Cozumel's Beach Clubs
This is how it works here: All Cozumel's beaches are federal property and required by law to be open to the public and provide public access. If you rent a car and drive the east and west coastlines, you will pass numerous spots where you can park your car, hop out and either snorkel or take a swim, depending on the beach.
This is free. But it has the downside that there are no facilities. No shade or chairs is the biggie because the tropical sun is extremely harsh and you need to stay out of it when you're not actually in the water.
These places also won't have restrooms, places where you can rent snorkel gear if you wish to (Although we advise you bring your own if you think you'll do this activity more than once. )
These "Beach Clubs" are Cozumel's answer to providing inexpensive and comfortable oceanfront facilities to all comers -- from Mayan families on their Sunday outing to cruiseship passengers and "land visitors" spending a week or more on the island. They provide an excellent way for visitors to sample a variety of beachfront experiences at reasonable prices.
Below you'll find our recommendations for best beach clubs. (The wild side beaches and bars you can find on your own. Just rent a car and drive south on the coastal highways.) All are open and ready for business as of January 21, 2006 All photos on this site were taken in January of 2006.
Rule of thumb is that all open at 8 AM and close at 5 PM. We have divided them into categories based on the kind of activity you are interested in. This is not an exhaustive list of every beach club on the island -- just the ones we especially like.
TIP: If you're a cruise passenger doing research, beware of ship tours to beaches and clubs you don't see listed here.Suffice it to say that If a beach club doesn't make this listing, there's a reason.
BEST SNORKELING CLUBS
Note: All the clubs listed here are close enough to downtown and the international cruise ship piers that its as economical to get there by taxi as it is to rent a car.
Location:Also on the old beach road about 1/2 mile past the main entrance to Chankannab National Park.
Amenities: lockers, restrooms, outdoor shower, tanning pool and lounge chairs. They rent snorkel equipment if you want to try for the first time. Bar and reasonably priced restaurant. ($2 US for soft drinks and beer, sandwiches and tacos around $7)
Comments This stretch of shoreline has always offered some of the best shore snorkeling on the island. Easy, walk-in access over sand-bags make this a good club for people that don't want to deal with the more typical access of steps cut into rock which is usually but not always supported by a railing. This has always been a funky little laid back place where the staff are very friendly. No cover charge but you're expected to buy something for the use of the tables. They lost their pier to Wilma but the little gazebo on the water is still there and they have a very pleasant covered restaurant area offering a beautiful view of the water.
Uva Beach Club
This beach club is currently charging a $7 cover charge but that comes with two free drinks which seems pretty fair, all told. This place makes our list for high season 2006 because they've done such a splendid job of pulling themselves back together after Wilma. The beach is just so so here although you might hit some okay snorkeling because of the location between two other clubs that have been renowned in the past for good snorkeling. Another plus could be the glass bottom kayaks for rent which sounds like fun to us. (Just be sure to wear plenty of sun block!) They used to take cruiseship tours to this club in which case, it will get crowded fast. But when we were there last week, it was pleasantly low key so you may want to check this place out particularly if you're buzzing by in a rental car and can pick and choose. Or ask your taxi to wait a couple of minutes while you scope it out and decide if you want to do this scene.
BEST"COMBO" CLUBS & PARKS
The listings below provide sand beaches with easy entrance to the water and also offer decent -- if not great snorkeling.
Location:3 miles north of downtown directly next door to the Playa Azul Hotel and across the street from the well-known restaurant, The Lobster House.
Amenities: restrooms, outdoor shower, lounge chairs. Bar and reasonably priced restaurant. ($2 US for soft drinks and beer, sandwiches and tacos around $7)
Comments" Playa Azul has a small but picturesque sand beach and there is some decent snorkeling to the left and right of this along the shoreline. Watch out for strong currents on somedays, however. This club used to be packed on Sunday afternoons as it is a favorite with locals. If you want to be part of the local Mexican scene, hit this club around 10 AM on Sunday morning to stake out a place and people watch. You may be one of the few gringo faces on the beach but we can assure you that people will be very friendly.
We say "used to be" because, like much of the northern beachfront on the island's west side, it was slammed very hard by both Emily and Wilma. It's opened up again now, however, and looks as good as it ever did. We were able to check this one out personally.
There are clean bathroom/changing rooms/showers. You can rent snorkel gear if you like. Snorkeling can be okay but won't be great. Still it's such a pretty place to spend half a day. And if you're staying in town, this is your closest nice lounging beach, just a short cab ride from centro.
BEST WHITE SAND 'N BEACH TOYS CLUBS
The listings below provide long stretch of natural, white sand beach. Snorkeling will be nonexistent here but you can't beat 'em for pretty.
San Francisco Beach Club
Comments: More than half the sand beaches found on the west side of the island are artificially created with white sand trucked in to cover the natural, rocky ironshore.San Francisco is the first of several real natural white sand beaches that you'll come to if you travel south from the direction of downtown San Miguel. This club lost some of its beach but it had extra to spare. No cover charge. It's adjacent to Paradise Beach Club listed below so you can check out both these clubs in one fell swope.
Paradise Beach Club
Amenities:restaurant and bar, clean restrooms, lots of water toys which are free to guests including some floating mattresses, a water tramp and a floating iceburg. Entrance is free but there is a fee for use of the toys.
Comments: This beach club (like Playa Azul up north of town -- see above) was very popular with local Mayan and Mexican families on Sunday before the nasty 2005 hurricane season rolled in. This club lost a lot of its sand and they are working feverishly to complete work on their large, covered restaurant area which we judge should be serving guests by Feb 1. In the interim, as you can see from the photo, they've provided comfortable places for you to sit down by the surf.
Comments: This beach club is our personal favorite because it is so laid back and will tend to be much less crowded than anywhere else on the west side of the island. This due to the fact that it's so far from everything that the most practical way to get here is via rental car. Not a lot of fancy water toys to rent here. Instead, you get the old fashioned, Mexican kind. We like them better. And we recommend this beach club if you want Mellow and Uncrowded at just about any time of the year. During high season, however, as with all beach facilities, we recommend arriving by 10:30 AM to get the best choice of where to stake your claim.
They took a serious sand hit, but fortunately, there was plenty to spare. Below, see the gouge carved in the sand by Wilma courtesy of www.antonioscozumel.com.
WILD SIDE BEACH CLUBS
The island's wild side has had no electricity and hence no development since Hurricane Gilbert trounced the island 18 years ago. It is a lovely place for a drive and to stop in at one or more of the little beach bars along this coast line. We would urge you not to swim on this side of the island, however. There are dangerous rip tides and we personally know of 3 experienced local swimmers who have died over there in the past year alone.
We haven't had time to get over to the wild side to take the most current pictures. So a word picture will have to do for now. As with the west coast beach clubs, all are up and running although some are still making repairs to their larger palapas. Mezcalitos, Senor Iguanas, Chen Rio, Playa Bonita, Coconuts are all open and hoppin' -- although not nearly as busy as they would normally be during high season because of all the false promo the island has been getting in the US and Canadian press. Coconuts had a section of cliff cave in but there's still plenty left where that came from.
It's still very beautiful over there, very wild. You can still get a drink or shrimp on a skewer while gazing out over the crashing surf with its stunning caribbean colors. AND the road all the way from the transversal at Mezcalitos to Punta Sur where it connects up with the road going back up the west coast is completed and open to tourists.