Eastern Cozumel Beaches
On the east side of Cozumel you’ll find a wild and windswept coastline dotted with beaches facing the open ocean. The surf here can be quite rough, and only a few beaches are safe for swimming. The exception is when nortes (northern storm fronts) hit the island, and the west side turns choppy while the east side goes perfectly flat.
Right where the Carretera Transversal hits the coast, two low-key restaurants sit alongside each other: Mezcalito’s (no phone, www.mezcalitos.com, 9 a.m.–sunset daily) and Señor Iguanas (no phone, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun.). Both have similar menus (ceviche, fried fish, hamburgers, US$7–15), drinks (beer, margaritas, and tequila shots, US$2.50–5), and services (beachside chairs, hammocks, and palapas, free if you buy something from the restaurant). Boogie boards also are available for rent at Señor Iguanas (US$5/2 hours)—a lot of fun if you can handle the rough surf.
About six kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the Carretera Transversal intersection is Playa Tortugas, a broad beautiful beach on the north side of the Ventanas al Mar hotel. The scenic windswept beach is good for surfing—and has nesting turtles from May to November—but it is often too rough for swimming or snorkeling. Still, it makes a good place to watch the wild and crashing waves anytime.
A few steps away is Coconuts Bar and Grill (no phone, 10 a.m.–sunset daily, US$6–14). Set on a verdant bluff, tables and chairs are arranged so that patrons can enjoy the fabulous views of the beach below and the Caribbean beyond. Coconuts serves classic beach fare—nachos, ceviche, tacos—that goes great with a cold beer.
Playa Chen Río
The best place to swim on the east side of the island is Playa Chen Río (1 kilometer/0.6 mile south of Coconuts Bar), where a rocky spit blocks the waves, forming a huge natural pool, and lifeguards are on duty on weekends. Quiet during the week, it’s lively and bustling most Sundays, when local families turn out in force. Restaurant and Bar Chen Río (no phone, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$12–26) is located here, but the food is so expensive most people just bring their own food.
Three kilometers (1.9 miles) farther south, Playa Bonita is another picturesque curve of sand with plenty of room to lay out a towel and soak in the sun. Heavy surf usually makes swimming here inadvisable, but it’s definitely dramatic. A small beach restaurant (no phone, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) serves hamburgers, fresh fish, and other standards at decent prices.
Playa Rasta is the last beach you hit before turning west on the highway. It’s mostly a rocky stretch of beach with a few sandy inlets and two restaurants blasting reggae at each other. It’s not really the best place to spend the day—unless you like rambling on rocks and have a serious craving for jerk chicken.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition