Cozumel

Cozumel is Mexico's original Caribbean playground. The Mayans, its first inhabitants, named it Cuzamil, meaning "Land of the Swallows." However, it was the goddess of fertility, Ixchel, that they worshiped here in what now remains of centuries old Mayan temples and ceremonial centers that still dot the island.

This is where Europeans first stepped on Mexican soil. A plaque on the beach marks the spot where Catholic mass was first celebrated in Mexico. The Spanish explorers didn't stay long. Fresh water was in short supply and the mainland natives were hostile, so the conquerors pushed on in their search for El Dorado. Cozumel was largely forgotten, except by pirates, such as Jean Lafitte, who frequented the island. Despite popular legend, no buried treasure has ever been found.

During World War II, the U.S. built an air base on Cozumel for planes hunting U-boats in the mid-Atlantic. Drawn by the clear waters, frogmen came to train and returned home with stories of magnificent underwater vistas. After a visit to the island in 1962, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau proclaimed Cozumel to be one of the finest diving sites in the world.

Nature lovers also come to Cozumel to see giant sea turtles lay their eggs and to observe the large variety of migratory bird life.

The streets radiating away from the bustling central plaza are lined with restaurants. Numerous shops along the waterfront sell imported luxury items, catering to the cruise ship passengers that regularly land for a couple of hours of shopping. Scarcely a day goes by that doesn't see several big ocean liners docked at the International Pier three miles south of town.

Cozumel lies 11 miles east of the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula. A rapid ferry service is available from Playa del Carmen, located about 45 minutes south of Cancun.


 

 
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