The island of Cozumel is Mexico's largest island and a very popular destination with holidaymakers. It's located 12 miles (19km) off the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, opposite the resort Playa del Carmen. Cozumel has exceptional coral gardens and spectacular reef drop-offs offering legendary snorkelling and the best diving in Mexico; in fact, it frequently ranks as one of the top five dive destinations in the world. The west coast of the island is where the majority of development has taken place and where the town of San Miguel is situated. Due to the island's popularity with wealthy day visitors from the passing cruise ships, the town is packed with pricey shops, restaurants and bars, as well as dozens of dive shops. Cozumel is a favourite holiday destination for divers and non-divers alike, offering some great beaches, crystal clear water and plenty of sunshine. Its ease of access to the mainland also makes day excursions to some of the popular Mayan sites, like Chichén Itzá, possible.
San Miguel is a duty-free zone, and there are hundreds of stores selling most things imaginable and certainly anything tourists might desire. The cruise ship passenger terminal at Punta Langosta Pier has a variety of shops, but these are among the island's most expensive, catering to day-visitors with little time and lots of money. Prices decrease the further away from the docks one ventures. The waterfront shopping zone stretches to La Plaza behind which there is a craft market. For groceries, there are a few food stores, as well as the Cozumel Market on Adolfo Rosado Salas where holidaymakers can buy fresh seafood, spices and fruit and vegetables. In the markets travellers should be prepared to bargain, but some wonderful arts and crafts can be found.
Cozumel offers food of every kind from authentic Mexican, to international and fast food franchises. Holidaymakers will not be disappointed. Casa Denis is one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in town, featuring a variety of traditional Mexican cuisine, and La Choza Restaurant and Casa Mission are other authentic Mexican food favourites. For seafood try La Conchita del Caribe, or Guido's for Italian. Fresh and tasty fusion food can be had at New Especias Restaurant. For an unassuming local experience try Del Sur Argentina Empanadas, which offers a delectable range of sweet and savoury empanadas including a bacon and plum option which is surprisingly wonderful.
Although there is a wide variety of night time entertainment for holidaymakers to enjoy, things tend to begin and end earlier in Cozumel compared to the rest of the famous Mexican beach resorts, and those expecting a night scene comparable to Cancun or Acapulco may be disappointed. The most popular disco venue is Neptuno, while Carlos´n Charlie's is also very popular. No Name Cigar Bar is also a popular night spot and is located close to Hotel Barracuda. Those who prefer a resort which doesn't host hordes of young party animals will prefer Cozumel's slightly more sedate and stylish nightlife, although this is not the case over Spring Break (March) when US teenagers descend on the island.
Scuba diving and snorkelling are Cozumel's main tourist attractions and its surrounding reefs and clear waters have earned it the reputation as one of the top dive destinations in the world. There are exciting reef drop-offs, coral gardens, caves and plenty of marine life, and with easily accessible reefs, the snorkelling is also renowned in the area. The region around Playa del Carmen also offers excellent reef diving and snorkelling and some of the best cave diving in the limestone caverns along the coast. The Great Maya Reef is a chain of shallow patches that stretches all along the Yucatan coastline and is home to hundreds of species of fish and sea turtles. Hotels offer a variety of other watersports, and activities such as deep sea fishing and swimming with dolphins are also available. Tours to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and Tulum, on the mainland, are wonderful excursions that add an element of historical and cultural sightseeing to a beach holiday.
Cozumel is a cruise ship destination, and is popular with wealthy day visitors, which has driven the prices of shops, restaurants and bars to among the highest on the Yucatan Peninsula. The island becomes swamped daily by cruise visitors from passing ships and San Miguel can be quite crowded.