The land of the swallows
A forty-kilometre-long island directly off the coast from Playa del Carmen, Isla Cozumel is a renowned cruise-ship call: nearly every day, up to ten cruise ships dock at one of the island’s three dedicated piers, all just south of the only town, San Miguel.
A holiday to Mexico with MSC Cruises will present you with restaurants, souvenir shops and jewellery stores, all along the malecón(Av Rafael Melgar) in downtown San Miguel.
If you fancy a museum, the attractive Museo de la Isla de Cozumel has small displays of the flora, fauna and marine life of the island, as well as a good collection of Maya artefacts and old photos.
If you’re not a diver, there’s a certain appeal in wandering the relaxed inland blocks of San Miguel, away from the piers, spotting Maya ruins and birds (the Maya called the island cuzamil – “land of the swallows”) in the dense forests and being the only person on the windswept eastern beaches.
Midway across the island, San Gervasio is the only excavated Maya site on Cozumel. With several small temples connected by sacbeob, or long white roads, it was one of the many independent city-states that survived the fall of Chichén Itzá, flourishing between 1200 AD and 1650 AD. As part of a larger nature reserve the site is worth a visit for the numerous birds and butterflies you can spot early in the morning or late in the day.
Another place to visit is Xcaret, a surprisingly pleasant theme park: it offers all the Yucatán’s attractions in one handy place, with a museum, a tropical aquarium, a “Maya village”, a beach, some small authentic ruins, pools and more than a kilometre of subterranean rivers down which you can swim, snorkel or float. On the other hand, neighbouring Xplor is dedicated to ziplines and other outdoor adventure.