This is Cozumel Island
Cozumel is a paradise where fun, flavors and traditions belong together. Already famous for its amazing coral reefs and its nature well preserved, there is also a lot of great activities to do such as snorkeling, catamaran tour, all-included beach resorts, tequila and chocolate tasting trips, cooking and dancing lessons, Mayan archeological sites, and so on!
Being the biggest cruise ship port destination in the world, Cozumel will for sure give and let you the best souvenirs with its happy, funny and welcoming people.
Cozumel may be a small island with its 30 miles long by 10 miles wide (50km by 16km) but it has a lot to offer and its story is amazing. It is located in the Caribbean Sea, 12.5 miles (20km) off east continental Mexico, where the cosmopolitan Playa del Carmen also awaits you with a wide array of shores excursions, from underground river expeditions to beach resorts, Cancun, or even the impressive Chichen-Itza, one of the new 7 wonders of the world.
Welcome to Cozumel, welcome to paradise
From ancient Mayas to Hispanic conquerors, pirates, runaways, merchants, and adventurers, made a fascinating history.
Reefs, sandy beaches, incredible marine life, the right weather, endemic species, Cozumel has it all!
A glimpse of history
We have to go back to the 1st Millennium to see the Maya people set on the island what is known as the oldest Mayan settlement in the area. Mayas named the island Kosom-lu’um-il or the “land visited by swallows” looking at the swallows going to Cozumel every year to nest, they believed the island was a fertility sanctuary. They even created a dedicated cult to the well-known fertility-moon-god Ixchel. All women’s had to go to Cozumel to be blessed by Ixchel. In fact, those ruins were a neuralgic location in Mayan’s culture, they had ceremonies at every full moon which is the way the Mayan calendar works. The San Gervasio Mayan ruins are definitely something to see, it was a political center and a pilgrimage destination for all the Mayan world.
The year 2018 marks the 500th anniversary of the landing of the Spanish captain Juan de Grijalva after his ship was blown off course by a storm. A couple of years later, in 1520, Cozumel became a stopover for the colonizer captain Hernan Cortés, who led the conquest of Mexico for the Spanish crown. After the arrival of the Conquistadores, the local population declined very fast mostly because the Maya people had a low-level immunization against Spanish smallpox.
The island remained abandoned until 1658 when pirate Henry Morgan rediscovered the island and use it as a hideout. Later on, in the early years of the 1800’s, another well-known pirate, Jean Lafitte, hid from his pursuers in the waters of Cozumel.
We had to wait until 1848 to see new settlements on the island, El Cedral village was founded by people escaping the tumult of the Caste War of Yucatan (1847-1901). We recommend tourists to visit The Museum of the Island (Museo de la Isla), three blocks away from the downtown fiscal pier. There you will learn about how the island evolved over the years. We also recommend visiting El Cedral Village by Segway, a hi-tech way to “go down” the history of the island
A land of beauty and natural resources
Cozumel is literally a big flat limestone; its highest natural point barely reaches 49ft (15m). After millions of years, the water created a lot of amazing sites such as cenotes, caves, bays, lagoons, mangroves, and beaches.
The island is the most relevant portion of the 700-mile-long Mesoamerican reef barrier, starting up north of Cancun until Roatan island, in Honduras. It is the second longest reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier. The island is also located on the way of the Gulf Stream, a swift and warm current running from south to north which brings a lot of nutrients to sustain the abundant marine life in the area. Because of the current, all snorkel and dive adventures are drift snorkel or drift dives.
If Cozumel is the most relevant portion of the Mesoamerican Reef, Palancar is the most relevant reef in Cozumel. Discovered by the oceanographer and diver Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the 60’s while shooting a documentary, Palancar is now recognized as one of the world’s top diving sites and a protected natural park since 1991.
The Palancar-Colombia coral system is a 3-mile long reef strip laying right off the west southernmost coast of the island, even though it may be considered as one massive coral reef for divers and enthusiasts, locals have named sections of it to better identify their location according to their depth, attractions and diving characteristics. Thus, the three miles comprehend from north to south the Palancar Gardens, Palancar horseshoe, Palancar caves, Palancar Deep, Colombia shallows and Colombia Pinnacles. A research made in 2017 found the reef is still in good health even with all the pollution and climate change, thanks to everyone; government, environmental groups, kid’s education, volunteers and all the diving/snorkeling industry and enthusiasts. Cozumel Island is indeed a top diving destination with more than 40 amazing world-known dive sites.
TripAdvisor considers the Palancar reef as the #1 Natural Attraction. You can see many coral swim-throughs, nurse sharks, turtles, huge groupers, lobsters, eels and several other fish, the odds are very high. Take a look at the TripAdvisor comments, it’s amazing!
Cozumel is Member of the UNESCO’s biosphere reserve world program since 2016, including more than 11 ambient managing and protection programs. The island is home to more than a thousand marine species and is rich in amphibian and reptile species; more than 30 species are endemic to the island including some mammals and birds; because of the size of the island and the human activity some of them might become critically endangered without all the continued support and protection activities.
Being a part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve shows that Cozumel wants to be a world-class model of urban sustainability and not just attract more tourists, helping many green projects is like investing to protect on its own future fate.
Cozumel, a doorway for the Mexican Caribbean
Isolated but not far from the mainland, Cozumel is only 40 minutes away from Playa del Carmen by ferry, it is the strategic point to access the Mexican Caribbean. Cancun is only 45 miles (70 km) up north. A wide array of activities and destinations awaits you. Explore amazing underground rivers and caverns, find endless shopping, alluring nightlife or have a day visiting around.
Playa del Carmen is also close to the Tulum Mayan Ruins, 38 miles (60km) southward. It was the last inhabited important Mayan City to last standing after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. Build over a natural rock wall with an incredible overlooking view on the sea and the best beach spot in the Riviera Maya.
See and admire the Chichen-Itza Mayan ruins, one of the new 7 wonders of the world and the most visited archeologic ruins in Mexico and. With the help of a professional skilled guide, you could see and understand how the society used to work at the time. Among the unforgettable constructions, there is the great pyramid of Kukulcan, The Observatory, the sacred cenote and the largest ballcourt of the Mayan world. Chichen-Itza lays one hundred miles away westward from Playa del Carmen.
The beauty of Cozumel and the warmth of its people are the doorways to the Mexican Caribbean.