10 Best Things to Do in Cozumel for Wildlife Encounters

Travel a fun-filled trip with the 10 best things to do in Cozumel for wildlife encounters.

Every encounter is an exciting adventure where you get to explore the Cozumel Reefs National Park, home to a variety of marine life, and swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach.

From birdwatching at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park to manatee viewing at Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park, Cozumel offers plenty of chances to encounter wildlife in its natural habitat. 

List of 10 Best Things to Do in Cozumel for Wildlife Encounters

Cozumel, renowned for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, is also a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts.

From vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life to lush jungles inhabited by exotic creatures, there are numerous opportunities to connect with nature on this beautiful island.

1. Snorkel with Sea Turtles at Akumal Beach:

Snorkel with Sea Turtles - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Akumal Beach is located on the mainland and just a short ferry ride away from Cozumel.

The name given to this place, “Turtle Place” in Mayan, which is a perfect description of it as a turtle nesting spot and snorkeling destination.

Wildlife to Expect:

The Akumal Beach is well-known for the presence of green sea turtles.

Snorkeling will get you close to these gentle creatures gliding gracefully in the crystal clear waters, along with colorful tropical fish and vibrant coral reefs.

  • Tips:
    • Respect the turtles’ privacy and do not touch or pursue them.
    • Use sunscreen brands that are safe for reefs to protect both your skin and the marine environment.
    • Stick to the designated snorkeling areas and follow the rules and guidelines given by the local authorities.

2. Explore Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park:

Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park covers the waters around Cozumel, including about 85% of the island’s coral reefs.

The park can be visited through guided snorkeling and diving tours that depart from different points along the coast.

Wildlife to Expect:

Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park is the home of an amazing diversity of marine species, such as coral reefs, tropical fish, rays, eels, and nurse sharks.

Look out for colorful reef fish swimming amidst the coral, majestic eagle rays swimming through the water, and shy moray eels hiding in crevices.

  • Tips:
    • Implement responsible snorkeling and diving techniques to minimize damage to coral reefs.
    • Do not touch or collect the marine organisms to protect the delicate ecosystem.
    • Book diving tours with certified dive operators who focus on marine conservation.

3. Visit the Cozumel Crocodile Sanctuary:

Cozumel Crocodile Sanctuary - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


The Cozumel Crocodile Sanctuary is right in the middle of the island, and it is a safe haven for crocodiles in the midst of beautiful mangrove forests.

Guided tours provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about these amazing creatures and their role in the local ecosystem.

Wildlife to Expect:

In Cozumel Crocodile Sanctuary, you can see the native crocodile species, including Morelet’s crocodile, in their natural habitat.

These ancient reptiles are frequently seen sunbathing or moving noiselessly through the waterways.

  • Tips:
    • Keep to designated paths and platforms to guarantee your safety as well as the crocodiles.
    • Watch from a safe distance and do not make sudden movements or loud noises.
    • Listen to your guide’s instructions and follow all safety rules during the tour.

4. Birdwatching at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park:

Birdwatching at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Located at the southern end of Cozumel, Punta Sur Eco Beach Park covers several ecosystems, including beaches, lagoons and mangrove forests.

Birdwatching lovers can visit the birdwatching towers and trails inside the park.

Wildlife to Expect:

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise where you can observe many different bird species.

Be on the lookout for colorful migratory birds like flamingos, herons, egrets, pelicans, and frigatebirds.

  • Tips:
    • Carry binoculars and a field guide to improve your birdwatching adventure.
    • Practice quiet observation to avoid scaring or disturbing the birds.
    • Respect any restricted areas or nesting sites to minimize disturbance to bird populations.

5. Encounter Manatees at Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park:

Manatees at Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Located on the western coast of Cozumel, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park provides visitors with the opportunity to interact with marine animals in a stunning seaside setting.

Manatee encounters are a part of the park’s conservation and educational programs.

Wildlife to Expect:

The Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park has a group of manatees which are the West Indian manatees.

These gentle marine creatures can be seen swimming and feeding in their natural lagoon habitat.

  • Tips:
    • Watch the manatees from the designated viewing areas to avoid disturbing them.
    • Attend park staff talks and learn about manatee conservation.
    • Do not feed or try to touch the manatees in order to protect them.

Also Read: 15 Wild Animals in Cozumel: A Closer Look

6. Dolphin Discovery at Dolphinaris Cozumel:

Dolphin Discovery - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Located in the hotel area of Cozumel, Dolphinaris Cozumel provides a secure and regulated environment for the dolphin interactions.

The facility follows the stringent rules for animal welfare and also offers educational programs for the visitors.

Wildlife to Expect:

Dolphinaris Cozumel provides the chance to swim with and interact with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

These intelligent and inquisitive marine mammals provide amazing experiences as they demonstrate their natural behaviours.

  • Tips:
    • Select dolphin encounter programs that are responsible and put the welfare of the animals and conservation first.
    • Pay attention to the safety instructions given by the trained staff in order to have a pleasant and safe experience.
    • Do not splash too much or make a lot of loud noises which may stress the dolphins.

7. Horseback Riding in Cozumel’s Jungle:

Horseback Riding - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


There are many tour operators on the island that offer guided horseback riding trips through Cozumel’s beautiful jungle trails.

These tours offer a rare chance to get acquainted with the island’s natural scenery and its various species of animals.

Wildlife to Expect:

As you ride a horse through the dense jungles of Cozumel, you may come face to face with a variety of wildlife, such as iguanas, agoutis, tropical birds, and even deer or coatis.

