Playa Chen Río, Mexico: Cozumel’s Secret Haven

Find the ride you need in

Everything you need to know about Playa Chen Río, Cozumel. Read more for snorkeling, surfing, shopping, & cenotes. What more could you want?

Playa Chen Rio Cozumel

Playa Chen Río, Cozumel, is one of Mexico’s best hidden gems. Located on the island’s eastern coast, this little slice of paradise is the perfect place to relax and enjoy everything a Caribbean beach has to offer. Think powder-soft white sand, sparkling cerulean waters, gentle waves lapping the shores, and swaying palm trees. 

The beach got its name from a combination of Mayan and Spanish words—chen means little, and rio means river. This is because a river system called Chen Rio runs right through the island of Cozumel. 

Things to do in Playa Chen Río

Relax on the beach

colorful lounge chairs in Playa Chen Rio

Chen Río, Cozumel, is a public beach and free to access. Plan to spend the day soaking up the sun, splashing around in the crystal-clear water, or enjoying some delicious seafood. 

In Mexico, Sundays are a family fun day, and the beach is a popular activity. So, if you are looking for a friendly vibe, head here and share the beach with friendly locals and lots of kids. 

However, if you are looking for more of a laid-back, quiet day, go during the week to avoid the crowds.

The swimming here is lovely because the beach is set in a sheltered cove. The waves are gentle, and you can definitely float around when you’re ready to take a quick dip. Be aware that you may encounter some seaweed depending on what time of year you visit. 

When you’re ready for a break, head to one of Chen Río’s excellent restaurants. A few spots serve up delicious, fresh seafood and ice-cold beers. 

What else could you need to enjoy your day at the beach?

Go Snorkeling

colorful fish and coral underwater

The water at Playa Chen Río is a blissful shade of turquoise, and you can see directly to the ocean floor. The Caribbean is home to a plethora of colorful fish, turtles, stingrays, and dolphins, so take your gear out for an afternoon, and you may spot a variety of marine life. 

It’s the perfect place to snorkel.

Cozumel is also home to whale sharks, and you can go on snorkeling tours to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants. Whale shark season is from May to September, and they are so used to human visitors that they will let you swim right alongside them as they munch on plankton. It’s like swimming next to a bus—that’s how big they are. 

Go Surfing

surfers going out at sunset

While Playa Chen Río is in a cove and protected from heavy winds, there is good surfing just past the rock wall formation. However, the waves here can be quite rough, so if you aren’t experienced, consider working with a surf instructor for the day.

Chen Río beach has at least one surf school. 

If you aren’t a confident surfer, you can find several shops along the west coast offering lessons. The good news is that driving to the other side of the island won’t take more than 30 minutes, so this is totally doable for an afternoon!

Wander the Streets of San Miguel de Cozumel

street mural in Cozumel

The island’s biggest town and main city is San Miguel de Cozumel, only 21 km (13 miles) from Playa Chen Río. 

Downtown, or Centro as the locals call it, is the perfect place to walk around, look for street art, grab a coffee at a cute café, or people-watch in Benito Juarez Park. 

Explore the Cenotes

Cenote in Cozumel

Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes with exposed pools perfect for taking a dip. 

Quintana Roo, the province Cozumel is in, is famous for its cenotes. The island is home to 18 different cenotes with varying degrees of accessibility. 

The best one to check out is Cenote Aerolito de Paraiso, located in the south of the island near the old harbor. 

Just be advised if you visit this cenote that while anyone is welcome to swim, the caves should only be explored by experienced scuba divers. 

There are separate areas to swim and dive in the caves, so there is something for everyone! 

Oh, and by the way, you should note that the water is also home to crocodiles. They aren’t aggressive, but you should always be aware of their presence! 

Enjoy El Cielo

starfish underwater

El Cielo is a stretch of sand 19 km (~12 miles) south of Playa Chen Río beach, Cozumel. 

It also happens to be one of the most exclusive snorkeling spots on the island and can only be reached by boat. The snorkeling here is some of the best in the Mayan Riviera, which says a lot!

The waters are crystal-clear, and you can see the ocean floor. What’s even more magical are all the brightly colored starfish on display. 

