La Isla de las Golondrinas
"The Island of the Swallows"
La Isla de Cozumel lies approximately 72 km (45 miles) south of Cancun, with its own international airport and is served by many major airlines as well as by frequent passenger ferries from Playa del Carmen. The largest inhabited island in Mexico, Cozumel is situated about 19 km (12 miles) off the eastern coast of the mainland Yucatán Peninsula.
The limestone plateau that forms the base of the island is 55 km (34 miles) long north-to-south and 18 km (11 miles) wide east-to-west and, despite the boom in tourist and residential development due to its tropical climate, the island retains large expanses of untouched jungle and beaches.
The island is one of the top SCUBA diving destinations in the world thanks to stunning coral reefs, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere and second-largest reef in the world, located just off the coast. The warm, clear water, with visibility often over 60 meters (200 feet), will treat you to incredible and memorable diving or snorkeling.
On the island's west coast is the vibrant city of San Miguel de Cozumel. This safe, extraordinarily friendly, mostly English-fluent, Mayan/Mexican community of about 90,000 has managed to retain its own customs and cultural identity despite the increasing influx of visitors.
Cozumel has certainly been inhabited for about 3,000 years based on archeological evidence. The nearby mainland has been inhabited for around 12,000 years, so it's reasonable to think that human habitation of the island significantly predates archeological traces.
The island first became known to Europeans in the 15th century, with some tantalizing evidence that Portuguese explorers may have mapped the island in 1474 as "Antylia", predating Columbus's voyages. By 1509, just 2 years after the first map that used the word "America", Cozumel was clearly shown on European maps.
There are many charming legends about Cozumel's long history that are definitely or almost certainly untrue. Many of them were made-up long after the fact, though some of those are themselves now centuries old. Some are very recent. They include many beliefs held dear by islanders. Many are widely published as fact.
There is of course much fascinating true history of the island. Ric Hajovsky's The True History of Cozumel provides a wealth of well-documented history. A copy is on the coffee table for you to read during your stay, but if you're interested in history consider getting your own copy to read before your visit.
The Island Museum has recently been beautifully renovated and updated in consultation with scientists and archeological experts to reflect the true and fascinating history of Cozumel.