Friday, June 14, 2024

Visiting Cozumel? Don’t miss the natural wonders of Punta Sur Eco Park

Many visitors head to Cozumel for a relaxing holiday by the beach. But the island has other interesting activities to do and options for day trips, like visiting the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. It has lagoons with wildlife, a lighthouse with glorious views, ancient Maya ruins and a spectacular stretch of beach.

Located about 37 kilometers from the town of San Miguel de Cozumel, the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park sits on the southern point of the island, covering an area of over 1,000 hectares. If you love history, outdoor activities and nature, you can spend a day there or even half a day if time is limited. You can drive to the park, hire a taxi, or take a tour.

Punta Sur makes for a great full or half-day escapade from busy tourist spots in Cozumel. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Once you enter Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, look out for a path to the west leading to a wooden observation tower that offers magnificent views. You might even spot some crocodiles!

Next, look out for the ancient Maya ruins to the east. You’ll see a small building called El Caracol, named after the decorative snails on the dome of its upper section. Dating to A.D. 1200-1500, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) writes that El Caracol is considered a temple or lookout point but it is also speculated to have been a lighthouse in ancient times. 

Likewise, it is believed to have served as a warning system for hurricanes due to  noise emitted by its shells when wind passes through them. Nearby is the ruin of another structure from the same era that may have been the residence of El Caracol’s caretaker. Although these structures are cordoned off to visitors, we were able to observe them from outside.

Crocodile in lagoon
Find crocodiles, birds and other species in the Colombia lagoon, accessible from within the park. (Photo courtesy of the author)

The most striking building at Punta Sur may be the Celarain lighthouse , which you can’t miss.

The current lighthouse was built in the early 20th century, replacing the previous structure. With 133 steps and a fairly narrow stairway, the climb can be challenging, but the views from its top over the ecological reserve and the turquoise Caribbean are stunning. If you choose to climb, take care as the roof gets low toward the top. We visited the lighthouse as soon as the park opened and had it all to ourselves.  

Adjoining the lighthouse is a navigation museum that gives you a glimpse into the history of the park and the island. Once the residence of the lighthouse keeper, the museum focuses on Cozumel’s maritime history and animals and displays interesting maps and artifacts like navigation equipment and household goods typical of the area.

Take a relaxing walk on the beach by the museum. You will see small ancient ruins, including an arch-like structure and a signpost highlighting the distances to different countries from the southern tip of Cozumel. You can buy items like souvenirs, snacks, and drinks in the recreation area near the lighthouse.

Don’t miss the views from the top of the Celerain lighthouse. (Photo courtesy of the author)

One of the most interesting activities at Punta Sur is touring the Colombia lagoon by boat, included with the price of admission. The tour, which leaves several times a day, gives you a chance to spot various birds, crocodiles, and other wildlife among mangroves and beautiful natural scenery. We saw many crocodiles during our excursion, including in close proximity by the boat dock.

There is more to do at the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. On the beach stretch are restaurants with lounging chairs, although you might need to order some food or drinks to use them. Snorkeling fans can experience the magnificent marine life on the reef. You can also go kayaking. Look out for sea turtles on the beach if you visit during their breeding season, around May to September. 

Cozumel has much more to offer after you’ve left Punta Sur. You can continue around the island and stop by the beautiful beaches if you have time.

To learn more about the island’s pre-Hispanic past, visit the ancient Maya site of San Gervasio. Another worthwhile activity is visiting the Cozumel Planetarium, which offers educational events likes hows and stargazing.

Thilini Wijesinhe, a financial professional turned writer and entrepreneur, moved to Mexico in 2019 from Australia. She writes from Mérida, Yucatán. Her website can be found at https://momentsing.com/

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