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Sand Dunes - Amazing Structures Providing Shelter & Food
Crystal Clear Caribbean Water

Cozumel is known for its miles and miles of pristine beaches and coastal areas. And all along the island's shoreline there are sand dunes piled up behind these beautiful beaches. As visitors walk along the water's edge and dig their toes into the soft sand, few realize that the health and beauty of the beaches are heavily dependent on the sand dunes just behind them. As more and more research is done on coastal eco-systems, scientists are now beginning to make us fully aware of the critically important role that sand dunes play in our global, coastal eco-systems.


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Sand Dune Ecology

Sand dunes provide a wide range of habitats for a variety of unusual, interesting and adaptive plants that can cope with unstable habitats. Sand dunes form in relatively exposed locations. All over a dune, very specialized plants adapt to the accumulation of sand around them surviving the continual burial of their shoots by sending up very rapid vertical growth. With the help of these plant shoots, small mounds of vegetation and/or tide-washed debris can form and tend to enlarge as the wind-speed drops behind the mound, allowing blowing sand to fall out of the air stream and accumulate which constantly increases the size of a dune. The plants are physiologically adapted to withstand the problems of high salt contents in the air and soil. Sand dunes support a wide variety of colorful flowering plants, including a number of species of orchid.


On the inland side of dunes conditions are less severe, and typical grasslands develop containing a wide range of plant life. When enough humus has accumulated within the grassland sand, this more stabilized soil improves water retention and promotes further plant diversity development. Consequently, sand dune systems are excellent places for biodiversity, partly because they are not very productive for agriculture, and partly because these unstable and stable soil habitats are present in proximity to each other. Many dune areas are protected as nature reserves, and some are parts of larger conservation areas incorporating other coastal co-existing habitats like salt marshes, mud flats, grasslands, scrub and woodland.

All coastal dune ecosystems also support a population of animal species in addition to plant life. Since most animal life requires basic survival elements such as shelter, food and water, it stands to reason that species density in any one area would be dependent on their availability. Small birds, reptiles, crustaceans, and other coastal species commonly call the coastal dunes their home. As the dune system moves from the fore dunes toward the back dunes, with their increased vegetation, the ecosystem becomes more complex, supporting a larger amount of species. Sand dune systems are also very rich in invertebrates including butterflies, moths and burrowing bees and wasps.



The beach is a margin of sand in a dynamic ebb and flow controlled by tides, winds, currents and waves. The critical factor is the presence of a sufficiently large beach plain whose surface dries out between high tides. Off shore shallow sand banks release the initial energy from ocean swells as they break and send secondary waves with low residual energy gently up and down the beach. The dissipative beaches are wide, gently sloping, slow draining and quite firm underfoot because the fine sand particles fit close together. These beaches support a relatively high variety of burrowing organisms. Because of their shallow gradients, these beaches also act as traps for another group of organisms called diatoms. Diatoms survive between sand grains and provide the chief food for bi-valves and other filter feeders.

Recreation is a major land use on sand dune areas. Many dune systems are used extensively by tourists, mostly on foot but also for parking cars and in some cases for driving four-wheel-drive vehicles or motorcycles. Moderate pressure by pedestrians may cause little damage, however, excessive pedestrian use and vehicular use in particular, have caused unacceptable erosion on many dune sites.

Many dune systems also support one or more golf courses. Here much of the original vegetation may be retained in the rough, but the communities of the fairways, and particularly the greens and tees, are often severely modified by mowing, fertilizing and re-seeding. Sand dunes have also been affected in the past by housing developments, industrial development, and waste collection areas on or adjacent to them as well as sand extraction.

What can you do to help protect and conserve Cozumel’s sand dunes?





If you live part time or full time or vacation on the island:

  • Sign up & participate in ongoing beach cleanup efforts in Cozumel.

  • Keep your visits to the beaches “green” by not discarding trash. Leave the beach pristine. If you want to go beyond being an environmentally conscious visitor, there are a number of ways you can become proactive in the protection of our sand dunes. Pick up trash as you walk along the shore, and recycle or dispose of it properly. Encourage better behavior by other users; point out regulations and the reasons for them. Report any serious violation you see to the proper authorities.

  • If you must cross the dune, pick your way between the plants and avoid already-eroded trails and steep approaches. If there is more than one person, select spots where the dune is shallow and spread out; return to the beach by a different route.

