The island of Cozumel, located off of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, has a lot going for it. Not only are Cozumel beaches some of the best in the world, this idyllic destination also has a rich Mayan history, nearly perfect weather, and fantastic restaurants and bars offering seafood-heavy Mexican food and cocktails.
Some of the best beaches in Cozumel feature toes-in-the-sand restaurants, artificial lagoons for snorkeling and wildlife watching, and large swaths of soft, sandy beaches with plenty of hammocks and comfortable loungers.
Many stretches also offer kayaking and scuba diving on site, making it easy to squeeze in a spur-of-the-moment adventure while traveling.
But resort-style beaches aren’t your only option. If you prefer undeveloped beaches, head to one of the Cozumel beaches on the island’s eastern side. While you won’t find tequila tastings or snorkeling tours, you will encounter gentle drop-offs, sandy bottoms, and warm water you can sit in for hours on end.
Whether you want to relax in a luxurious private cabana or prefer to rent a car and have a picnic on a remote stretch of sand, here are seven of the best beaches in Cozumel.
Playa Mia Grand Beach Resort
Part of the Playa Mia Grand Beach Resort, Playa Mia is one of Cozumel’s higher-end beaches. Here you’ll find a wide, sandy shore covered in lounge chairs and dotted with palm trees, making it an ideal place for a nap in the shade—though you may find it hard to sleep knowing the clear, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea are just a few steps away.
You can rent snorkeling gear (or sign up for a guided tour), go parasailing, or cruise on a jet ski right from the shore. There’s also an inflatable obstacle course and the recreated remains of a Mayan city a few feet below the surface; the perfect spot to pose if you have an underwater camera.
Meanwhile, on land, there are two waterslides, a large pool with a swim-up open bar, and a massage tub where gentle bubbles can soothe your sore muscles.
Most activities, including unique options like water bikes and floating waterslides, are included with Playa Mia Grande’s entry fee. There’s an extra charge for activities such as parasailing or “fish therapy,” during which tiny garra rufa fishes nibble dry skin off your feet—and yes, it’s way more pleasant than it sounds.
Most people will agree that one of the most beautiful beaches in Cozumel is El Cielo, which translates as “heaven.” While it’s logical to think that this lovely and peaceful beach’s name comes from its serene environment, El Cielo is actually named after its wildlife, as it is one of the best places in Cozumel to see starfish. Much like stars dot the night sky, at El Cielo, starfish cover the ocean floor.
El Cielo is only accessible by boat, which helps keep the water clean and healthy since there isn’t much foot traffic. The water here is anywhere from five to nine feet deep, so snorkeling here is one of the best things to do in Cozumel for beginners who may not feel comfortable in the open sea. It’s possible to see the starfish only a few feet away from the shore, but make sure not to handle them.
Even though El Cielo isn’t technically a beach since it’s a sandbar in the ocean, most boat trips will follow a visit to El Cielo with a stop at a nearby beach called Playa El Cielito (or Little Heaven Beach).
El Cielito is quite underdeveloped so don’t expect any beach bars or amenities there. If you’re lucky, you might see some stingrays in the surf coming close to shore to snack on tiny crabs and sea slugs.
Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park
Cozumel’s National Reef Marine Park is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico, covering nearly 50 square miles of the northern tip of the Meso-American reef. If you want to explore the more than 1,000 marine creatures that call this marine park home, then head to Chankanaab Beach at the Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park.
Chankanaab is one of the best beaches in Cozumel because of the many ways it allows visitors to access the water. Guests can scuba dive or snorkel at an underwater sculpture garden, try snuba (a form of scuba diving that features a hose connected to an air supply at the surface), or embark on an “aqua-trek” on the ocean floor while wearing an oxygen helmet.
The park’s long beach is bordered by a reef, making it a great place to see the marine park’s wildlife. Thankfully, you don’t have to walk across the rocks to get into the water, as the park has several bridges that cross over the reef.
If you manage to tear yourself away from your beach chair or luxury cabana on the sand, you can also dine at one of Cankanaab’s three restaurants, swim with dolphins, take part in a traditional temazcal (steam bath) ritual, or book a massage overlooking the huge turquoise swimming lagoon.
Even if you’re not much of a drinker, try and stop by the beach’s tequila tasting booth at some point during the day. You’ll be able to try a few different agave-based spirits that are nothing like the tequila you’ve tried before.
