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Cozumel,Riviera Maya-north
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Cozumel is a wonderful island that you reach from boat-shuttles from Puerto Morelos (44 km or 27miles from Cancun) and from Playa del Carmen (76 km or 47 miles from Cancun). It is 47 km (29miles) long and 17 km (10miles) wild. It is located 20km (12 miles) from the coast of Quintana Roo. It is mainly busy with Americans coming directly by plane from Miami, Houston, New-York, San Francisco et Los Angeles.

Three thirds of its 80,000 inhabitants live in the only village of the island, San Miguel. Some times during the week, it is invaded by hordes of tourists coming by cruise boats. Cozumel has nice vegetation and beautiful beaches. You can tour the island by car, taxi or rented two wheeler. Renting a scooter for the day on the premises is the best solution. Be aware of the deposit of US$200 !
The Island is a fantastic minuscule paradise for diving lovers because of the true blue waters. The Cozumel reefs were declared "National Marine Park", which means an increased protection of the site and fauna.

Carnival :
Cozumel is also famous for Mardi Gras carnival.

Museum :
See the Museum of the Island of Cozumel, two blocks from the main plaza, in an old two-story hotel. The museum recounts the history of the island and introduces the fauna, flora and coral reefs of the island (open 8AM-5PM, MXN$35).

Transport :
There are ferries from Puerto Morelos or Playa del Carmen. Preferably use the ferries from Playa. The dock is close to the Zócalo. The trip lasts 35 min. There are many round trips during the day. Check on the premises for the prices (about MXN$220, RT) and the schedules.

Cozumel, mythical city of the Mayan Empire Maya was forgotten for centuries. During the fifties, Commandant Cousteau dived off this Mexican island and discovered an extraordinary site. Cozumel then started a new life.

The remains of the Spanish Galleons lie 3m (10feet) deep : a windfall for diving lovers. But this is only a tiny part of the land or marine richness of the island : Cozumel is a natural sanctuary.

Short and nice video about the life of the sponges in Cozumel.


Visit of the island:
one of the beaches in Cozumel A
7km (4miles) from San Miguel, take the road towards the seaport of Caleta to go to Paraiso Reef. It is close to the coast, shallow and very colorful (it is 1km (0.6mile) long).
Look at Chankanaab National Park with replica of Indian sculptures (Mayas, Zapotecs, Aztecs, etc.) and a botanic garden (open 7AM-5PM, MXN$180 for adults; 50% discount for 3-11 year old children. It houses the reef with the same name, shallow and colorful, very pleasant for beginner divers.
From the smaller and more intimate Playa Corona (1 km or 0.6mile further), you can take a small boat to the reef of Tormentos.
4 km (2.5miles) to the south, Playa San Francisco lost most of its charm with the many restaurants that denature the place and the invading and noisy jet-skis !
A paved road leads to the oldest Mayan ruins of the island : El Cedral, in bad shape.

Left picture : one of the beaches in Cozumel

Playa Sol, 500 m (0.3 feet) south of playa San Francisco, offers sports activities (volley, table tennis) and relaxing activities (massage, swimming pool, chaise lounges).
The following beach, Playa Mister Sanchos, whose tables and chaises lounges are set around an "exotic" bar, is one of the most pleasant for swimming. A few hundred meters further south, Playa Nachicocom, with a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi lined with coconut trees, is said to be the most chic in the island.

The reefs facing these two beaches, Santa Rosa reef and Paso del Cedral reef are also famous for the possibilities of diving among thousands of fish with colors and shapes as wonderful as unexpected. It is also the favorite area for the groupers, moray eels and sleeping sharks !
Palancar beach, the wildest, houses the beautiful Palancar reef. The site is famous for its exceptional seabed.

You can also go south and see another beautiful reef, Colombia reef. There are sea turtles and eagle rays.
If you go along the southern point of the island, you will be surprised with the change of vegetation and the “end of the world” atmosphere. You can enter the Punta Sur ecological reserve (open 8AM-4PM, MXN$110) which offers a ride along the coast between the Caribbean Sea and the lagoons (kayak or catamaran). There are a lot of birds and crocodiles. Go snorkeling to admire beautiful fish.

coral of Riviera MayaThe road follows the east wild, limestone and windy coast for 13 km (8miles) to Playa Chen Rio, a large white sand band, sheltered from the wind and sprinkled with palm trees and palm umbrellas. A little further north, Punta Morena, with rough waters, is ideal for surfing. By the Mezcalitos, take the road crossing the island from east to west. The right junction leads to San Gervasio ruins (open 8AM-5PM, MXN$41). This is a nice Mayan site.

We won’t forget Playa Azul, the well-named blue beach, located 5km (3miles) north of san Miguel.

