Sign up to our newsletter

Wildlife watching in Cozumel: Nature’s paradise island

Track down the Mexican island’s surprisingly diverse and indigenous wildlife on land and sea.

By Rebecca Barnes

Situated in the translucent Caribbean sea, the tiny Mexican island of Cozumel is famed for its rich eco-tourism and mile-long Barrier Reef where you’ll find sea creatures and aquatic mammals a-plenty, including the endangered Splendid Toadfish.

Much of the island is covered with mangrove forests, just one of the habitats in which you’ll discover a diverse range of animal life, including many species unique to the island.

These indigenous and sometimes illusive creatures include the Cozumel Coati, part of the raccoon family, the Emerald Hummingbird, and the Cozumel Harvest Mouse. Encounters on the beach are also likely, with spiny-tailed iguanas often freely roaming the sands.

For such a small island, the diversity of wildlife packs a real punch, so make sure you have time to explore the landscapes and take advantage of a destination that is said to be paradise for nature lovers – just don’t forget your camera and binoculars.


Mayan Bee SanctuaryLook for liquid gold

The spiritual is found in the jungle in the middle of the island – learn about the colony of sacred Mayan bees who build hives in hollowed trunks, and experience the deep amber healing honey which has been used as a health cure for centuries. A local shaman will ‘purify’ you before you enter, to wash away any negativity or nervousness.

Punta SurHead to the beach

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park is a stunning natural reserve home to a variety of animals and exotic birds, many of which are endemic to the island; there is also an observation tower for observing crocodiles roaming the lagoon. Punta Sur is also a nesting place for loggerhead and green turtles – you can get involved in the conservation programme at certain times of the year.

Cozumel has a surprising array of wildlife including a gecko
Cozumel golf course

Cozumel Golf CourseGo to the golf course

It may appear to be an unusual location for observing wildlife, but a surprising number of exotic birds can be found hanging out at the Cozumel Golf Course, particularly early in the morning. Spots have included the Green-Breasted Mango, the Cozumel Emerald Hummingbird, the Brown-Crested Flycatcher and the Yucatan Woodpecker.


Patas Y Alas Butterfly SanctuaryStroll at the sanctuary

Take a leisurely walk through the natural tropical garden at Patas Y Alas Butterfly Sanctuary, home to some of the most impressive free-flying butterflies you’ll ever set eyes on. Built to help conserve and showcase the island’s indigenous butterfly population, it also aims to educate visitors about the need for conservation and preservation of threatened habitats.

scarlet mormon butterfly
There's an abundance of fish around the Mexican island of Cozumel

Underwater ecosystemTake to the ocean

Sounds obvious, but the ocean is where you’ll find a plethora of wildlife in their natural habitat. From sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins, to starfish and unique marine fish such as the striped Splendid Toadfish, there’s plenty to see so grab your snorkelling gear or head out on a group dive or catamaran to immerse yourself in the underwater ecosystem.

Set Sail

Riviera Maya with Virgin Voyages

Duration: 5 nights

Where: Miami | Cozumel – Playa del Carmen | Beach Club at Bimini | Miami

Ship: Scarlet Lady

Price: From $1,155 pp


Find out more
Book Cruise
Published 03.02.22