Playa Chen Rio
Most of the hotels, restaurants, and amenities on Cozumel are located on the island’s western side, leaving the eastern side primarily undeveloped. Therefore, if you’re looking for a “deserted island” experience, head to the middle of the island’s eastern coastline, where you’ll find Playa Chen Rio.
Playa Chen Rio is as rustic as it gets. There are no amenities, no beach resorts, and no vendors. You’ll need to bring everything you’ll need and carry it back out again.
The beach is a long stretch of sand with a natural rock barrier that blocks larger waves. However, you should still swim within the markers at the end of the rock jetty as currents can get strong outside the safety of the natural lagoon.
If you want to avoid the crowds, this is a good spot since few people make the trek to this side of the island. If you’re renting a car or want a lazy day at the beach, it’s also a great option.
There’s not much coral or rock in the surf, so feel free to leave the water shoes behind. In fact, Playa Chen Rio feels like it was made for barefoot walks in the waves. Tip: bring some cash to the nearby restaurants as most don’t accept credit cards.
If you’re looking for a laid-back beach where you can relax in the sand and also snorkel, Playa Palancar, or Palancar Beach, is one of the best beaches in Cozumel.
Rather than being a private beach club, Playa Palancar is open to the public and located about a 20-minute drive south of the town of San Miguel de Cozumel, so you’ll need to either rent a scooter or take a taxi.
However, just because it’s a public beach that doesn’t mean you won’t find any amenities. While anyone can access the sandy beach, if you buy a cocktail, local beer, or order a fresh plate ceviche, you can also make use of the umbrellas and loungers that several restaurants have arranged out on the sand.
Playa Palancar is a relaxed place, often filled with a healthy mix of tourists and locals that want to embrace Cozumel’s friendly, no-stress atmosphere for a few hours. You will find bathrooms and showers, as well as the occasional masseuse offering ocean-view massages.
Playa Palancar is also notable for the marine life found offshore. Palancar Gardens, the area of reef off the beach, is considered one of the best places to go scuba diving and snorkeling on Cozumel.
If you didn’t bring snorkel gear, it’s easy to rent it nearby. You can also sign up on-site for quick snorkeling trips that travel a few minutes offshore and which usually include a marine park entry fee.
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
Punta Sur is the most eco-friendly and natural beach out of all of the parks managed by the Cozumel Parks Foundation. Here, the focus is on heritage and preservation of the natural environment, making it a must-visit spot if you prefer nature and history to beach bars and tequila tastings—though it does offer both.
Start your day off at this Cozumel beach with a visit to the protected Chunchacab Reef, where you can stroll past the shoreline and see flamingo nesting grounds and crocodile habitats along the way.
Then, head out on one of the beach’s nature trails, climb the wildlife observation tower, or check out the lighthouse and museum, where you can learn all about the island’s Mayan and maritime history.
End your day with an hour or two at the park’s relaxing Playa Chunchacab—one of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya—where you’ll find a sandy section with palapas and beach chairs.
Aside from the soft sand, cool breezes, and shallow surf, you can also rent snorkel equipment or glass-bottom kayaks to use above the house reef. Dotted around the park are clusters of hammocks, restrooms, beach bars, and a few nice restaurants where you can have a high-end meal in the shade.
Playa de San Martin
With a shallow sandy bottom that stretches at least 100 yards out into the sea, Playa de San Martin is one of the best beaches in Cozumel among in-the-know travelers. Here you’ll find sugar-soft sand and bright turquoise water, which is probably why it’s only a matter of time before it becomes trendy. Try and go before the crowds catch up.
Located on the island’s southern tip, Playa de San Martin is not too far from Punta Sur Beach Park, but unlike Punta Sur, Playa de San Martin is a public beach.
It’s best avoided on windy or stormy days, as the eastern coast of Cozumel is on the windward side, which creates stronger waves than those on the southwestern side. Fortunately, there’s a beach flag system that advises visitors whether or not it’s safe to go into the water.
The beach itself has no restaurants or restrooms, but there’s a tasty local restaurant across the road. You’ll need a car to get here, but it makes for a great lunch stop if you’re driving a loop around the island’s southern coastline.
If you’re ready to explore the coastlines around Cozumel, Tulum, and the rest of the gorgeous Yucatan Peninsula, explore Celebrity Cruises’ luxury cruises to Cozumel. From swimming in crystal-clear jungle cenotes to learning to salsa dancing and making ceviche from culinary masters, there’s plenty to do in this beautiful, easy-to-reach stretch of Mexico’s coastline.