Visitors to Cozumel say that it has a Mexican heart and a Caribbean soul. Clearly, it’s a destination where tradition, flavour and joy come together. The coast is known for its coral reefs and its water sports, such as diving, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and kayaking, as well as good shopping and fine dining. But the centre of Cozumel is a different story. It is largely undeveloped and covered by jungle and swampy lagoons, which are home to tiny mammals and birds that have never left the island.
The Chankanaab National Park, a Cozumel icon, and the Punta Sur Ecological Reserve are noteworthy. This huge protected area at the southern tip of the island includes Punta Celarain and its historic lighthouse, as well as the Colombia Lagoon, a shelter for many of the island’s endemic species and other endangered forms of life, such as marine turtles and their nesting areas.
But the coast is where the action is, with its beautiful beaches and exotic locale. It attracts many honeymoon couples who enjoy moonlit walks on secluded beaches, swimming through crystal-clear blue waters and having romantic, candlelit dinners.
Atlantis Submarine: Board a real 48-passenger submarine. Atlantis is one of the world’s most technologically advanced passenger submarines, trimmed, prepped and ready to take you into another world more than 100 feet below the surface.
Bone fishing: The Caribbean offers some of the most exciting fishing in the world. Bone fishing takes place in the flats around Cozumel. Red snapper and grouper are the main game.
Deep-sea fishing: Experienced boat captains and fishermen will take you for the big game to catch blue and white marlin, sailfish, dorado and tuna. Other species are wahoo, mackerel, barracuda, amberjack, bonito and snapper. The best fishing months are February to July.
Diving: Dive from 30’ to 120’ with clear visibility along famed Palancar, Santa Rosa and El Cedral Reefs – 20 miles of fantastic coral gardens a few steps off the sand.
Discover Mexico is the newest-destination in Cozumel. Discover Mexico is a cultural theme park where you can experience the country through its different historical periods: pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern. Take an exterior walk of Mexico’s most important archeological sites and colonial buildings, the on-site museum with temporary and permanent exhibits, and a state-of-the-art video experience room to view award-winning videos and documentaries. It takes about 90 minutes while you learn what Mexico is really about.
With more than 90 different restaurants and cafés to choose from, it’s an invitation to sample some authentic Mayan and Mexican dishes. If you’re not in a mood to experiment, you can rely on a number of restaurants serving international fare. Some restaurants, such as Carlos ’n Charlie’s, Fat Tuesday, Hard Rock Café, Señor Frog’s and Acuario also offer music or other nighttime entertainment, as do a number of discos, sports bars, karaoke bars and dance clubs.
Everybody who goes to Mexico goes shopping. You’ll see a wide array of imported items, including duty-free perfumes, cosmetics, china and crystal, watches and cameras. But the Mexican-made pieces offer the best value. Prices on jewellery fashioned with Mexican silver and turquoise are exceptionally good value. When buying sterling silver, make sure you see “925” stamped on the item. Gold items should be stamped with a set of two numbers and two letters. Textiles show Mexico’s geographic and cultural diversity. Traditional Mayan dresses (huipiles) and shawls (rebozos) as well as men’s embroidered cotton shirts (guayaberas) and tightly woven Panama hats are representative of the Yucatan peninsula.
Hammocks are available in a wide array of colour combinations and fabrics. Leather goods (shoes, boots, belts, purses and luggage) have fine craftsmanship and quality.
Mexican handicrafts offer a large assortment of works by artisans from nearly everywhere in the country. Check out the pottery as well as reproductions of ancient native handicrafts, including stone carvings, wooden masks and semi-precious stone sculptures as well as filigree jewellery, lacework and wood furniture.
The major stores are usually open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cozumel, however, observes the traditional Mexican custom of the afternoon siesta, so many shops close for a few hours in the afternoon. When a cruise ship is in port, more stores tend to remain open during the siesta period. Most stores accept credit cards, U.S. dollars and traveller’s cheques.