2010 Legends Special - Cozumel

 

2010 International Legends Of Diving
Cozumel Fact Sheet - April 12-19, 2010

 

LOCATION

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Cozumel, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, is situated near the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The island is approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.

The West coast of Cozumel features long stretches powered white-sand beaches overlooking calm, clear waters. Popular spots include Playa San Francisco, Playa Mia, Palancar, Paradise, Carlos n’ Charlie’s and Mr. Sancho´s. The shoreline on the east side of the island offers a mix of white-powder beaches and rock-strewn shorelines. The seas often produce strong waves and undertows. Popular spots such as Punta Morena, Punta Chiquero, Playa Bonita and Chen Rio are generally less crowded than the beaches on the west end of the island.
CLIMATE The average daily air temperature in Cozumel is 80 degrees. In July and August, the highs range from the upper 80’s to the low 90’s. In December and January, the daytime temperatures average in the mid-70’s.
HISTORY
 
Cozumel derives its name from the Maya Indians who settled the island approximately 2,000 years ago. According to Maya legend, Cozumel was the home of the goddess Ixchel, devoted to love and fertility. Religious temples were dedicated to the goddess and in return she sent her favorite bird – the swallow -- as a sign of gratitude. For this reason, the Maya named the island “The Land of the Swallows.”

Spanish explorer Juan de Grijalva first visited the island in 1518. A year later, Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes, arrived and destroyed many of the Maya temples. By the time Cortes departed, the Maya civilization lay in ruins.

Between 1519 and 1570, an outbreak of small pox ravaged Cozumel, killing thousands of people and leaving the island nearly desolate. The island was resettled in 1848 by Indians of Maya descent fleeing the mainland during the “War of the Castes,” a struggle to regain their original lands. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 – 1917 triggered land reforms and eventually led to freedom for the “islenos,” the native population of Cozumel. By 1970, Cozumel’s population had grown to 10,000. Today, the population is more than 75,000.
TRANSPORTATION Plane – There are numerous daily domestic and international flights into Cozumel. Direct flights from the United States are currently available from Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Miami.

Ferry –“Mexico Water Jets” and Ultramar ferries passengers back and forth between Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan peninsula and Cozumel. The ferry operates continuously every hour, and the crossing takes approximately 35 minutes. A car ferry is also available and departs from Calica, which is five minutes away from Playa Del Carmen. The trip takes one hour and service is provided by Transcaribe, which operates four times a day.

Automobile – In addition to car rentals (standard-transmission Volkswagens and four-wheel-drive vehicles are the norm), taxis are plentiful, but are unmetered, so passengers should inquire about fares in advance.
SIGHTS Cozumel is rich in history and natural wonders. Popular destinations include the ancient Maya Archaeological site on the north side of the island, the sanctuary of the fertility goddess Ixchel at San Gervasio and the Museum of the Island of Cozumel, with its colorful displays of underwater reefs and other island treasures. Located on the south side of the island is El Cedral, the oldest Maya structure on Cozumel, built in A.D. 800. Nearby is Punta Sur, a towering lighthouse that offers a 360-degree view of the island.

Cozumel is home to many nature preserves: the Cozumel Reefs National Park, Chankanaab Park and Lagoon and Punta Sur Ecological Reserve. The botanical gardens at Chankanaab Park showcase 350 types of tropical plants from more than 20 countries. Another attraction is Dolphin Discovery, which treats visitors to a close-up encounter with playful dolphins. Punta Sur is an ecological reserve for visitors interested in learning about the island’s native flora and fauna. Encompassing a region known as the Colombia lagoon, Punta Sur is a unique environment of mangrove jungles, white sand beaches and reef formations.

The only town on the island, San Miguel, is the site of two popular landmarks: Benito Juarez Park, the main square, and the downtown pier. Sundays are favorite times for afternoon strolls, music and dancing.
DINING /
NIGHT-LIFE
There are more than 90 restaurants and cafes, offering a wide choice of cuisine, including Mexican, International, Mediterranean, Italian, Caribbean and seafood. There also are several U.S.-based fast-food outlets and chain restaurants, including the Hard Rock Café, Carlos´n Charlies and Sr. Frogs. In addition to its many beachfront, downtown and hotel bars, the island provides evening entertainment.
SPORTS Cozumel is known worldwide as a premier diving destination. The warm, clear, turquoise waters and abundance of coral reefs and sea life attract divers from around the world. The major dive sites in the surrounding waters include: Barracuda, Cardona, Chankanaab, Chun Chancaab, Colombia, La Francesa, Los Atolones, Maracaibo, Palancar, Paraiso, Paso del Cedral, Punta Sur, San Francisco Wall, Santa Rosa Wall and Yucab. Besides diving, Cozumel offers many other water sports for marine enthusiasts, including snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, windsurfing and parasailing.

For landlovers and avid golfers, Cozumel boasts a one-of-a-kind championship 18-hole, Nicklaus-design, eco-friendly golf course. In 2006, the Cozumel Country Club achieved designation as a "Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System (ACSS), making it the first golf course in Mexico to hold this prestigious honor. While driving through the eco-friendly course players can witness animals and plant life native to the area.

In addition, the island offers other popular recreational land activities such as horseback riding, tennis, hiking and exciting ATV and jeep tours.
SHOPPING A duty-free zone, Cozumel is recognized for its wide variety of jewelry, including sterling silver, gold, precious and semi-precious stones, and brand-name watches. Village shops and retail boutiques in the hotels offer a wide selection of fashions, casual attire, perfumes, Mexican crafts and souvenirs. Several downtown specialty shops feature indigenous black coral in the form of jewelry and sculptures. (Note: Cozumel adheres strictly to regulations governing the preservation of black coral.)
EXCURSIONS Day tours from Cozumel to the Maya ruins located on the Yucatan peninsula are available through local travel agencies. Transportation is generally included in the tours.

Popular Maya sites include:
  • Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is located in the interior of the Yucatan peninsula. The archaeological site has Maya pyramids, temples, castles (including the famous El Castillo) and carvings dating to the 7th and 8th centuries.

  • Tulum is situated on the Yucatan coast 36 miles south of Playa del Carmen and 78 miles south of Cancun. The site features several Maya temples and government buildings.

  • Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve lies on a limestone flat on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula, just south of Tulum. The 1.3-million-acre reserve is home to endangered manatees, crocodiles, jaguars and turtles, and features more than 1,000 varieties of plants, 350 species of birds and 70 different mammals. More than 1,000 Maya live within the reserve.

  • Coba is located on the eastern half of the Yucatan peninsula and is the site of the area’s largest Maya pyramid, carved ceremonial columns and temples.

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