Cozumel (Mayan: Island of the Swallows) (Kùutsmil in Modern Maya) is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatan Channel. Cozumel is a tourist destination for its scuba diving, and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel.
The island is about 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) wide, and is Mexico's largest Caribbean island. It is Mexico's third-largest island, It lies some 10 km (6.2 mi) from the mainland, and 90 km (56 mi) south of Cancún.
The Maya are believed to have first settled Cozumel by the early part of the 1st millennium AD, and older Pre classic 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.
In 1960, Jacques Cousteau was introduced by locals to the extent and beauty of Palancar Reef, the coral reefs at the south of Cozumel and publicized it as one of the best places to go scuba diving in the wor
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.
Diving and charter fishing comprise nearly all sources of income. 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 parasailing, kite surfing, and a tourist submarine. There are also two dolphinariums. At the cruise ship docks there are several square blocks of stores selling Cuban cigars, jewelry, t-shirts, tequila, and a large variety of inexpensive souvenirs. There are a very large number of restaurants in San Miguel that have a huge variety of different cuisines. In January 2009 a Chabad House was opened near the main avenue to cater to the small permanent Jewish community on the island as well as the thousands of Jewish tourists that visit the island each year. The Chabad House and synagogue is located on Calle 12 between Rafael Melgar and 5th Avenue. The Chabad House also runs a Glatt Kosher restaurant located 1 block away from the synagogue. In September 2010, the construction of a mikve began and is expected to be completed in early 2011, making it the first kosher mikve in the state of Q.Roo.
All food and manufactured supplies are shipped to the island. Water is provided by three different desalinization facility located on the island.