For sparkling translucent seas and flashy schools of tropical fish, the reef-fringed waters off the coast of Cozumel are a diver's playground. Warm Caribbean seas sizzle up onto the shores of white sand beaches on this small island off mainland Mexico.
Cozumel's best dive sites dot the west coast waters. Recent hurricanes buffeted the surrounding reefs, but this marine habitat is slowly recovering its former splendor. Salty subterranean streams water the lagoon and coral formations in Chankanaan Park, and prime snorkeling is accessible from the adjacent sandy beach.
On rainy days, catch up on culture and history at the Museum of the Island of Cozumel in the city of San Miguel, the island's urban center. Find other essential amenities here, like organized tours and snorkeling equipment.
Rent wheels and set out to explore the island's Mayan ruins and isolated beaches or join a guided jeep tour of interior jungle and secluded snorkeling spots. Rumble out to lighthouse Punta Molas on the north tip of Cozumel for commanding views of the Caribbean and a bit of breeze. Independent travelers can pitch tents in the area and spend a day scrambling around crumbling archaeological sites for a glimpse of the island's ancient ancestry. Ecological Park Punta Sur preserves stretches from lagoon to seashore, encompassing mangrove swamps, crocodiles and sandy stretches.
Anglers can troll for deep-sea fish with a charter excursion. Optionally, cast off in the shallow lagoons for bonefish.
Cozumel is 12 miles away from the Yucatan Peninsula over the Caribbean, a 45 minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen.