Cozumel Fact Sheet
The Tradition of hospitality in Cozumel did not originate in our time with modern tourism. It began hundreds of years ago, before the Europeans ever arrived. The island was the sanctuary of the Mayan goddess of fertility, Ixchel, and it was a major destination for religious pilgrimages.
From as far away as central Mexico and parts of Central America, the Mayan followers of Ixchel came to pray to this Goddess. On the 3rd of May, 1518, the expedition lead by Captain Don Juan de Grijalva discovered this island giving the name of Santa Cruz because the catholic celebration of this day. During the Spanish colonial period, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, numerous visitors continued to arrive. However, many of them were not particularly welcome, as the island had become a base of operations for the many pirates and cutthroats that infested the Caribbean at that time.
In the 20th century, the commercial, success of coconut and chicle growers created a new wave of interest in the area. The first hotels that opened between years 1924 to late 30's were: The Louvre, Yuri and Playa in 1938. However, the economic crisis of 1939, World War II in the early 40's and the post-war reconstruction put a damper on additional development.
It was not until, the late 1950's that Cozumel was discovered by tourists once again, initiating the boom that has made Cozumel an extremely important port not just in Mexico but in the world. With more than 2 million visitors per year, Cozumel is one of the most important tourist destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
The island of Cozumel is located about 11 miles (18 km) off the east coast of the Yucatan. It is opposite to Playa del Carmen and it’s known as Mexico's window to the Caribbean. The island of Cozumel (in Mayan: Cuzamil- for "land of the swallows") is the largest of the Mexican islands in the Caribbean Sea, as well as the most populated island in the country. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel with a population of about 71,400 (est. in 2005).
Coordinates: 20°30N, 86°57W
Cozumel measures about 32 miles (52km) from north to south, and almost 9 miles (14km) from east to west. Like a major portion of the nearby Yucatan Peninsula, the island was one of the landmasses that emerged from the ocean in the latter part of the Pliocene Age. As a result, the base of the island is composed of marine sediment, frequently covered with fossilized shells and sea life. Its age is estimated at 16 million years. The island is very porous and aside from rain runoff, it has no surface lakes or fresh-water rivers. Like the peninsula, Cozumel has many underground rivers and ponds, known as Cenotes.
Because of the incredible beauty of the caverns and tunnels carved out of the rock over the centuries, and their famous clear water, many Cenotes are considered ideal sites fr diving and snorkeling.
Due to its location, Cozumel is in the tropical zone. Its climate is hot and humid, and although there are rainy and dry seasons, there is occasionally rainfall year-round, making very little difference between the seasons.
Average temperature all year round is of 80°F (27° C) and the variation from winter to summer if 68°F (20° C) to 90°F (32° C).
Flora and Fauna
Like that of all tropical regions, Cozumel's plant life is varied and plentiful. The trees reach a maximum of 10 meters (30+ feet) in height. Predominant among them are sapodilla, quebracho, ceiba, chechen, huaya and caracolillo, as well as shrubs like icaco and resinosa. In the marshy areas you will find tasiste, red mangrove, white mangrove and botoncillo.
The plants generally grown in the tropics, like pineapples, mamey, mango, bananas, oranges and lemons, were once widely cultivated. But like other traditional crops, such as corn beans, squash, chiles and sweet potatoes, the production has diminished in recent years as more people abandon the countryside for more lucrative jobs in the tourist sector.
The same can be said about flowers and other tropical plants; they grow all over the island but are not specifically cultivated.
Wildlife also bounds, especially since hunting has been prohibited in recent years. The jungle is inhabited by rabbits, badgers, raccoons, armadillos, iguanas, wild boards and occasionally deer. The indigenous snakes are not poisonous. Crocodiles live only in the lagoons and mangroves. There are no big cats on the island.
Cozumel is heaven for shoppers. Browse local manufacturing outlets of world famous companies, such as Diamonds International, plus fine locally owned stores like Ultra Femme, Milano, Ultra Jewel and Pama, some of the largest duty-free shops in the Caribbean with terrific offerings including fine perfumes.
Stores such as Los Cinco Soles and Discover Mexico have the largest variety of handcrafts from every corner of Mexico, all under one roof. The island's many shops provide sophisticated selections at great prices. Whether you're looking for diamonds or precious gems, silver, gold or platinum, a quality watch or a special ring, perfumes or accent pieces for your home, you'll find it in Cozumel.