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Cozumel Attractions and Things to See

Cozumel, which in ancient Mayan mean "island of the swallow", is known as Kuutsmil in modern Mayan, is a beautiful island in the Caribbean Sea that sits off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, just opposite Playa del Carmen, near the Yucatan Channel. It is one of the 9 municipalities of the state of Quintana Roo, and a fabulous tourist destination for it scuba diving, snorkeling and balnearios, or seaside resorts. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel, and Mexico's biggest Atlantic island, about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. The majority of the people live in San Miguel that sits on the island's western shore and it includes two small areas on the mainland that is enclaved within the municipality of Solidaridad; and the remainder of the island is flat, low and thickly forested. The two areas that are located on the mainland include the Calica limestone quarry, near Playa del Carmen and Xcaret, and the Xel-Ha Water park near the Xelha archaeological ruins.

The Maya are believed to have been the first inhabitants of the island arriving in the 1st millennium AD, with older preclassic Olmec relics discovered there as well. The island became sacred to Ix Chel, the Maya moon goddess, and the temples located there had been a place of pilgrimage, where women especially wanting to have children came. There are many fabulous ruins on the island, with the majority coming from the post-classic era, and the biggest Maya ruins on the island were bulldozed in WWII to make way for an airplane runway. The biggest remaining ruins on the island and sitting near its center are San Gervasio. The first Spanish visitor would be Juan de Grijalva in 1518, and the next year, Hernan Cortes came with his fleet and destroyed many Mayan temples, with some 40,000 Mayans living there, but after getting the smallpox, they would be decimated so that only 30 remained by 1570. Abraham Lincoln had shown some interest in purchasing the fantastic island to send freed slaves, but the Yucatan war was in the process and he would change his mind. There is a plaque in the Museo Cozumel that is dedicated to this foreseeing man.

Jacques Cousteau would be introduced to the beautiful and exotic Palancar Reef, the magnificent coral reefs that lie as the southern end of the island and publicized it as one of the finest scuba diving places in the world, that would be marred in the start of the 21st century when British singer, Kirsty McColl would parish there while diving. The original airport that served WWII, was able to handle jets and international flights, but a bigger airport would be constructed there in the 1970s that brought more tourists to the island, but at what expense? In the horrific 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the island would be hit by two Category 4 hurcs, and while they would great damage to the island, the underwater marine habitat suffered, that included the coral reefs, that suffered more at the shallow depths and the various fish that inhabit the reef.

Charter fishing and diving constitute two of the main sources of income to the island, while there are more than 90 restaurants, numerous hotels, that have their own diving operations, private docks and multiple dining options. The cruise ship docks have many square blocks of shops that sell everything from Cuban cigars to t-shirts and tequila. The town of San Miguel has many restaurants that cater to locals and tourists, with many of the tourists questionable about drinking the local water, but the big tourist areas and hotels boil or filter their water so that it is okay to drink. All the food and manufactured supplies are shipped into the island with the water provided by seawater desalinization.