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