  • Do not build fires on the beach. While dried driftwood makes great campfires, this and other natural debris washed up by the lake help trap sand, and are the only source of nutrients available for plant growth on the dunes. Also, beach campfires leave unsightly scars and pose a fire threat to surrounding vegetation in this dry habitat.

  • Do not ride all-terrain vehicles on the beach.

  • Do not disturb water birds, migrating shorebirds, and nesting shorebirds. They are extremely intolerant of visitors and are easily denied nesting habitat by the very presence of recreational beach/dune users.

  • If you are a golfer, encourage golf course management policies and practices that are sympathetic to the flora and fauna of sand dune systems.

  • Support legislation for sound management of the world’s coastal areas with your government.


    Maintaining sandunes is essentional for Cozumel’s future.
    Thank you for doing your part to protect and conserve Cozumel’s sandunes.
  • Some Great Ways to Get Close to Nature!
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     Cozumel Butterfly Sanctuary Tour & PalMar Beach Club
    Visit Cozumel's only Butterfly Sanctuary! See multitudes of colors, learn about butterfly habits and the miracle of metamorphosis. Take photos and then stay to enjoy snorkeling and the other ammenities of the Beach Club. Great family fun & excellent value! US $13 Adults /US$8 Kids Educational Family Fun!
     Cozumel Dolphin Royal Swim Program
    "Action" and "speed" pretty much describe this popular dolphin program! Get a handshake, a kiss and then you give them one. Feel the strength of your new friends as they push you across the water from the bottom of your feet in the thrilling foot-push. It is "the experience of a lifetime!" US$ 149/Adult / US$ 89 child
     Cancun - Rio Secreto Expedition
    Dare to live a fantastic experience in one of the most incredible locations in the Riviera Maya that begins in the moment you arrive at the Natural Reserve. US$ 109.00 Adult / US$ 54.50 Kids
     Cancun - Sian Ka'an Wilderness Adventure
    Come to this adventure tour and visit “Sian Ka’an", the beautiful and impressive Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Sian Ka'an means 'Origin of the Sky' in the Maya language. Cross unspoiled wetlands by boat, watching how the ecosystems and colors change. US$ 159.00 Adult / US$ 111.30 Kids
     Cancun - Whale Shark Adventure
    Enjoy an adventure tour getting to observe and swim or snorkel besides the biggest fish in the world: the impressive whale shark! USD$ 195.00 Adult /US$ 136.50 Child
     Cancun - Xplor Tour From Cancun
    The longest and highest 1.86 mile zip lines of the region ending on a refreshing Cenote plunge, adventure jungle tours on amphibious vehicles, an underground universe of 437 yd rivers where you can swim while admiring rock formations, a stunning route across subterranean caverns with natural wells while paddling a raft, and finally a delicious light buffet, that will recharge your energy. US$ 169.00 Adult / US$ 84.50 Kids
     Cozumel Punta Sur Ecopark, Lighthouse & Snorkeling
    Cozumel's largest natural eco-park featuring a lighthouse to climb, Mayan ruins to see, coves to snorkel, a nautical museum, sea turtle nesting areas, a crocodile sanctuary an enormous mangrove lagoon where Spoonbill Flamingos nest and Egrets go hunting daily along with a multitude of other animal species that call the park home. Experience Cozumel's wildlife up close personal here! Adult $ 125 / Child $ 115
     Isla Mujeres - Dolphin Encounter
    "Isla Discovery Plus" Includes Dolphin Encounter, Sea Transportation R/T, Dock Fee, Lunch Buffet at location, National Open Bar, Fantasy Snorkel (stingrays and sharks), Bicycle tour, Isla Mujeres downtown tour. US$ 99.00 Adult /US$ 69.00 Kids
     PalMar's SMALL Snorkel Beach Club
    Bring your group and spend the day at PalMar's small, private beach facility and enjoy a day of snorkeling at Cozumel's premier beach entry snorkel spot! No crowd here and gates close daily with a maximum of 50 people on site! US $13 Adults /US$8 Kids Includes FREE Beverages!
     Riviera Maya - Dolphin Swim Adventure
    Share a series of sensational and safe activities while establishing a unique bond of trust. With a handshake, kiss and belly ride will enjoy moments of great spontaneity during your free time together. It is an unforgettable experience! US$ 119.00 Adults / US$ 89.00 Kids
     Riviera Maya - Hidden Worlds Extreme Adventure
    Incredible package tour for extreme and safe adventures. US$ 69.00 Adults / US$ 55.00 Kids
     Riviera Maya - Hidden Worlds Ultimate Adventure
    Incredible package tour for extreme and safe adventures. US$ 89.00 Adults / US$ 69.00 Kids
     Riviera Maya - Rio Secreto Expedition
    Dare to live a fantastic experience in one of the most incredible locations in the Riviera Maya! US$ 109.00 Adults / US$ 54.50 Kids
     Riviera Maya - Whale Shark Adventure
    Enjoy an adventure tour getting to observe and swim or snorkel besides the biggest fish in the world: the impressive whale shark! US$ 205.00 Adults / $143.50 Kids
     Riviera Maya - Xplor Full Day Admission
    This eco adventure park has the longest and highest 1.86 mile zip lines of the region ending on a refreshing Cenote plunge, adventure jungle tours on amphibious vehicles, an underground universe of 437 yd rivers where you can swim while admiring rock formations, a stunning route across subterranean caverns with natural wells while paddling a raft, and finally a delicious light buffet, that will recharge your energy. US$ 119.00 Adults / US$ 59.50 Kids
     Riviera Maya - Xplor Tour From Riviera Maya
    This eco adventure park has the longest and highest 1.86 mile zip lines of the region ending on a refreshing Cenote plunge, adventure jungle tours on amphibious vehicles, an underground universe of 437 yd rivers where you can swim while admiring rock formations, a stunning route across subterranean caverns with natural wells while paddling a raft, and finally a delicious light buffet, that will recharge your energy. US$ 149.00 Adults / US$ 74.50 Kids
     Cozumel Whale Shark Snorkel from Holbox
    Spectacular day trip whale shark snorkel experience at Isla Holbox! Personal service from a professional guide who escorts guests the entire way from Cozumel to Holbox! US$ 210 per person
    Personal Experiences
    Submit Feedback
    Thank you SO MUCH for all the valuable information! I know we are going to have a wonderful time. We will be in Cozumel until 12:00 midnight so I am sure we will have plenty of time to visit the places you have mentioned. I hate we will not have the pleasure of meeting you! You have been so helpful with everything! The company you work for if very fortunate to have an employee such as you! You are truly an asset to them! Thank you again for everything and I hope you have a wonderful day!
    Sincerely,
    Debbie Long :-) D. Long ~ Hampstead, NC