     Right picture : coral of Riviera Maya

There is also the Dolphin Discovery Cozumel for swimming with the dolphins (between USD$65 and USD$188 depending of yr choice of activity) :

  • Toll Free Mexico : 01-800-727-5391
  • Direct Line : +52 (998) 193-3360

. See also the different diving clubs. The forums about this region of Mexico are full of good advice.

Map of Cozumel :

Satellite picture of the island :

Traversia Sagrada Maya (comments in spanish)

An old tradition resumes : the pilgrimage to Cozumel island to worship the goddess Ixchel. Since June 2007, Xcaret park has been organizing the crossing of the channel to revive the Mayan tradition. It was moving : the pilgrims built their canoes with the traditional methods and trained for crossing the channel to Cozumel and making an offering to Goddess Ixchel. In 2014, it will take place around the third week of May.

RIVIERA MAYA (from Puerto Morelos to Paamul)

view on the caribbean coast of the Riviera Maya The Riviera Maya stretches on 200 km (124 miles) of beaches along the most beautiful ocean in the world. It is a true paradise for the amateurs of farniente : blue sky, turquoise water, fine white sand beaches and golden sun. In addition to these essential four elements, the shore has other unsuspected interests to discover and enjoy : the Mayan world first. You can discover many vestiges, hidden in the tropical jungle. Their origin dates from the distant past, one or two thousand years ago. From these old stones polished by the millenniums, emerge the soul of the Mayas. The descendants of these people, at the origin of the whole Meso-America civilization, are still living there.
The Mayan World is also the world of the jungle, their natural habitat, thick tropical vegetation with a surprising variety of animal species. There is also the Sian Ka'an reserve the largest natural reserve in Mexico with an area of 530 000 ha. It is hard to get in but fascinating when you get there.
And there is also the miracle of the "cenotes". These small and big lakes, shimmering under the opulent foliage of the jungle, supplied by a large underground river net, are the hot spots for diving in caves. All level divers can enjoy the ocean, particularly the Arrecife Maya, the divers’ El Dorado.

There is a long band of beaches and coves between the ocean and the jungle.

   Right picture : view on the caribbean coast of the Riviera Maya

Finally, you will be surprised to know that you can find all conveniences in the hotels, from the most luxurious to the smallest and charming one, the cabins and the cheapest palm roof "palapas". This still wonderful region was named Riviera Maya because of the still living memory of the Mayas. There is a subtropical climate inland, with an average temperature of 26°C to 35°C (79 to 95°F) all year long. May and August are the hottest months with 35°C (95°F). You might experience strong rains and cyclones from August to October. The second class bus company Mayab runs between Cancun and Chetumal. You can stop anywhere on the route. Just ask the driver.

Puerto Morelos

Considered as the entrance of the Riviera Maya, Puerto Morelos is located 15 minutes south of the international airport of Cancun 36 km (20miles) north of Playa del Carmen. In this small fishermen village, still spared by mass tourism, with a friendly population, you will find diverse sites to visit. There are many activities for families as well as for groups of friends such as the crocodile breeding Crococun, the botanical garden Yaax Che, the daily opened craft market among others.
The natural marine Park, "Reefs of Puerto Morelos" will allow you to discover a huge variety of multicolored tropical fish, dolphins and turtles, as well as wonderful coral-formations that often surprise the first time visitor. Many painters, writers and artisans as well as people from the whole world chose to settle in this Mexican hideaway and enjoy this wonderful setting. The beaches of Puerto Morelos are less beautiful than the ones south of the village and the water is less turquoise. However, this village is very pleasant. Hurry up to enjoy it !

Northern beaches - 10 km (6miles) north of Playa del Carmen -

From the north of Playa del Carmen to Puerto Morelos, the coast uncoils a long cord of quiet beaches lined with palm trees : the "playas del Norte". The jungle comes to the beach; clear water rivers flow to the sea, the Big Mayan Reef runs along the coast with numerous fish, coral temples and nice vegetation. In several places, you just have to snorkel to notice the amazing richness of the marine fauna and flora without getting far from the coast. The best spots to dive there are the reefs "Jardines" and "Pared Verde".

banana pesce (banana fish) Sea turtles lay on the beach during the reproduction season. Sea pelicans fly and dive for food. If you are hungry, top end restaurants or simple "palapas" restaurants (thatched roofed terrace) offer local dishes, shrimps or tropical fish.

Left picture : banana pesce (banana fish)

For lodging, you will have the choice between all amenities hotels or bungalows or very simple cabins sometimes with all conveniences.
A natural curiosity in this region is an underground river which rises to the surface !

Another place, almost untouched by people, is "Tres Rios", a beach bathed by three clear water rivers. Sometimes, it is possible to sleep out in the open, or more exactly under a “palapa" in a hammock. Xcalacoco proposes also camping sites.
Kayaking, diving, contemplating the sea, relaxing, hiking, fishing and enjoying nature : these are the possibilities here. Other people preceded us : archaeological vestiges attest the ancient presence of the Mayas, big amateurs of water, swimming and nature. What a nice area !

