Though attuned to North American tourism, Cozumel has managed to  keep development to a minimum. Its expansive beaches, superb coral reefs, and copious wildlife--in the sea, on the land, and in the air--attract an active, athletic crowd. Rated one of the top destinations in the world among underwater enthusiasts, Cozumel is encircled by a garland of reefs entrancing divers and snorkelers alike. Despite the inevitable effects of docking cruise ships (shops and restaurants actively recruit customers on an increasingly populous main drag), the island's earthy charm and tranquillity remain intact. The relaxing atmosphere here is typically Mexican--friendly and unpretentious. Cozumel's rich Maya heritage is reflected in the faces of 60,000 or so isleños; you'll see people who look like ancient statues come to life, and occasionally hear the Maya language spoken.

Cozumel is a 490-square-kilometer (189-square-mile) island south of Cancún, 19 kiometers (12 miles) off the coast. Mostly flat, its interior is covered by parched scrub, dense jungle, and marshy lagoons. White sandy beaches with calm waters line the island's leeward (western) side, which is fringed by a spectacular reef system, while the powerful surf and rocky strands on the windward (eastern) side, facing the Caribbean, are broken up here and there by calm bays and hidden coves. Most of Cozumel is undeveloped, and a healthy part of it is national park land.

A few Maya ruins provide what limited sightseeing there is aside from the island's glorious natural attractions. San Miguel is the only established town.