Punta Sur Eco Park – The Best One Day Adventure In Cozumel

Punta Sur Eco Park – The Best One Day Adventure In Cozumel

Punta Sur Eco Park in Cozumel is the best one-day adventure you can have when visiting the island.  It has adventure, history, and the perfect beach for chilling out and relaxing.  Not to mention a reef close enough to snorkel while chilling out in lounge chairs and sipping a margarita.

Located on the southernmost end of the island, Punta Sur consists of over 1,000 hectares (that’s over 247 acres) of beaches, mangroves, native plants, and various wildlife, many endemic to Cozumel.  Plus, there are several archeological sites.

While you can rent a car and drive to the park yourself, we opted to go as part of a half-day tour that we booked through Trip Advisor.   Using a guide, we learned so much about the island and the park from someone who lives and works there.

Sign to entrance at Punta Sur Eco Park in Cozumel, Mexico

The entrance fee to the park is $16 U.S. per adult, and if you wish to have lunch at the beach club and snorkel (more to come on that), the entrance fee is $30 U.S. per adult.  Since we used a guide, all of our fees to the park were included in the cost, so our guide handled everything once we got there.

As we drove to the park, it was interesting to see the ocean’s deep blue colors on one side of the road and a very marshy mangrove area on the other.  These vast differences show just how diverse the island is in its topography.  We would later learn that the swampy area is home to several saltwater crocodiles.

Approaching the park entrance, we could see a bright white lighthouse growing taller and taller against the vibrant blue Caribbean sky.  The most popular attraction at the park, the Celarain Lighthouse, has stood for centuries, helping mariners have safe passage around the island’s tip and protects them from running aground.

Dirt road with field on each side and lighthouse in distance leading to Punta Sur Eco Park in Cozumel

Before the early 1980s, the lighthouse was managed by a family who lived on the property and would welcome visitors with a typical Mexican lunch of fresh fish, beans, rice, and tortillas.

For the lucky few who happened to visit at the right time, the father would take them up the 127 steps to the top of the lighthouse.  Today, after some renovations, that climb is 133 steps but still well worth the effort.

View of Blue Caribbean ocean with palapas and brush field in foreground

Despite the temperature, we decided to brave the heat and make the 133 step climb to the top.  There is no air conditioning inside, just a winding narrow concrete staircase with openings every few feet to get a breath of fresh air and take in the spectacular views.

Charlie standing at top of lighthouse overlooking island and deep blue Caribbean sea

The climb up is not for the faint of heart or those who have physical limitations or breathing issues, especially when the temperature outside is high.  Once at the top, we made our way through a very narrow and very short opening to the outside, where we had 360-degree views of the island and the Caribbean Sea.  Even Fiona the flamingo was enjoying the view!

View of Myan ruins and blue Caribbean sea from top of lighthouse in Punta Sur

Since there is only one way to get to the top, it was a bit crowded with other visitors, all taking pictures and selfies.  Considering there were no cruise ships at the time of our visit, it was still difficult to negotiate with all the people.  I imagine that we would have to wait for people to come down during the typical tourism season before we could go up.

Ancient hand carved canoe filled with artifacts in museum in Cozumel, Mexico

Attached to the lighthouse is the Navigation Museum, which was once the home of the lighthouse keeper and his family. The museum tells the maritime history of the island through murals and artifacts, including an ancient canoe.

Mural depicting importance of marine culture in Punta Sur museum, Cozumel Mexico

 

Undersea mural with different types of turtles in Cozumel Mexico museum

The colorful murals covered just about every wall of the museum. Each painting was a reminder of the importance that the ocean plays on the life of the island.  To this day, the locals depend not only on tourism but also on fishing and SCUBA diving to sustain their living.

Ancient cannon covered with barnacles

The other ruin in the park is located just a few yards from the lighthouse and sits right on the beach.   As if it was put there for the stunning view, I could imagine an ancient Myan inhabitant standing on the second floor looking out across the vast Caribbean sea.

