This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
Just east of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is not just a Caribbean paradise—it’s also an important Mayan sanctuary rich in history. The island is home to major archaeological sites such as San Gervasio, where the love and fertility goddess Ix Chel would be worshipped; El Caracol, used by the Maya to signal the approach of hurricanes and now part of Parque Punta Sur; and El Cedral, discovered by the Spanish in 1518. Cozumel is still so relevant to the Maya, in fact, that each spring a large group reenacts their descendants’ pilgrimage from Playa del Carmen to San Gervasio,—complete with traditional dress and canoes—in a popular event dubbed the Mayan Sacred Journey.
Cozumel is located along the Mesoamerica Reef, the largest reef network in the Americas and the second largest in the world, for which it’s become one of the world’s favorite diving spots. Its gorgeous coral reefs, featuring limestone caves, black coral trees and tunnels flush with sea life, is one of the most colorful landscapes in the region: imagine roughly 250 species of tropical fish, as well as assorted turtles and anemone, swimming around you. Many resorts in the island, including Blue Angel Resort, provide guests with quick access to a glorious diving experience. The Palancar Reef, on the southwest side of Cozumel, is one of divers’ “must” spots. Snorkelers and swimmers are not short-changed, as they also have the chance to discover beautiful marine life in swimmable beaches and in the Chankanaab National Park, which also offers natural trails and a dolphinarium for up-close encounters with the friendly mammals. On land, visitors can also explore Cozumel’s downtown area on foot or on moped, enjoying freshly caught seafood, stopping for souvenirs and strolling the garden areas that have sprouted in recent years.
- Best time to go:
Year-round; it might get chillier during the winter months, especially in Mexico City and Monterrey, but it’s nothing a jacket won’t fix
- Fun fact:
Mariachi music and traditional Mexican cuisine now form part of UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta to Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos; Delta flies from New York (JFK) to Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Minneapolis to Cancun, Cozumel, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Detroit to Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Monterrey and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Los Angeles to Cancun, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Salt Lake City to Cancun, Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from 12 additional gateways to Cancun
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
A few of the hundreds of varieties of thick moles; on the Pacific side, pescado zarandeado (grilled fish in a tangy tomato sauce); in Monterrey, try the cabrito a las brasas, barbecued kid goat
- Best buys:
Silver, indigenous original artwork, tequila—some of the best brands are not sold in the U.S.
- Information please:
Mexico Tourism Board’s website—visitmexico.com