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COZUMEL

The island of Cozumel was the first part of the Yucatán to be “discovered” for modern visitors when, in the 1950s, the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau came here. One of the world’s largest coral reef systems, Cozumel was declared by Cousteau to be one of the finest diving areas in the world. The offshore reef is full of life and a dazzling array of colors. Onshore, Cozumel has an easygoing atmosphere, ideal for families.

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Map of Cozumel

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info Visitor Information: (987) 869 0212; www.cozumel.travel

prac_info Laguna Chankanaab: (987) 872 1522; open 8am–4pm daily; adm $21, $14 under 12s; snorkel hire extra

prac_info San Gervasio Site: open 8am–4:30pm daily; adm $4; under 10s free

prac_info Punta Sur Eco Beach Park: open 9am–4pm Mon–Sat; adm $14; under 6s free

prac_info Museo de Cozumel: Closed until 2020

prac_info Cozumel Parks: (987) 872 1522; www.cozumelparks.com

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  • Waters off Cozumel are clear and reefs are close to the surface. You can often see a lot just by snorkeling or free-diving.
  • The best places to eat on the island are the restaurants along the wild east coast of Cozumel.
  • Museo de Cozumel is holding itinerant exhibitions during the renovation period.

1. Laguna Chankanaab

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Created around a natural coral lagoon, this glorious park includes a botanical garden, a pretty beach, and reefs that are ideal for novice divers.

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The azure waters of the Laguna Chankaanab

2. North Beach Hotel Zone

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The island’s biggest upscale hotel cluster is situated along a shaded boulevard north of town. Hotels and resorts line a row of intimate beaches. Pools, watersports, and every comfort are on hand, and there are fine views across the channel to the Yucatán mainland from most hotel rooms.

3. Playa Mia and Playa San Francisco

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These are two of Cozumel’s best beaches, with facilities for banana boat rides, subaqua exploration, and more.

4. San Miguel

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Cozumel’s only town has a laid-back street life centered on the waterfront (Malecón) and Plaza Cozumel. The island’s Punta Langosta cruise terminal is located here.

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San Miguel on a sunny day

5. Punta Santa Cecilia and Chen Río

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The east side of the island is more rugged and windblown than the west, with rocky, empty beaches and crashing surf that can be dangerous to swim in. At Punta Santa Cecilia there’s a lonely beach bar, Mezcalito’s, which has great views, while Chen Río has a lovely sheltered beach and a seafood restaurant idyllically situated right on the shore.

6. Museo de Cozumel

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San Miguel’s charming waterfront museum tells the story of Mayan Cozumel, the arrival of the Spaniards, and the pirate era. It has a lovely rooftop café.

7. Paraíso Reef

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Shallow and close to the shore, this is a favorite reef for snorkeling, scuba courses, and easy diving by day and night. Parrotfish are commonly sighted.

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Parrotfish in the Paraíso Reef waters

8. Palancar Reef

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The most famous of Cozumel’s reefs, the Palancar Reef has fabulous coral canyons and red and blue caves. The waters are full of vibrant creatures, including the luminous angelfish.

9. San Gervasio Site

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Cozumel’s Mayan capital was one of the richest religious and trading cities in pre-Conquest Yucatán. The layout of its pyramids and small palaces gives a strong impression of life in a Mayan community.

10. Punta Sur Eco Beach Park

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A wildly diverse nature reserve with turtle-nesting beaches, huge mangroves and lagoons that are home to crocodiles and flamingos, and a snorkeling area. There’s also a lighthouse and a tiny Mayan temple.

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The green Punta Sur Eco Beach Park

MAYAN COZUMEL

As a shrine to Ixchel, goddess of fertility, Cozumel was one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the Yucatán in the centuries just before the Spanish Conquest. A visit here was seen as especially important for childless women, though everyone in Mayan Yucatán tried to make the trip at least once in their lives.

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