The star attraction of the Cozumel Reefs National Park - or Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel - not to mention Jacques Cousteau's television show, which quite literally put Cozumel on the map - is Palancar Reef. Actually composed of 4 separate coral reefs, it is home to sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, barracudas, moray eels, lobsters, crabs, and a keleidescope of colorful fish.
Boats leaving from Playa Palancar take snorkelers out to the shallowest parts of the reef, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from shore. Scuba divers, however, have several world-famous spots to explore. The Palancar Caves are probably the most famous attraction, with huge brain corals and swim-through tunnels. Palancar Horseshoe is another massive formation of huge corals, some partially damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma. Less experienced divers can visit Palancar Gardens, a shallower spot with mellow currents.
We had a great time. The crew were great and the boat was really nice. We had a hard time hooking up with the tour since we were coming from the mainland and didn't have great directions. We were lucky to find a hotel travel person who knew how to contact you since no phone number was included. Once we got on the boat it was great.
We had a wonderful time! We saw lots of fish, sea turtles, and a ray. The crew was very helpful. I would love to go again!
The closest beach access to remarkable Palancar Reef is pretty Playa Palancar, a laid-back public beach close to the intersection of Avenida Melgar and the Costera Sur. There is currently no public bus service to the beach, but you can easily hire a taxi or rental car.
You can rent snorkel equipment right on the beach, which also has restaurants and other services. Boats wait close by to transport you out to the reef. Any of Cozumel's dive shops can arrange trips to Palancar Reef.