Gervasio (7km or 4.5 miles down the San Gervasio access road off the Carretera Transversal) is Cozumel’s largest Maya archaeological site and was a sacred site for Maya women seeking the aid of the fertility goddess Ixchel. The town of San Miguel is worth visiting several times during your stay. Plenty of restaurants and shops line the main downtown pedestrian streets. The golf course at the Cozumel Country Club (Carretera Norte Km 5) (www.cozumelcountryclub.com.mx) is an Audubon International sanctuary as interesting to birdwatchers as duffers.
Cozumel is an easy family destination. Children are amused by the schools of fish swimming close to beaches and find plenty of play equipment at beach clubs. Many hotels have clubs and activities for children; the all-inclusive resorts are best for full-scale programmes. The Museo de la Isla de Cozumel (Avenida Rafael Melgar, between Calles 4 and 6 Norte) has exhibits of the sealife, and impressive collection of shells and corals, and historical displays. Snorkelling and swimming are especially good at Parque Chakanaab (Carretera Sur Km 9), a marine park with dolphins, a botanical park, and exhibits on the Maya.
Playa del Carmen and the mainland Caribbean coast (called the Riviera Maya) are a short ferry ride from Cozumel. Shopping and dining options are more varied in Playa than on Cozumel, and the town has a youthful international vibe. The archaeological site of Tulum is near Playa, as are several cenotes (freshwater sinkholes) popular with divers. Buses run frequently from the Playa del Carmen terminal to Tulum and other points of interest along the coast.
To sample Cozumel’s most luxurious setting, book at beachfront suite at the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel hotel (Carretera Chankanaab Km 6.5). One of the oldest and most-beloved hotels on the island, the Presidente was completely transformed into Cozumel’s only five-star property after Hurricane Wilma. Its Mandara Spa is fabulous, and Alfredo di Roma restaurant serves divine imported cheeses and wines with its homemade pastas. If you can’t go for the full splurge, book a sunset dinner at Alfredo’s and come early to enjoy cocktails accompanied by guitar ballads by the sea.