Cozumel is rich in history, culture and natural beauty. It would take a long time to delve into each of these themes sufficiently to relay all the wonderful stories that make up the island, but here are just a few fun facts to pique your interest and inspire you to come and discover more for yourself.
1. Cozumel is the Island of Swallows
The name Cozumel was derived from the Mayan name for the island, “Ah Cuzamil Peten.” Translated to English, this means “island of the swallows.” Because of this, the swallow is an important symbol to Cozumel’s identity and can be spotted in many motifs, from imprints on sidewalks to artwork originating on the island.
2. The underwater world is a protected marine park
The majority of dive sites around Cozumel are within the National Marine Park. Created in 1996, this national park protects a part of the Mesoamerican reef system. Today, these waters host more than 26 species of coral and more than 500 species of fish. Because of successful programs to protect the local marine life, hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles are often spotted in the area. The park is also a very popular place to learn to scuba dive. The shape of the island mostly shelters the reef from the ocean’s open water, and as of 1996, coral reef protection legislation was signed in, allowing the Mexican government to protect it as well.
3. The Mayans arrived a long time ago
Cozumel was first settled by the Mayans in the 1st millennium AD. At that time, it was thought that the island was sacred to the Mayan Moon Goddess, and many temples dedicated to her were found here. The Spanish arrived to Cozumel in the 16th Century, decimating the local Mayan population by bringing smallpox along with them. The San Gervasio ruins are located in the center of the island today – known to be the largest remaining ruins – and make for one of the best excursions in Cozumel.
4. There are many beautiful beaches to explore
Cozumel is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, including Playa Bonita, Playa El Mirador and Playa de San Martin. One beach that is especially worth visiting is located at Punta Molas on the northeastern tip of the island. This beach can only be reached with the aid of a 4-wheel drive vehicle and is also home to the island’s lighthouse. Here, you can partake in several Cozumel snorkeling tours.
5. The Holy Cross Festival is a colorful local event
The Holy Cross Festival was started by a group led by Casimiro Cardenas that fled from the Saban village on Mexico’s mainland to Cozumel after a brutal attack on their village. Cardenas promised to celebrate the religious power of the small wooden cross he held when he arrived to the island. The annual festivities feature traditional feasts, bullfights, competitions, rodeos, fairs and music, and is consistently listed as one of the best things to do in Cozumel Mexico.