Cozumel is an elongated island in the Caribbean off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is part of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. For some, the appeal of Cozumel is its crystal clear waters and Cozumel beaches.
Chances are, if you are sailing to Mexico from a port in Florida, Texas, or Louisiana, it’s likely to be Cozumel. This Mexican island thrives on tourism and the vast number of cruise ships that visit each year.
I’ve only visited Cozumel by cruise ship, and it’s a popular stop on cheap Caribbean cruises. Cozumel is a common stop on a western Caribbean cruise and is usually combined with Belize, Grand Cayman, and Roatan, Honduras.
I had sailed a back-to-back Caribbean cruise doing both the eastern and western regions. On the eastern portion, I enjoyed the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and Old San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Many who visit Mexico want to relax on Cozumel beaches near the port or take one of these other popular Cozumel excursions. But which Cozumel beaches are near the cruise port? And are there any free beaches in Cozumel for cruise travelers?
Cozumel Cruise Port
Depending on who you sail with, your ship will dock at one of three main terminals in the Cozumel cruise ship port.
These are Punta Langosta in the town of San Miguel, the International pier just south of town, and Puerto Maya which is the furthest from town and known as the Carnival Cozumel port.
I sailed the Caribbean on the Carnival Glory, so my ship stopped at Puerto Maya which is the Cozumel Carnival port. Puerto Maya has a well-designed tourist receiving area with lots of shopping in the Cozumel cruise port.
Cozumel port shopping includes all the well-known stores like Diamonds International, Del Sol, and Milano. But it also offers great souvenirs like genuine Mexican silver, tequila, and pure vanilla extract.
While the Cozumel Carnival port is further from town, I was impressed with its layout and modern design. Before you wander too far from the Cozumel cruise port, grab some Instagram-worthy shots at the Three Amigos restaurant.
While there are many things to do in Cozumel Mexico on a cruise, most want to find the nearest beach to relax and drink. While there are lots of Cozumel public beaches, most of the best Cozumel beaches are not within walking distance of the Cozumel cruise port.
When researching which Cozumel beaches are near the port, I found it’s best to take a taxi to the beach of your choice. When considering which beach is best to visit, you need to decide what activities you intend to do.
Do you want to lounge in the sun all day, take a snorkel excursion, or do you have young children? Are you looking for free beaches in Cozumel for cruise travelers or maybe a Cozumel private beach?
Do you want an all-inclusive resort with water sports and unlimited drinks? Are you seeking the closest beach access without a taxi fare? The beaches in Cozumel near the port have all of this and so much more.
Cozumel Beaches And What To Expect
When most people think of Mexico, they conjure up dreams of turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. However, that isn’t always the case with Cozumel beaches.
In fact, much of the coastline is rocky and void of beautiful sand. Be prepared by bringing a pair of non-slip water shoes to protect your feet.
If you’re looking for that perfect getaway, expect to pay a fee for the best beach club. While that might put you off, the best private beaches in Cozumel offer great value when you consider all food, alcoholic drinks, private beaches, pools, and sometimes water toys are included.
Let’s also remember that your time on a private beach will be void of crowds and vendors trying to sell you Mexican trinkets.
While Cozumel is on an island and has beaches on both the east and west coasts, the beaches nearest to the cruise port are on the west coast.
Since the east side of Cozumel faces the Gulf of Mexico, the waters are rougher and not suited to leisurely swimming. The west side faces the sheltered waters of Mexico and offers much calmer waters, and better snorkeling but due to its proximity to the port, also has larger crowds.
It’s important to remember it’s very hot in Mexico so prepare by packing wisely. While a reef-safe sunscreen is great, I love my Rashguard clothing.
It’s lightweight and worn over my bathing suit, and blocks the harmful sun’s rays. There are styles with short sleeves and long sleeves, for men, women, and children.
Cozumel Beaches For Snorkeling
If you love snorkeling as I do, then Cozumel is the place for you. The Meso-American Barrier Reef is the second-largest coral reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
It is also the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. The Meso-American Barrier Reef is nearly 700 miles long and contains over 500 species of fish and 65 different corals. Without a doubt, it offers the best snorkeling in Cozumel.
The east side of Cozumel experiences rough seas and, therefore not advisable for snorkeling. The best snorkeling places are found on the north and west side of the island. Here are the best Cozumel beaches near the port for snorkeling.
