Mexico // The Yucatán //

Isla Cozumel

A forty-kilometre-long island directly off the coast from Playa del Carmen, ISLA COZUMEL is known to package tourists as a cruise-ship port: nearly every day, up to ten liners, each with several thousand passengers, dock at one of the island’s three dedicated piers, all just south of the only town, San Miguel. But Cozumel’s other major attraction provides the perfect escape from the crowds: the reefs that dazzled Jacques Cousteau in the early 1960s are some of the finest in this hemisphere. Even if you don’t dive, 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.