Cozumel Feature

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Cozumel's Best Beaches

Cozumel's irresistible aquamarine sea is easy to access from most of the coastline. Calm water laps soft sand beaches, tropical fish swim along limestone shelves jutting out over the water, and pale white anemones wave with the currents in tidal pools.

At some spots, tropical fish swim in the crystal clear water so close to shore that you don't even have to get wet to see them. But it would be a shame to miss the brigades of multicolored sea creatures in and along the coral reefs. Cozumel's renown as an underwater paradise is such that most swimmers don masks and snorkels even for casual paddles near their hotels.

Unlike the long, broad beaches of Cancún or the Riviera Maya, most of Cozumel's beaches are pockets of sand collected between sections of brittle limestone. The best sandy beaches are along the island's southern shores, although sea grass mars the underwater scenery. The windward coast has stretches of spectacular isolated beaches, but rough tides can make swimming dangerous.

Safety First

If you're snorkeling or swimming from shore, swim shoes will protect your feet from coral and rocks. The water is typically shallow close to shore, though currents can be strong if you swim out more than a few yards. Use your strength to swim against the current first, then ride it back to your starting point. Don't forget the (biodegradable) sunscreen—the sun is strong even on cloudy days.

Best Beaches

Playa San Martin

The water is usually calm at this windward-side beach, making it a great place to enjoy the island's wild side without worrying about rough waves. When the winds are high it's fun to watch kiteboarders swoop along the water with the swells. Sea-turtle nests dot the beach in the summer, usually marked with sticks or nets circling mounds of sand. Keep clear to avoid harming the babies hatching from their eggs. Bring your own beach blanket, towels, and drinking water, and enjoy the solitude.

Isla Pasión

If your idea of paradise is a tranquil desert island, you'll love this private patch of sand and palms off Cozumel's northwest point. Sure, cruise-ship tours land here, but when they're gone you'll feel delightfully isolated—albeit with plenty of fresh water, a bountiful Mexican buffet, and cervezas close at hand. The crystal clear water is very shallow, and the reefs are too far away for good snorkeling, but you can grab an inflatable raft and float beneath the clouds for hours. Novices can try out kayaking without worries, since tipping over is like slipping into a warm bath. There's a small golf course, children's playground, and wedding chapel—a perfect spot for a tropical proposal.

Punta Sur

Faro Celarain Eco Park, at Cozumel's southern tip, claims some of the island's most postcard-perfect white-sand beaches. The water here is calm, the snorkeling excellent, and from the top of the lighthouse you can take in breathtaking views of Cozumel and a large swath of the Riviera Maya. It's worth the admission fee to spend hours lingering here, sunning yourself like the ubiquitous rock-perched lizards (the park's resident crocodiles prefer the mangrove lagoon). In summer sign up for a turtle tour, where naturalists take small groups to the beach late at night to watch mother sea turtles dig deep nests in the sand and lay their eggs.

Playa Palancar

There's nothing fancy about this simple beach club—just the smell of fish grilled with garlic, the lazy swing of a hammock, and the sound of the sea. Look for the sign between Playa San Francisco and Faro Celarain Eco Park. The small on-site dive shop rents snorkeling and dive gear, and in-house dive masters will take you to some of the best reefs along the coast.

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