With popular party spots like Cancun nearby -- filled with restaurants and nightclubs -- most people escape to Cozumel for its relaxed atmosphere and underwater paradise. The coral colonies off the island’s shores are part of the second largest reef system in the world: the Mesoamerican Reef. These vibrant marine habitats are the reason many venture here for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Palancar Reef is famous for its stunningly clear waters, with both shallow areas for diving closer to the surface or snorkeling and greater depths, for those who want to plunge deeper. Beginner divers often try Paraiso Reef first.
A big attraction on the island is Chankanaab National Park, another draw for water lovers. In addition to snorkeling and snapping underwater pictures, visitors here can swim with dolphins and sea lions, encounter a manatee or just hang out at the beach.
Faro Celarain Eco Park, on Cozumel’s southern tip, boasts 247 acres of reserve containing beaches, mangrove forests, crocodiles and hundreds of species of exotic birds. Rent a bicycle or kayak and explore, or visit the historic lighthouse, now a navigation museum.
San Miguel is the main town here, and home to the cruise dock. If you’re looking for shopping, hotels or dining, this is the place to go. During Carnival, the plaza turns into a lively fiesta with food, music, dancing, costumes and parade floats. The Cozumel Island Museum is an interesting stop for those who want to learn more about the culture: Murals, photographs and special interactive exhibits bring the island’s history to life.