El Cielo is the best place to go if you want to snorkel right from the beach. The water is clear and shallow, and the sand is white. You may choose to snorkel off the beach or take a boat tour out to the sandbar, half a mile offshore.
El Cielo is literally starfish heaven, and stingrays are often viewed at the sandbar. Get a Grand Cayman stingray adventure without going to Grand Cayman.
Nearby, the coral reefs are teeming with colorful fish and, if you’re lucky, turtles too. And remember to take your GoPro for those underwater photos.
The Money Bar (Dzul-Ha)
Dzul-Ha (pronounced Zool-Ha) is another excellent beach in Cozumel, Mexico, for snorkeling. This Cozumel beach is popular with snorkelers because the reef is close to shore.
Be sure to wear water shoes and tread carefully when you enter the water as sea urchins and coral rock are plentiful. Lockers are available to rent to secure your belonging while in the water.
Also, this Cozumel beach has a pool for those who prefer to avoid the ocean.
Sky Reef Beach
Enjoy the colorful fauna and flora of the Caribbean at Sky Reef Beach. While a relatively new establishment, the development has made a reasonable effort to integrate modern amenities into the natural surroundings.
Sky Reef is only a short 10-minute drive south of the cruise port in Cozumel. Not only does this beach offer great snorkeling, but it also has modern comforts.
These include a bar and grill, tequila tasting, lockers, showers, and how about a relaxing massage to help you unwind on your vacation. Could you ask for anything more?
Buccanos Resort is a 20-minute drive from the cruise port. A one-way taxi should cost you around USD 15 so make sure you’re not over-charged.
The Cozumel water off the beach is crystal clear, and the snorkeling is very good. The current moves quite slowly offshore so it’s perfect for the novice swimmer.
If you prefer a snorkel guide, the cost is free, but they work for tips. They will video and take pictures of you, which they will try to sell you for a hefty price.
The food is tasty here, and the service is exceptional. The resort also offers parasailing, jet skis, and lockers for an extra fee.
Sunset Beach Cozumel
If you’re looking for one of the free beaches in Cozumel near the cruise port, try Sunset Beach. While it’s not the nicest beach, it is, however, one of the closest beaches.
It’s very popular with cruise ship passengers who have the urge to snorkel while in port. The scuba shop nearby has snorkel equipment for rent, so you don’t need to venture far should you fancy snorkeling in Cozumel near the cruise port.
Given its close proximity to the cruise ship terminal, expect Sunset Beach to be busy if multiple ships are in port. Adjacent to the beach is the Sunset Beach Restaurant which is a popular hang-out spot for cruise ship passengers.
Cozumel Beaches That Are All-Inclusive
When I was researching some Cozumel beach clubs near the cruise port that were all-inclusive, I came across many. These resorts and beach clubs offer a day pass to use their beaches, water toys, and facilities.
If you are looking for a quiet beach away from the crowds, Nachi Cocum Beach Club is the perfect resort. The all-inclusive beach package includes a private beach, an outdoor pool with a swim-up bar, jacuzzi, beach loungers with umbrellas, unlimited drinks, and a 4-course lunch.
The cost of a pass is USD 55 and a bargain considering what’s included. Since this resort offers no water toys, it does not attract families with small children. So, if you want a quiet beach away from the crowds, this is the place.
I booked a day at Nachi Cocum Beach Club based on Cozumel Nachi Cocum reviews I read online, and I was not disappointed. The food at Nachi Cocum is terrific, and the service is excellent.
The facility only allows 130 guests to enter each day, so advance booking is advised if you want to secure your spot. I buddied up with another couple from the cruise ship to save money on taxi rides to and from the resort.
The resort was fairly empty the day I was there, and it was nice not to have to fight for a spot on the beach. The waiters come around regularly offering drinks from the bar and endless appetizers, so you’ll never go hungry.
The sandy beach is quite nice and well-maintained. The waters are calm and suited for swimming, even if you aren’t a strong swimmer.
The snorkeling is not good here due to not having a reef. However, you can pay for a snorkeling excursion which, in my opinion, was mediocre.
Mr. Sanchos is located 15-minutes south of the cruise ship terminal and close to Nachi Cocum Beach Club. It’s a popular resort for those arriving at the Carnival Cruise Cozumel port.
