Cozumel, Mexico: The Places of Adventure and Leisure

There are five zones to trace a trip and enjoy the beauty of Cozumel, each one with different characteristics, secrets to discover, and charm.

Cozumel, Mexico: The Places of Adventure and Leisure
The ways to discover Cozumel's natural attractions. Photo by Fernando Jorge / Unsplash

The five zones into which Cozumel is divided offer, together with its history, experiences ranging from the most sporty and adventurous, in almost virgin spaces of sea and land, to the greatest comfort and relaxation in front of its beaches. There are shops, restaurants, and bars to enjoy and savor for several days and nights. On the same day, it is possible to admire the sunrise and sunset over the sea. Cozumel invites you to walk and stroll through its streets and roads calmly. Cozumel invites you to stay.

North: Natural Tour

Rafael E. Melgar Avenue passes, from south to north, through one of the island's two main hotel zones, condominium buildings, and the Cozumel Country Club golf course. The asphalt ends and a more natural region begins. The ideal for those who want to enjoy the landscape surrounded by mangroves and trees covered with vines is to continue the adventure by bike, on horseback, or in a 4 ×4 vehicle on the dirt road, where it is even possible to cross with a raccoon or a wild boar.

The objective is to reach Bahía Ciega, from where the boats depart to the northernmost part of this paradise. Another option is to start the expedition by sea from the Aqua Safari dock in San Miguel, or from the El Cozumeleño hotel, and let yourself be hypnotized by the changes in the color of the seabed, which reveals the transparency of the water.

Isla de la Pasión (Passion Island)

This place, of barely one square kilometer of extension, was a sacred place for the Mayas, where they went to venerate Ixchel, goddess of the moon and love. Nowadays it is one of the favorite places for those who travel by cruise ship.

Granja de Perlas (Pearl Farm)

This site concentrates its efforts on the recovery of coral reefs -indispensable for human survival- using new technology, and even rescued an oyster that was thought to be extinct in the region. Here you can snorkel in two reefs, among marine fauna, and dive to find an oyster embedded in a coral-covered sculpture of the Virgin of Guadalupe. You can camp on the beach, with a bottle of good wine and a charcoal pizza.

South and East: Panoramic Tour

Among the main attractions in these areas is the Celarain Lighthouse, which travelers can climb to contemplate the landscape. In the lower part is the Navigation Museum, which exhibits nautical objects, in addition to didactic rooms about protected areas and the fauna of the Punta Sur Ecological Park. Next to the lighthouse, there is a jungle trail that leads to an observation tower. Chunchacaab beach has hammocks for relaxing and a reef for snorkeling. You should visit the Tumba del Caracol, a Mayan vestige that warned of the intensity of the wind.

The coastal road offers vegetation on one side and the sea on the other, and there are many worthwhile stops: El Mirador and its cliffs; the turtle camp; San Martin and Chen Rio beaches, a favorite; Coconuts Bar & Grill; Punta Morena beach club, as well as Mezcalito's restaurant-bar, which marks the end of the scenic road and the beginning of a road to the north end, Punta Molas, where the island's other lighthouse is located.

West: Discovery Tour

In this region are the other hotel zone and the most famous beaches. Puerta Maya is the world's most popular port of arrival for cruise ships and receives countless international visitors. It is worth visiting Discover Mexico Park, which offers an approach to the country's culture, the Museum of Traditional Mexican Arts, and the Dioramic Garden -with models that reproduce important constructions of Mexico's history-. There is also tequila tasting, taco buffet, chocolate workshop, alebrijes workshop, and even Papantla flyers.

Chankanaab Park is a natural treasure, with a beautiful lagoon with reefs, connected to the sea by the subsoil. On the beach, one of the main attractions when snorkeling, snuba, or trekking is the submerged Christ; there are also zip lines, temazcal, a natural spa, and an eco-archeological tour through the botanical garden. For dining, Blue Lagoon Bar & Grill and Cabana Beach, which offers private cabanas, as well as a food truck with sushi and a very cool beach bar, are recommended.

The Interior: Mayan Tour

In Cozumel there are more than 10 archaeological sites that show the presence of Mayan groups since the third century A.D. San Gervasio, a place of worship to the goddess Ixchel, is the most important. Visiting the area where the structures El Arco, El Álamo, and Nohoch Nah, among others, stand out, takes approximately three hours. To continue interactively delving into the Maya culture, the route continues in Pueblo del Maíz.

In the picturesque town of El Cedral, the most recent and lively history continues its course; there, at the end of April and beginning of May, the Fiestas de la Santa Cruz -the second most important festivity in Cozumel, after Carnival- are celebrated.

If you are looking for action on land, there is no better place than here for the thrilling adventure on an ATV or Xtrail proposed by Wildtours; along irregular roads, you will cross fields and part of the town, including a magical stop at the Chempita cenote, home to more than 1,000 bats, where you can revitalize yourself by swimming in the waters that the sun makes transparent at noon.

Pueblo del Maíz ("People of Corn")

In this interactive pre-Hispanic park, the guided tour begins in a cenote -considered sacred places and doors to the underworld-, followed by a representation of the Popol Vuh, the ritual of painting faces, the making of gum, planting, dancing, and grinding corn, and then making tortillas and tasting them with different sauces. You can visit a medicinal hut with melipona bee honey, learn about the chocolate process and its combinations, and learn about feather art. A tasting of chili peppers and jams is offered at the site. The visit ends with a ball game, before passing through a store selling handicrafts and organic products.

San Miguel: Tour Through History

If you travel by ferry from Playa del Carmen, when you get off the ferry and cross the pier, the first thing that appears is the colorful town of San Miguel. The Benito Juarez Park invites you to stop and look at the old municipal palace, the clock tower, and the wooden buildings from the beginning of the century, and then walk along the pedestrian streets, where there are plenty of stores, hotels, and terraces of restaurants for all tastes.

The main coastal avenue and the boardwalk are worth a walk: the starting point is Playa Casitas, where the Spaniards disembarked in 1518 and celebrated the first mass in the country. To commemorate the meeting of two cultures, the new Chapel of the Holy Cross of Cuzamil was built there. Further on is the Monument to the Mestizaje, the Monument to the Carnival, and the Monument to the Diver, which seems to be taken from the sea and whose edge is shaped like a swallow.

A visit to the Museum of Cozumel Island is a must, to have a complete panorama of the history of the place and its natural wealth. At eight o'clock in the evening, people come alive at the park's Ground Zero, with water, light and sound show, and live music in the center of the square or the surrounding area.

Kaokao Chocolate Factory

Cacao was considered a sacred food by the Mayas. The one-hour tour of this family-owned factory provides an insight into the culture of cacao and chocolate in Mexico and the rest of the world, from its history and plant origins to its secrets. There are four areas to explore: a production plant, a museum, the mills, and a gift store. The tour includes the making of chocolate by visitors and several tastings throughout the process.

In conclusion

The ancient Maya sought to reach the sacred island of Cozumel at least once in their lives, in pilgrimages aboard canoes. In the middle of the 19th century, 21 mestizo families repopulated the island. That magical, mestizo and close essence remains today. The more one gets to know this "Land of the Swallows" - meaning in the Mayan language - the more the sensation of having found a paradise on earth grows.

In very few places you can contemplate such a range of blues in the sea. The transparent water could be the reflection of Cozumel's inhabitants, always hospitable and with an exemplary ecological conscience. The biodiversity of this Mexican Caribbean island and its Cultural Heritage has made it worthy of being included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the MAB-UNESCO Program.