    Just got back from our cruise and wanted to let you know how much fun we had at Chankanaab Park. My daughter, Emily, had the most wonderful dolphin experience and the $2.00 off coupon for me to get into the park worked like a charm. And, your confirmation email telling us about getting to the park was very helpful. Thank you for the experience! This was well organized and an absolutely perfect day in Cozumel for us! We (the old ladies in my family) are coming back in February, I'll be sure to connect with you again as we'll do the dolphin swim with you again. The Kershek Family ~ Wisconsin

    You ladies (at COZUMELINSIDER) are the best ---- will write more when it doesnt costs 75 cents per minute --like it does on the ship. Our driver, humbuerto was awesome ! seak trek thing was the coolest thing in the world ---- we LOVED it --- we bought the cd-rom --- we are such tourists !!!!!!!!!!! i'm a tv reporter and the guy who shot the underwater video is a good photographer ----
    had some really neat shots ----- i'm a sucker for videos -------- did not really want to snorkel with mario --- those guy were really sweet ---- will talk more when at home --- just wanted you to know ASAP-- highly impressed with your service ----- wish i knew a milllion people to recommend to you !! Tressa Bush ~ Tennessee

    I want to take a moment to thank you at COZUMELINSIDER for all of your help. This is the first time I have ever booked activities such as these online and was very nervous about how it all worked. You took the time to answer all of my questions and even followed upwith a phone call to make sure you had all the information you needed to book the perfect vacation fun for my family. Thanks so much for making this a great experience! I can hardly wait to get there and enjoy all of these wonderful things! S. Daggett ~ Woodland Park, CO

    My husabnd and I did the Dolphin Royal swim in Cozumel. We loved it! It was the best time ever! Would do it again in a heartbeat! Thanks for everything Benicia ~ PA USA


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