Some of the prettiest beaches in the world circle the island of Cozumel. They vary from long, treeless sandy stretches of white sand to isolated coves and rocky shores. There are two sides to the island – the leeward (western) side where the coast is sheltered from storms by the proximity of the mainland and the windward (eastern) side. The beaches on the windward side require a bit more of an effort to reach, but if you make the trip, you’ll be rewarded by some of the most beautiful, serene beaches in the world.On the leeward side, the best beaches can be found in the southern half of the island. Most of the beaches along the northern hotel strip have rocky shores with little sand. Heading southward, the first beach of note is Nachi-Cocom in front of the Casa del Mar Hotel. Open to everyone, there you’ll find a Mexican restaurant, lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. Further on you’ll find Playa Corona, a relatively quiet beach with snorkeling equipment and some fabulous underwater fauna to explore. Probably the most crowded beach on the island is the Playa San Francisco. Popular with cruise ship passengers who have limited time, the beach offers a varied sampling of Cozumel without having to venture inland. There is usually live music, a collection of locals selling arts and crafts, a choice of moderately priced restaurants, gift and souvenir shops and an ample amount of recreational equipment for rent. Divers use Playa San Francisco as their jumping off points to San Francisco reef and the Santa Rosa wall offshore. For a quieter but just as lovely setting, head just a bit farther south to the beach at Palancar with it’s view of the Palancar Reef, water sports center and bar-cafÃ©.On the windward side of the island there are numerous narrow, powdery beaches and deserted rocky coves. Swimming on this side of the island is not encouraged due to the treacherous undertow that can sweep you out to sea in minutes. But the views and solitude of the area, and the opportunity for some truly world class sunbathing are unequaled by sites on the western side. Playa Bush is known for it’s cafÃ© serving ice cold beer and a beach that offers up treasures from the sea that have washed up during the night. Punta Chiqueros called Playa Bonita by the locals is known as one of the swimming beaches on this side of the island due to it’s fine sand, clear water and moderate waves. It is also a campground of unmatched beauty for those who like to vacation in the great outdoors. For the surfing crowd, there is Punta Morena with a pounding surf and primitive rooms on the beach for a mere $10 per night. At Chen Rio, another camping spot, soldiers patrol the beach stopping tourists from poaching turtle eggs that are protected by law. For the serious explorer, Punta Molas, beyond where the paved road ends, offers unspoiled beach beauty for sunbathing and communing with nature. Whatever your beach desires, they can be completely fulfilled at Cozumel!