The resort offers both an all-inclusive package and a pay-as-you-go package so that you can choose the one best suited for you. The cost for an all-inclusive is US 55; you can reserve online for US 5 and pay the balance when you arrive.
The benefit of a deposit is if you change your mind last minute and decide to go somewhere else. Bear in mind, the legal drinking age in Cozumel is 18 years.
This all-inclusive resort offers something for everyone, from romantic cabanas with couples’ massages to kayaks, jet skis, and horseback riding for an additional fee.
The aquatic park has various water toys for the young at heart to keep you entertained for hours. Climb an iceberg, jump on trampolines or zoom down water slides; Mr. Sanchos is a water lover’s paradise.
Declared a national park in 1980, Chankanaab (Mayan name for small sea) Park is a unique area dedicated to preserving the natural fauna and flora of the region.
Chankanaab Park has something for everyone, whether you want to visit the crocodile farm, snorkel in the ocean, or swim with dolphins and manatees.
I don’t know about you, but who wouldn’t want to hug and kiss a dolphin? Or how about a cuddle with an adorable cubby manatee?
Chankanaab Park is close to the cruise ship terminal and costs approximately USD 10 to get there by taxi. Advanced tickets are not necessary as visitors can purchase them at the gate.
The pen in which the dolphins are kept is quite small. While there is a lot of controversy about keeping wild mammals in captivity and using them for tourist entertainment, it’s entirely up to you whether you choose this kind of tour excursion.
Located just 5 miles from the international cruise port, Paradise Beach Cozumel is an excellent choice for families and those who love water toys.
The entrance fee is as little as USD 3 or USD 18 for the “fun pass,” but you are expected to purchase at least USD 10 in food and drink per person.
The fun pass includes all the water toys like the trampolines, 14-foot climbing icebergs, and waterslides, as well as the use of paddleboards, kayaks, and snorkel gear. Now, that’s a bargain!
If you prefer, select a lounge chair by the inground heated pool where you enjoy the free WiFi.
Cozumel Beaches for Diving
There are several great options for Cozumel beaches near the cruise port suitable for diving. These are as follows:
Playa Palancar has one of the whitest beaches in Cozumel. As a result, it is one of the best beaches in Cozumel for swimming. While it’s quite a distance from the cruise port at a 20-minute taxi ride, it’s still worth the trip.
Experience some excellent diving off Palancar Beach as the waters are crystal clear, up to 200 feet. Drift in the gentle current while you enjoy the large selection of tropical fish, eagle rays, and sea turtles.
Palancar Reef diving site has some fantastic coral formations and an exciting variety of huge crustaceans. Playa Palancar snorkeling is great if you aren’t a certified diver.
Columbia Reef is located near Punta Sur Park. This reef is unique because it has shallow sections, ideal for snorkelers, and deeper parts for diving. Deep diving is at its finest at this spectacular reef.
Comprised of caves, tunnels, caverns, and stunning coral formations, the reef has an interesting mix of underwater features. The water can be cold where the wall drops off, so a full wet suit is necessary.
Whether you come to Mexico to escape the winter or it’s just a stop on your cruise itinerary, you may as well enjoy the Cozumel beaches too. For the adventurous, the Meso-American Barrier Reef offers a fantastic opportunity to dive and snorkel.
Those who want a quieter pace can enjoy a margarita as you take in some rays on a white sandy beach. While there are some free beaches in Cozumel for cruise travelers, some also charge a fee for use.
If you’re staying in a hotel, why not try more than one of these amazing Cozumel beaches?
It’s also good to note, many of the Cozumel resorts offer one-day passes to use their facilities. The hotel grounds, swimming pools, and beaches are immaculate, the day pass comes with unlimited drinks and food from the hotel’s restaurants.
These vary greatly in price from the Cozumel Occidental grand day pass at USD 70 per person, USD 78 for the Iberostar Cozumel day pass, or USD 75 for the Sabor Cozumel day pass.
Planning a trip to Mexico by cruise ship? I’ve taken several cruises to the Mexican Riviera on the Pacific Coast, and they are equally as enjoyable as a Western Caribbean cruise.
During my Western Caribbean cruise, my highlight was swimming with nurse sharks and stingrays in Belize.
Happy travels ~ Karen
Saturday 14th of May 2022
Thank You Thank you so much for the great
Saturday 14th of May 2022
I'm glad you found it helpful. If you're heading to Cozumel soon, have a wonderful time.