Playa del Carmen

An enviable geographical location, large beaches, a sea paradise of divers : here is Playa del Carmen, key of Riviera Maya. The old fishermen village, a modest seaport for the ferry to Cozumel, after years of quiet life along the immutably blue sea, has been converted into an international sea resort able to welcome 400,000 tourists in high season. It is a lively place with every service a demanding tourist expects. Playa del Carmen, "playa" for the regulars, Xaman Há in Maya, is located 52 km (32miles) from Cancun airport and from the Mayan city Tulum.
The maximum hotel capacity is still not reached so Playa del Carmen is still a good choice. But, for how long ?
Playa del Carmen is an ideal base to share your time between the sea and the country : the surroundings offer many possibilities of excursions, walking or horse riding. You can also go further : air conditioned bus tours leave the city to the whole Riviera Maya through Federal Road 307. There are also many beaches, coves and lagoons, as well as a wonderful coral reef, close by. At the north, Coco Beach is one of the nicest beaches in the area offering, less than 50m (164feet) from the coast, a coral reef. The best diving spots are "Tortuga" and "Barracuda" reefs.
In Playa del Carmen, several diving centers offer beginners and advanced , equipment rental and scuba or snorkel expeditions.

Here is the website of a friendly and effective center : (eng,span,dutch).

There is also an interesting golf course.

sunset in Playa del CarmenAfter a sunny day, Playa del Carmen offers a long stroll. Quinta Avenida, mainly walking street, is really busy with relaxing people. You can find any kind of lodging, from the most luxurious ones to the simplest, and restaurants that can suit all taste and purses in Playa del Carmen. There are also many beach clubs “in” with night activities, cafés and music bars. The avenues are parallel to the sea and the streets perpendicular. The other important axis is Avenue Juárez, perpendicular to the sea, lined with banks, traditional shops and cheap restaurants.

     Right picture : sunset in Playa del Carmen

Be aware that many hotels don’t have a beach anymore. Check, not with the travel agency that will tell you that everything is fine, but with the hotel and ask for a picture of its beach.
The problem of no beach is worst every year either because of the cyclones, or because of the real estate developers !

We recommend Playa Tucan which remains one of the last nice beaches in Playa Del Carmen.

close to Playa del CarmenWe recommend also small scale hotels. They are many in Playa, and they are more charming than the "all inclusive" resorts.

The Hotels Association of the Riviera Maya (AHRM) publishes a list of hotels and resorts :

Visit the most beautiful Underground River
Río Secreto could very well be one of the great wonders of the world. Come and experience this stunning underground river with thousands of dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. It’s like stepping back in time to witness something mysterious and truly spectacular.

(nature reserve of Rio Secreto).

Left picture : close to Playa del Carmen




Diving in Playa del Carmen

Nice 4 minute video about the seabed of the Riviera Maya


Playacar is a few minutes driving south from Playa del Carmen. It is a pleasant resort whose architecture fits well with the beautiful setting. There are several hotel resorts, villas and condo complexes hidden among palm trees, a mall and several restaurants. It is a top end ensemble. Playacar offers also an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, mountain bike rental, water ski, horse riding, etc. The site also comprises Mayan vestiges and the largest aviary in the area. Unfortunately, the access to the beaches becomes very limited. Playacar is not the best choice anymore.


The vocation of the creators of Xcaret Park was to offer a dynamic panorama of the local life from the origins of the Mayan civilization to nowadays, combining information and entertainment. The park not only contains true discoveries for the most curious people, but still appeals to children eager for entertainment. This is probably why Xcaret is very busy and popular with the local population.
Located by the sea and condensed around a lagoon, the site stretches on 75 ha (185 acres), 6 km (4 miles) from Playa del Carmen. It is accessible via the Federal Road 307.
For those who like this kind of entertainment and want to please their children, Xcaret is a good choice. You can have an idea of the life of the native people in an enchanting setting.
In addition, this well respected center of ecological studies and preservation welcome many visitors interested in the Meso-American fauna and flora.

Open daily from 8AM to 5PM, MXN$ 42 (archaeological site).

XCARET Eco-Archaeological site (south of Playa del Carmen)

Xcaret remembers its Pre-Hispanic past with the vestiges remaining in this ancient trade seaport Polé (from Maya "Pol", goods) whose origin dates from 200-600 A.D. Its development started only during the post-classical period from 1200 to 1550. In addition to being a trade seaport, Polé was, for a long time, the departure point for the pilgrims to Cozumel Island, spiritual Mayan center facing the port. The past revives in a museum where you can find a very informative panorama about the Meso-American Mayan era. There is also a replica of the daily Mayan life where you can easily recognize the roots of the Mexican actual life.

