Cozumel's Beach Clubs
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. )
In short, if you just want to stop the car and rush in for a short, glorious swim on a deserted beach, there are plenty of places to do this -- particularly on the island's wild "east side" (pictured above.)
Although the shorelines of Cozumel are public property, the government rents "concessions" to private businesses. The businesses create beachfront environments, "beach clubs" with varying amenities. A few have coverage charges. But most simply expect you to order drinks and/or snacks/lunch as the price of monopolizing a table and lounge chairs in the shade and using the showers and bathrooms.
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 non-concession beaches you can find on your own. Just rent a car and drive south on the coastal highways.)
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. We have also included the island's two lovely National Parks in this listing.
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. We have only listed those that don't have cover charges and only ask that you purchase a few drinks or snacks while you use their beach furniture.
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 no always supported by a railing.
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 their is some decent snorkeling to the left and right of this along the shoreline. Watch out for strong currents on somedays, however. This club is 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.
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. Don't miss it. Do be sure to get there early, however, In high season if you arrive at 11:30, you may find there is not a single chair left in the shade.
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.
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
Comments: New and very clean with nice showers, lockers and dressingrooms. Food here is outstanding as the owner has lured away the chef from downtown's famous La Cocay restaurant. Down side is it can get pretty crowded as a lot of cruise passengers have started coming here. Hit this place no later than 11 to stake out a good spot
Comments: This beach club (like Playa Azul up north of town -- see above) is very popular with local Mayan and Mexican families on Sunday. So if you want to mingle and check out the local scene, this is a great club for people-watching. Personally, we much prefer Palancar Beach Club with its much more laid-back atmosphere. (See Next entry.)
Location:Approximately15 miles south of downtown along the new island road.
Amenities: outdoor shower, changing rooms/bathrooms, chaise lounges, swings, lots of hammacks, especially pretty restaurant. Many birds on the grounds -- parrots on perches, cages of smaller birds, peacocks
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.
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.
.Not a beach club as you can tell from the name. But we've included it here because it's on the Wild Side Beach Club tour and a not-to-be-missed attraction of the island. Admission is $12/person. Less for kids. With it comes a trip up a lighthouse for a great view of the coast and the lagoon, a bird and croc watching pontoon boat trip and several opportunities for some safe snorkeling.
There is apparently a good snorkeling reef about 300 yards off shore at the beach that's the last stop on the tour. For a small tip a park ranger will be glad to accompany you out to the reef in a kayak and be your personal lifeguard while you check things out.
Get here early as they only allow a certain number of guests in per day. Plan to spend at least 4 hours here. Beverages and chips are sold. However, this would be a good place to pack a picnic and bring it in with you.
A lovely little protected cove is the feature attraction of this ramshackle restaurant/bar. We think the food is way overpriced here -- but good. Great place to take a dip but be very careful and if you feel any kind of strong currents, hop out and join your friends back on the beach drinking cervazas under a palm tree!