  • Tips:
    • Be attentive and observant when cycling to spot wildlife along the tracks.
    • Respect the natural environment and do not disturb or feed the wild animals.
    • Follow your guide’s instructions and safety guidelines during the horseback riding excursion.

8. Nighttime Bioluminescence Tour:

Bioluminescence Tour - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Bioluminescence tours are usually held in secluded bays around Cozumel far away from artificial light sources.

Experienced guides lead participants on kayak or boat trips to observe this natural wonder.

Wildlife to Expect:

During a nighttime bioluminescence tour, you will be able to see the amazing glow of bioluminescent plankton in Cozumel’s bays.

These tiny creatures produce a mesmerizing light show as they respond to movement by emitting light.

  • Tips:
    • Reduce light pollution by using red or amber lights during the tour to keep the natural darkness.
    • Do not disturb the water in order to enjoy the bioluminescent display to the fullest.
    • Follow your guide’s instructions for safe navigation and the most enjoyable tour.

Also Read: 10 Best Things to Do in Cozumel for Water Sports Lovers

9. Butterfly Sanctuary at Chankanaab National Park:

Butterfly Sanctuary - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


The Butterfly Sanctuary is situated within Chankanaab National Park, a pristine coastal reserve on the western coast of Cozumel.

Accessible by taxi or guided tours, the park offers a range of attractions, including beaches, reefs, and botanical gardens.

Wildlife to Expect:

The Butterfly Sanctuary at Chankanaab National Park, officially known as Mariposario de Chankanaab, is home to a variety of butterfly species native to Cozumel.

Visitors can observe these colorful insects fluttering among lush vegetation.

  • Tips:
    • Visit during the early morning or late afternoon when butterflies are most active.
    • Move slowly and quietly to avoid startling the butterflies and disrupting their natural behavior.
    • Take photographs from a respectful distance to minimize disturbance to the butterflies.

10. Reef Snorkeling at Palancar Reef:

Reef Snorkeling - Best Things to Do in Cozumel for wildlife encounter


Palancar Reef is located off the southern coast of Cozumel, accessible by boat from various dive shops and tour operators on the island.

Guided snorkeling tours provide access to prime snorkeling sites within the marine park.

Wildlife to Expect:

Palancar Reef is renowned for its abundant marine life, including colorful reef fish, sea turtles, and nurse sharks.

Snorkelers can expect to encounter a diverse array of underwater creatures amid the reef’s coral formations.

  • Tips:
    • Swim gently and avoid touching or kicking coral to prevent damage to the fragile ecosystem.
    • Use a buoyancy aid if needed to conserve energy and maintain buoyancy while snorkeling.
    • Stay aware of your surroundings and follow the instructions of your guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience.

Additional Tips for Wildlife Encounters in Cozumel

  • Respect wildlife and their habitats by observing from a safe distance and refraining from feeding or touching animals.
  • Practice responsible tourism by choosing eco-friendly tours and operators that prioritize conservation and sustainability.
  • Be mindful of your environmental impact by reducing waste, conserving water, and minimizing your carbon footprint during your visit to Cozumel.
  • Educate yourself about the local flora and fauna to enhance your appreciation of the island’s natural beauty and biodiversity.
  • Support conservation efforts and local organizations dedicated to protecting Cozumel’s wildlife and ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.


Cozumel is a natural wonderland where visitors can see a variety of wildlife in its stunning landscapes.

From coral reefs to sea turtles, visitors can explore the diverse ecosystems and learn about the island’s rich biodiversity.

By engaging in responsible tourism practices and respecting the environment, visitors can create lifelong memories and contribute to the preservation of Cozumel’s natural heritage.

From Akumal Beach to Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, Cozumel offers a unique experience for nature lovers.

FAQs About Things to Do in Cozumel for Wildlife Encounters

  • Are the sea turtles at Akumal Beach endangered species?

    Yes, green sea turtles, found at Akumal Beach, are listed as endangered due to habitat loss and human activities.

  • Can I touch the crocodiles at the Cozumel Crocodile Sanctuary?

    No, visitors should not touch or approach the crocodiles at the sanctuary for their safety and the welfare of the animals.

  • What is the best time of day for birdwatching at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park?

    Early morning and late afternoon are ideal times for birdwatching when bird activity is highest.

  • Is swimming with manatees allowed at Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park?

    No, swimming with manatees is not permitted to ensure the well-being of these protected marine mammals.

  • Are the dolphins at Dolphinaris Cozumel kept in captivity?

    Yes, the dolphins at Dolphinaris Cozumel are housed in a controlled environment as part of a conservation and educational program.

  • Can beginners participate in horseback riding tours in Cozumel’s jungle?

    Yes, many horseback riding tours cater to beginners and provide trained guides to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • How do bioluminescent plankton create light in the water?

    Bioluminescent plankton emit light through a chemical reaction within their cells when agitated, resulting in a mesmerizing glow.

  • Are there any safety precautions for nighttime bioluminescence tours?

    Participants should listen to their guides and follow safety protocols, such as wearing life jackets and using designated lights.

  • Are there age restrictions for visiting the Butterfly Sanctuary at San Gervasio?

    The Butterfly Sanctuary is suitable for visitors of all ages, offering a family-friendly experience amidst the natural surroundings.

  • How can I contribute to wildlife conservation efforts in Cozumel?

    Visitors can support conservation by choosing eco-friendly tours, respecting wildlife and their habitats, and learning about local conservation initiatives.

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