Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatán Channel. The economy of Cozumel is based on tourism. There are a number of visitors to the island’s balnearios, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel. The islands belongs to Cozumel Municipality of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Maya are believed to have first settled Cozumel by the early part of the 1st millennium AD, and older Preclassic Olmec artifacts have been found on the island as well. The island was sacred to Ix Chel, the Maya Moon Goddess, and the temples here were a place of pilgrimage, especially by women desiring fertility. There are a number of ruins on the island, most from the Post-Classic period. The largest Maya ruins on the island were near the downtown area and have now been destroyed. Today, the largest remaining ruins are at San Gervasio, located approximately at the center of the island.
Scuba diving is still one of Cozumel’s primary attractions, mainly due to the healthy coral reef marine communities. These coral reefs are protected from the open ocean by the island’s natural geography. In 1996, the government of Mexico also established the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, forbidding anyone from touching or removing any marine life within the park boundaries. Despite the importance of healthy reefs to Cozumel’s tourist trade, a deep water pier was built in the 1990s for cruise ships to dock, causing damage to the reefs, and it is now a regular stop on cruises in the Caribbean.
There are more than 300 restaurants on the island and many hotels, some of which run dive operations, have swimming pools, private docks, and multiple dining facilities. Other water activities include para-sailing, kitesurfing, and a tourist submarine. There are also two dolphinariums. At the cruise ship docks there are several square blocks of stores selling Cuban cigars, jewellery, T-shirts, tequila, and a large variety of inexpensive souvenirs. There are many restaurants in San Miguel that have a huge variety of different cuisines. In downtown Cozumel there are several discothèques, bars, cinemas, stages and restaurants. The main plaza includes; seasonal vendors, Mayan fire shows and a fixed stage where Cozumelenians and tourists celebrate the Sunday evening with a dance into the night.
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