Playa Corona, just south of Chankanaab, is a duplicate of that better-known lagoon. Both are great for shallow-water snorkeling amid schools of colorful tropical fish. Cozumel’s most secluded beaches are on the largely deserted east side. Chen Rio and Punta Chiquero are easy to find, but ask directions to Playa Oriente, an unmarked favorite of the islanders. (Caution: Waves and strong currents make swimming dangerous on the east side.)
Much of Cozumel’s 20 miles of reef – including the deep walls and canyons of Columbia Pinnacles – are best left to the experts. But novice divers will appreciate the gentle currents at Palancar Gardens, and find plenty to marvel at on this long stretch of reef, with its rich array of corals and other marine life that thrive in 20 to 70 feet of water. For a deeper dive (to 100-plus feet), swim through the canyons at Palancar Caves, where turtles and eagle rays sometimes appear.
Take time to visit the old Mayan temples and pyramids on the northern end of the island, especially at San Gervasio park; there ruins have been restored at a site where Mayan women once worshipped a fertility goddess. Another restoration effort has transformed Chankanaab Lagoon. A shoreside sinkhole that fills with seawater via underground tunnels, the lagoon has long been the island’s favorite snorkeling spot. It now also includes a botanical garden and an archaeological park featuring a museum and a re-created Mayan village.