10 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is the largest inhabited island in Mexico. Long sacred to the Maya Indians as the 'lsland of the Swallows', today its crystal seas and amazing reefs (made famous by Jacques Cousteau) have turned it into a shrine for scubadivers! Sample the little shops, bars and restaurants of San Miguel's colourful waterfront (a good shopping location), or perhaps visit the recently excavated Mayan ruins of San Gervasio, a place of pilgrimage for Mayan women who worshipped the goddess of fertility, Ixchel. Cool off in the coral-rich waters of Chankanaab National Marine Park and have an encounter with dolphins.
Ships dock at two locations. One several miles from the centre of San Miguel at one of four piers from which you can walk to a small shopping mall and some hotels and bars with access to a small beach. The other single pier is at the town centre. A taxi will be required from the four piers to reach San Miguel and the best beaches. There will be plenty of good snorkelling and diving tours. On the East Coast, the beaches are known for large breaking surf and immense limestone rock formations. On the West side enjoy calmer waters, this area is popular for snorkeling and diving as the sea is crystal clear and teams with the most striking coral formations and tropical fish found in the Caribbean. Further afield on the mainland you can take tours to the Mayan ruins at Tulum or the impressive Chichen Itza (time permitting).
Settled by the Mayas as early as 300 AD, Cozumel was a sacred shrine. It was discovered by the Spanish in 1518 and decimated by Cortez in his struggle against the Mayans. By 1600 the island was abandoned and little happened until Jacques Cousteau proclaimed the diving excellence of these waters in 1961.
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