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Mayan legends tell that Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of the Moon, fertility and love, lived on the islands off the coast of Yucatan. Our ancestors used to build temples in her honor and would present their offerings after a pilgrimage across the sea. The Goddess, pleased with the offerings and the love of the people, decided to send her favorite bird, the swallow, to one of the islands. And that is how the locals got to naming one of the most beautiful islands in the world: Cozumel, or “Land of the Swallows” in Mayan language.
This magnificent island, the third biggest of Mexico, lies about 10 miles off the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, and about 40 miles from Cancun. Only 10 percent of the entire area of the island is inhabited, leaving over 200 square miles of land in natural wild state. A true paradise not yet developed by man.
Cozumel lies in the middle of the second biggest Coral Reef Barrier of the world, and it was introduced to the world by a Mexican filmmaker called René Cardona. In 1956, Cardona shot his movie “A New World” under its waters, which drew many US divers to its crystal clear waters. Thanks to his movie, the Island named one of its famous coral reef formations after him, making Cardona Reef a must-see spot in this colorful and rich underwater world. The island also boasts the fifth biggest underwater cave in the world. Cozumel also houses the first aquarium built entirely out of stone and reef formations in Mexico and the Caribbean. It is also the main stopover destination for cruise liners in the Caribbean Sea.
The kindness of its people and the peaceful spirit of the island conspired to be recognized in 2010 by the United Nations as one of the 100 Cities of Peace of the world.
Cozumel’s climate is considered Caribbean Tropical Humid, with abundant precipitations in the summer and scarce during the winter. Its average daily temperature is 80°F with high humidity levels. Visibility in the water increases as temperatures do. The best months to practice diving or snorkeling are April to June, where visibility reaches about 400 feet, although it averages about 230 feet year round.
Diving continues to be Cozumel’s best attraction. The health of its coral reefs and the constant protection from the harsher elements has favored the formation of one of the most attractive universes found underwater in the entire world. The huge variety of the coral and the sea life that populates it burst into an amazing rainbow of color before the visitor’s eyes.
For those who do not like diving, the options are still pretty good. Of course the beaches and the Caribbean Sea are excellent to practice snorkel or any other water sports. Exploring the island is something else to keep in mind at the time to plan your day. Cozumel’s eastern coast is very different from the western one. The intensity of the waves is a lot stronger, since it faces open sea, ideal to catch a wave or two, or to learn to surf. The sensation of having the wind caressing your face and the beauty of the landscape are truly spectacular.
The exploration of its archeological sites is another option to have in mind. Sites like San Gervasio, the ruins of El Caracol, El Cedral, El Real Castle, Ixlapak and Hanan are places that tell amazing stories. Cozumel also has museums, and one of the most important ones is the first luxury hotel ever built on the island, opened in 1936, and displaying in one of its rooms part of the coral reef that surrounds the island. There is also Celarin Lighthouse, which shows other vestiges of nearby lighthouses and their histories.
The closeness of Playa del Carmen is also handy. The crossing by boat takes about 35 to 40 minutes and boats leave every hour from each side. So, if you are staying in Cozumel and would like a Getaway to Playa, go for a stroll on its famous Fifth Avenue, go shopping or simply have a night out, it is as simple as boarding a boat and sail away!
The typical culinary
offers in Cozumel are very similar to the ones found in the entire Mexican
state of Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula. The fact that it was isolated
from the regular commerce with the rest of the country gave the chance to
Caribbean and French Creole influences to take a strong hold, eventually
becoming part of the region’s peculiarities.
The closeness to the Yucatan Peninsula becomes evident in dishes like "Cochinita Pibil" or "Pollo Pibil", the incredibly tasty marinated pork or chicken stews that attract clients from all over the world. Some other dishes from the region are the "papadzules", delicious enchiladas covered in pumpkin seed salsa, and the "chocolomo", a heavily marinated beef dish. Of course, the different chili sauces that incorporate spicy hot and sweet elements like mango or guava are key ingredients from the area that cannot possibly be overlooked and cannot be absent from the table at the time to taste one of these delicacies.
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