Beach beds among palm trees at perfect tropical coast on Holbox island in Mexico
El Castillo (The Kukulkan Temple) of Chichen Itza, mayan pyramid in Yucatan, Mexico
Mayan Ruins of Tulum. Old city. Tulum Archaeological Site. Riviera Maya. Mexico
Colorful Corals against Blue Water and Surface, Cozumel, Mexico
- Cozumel, which gets its name from the Mayan term for “island of swallows,” is a wildly popular vacation destination. As Mexico’s largest Caribbean island and it’s largest permanently inhabited island, Cozumel is unique in many ways. The mangrove trees that cover Cozumel are home to multiple species endemic to the island. Many cenotes are found through the island, thanks to the abundance of limestone, and are restricted to only the most qualified cave divers. The coral reefs in Cozumel are one of the island’s main attractions, and nature’s too. Exceptionally clear waters and magnificent reef formations, not to mention the effortlessness of the dive itself are just a couple reasons to dive there on your vacation. Most of the reefs found on the south side of the island are a part of the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park. Ranging 46 sq. miles these marine park contains many popular diving and snorkeling sites, as well as the MUSA Museo Subacuatico, a reef art installation with pieces from artists popular in the area. Some of the more popular diving sites within the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park includes Devil’s Throat at Punta Sur, a dive that has been described as “must dive” experience by other scuba divers; it gets its name from the narrow tunnel that drops through the red coral. Plancar Reef, which is divided into several different sections based on the formation and depth of coral, is another popular dive spot found within the marine park.
- Although there are an array of activities to partake in during your stay in Cozumel, one of the qualities that really sets the island apart as a place with never-ending possibilities is the proximity to many other activities and learning experiences off the island. Taking a day trip to one of these abundant experiences is popular among visitors, and there are a vast amount of day tripping options for each and every type of traveler out there. Holbox Island, located approximately 80 miles from Cozumel, is a location to spend a day exploring while on vacation. With fishing being one of Holbox Island’s main industries you can’t go wrong enjoying some fresh seafood at El Chapulim, a restaurant known for their daily changing menu and island fusion flavors. One of the main attractions on Holbox Island during the summer months are the Whale Shark tours, as the largest aggregation of whale sharks in the world are found off the coast of Holbox Island. You can not only swim with these creatures side by side in the beautiful waters of Holbox Island, but you might even encounter turtles, manta rays, and even dolphins! If swimming with sharks is not your thing, do not worry; Holbox Island has beautiful sand beaches to take your breath away too. To really appreciate the beauty, be sure to take a boat tour around the island; another wonderful activity to partake in on your day trip to Holbox Island.
- Chichen Itza is another great day trip idea from Cozumel, as not only is it a sight to see but offers insight and knowledge into the past inhabitants of the area. A pre-colombian city built by the Mayans, Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico, and is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This site itself was one of the greatest Mayan centres of the Yucatán peninsula, and in its nearly 1,000 year old history different peoples have made it their own, leaving an individual mark. Chichen Itza is a blend of Mayan and central Mexico construction making it a fusion of architecture like no other. With many of the original buildings still remaining, such as El Castillo the Warriors’ Temple, it is a history lesson and an exciting afternoon exploring one of the many day-trip activities located near Cozumel. There is no better background to an exciting day exploring Mayan ruins than the beautiful water and exotic landscape of the Yucatán peninsula. You can join a tour group or delve into the ruins on your own, just make sure you do not miss what Chichen Itza has to offer.
- Another archeological site of great interest, and absolutely perfect for a day trip from Cozumel are the Tulum Ruins. Located on 39 ft. tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula, Tulum is one of the best preserved coastal Maya sites; this is one of the reasons they are so popular by visitors. One of the things that makes it so unique, aside from being the only Mayan city built directly on the coast, is that it was also one of few protected by a wall. The Temple of the Frescoes is one of the most major structures of interest found in the ruins. It included both a lower gallery, and a smaller second story gallery. The structure itself was used to track the movements of the sun! The breathtaking view of the Caribbean coastline from the ruins is another reason making the day trip from Cozumel to see it is a wonderful idea: the blue of the water, the soft sand, and even the cenotes located in the area all make for a spectacular view. Sian Ka’an, a section of the ruins, is another intriguing location in the Tulum area. A biosphere reserve, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sian Ka’an has worked with many different peoples and professions to carry out more than 200 conservation projects with a focus on sustaining natural resources.
- Although it may still be located in Cozumel, exploring San Gervasio is another great day trip idea while on your Caribbean getaway. Another archeological site, it was once the main worship place of the goddess lx Chel: deity of the moon, fertility, and medicine among other things. Pre-colombian Mayan women would travel to San Gervasio at least once in their lifetime to make offerings to the goddess. Many of the remaining structures do not have the upper portion of their walls, or roofs, but through a lot of hard work from the archeologists at Harvard and University of Arizona, detailed renderings of what these ruins looked like in their prime have been compiled into a guidebook. The park is also a wildlife refuge, and many native animals can be seen roaming the grounds. There are a plethora of different buildings on the site to explore, including Las Manitas, the home of the Mayan ruler of Cozumel during the terminal-classic period. Nohoch Nah, one of the better preserved buildings in San Gervasio, was a temple devoted to the feathered serpent god known as Ku’kul’kan; inside the interior walls still show signs of blue and red colors, and the structure even still has its roof intact! Seeing this feat of Mayan history is definitely something to cross off your Cozumel activities list.
- Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park might still be located in Cozumel, but once you set foot on its properties you will feel like you have been transported to a whole new island! You can snorkel and see some of the colorful fish, and explore the underwater statues found through the vibrant reef area. Take a stroll to the Crocodile Pond and learn all about the protected species; or, for a little more lighthearted fun, spend the afternoon hanging out with dolphins in the dolphin discovery program the park offers! For more knowledge and culture, take a walk through the scenic botanical gardens featuring replicas of Mayan buildings. Be sure to take the family to the sea lion show, which is fun for all ages. Surrounded by magnificent fauna and beautiful beaches is great, but an added bonus is that there are several restaurants and other attractions found within the park.
If you are looking for the luxury of a resort, but the ability to spend time exploring history and learning, then Cozumel is a great place to vacation. With so many day trip options, as well as activities on the island, Cozumel is an exciting adventure for all.