Myan Ruin with Caribbean Ocean in background

I am always fascinated by the level of detail that ancient people achieved, considering the rudimentary tools they had to use.  The time it must have taken to quarry the stones and then move them to the locations in the Caribbean sun must have been grueling.

Archway in Myan ruin at Punta Sur Eco Park in Cozumel

Walking around the ruin, admiring the architecture and skill it took to build it, I was surprised by a local taking a break and enjoying the view and the sun.  It didn’t seem to mind much that I was walking all around, snapping photos.  I think it was posing for just the perfect shot with the stunning blue ocean in the background.

Iguana sunning on Myan ruin with deep blue ocean in background

Cozumel is home to many Myan ruin sites, and two of them are within the Punta Sur Park.  One is called Pumba del Caracol or “Shell Tomb,” and is located right inside the park entrance, before the lighthouse.

Several myths surround the tomb, including one that says it was built with seashells in its walls to warn the island inhabitants of impending hurricanes.  According to the myth, when the wind blew before a storm, the seashells would make a whistling sound, acting as a warning.

Ancient Myan ruin with trees in background in Cozumel, Mexico

Right across from the “Shell Tomb” ruin is a raised walkway with a beautiful arch over it that leads to the marshy area of the park. The archway is the entrance to X’tacun Lagoon, the saltwater crocodile habitat.

wooden boardwalk with vine entrance leading towards marshland and bright blue sky

We weren’t inside the marsh for very long when we spotted what would be the only croc we would see during the visit, just hanging out next to the walkway.  Considering how hot it was, I don’t blame the others for wanting to hide in the shade under the mangroves.

Of course, my first thought was it was waiting for someone to toss it something to eat or maybe fall in and be its lunch.  I held on tight to the railing. I wasn’t ready to offer myself up as a meal.

Alligator laying in water near walkways

The walkway allowed us to walk all around the habitat, and there was even a large observation tower that we could climb to get a bird’s eye view of the area.  While it was tempting, I wanted to save my energy to climb to the top of the lighthouse later down the road.

Marshland with alligators and deep blue sky in Cozumel Mexico

Along with the croc, we did see several different species of birds, including a Roseate Spoonbill, which I had never seen before, so I was excited to see something new.  Thank goodness for Charlie and his vast knowledge of birds. He’s the one who pointed it out.

Roseate Spoon bill bird feeding in water in Cozumel, Mexico

Once we had enough fun checking out the crocs, lighthouse, and ruins, we headed to the Punta Sur Beach Club.  Perhaps one of the most popular sections of the park after all the stair climbing, the beach club is a bit of a drive from everything else.  It’s not somewhere that you want to try and walk to from the entrance or lighthouse.

The beach club sits on the southeastern end of the island.  The water here is smoother, so snorkeling and swimming are considerably more comfortable than at the lighthouse location.

Along with row after row of beach chairs and umbrellas, there are also several palapas where you can grab a bite to eat or sit at the bar and enjoy a cold drink.  If you pay for the lunch and snorkel package when you enter the park, this is where you get everything.  You can also rent the club’s equipment if you decided after you paid the entrance fee that you want to hit the waves.

Rows and rows of white and blue beach chairs at Punta Sur beach club in Cozumel, Mexico

The coral reef is quite close to the beach, so it doesn’t take much effort to swim out and see marine life.  Since the wind was blowing quite hard and the currents were a bit swift, we opted not to snorkel, but as divers, we had a pretty good idea that there would be plenty to see along the reef.

Sand and turquoise waters of Caribbean sea with deep blue sky

When we first arrived at the beach club, we noticed a sign telling visitors not to feed the wildlife.  I couldn’t imagine what, besides birds and maybe a turtle, we would encounter on a beach in Mexico, so I wasn’t too terribly concerned.

