Cozumel Island, Mexico


The largest inhabited island in Mexico and the oldest in the Caribbean group, Cozumel is located 12 miles off the eastern coast of the mainland (Yucatan Peninsula.)The limestone plateau that forms the base of the island is 34 miles long (north to south) and 11 miles wide (east to west) and, despite the boom in tourist and residential development in the past few years, continues to have vast expanses of untouched jungle and shoreline.


The island is one of the top 5 dive destinations in the world thanks to the stunning coral reefs (second largest in the world) that are located just off it's southwestern coast. Add in unusually clear water--with visibility often as great as 200 ft--and you have the formula for some incredible underwater adventures.


Between the north and south hotel zones on the island's west coast you'll find the vibrant city of San Miguel, population 90,000. This safe, extraordinarily friendly Mayan/Mexican community has somehow managed to retain its own customs and cultural identity despite the increasing influx of visitors. 



Small, one-of-a-kind hotels have long been the norm in Cozumel. Most of the island's hotels are on the leeward (west) and south sides of the island, but there's one peaceful hideaway on the windward (east) side. The larger resorts are north and south of San Miguel, while the less-expensive places are found in town.
You can book most Cozumel hotels online, but if your chosen hotel uses a booking agency, such as www.cozumel-hotels.net, it's a good idea to shop around online for the best rates—hotels often use multiple sites. While online booking is convenient and often cheaper than by phone, the imperfect realities of the Internet suggest you'll do well to bring a printout of all receipts and confirmations, just in case.



A few national and international flights land at the Aeropuerto Internacional de Cozumel, 3 km (2 miles) north of San Miguel, but flights to Cancún are considerably less expensive. A small airline called Mayair offers flights between Cancún and Cozumel for about $70 each way, with luggage limited to 25 kilos (55 pounds) per passenger. A budget alternative is to take a bus from the Cancún airport to Playa del Carmen and then the ferry to Cozumel. If everything runs on schedule, the trip should cost less than $20 and take about three hours.
From the airport, take a colectivo, a van that seats up to eight, to your hotel; fares range from $7 to $20 per person depending on where you're going.


Cozumel Tourist Information Office (Plaza del Sol, Calle 2 Norte #299-B, Cozumel, Quintana Roo, 77600. 987/872-7585. www.cozumel.travel.)




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Photo: Tatjana Dimitrijevic
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