Xcaret park Xcaret somewhat resembles an American water park, in which you enter through a butterfly pavilion. You can ride on the narrow river to the Caribbean Sea or swim with the dolphins and manatees (according to several biologists, this activity could stress the animals).

Left picture : Xcaret park

The extraordinary butterfly pavilion or "mariposario" offers a wonderful show. Countless butterflies let you admire their delicate wings in an infinite range of colors. You can again find these colors in an aviary housing more than thirty species of birds.

We won’t forget to mention, among other animals living in this temple of nature, reptiles, such as turtles and crocodiles, and mammals, such as the puma and the jaguar, king of the jungle in Yucatán.
The botanical Garden is a true Eden for the lovers of tropical plants.
For those who prefer marine biology they can embark in the submersible "Snuba" for an undersea cruise allowing you to explore the coral reef along the Riviera Maya.

By night, from 7PM, the park vibrates to the rhythms of the "tunkules", the wooden Mayan drums; the fragrances of copal flutter in the air; they play the mythical game of Pok-Ta-Pok; dances and songs evocate the life of the ancestors and their descendants, the Mexicans of nowadays. It is spectacular !

Open daily from 8:30AM to 9:30PM, (998) 251 65 60 from Cancun, (984) 147 65 60 from Playa del Carmen, 01 800 212 89 51 from Mexico and 1 888 XCARET1 from USA/Canada : . Basic admission : USD69** for adults, USD45 for the evening* and 50% discount for children between 40'' and 55" high. 10% discount for reservations online, 3 days in advance. Credit cards accepted. Call center open from monday to friday 7:00AM to 7:00PM and from saturday to sunday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM.

* from 3PM on wintertimes and 4PM on summertimes (April 07th to Oct 27th, 2013).

** a lot of possibilities to combine depending on your choice (rates until USD200 the day).

You will find inside the park, a delphinarium to swim, dive and play with the dolphins. Great ! Contact : 1-888-526-2230 USA/Canada, outside Cancun from Mexico : 01 800 DELFIN1 (3353461) or from Cancun (998) 206 33 04, www.delphinusworld.com, customerservice@delphinus.com.mx.
15% for discount on line.

How to get to Xcaret ? From Cancun, take the bus in Uxmal avenue # 26 every 15 minutes. From Playa del Carmen, bus at "esq.Juárez y 5ta avenida" at 9AM/11AM/11:30AM/12:30AM and 6:45PM.

Take a taxi or colectivo after the night SHOW to Tulum or Playa del Carmen for 30 pesos (colectivo) or 50 pesos (taxi).

Xplor (4 miles south of Playa del Carmen)
New park next to XCARET, "beyond the surface" open Monday to Saturday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Circuits with amphibious vehicles or swim through the stalactites and stalagmites landscape. Circuits with raft for 2 persons in the middle of fascinating grottoes and rock formations. Also circuits with Zip-Lines. 01 800 00 97 567 - www.xplor.travel.
Same Call center than XCaret :
(998) 251 65 60 from Cancun, (984) 147 65 60 from Playa del Carmen, 01 800 212 89 51 from Mexico and 1 888 XCARET1 from USA/Canada : . Basic admission for a full day : USD100 for adults and 50% discount for children between 40'' and 55" high (children must be at least 6 years old to enter the Park). 10% discount for reservations online, 3 days in advance. Credit cards accepted. Call center open from monday to friday 7:00AM to 7:00PM and from saturday to sunday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM.


Calica, located on the coast between Xcaret and Paamul, is the deepest port in Yucatán. This national and international port, leant against the Federal road 307, easily accessible, allows ships, yachts and ferries to dock. The main dock is 200 m (656 feet) wide and 500 m (1640 feet) long. North to the international maritime station, you will find the pier for
the ferries running the route Calica-Cozumel-Puerto Venado.


The gentle slope of the wonderful beaches was certainly a reason for Paamul to have been a target since ever. For the Mayas, these beaches offered an easy access for their boats that patrolled all along the Meso-American coast. Paamul was a trading relations center, a prerogative of Mayan elite. They exported products from Yucatán such as salt and honey, and imported cacao, jade, golden-green feathers of the quetzal and obsidian for jewelry and ritual knives.
We know everything from this booming maritime business from the testimonies such as the one of conquistador Juan de Grijalva who wrote "along the coast, many Indians gave signals with two flags".
Nowadays, these beaches are very much enjoyed by the ones that prefer being away from the busy places, diving or practicing other sports.
People are not the only ones to enjoy these quiet beaches : Between May and July, the turtles lay their eggs. It is a protected zone.
Paamul is located between Puerto Aventuras and Xcaret. There are villas hidden in the middle of the palm trees, allowing a comfortable back to nature experience.

Site in spanish and english about the Riviera Maya :

Map of the state :



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