The island of Cozumel is a popular cruise stop on many Caribbean cruises. There are plenty of things to do at this destination but one of the most sought after shore excursions is visiting the ruins on the island. But, did you know there’s more than one set of ruins to visit and you don’t need to book one of the shore excursions from your cruise ship to enjoy these historical sites?
There are at least 24 archeological sites that have been discovered on the island of Cozumel with San Gervasio, Tulum, Castillo Real and El Cedral being the most famous. This island was once a very important pilgrimage site for Mayan women who came to worship at the shrine of Ix Chel, the goddess of medicine and childbirth. The peak of civilization on the island was reached at 1400 AD but was in a period of growth beginning in 800 AD.
Tulum is the second most visited Mayan site in Mexico. The site was primarily a fortress located on the edge of the sea to protect the Mayans living on the island from enemies coming from the sea. It also served as a major trading post. It is located 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and there is a ferry that runs to the location. You can combine a visit here (which only takes a little over an hour) with snorkeling or a visit to the Aktun Chen Caverns.
San Gervasio is the location where Mayans came to worship Ix Chel and therefore an incredibly important archeological site. In ancient times it was expected that every Mayan woman visit this site at least once in her life. In 200 AD the site became inhabited by Spanish conquistadors. The site is outside of the main city of Cozumel but a taxi can easily be hired. The site is large and spread out so visitors should be prepared to walk. If you are interested in history and culture than it is worth the investment to hire a guide who can tell you more about the location. Be prepared by bringing bug spray as there are plenty of mosquitos who enjoy this site as well!
El Cedral was once the center of Mayan life on Cozumel and was first discovered by the Spanish in 1518. There is not much remaining from its glory days but it’s interesting to note the shape and size of the structures here differs from those on other parts of the island suggesting it was used for other purposes. Every May the Festival de Cedral is held here and consists of traditional ceremonies, music and bull fights.
One lesser known ruin is El Caracol located inside the Punta Sur Eco Park. The ruins are small but if you’re planning to visit the park – there’s great crocodile spotting opportunities – it’s worth visiting. You can also visit the Parque Arqueologico near San Gervasio. Some ruins have been relocated here and there are reproductions of others that no longer exist.
Many of these sites are available as shore excursions or packages from cruise ships but you can also rent a car, hire a taxi for the day in port, or rent a moped to see the island. Cozumel is small enough to travel without getting lost and missing your boat but be sure to pay attention to time and get back with some to spare.
Have you experienced the Ruins of Cozumel, Mexico? If so, which adventure did you choose?