Photo of La Choza Man Sculpture in Mexican restaurant, Cozumel, Mexico (2013).
Cozumel (Spanish pronunciation: [koˈsumel], Yucatec Maya: Kùutsmil, English: Island of the Swallows) is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatán Channel. Cozumel is one of the ten municipalities (municipios) of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Cozumel is a tourist destination for its balnearios, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel.
The name Cozumel was derived from the Mayan “Cuzamil” or “Ah Cuzamil Peten” in full, which means the Island of Swallows (Spanish: Isla de las Golondrinas).
The island is located in the Caribbean Sea along the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula about 90 km (56 mi) south of Cancún and 10 km (6.2 mi) from the mainland. The island is about 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) wide. With a total area of 477.961 km2 (184.542 sq mi), it is Mexico’s largest Caribbean island, and Mexico’s third-largest island, following Tiburón Island and Isla Ángel de la Guarda.
The majority of the population of island lives in the town of San Miguel (pop. 77,236 in 2010), which is on the island’s western shore. The municipality, which includes two small areas on the mainland enclaved within the Municipality of Solidaridad with a land area of 10.423 km² (4.024 sq mi), has a total land area of 647.33 km² (249.93 sq mi).
The island is covered with an impenetrable jungle which has many endemic animal species. Cozumel is a flat island based on limestone, resulting in a karst topography. The highest natural point on the island is less than 15 m (49 ft) above sea level. The cenotes are deep water filled sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone soil during thousands of years. Cozumel’s cenotes have very restricted access available only to qualified cave divers with appropriate registration. In the early 1990s, a group of cave explorers here discovered the 5th largest underwater cave in the world.
Cozumel has tropical savanna climate under the Köppen climate classification that closely borders on a tropical monsoon climate. The dry season is short, only occurring from February to April but even in these months, precipitation is observed, averaging about 45 millimetres (1.8 in) of rain per month. The wet season is lengthy, covering most of the months, with September and October being the wettest months, when precipitation averages over 240 millimetres (9.4 in). Thunderstorms can occasionally occur during the wet season. Temperatures tend to remain stable with little variation from month to month though the temperatures are cooler from December to February with the coolest month averaging 22.9 °C (73.2 °F). Owing to its proximity to the sea, the island is fairly humid, with an average humidity of 83%. The wettest recorded month was October 1980 with 792 millimetres (31.2 in) of precipitation and the wettest recorded day was June 19, 1975 with 281 millimetres (11.1 in). Extremes range from 9.2 °C (48.6 °F) on January 18, 1977 to 39.2 °C (102.6 °F).