Welcome to Cozumel Mexico!
Cozumel is the largest and most populated island in the Mexican Caribbean with an estimated population of about 90,000 in residence. The island, approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, is located at the Yucatan Peninsula’s eastern tip in the state of Quintana Roo. It’s about 12 miles from the mainland, and some 36 miles south of Cancun.
The Mayans are believed to have settled the island over 2000 years ago using it as a trade center and an important ceremonial site. Every Mayan woman who lived in the Yucatan Peninsula was required to make at least one pilgrimage to the island to pay tribute at the temple of the Goddess Ixchel – the goddess of the moon and fertility. The sea supplied a large number of items used in the religious rituals, like seashells, shark teeth, and stingray spines. It also provided a cornucopia of seafood and seashells, which were sold for commercial use. For example, Conch shells were purchased from the island by mainlanders, who used them as an ingredient for stucco, which was widely used on the mainland as a building material.
The Cozumel of today, an immensely popular diving and snorkeling site, gives credit to Jacques Cousteau, who in 1961, showed the world the island’s spectacular reefs. Almost overnight Cozumel became a world-famous diving, snorkeling, and cruise ship travel destination. There is much for everyone to enjoy in Cozumel.
As part of Mexico's duty free zone, cruise ship passengers may find the allure of shopping too powerful to resist. Remember, even though most of the Jewelry stores look like retail outlets, everything is negotiable. Sales people are very good at sizing people up and figuring out how strictly they will adhere to the listed prices.
Shopping tip: if you are here to shop, dress down, buy a cheap $5 watch, get rid of the jewelry and the designer labels. Look like you couldn't afford to pay what they are asking and try to get them to come down on the price... especially if you're a gringo.
Scuba diving in Cozumel
You don't need to make reservations for anything. There are more dive operators here than you could shake a stick at and boats leaving for all points around the island are continuously leaving from somewhere. All you need to do is to walk around the area near the docks, pop your head into a dive shop and ask what they have leaving for where and when. It the time (or price) doesn't suit you, just go to the dive operator on the next corner.
Other Things to Do in Cozumel
Apart from the duty-free shopping opportunities and the world-class scuba diving and snorkeling, it's really fun just to rent a convertible Volkswagen or scooter and drive around the island and just check out the beaches and diverse scenery.
There are some great places for swimming and snorkeling but please don't try to swim where warnings are posted. It seems every year some brave soul tries to prove their bravery by trying to swim the waters where the tides are fierce - with predictable consequences.
The Inside Scoop
If you are in Cancun and would like to hang out on a Caribbean Island, go to Isla Mujeres. If you are in Playa del Carmen or Tulum and are looking for great beaches, stay home, your beaches are better. If you're looking for hot nightlife, umm, not so much. However, if you want to relax, scuba dive, snorkel, and are looking for a place where absolutely nothing unexpected will ever happen, Cozumel is is a great spot for it.