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Cozumel, Mexico

The island of Cozumel lies just a short distance off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The first Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century and found various Mayan settlements in different parts of the island. During the 17th and 18th centuries Cozumel was a haven for pirates who lay in wait for the Spanish galleons that had to stop here for water. The 1960s saw the modern-day tourists arrive, thanks to the publicity resulting from a marine life documentary filmed at the Palancar Reef by the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. To this day the most popular activities are skin-diving and snorkeling among the colorful reefs surrounding the island. Other activities include the exploration of some recently excavated Mayan ruins, browsing in the many local handicrafts and souvenir shops, or just relaxing at one of the numerous beaches.