As we sat and munched our street tacos and sipped our beer, I noticed an animal walking under the beach chairs among the tourists.  At first, I couldn’t make it out (I thought it was a cat), but then, once it stopped, I realized what it was – A RACCOON!

Racoon walking in sand at beach club in Mexico

Often called the Cozumel Raccoon or Pigmy Raccoon, they are critically endangered and live only on the island.  It was seeking out a free meal, and the tourists were accommodating – so much for the warning sign.

It reminded me of the mural we saw at the beginning of our tour earlier in the day, only much cuter.  It scurried from one tourist to the other, hoping for a snack.  When it had exhausted all its options on the beach, made it’s way back to the trees and disappeared.

Dirt road with trees on each side and bright blue sky

For me, that was the best way to end our time at the park, seeing a native species on a beautiful beach.  We jumped back into our jeep and made our way out of the park down the same type of gravel road we came in on and back to our hotel.  It was the perfect last adventure to have before we headed back home the next day.

 

Lynnette Vyles

Lynnette is a California native transplanted in Cypress, Texas, where she lives with her husband Charlie and dog Nyk. With a love of the ocean, beaches, travel, road trips, and helping keep our planet clean, she hopes to inspire you to get out and see the world.

13 thoughts on “Punta Sur Eco Park – The Best One Day Adventure In Cozumel

    1. Hi Lauren! Thanks for stopping by, we’re glad you enjoyed the post. I agree I think we all need a nice beach right now. I know the island has reopened for air traffic from the U.S., hopefully we’ll be able to get back there soon.

  1. It’s been many years so I saw Cozumel and it’s still as beautiful now I wish I was there now enjoying the sunshine and that beautiful water.

    1. Hi Faith. This was our first trip to the island and I know we’ll be back. We wish we were there right now with our toes in the sand and enjoying the beach. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hi Joanne! Cozumel is a definite must and the guide was the best decision we made. I doubt we would have had as much fun had we been driving ourselves and I’m sure I would have made Charlie crazy if he was driving. Hopefully, you’ll get there soon and be able to go to Punta Sur and enjoy the park as much as well did.

  3. Great post! As divers, we’ve been itching to get to Cozumel – guess we’ll have to wait a little while longer 🙂 The Mayan ruins are really special. And that beach club looks so inviting. Someday!

    1. Hi Susan! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Cozumel is definitely a divers destination. Charlie did a lot of diving there and really enjoyed it, I sat it out because of the currents. I wish we could have visited more ruins but without the cruise ships, they weren’t open but Punta Sur was such a great place to visit. It’s a definite must when you do get to do. Hopefully, that day will be soon.

  4. Would love to explore that area and I can just imagine the heat and humidity! The lighthouse must have had a beautiful view. It is so annoying when people disregard the signs saying not to feed wildlife. We often have that and people don’t realize the harm they do.

    1. Hello Alma! Thanks for stopping by, we are so glad you did. You are absolutely right about the lighthouse view, it was breathtaking. Several of the photos in the post were taken from the lighthouse. It is sad when people don’t read the warnings. Many don’t realize that once people start feeding wild animals, it can negatively affect their digestion and then they stop having fear of humans which oftentimes leads to them being killed by cars as they run towards people for food. It takes a lot of education for people to understand the effects they can have on animals.

  5. Cozumel remains on my list…not sure why I have yet to get there. Hoping for some Mexico in 2021. Saving for future reference. Nice photos too.

    1. Hey Laureen! So glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post. We had the same thought about why we had not traveled there since it’s such a short flight from Houston. We are so glad we finally made the trip and squeezed it in before all the travel bans hit. Thank you for the kind words about the photos. I could have stayed there and taken pictures all day, there’s so much to see and it’s all so beautiful and interesting.

    1. Punta Sur is a beautiful park and there is so much to see. We had a wonderful time on the island of Cozumel and spending time at the park was just an added bonus to our trip. If you make it to Cozumel, you definitely need to add a trip to Punta Sur to your itinerary.

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