El Cielo means heaven in Spanish, and you can certainly see why once you put your mask and snorkel on! 

You can get a boat right off Chen Río beach for the day–it’s definitely worth it!

Weather in Playa Chen Río

palm trees and canoe on beach

When you are traveling through Mexico, it’s essential to know the weather of your destination.

The dry season runs from December to April. Temperatures are between 24-29℃ (75-85℉), and it is far less humid than the wet season. 

But the best time to visit Chen Río beach is between March and May. Temperatures hover right around 28-29℃ (80-85℉), and there is limited rainfall. The humidity is also a little more tolerable during this time.

The wet season occurs from May to October. Unlike other beach towns in Central America, the rains aren’t that bad, though. You can expect a daily shower or thunderstorm, but the rains typically move right on after that.

Holiday times, such as Christmas, Easter, and Spring Break, are especially popular with travelers from Canada and the US. If you plan to travel then, be sure to book accommodation early, so you don’t miss out.

Avoid traveling to Playa Chen Río during hurricane season. 

Although unlikely, it is possible to experience a hurricane anytime between June and November. However, August, September, and October have the highest chance of storms. So while the chance of a hurricane is actually pretty low, you should still keep this in mind when planning an epic beach vacation. 

Packing List Essentials

rocky shore in Playa Chen Rio Cozumel

When planning your trip to Chen Río beach, Cozumel, you’ll want to pack the following:

  • Bathing suits
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sand resistant towel
  • Snorkel gear
  • Waterproof camera
  • Portable safe/lockable storage bag for the beach

Map of Playa Chen Rio, Cozumel

Take a look at this map of Playa Chen Rio. It includes some other important spots nearby so you can get an idea of how close everything is.

How to Get to Playa Chen Río

ship in Playa Chen Rio

The easiest way to get to Playa Chen Río is by flying directly to Cozumel. Once you arrive at Cozumel International Airport, the beach is a quick 25-minute taxi ride away. You’ll have no trouble finding a ride with a taxi service. Unfortunately, Uber doesn’t operate on the island yet, so you’ll need to use a marked taxi.

If you’ve started your trip in the country’s capital, you can take a two-hour flight from Mexico City to Cozumel. Domestic air travel is pretty cheap and reliable, making it easy to hop around to all the beautiful beaches. 

It is possible to get from Cancún to Cozumel via a short charter plane ride, but you can also take a bus-ferry combo for a fraction of the price. The ride takes about three hours and offers some great amenities such as AC, free hotel pick-up, and English-speaking staff.

If you’ve been exploring Quintana Roo, you can also take a ferry from Playa del Carmen

This is the best way to visit Playa Chen Río after exploring the Yucatan peninsula. The trip will take about 45 minutes and is one of the cheapest ways to get to the island. The boats offer AC, WiFi, TVs, and snacks for purchase as an added bonus. 

Final Thoughts

hammocks in Cozumel

When planning your trip to Cozumel, add Playa Chen Rio to your list of must-dos! Between the picture-perfect beach, the cenotes, and all of the water activities, this is the perfect way to experience Mexico’s laid-back beach life. 


Is Playa Chen Río safe?

Yes–but it is always a good idea to be vigilant and keep an eye on your belongings.

What is the closest airport to Playa Chen Río?

Cozumel International Airport is 20 km (12.6 miles) northwest of the beach.

What is the closest town to Playa Chen Río?

Cozumel is the closest town.

Can you swim at Playa Chen Río?

Yes–there are gentle waves and several natural pools to swim in. As always, pay attention to any posted warning signs, though.

Posted March 21, 2023
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Samantha Bryant
Samantha has been wandering the globe since 2010, when she hopped on a plane for a gap year in order to wait out an age restriction for a job application. Twelve years, four continents, and countless experiences later she has decided that she is perfectly content embracing her wanderlust. Samantha works as an English and ELL teacher at an international school in South Africa, but her passion for writing has kept her busy in what spare time she can find. If she isn't working or writing, you can find Samantha exploring a new city in an off-the-beaten-path destination or relaxing on a beach somewhere.
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