Planning to visit Cozumel? Great choice! Being the largest island in Mexico, it offers wide sandy beaches and amazing natural landscapes all around. Travelers choose it for limitless outdoor adventures on land and in water.
Yes, more than 95% of the island is a national park. At the same time, the second-largest coral reef runs just off the coast of Cozumel, making it the number one diving spot in North America. However, one more major local highlight is the vibrant national festivals, celebrations, and gastronomic events.
So, we have prepared a list of the most significant celebrations that take place in Cozumel throughout the year. If you want to explore the local culture and traditions, come and take part in at least one of them. The hospitality and the passionate temperament of the Mexicans guarantee vivid impressions and a storm of emotions!
Carnaval de Cozumel
As the main event of the year, Carnaval de Cozumel reveals local life, heritage, character, and culture. Usually, it takes place in the last days of February, but sometimes falls at the beginning of March, depending on the current liturgical calendar.
The main action of the carnival is costume processions and parades passing through the streets of San Miguel, the island’s capital. People dress up in colorful sequined costumes and march to the cheerful tunes of local performers. Yes, they remember to dance, blow up firecrackers, and throw confetti all the time.
The most common dances at this exciting event are Danza de los Voladores and Jarana. It’s okay if you don’t know the moves – just keep up the rhythm, sing, and have fun. A special stage of the carnival is the selection of the Queen and King, who then lead the celebration. It doesn’t look like a presidential election, but the action itself is impressive in scale. Usually, the winners are people who have made a great contribution to the development of the island or have achieved the recognition of the inhabitants in a similar way. Therefore, it’s very prestigious to be chosen at the festival.
Of course, no celebration is complete without food and drink. This is your best chance to sample traditional Mexican dishes such as churros, tacos, and tamales in several variations. Oh yeah, the organizers also host cocktail competitions, which are a perfect way to wash down the goodies.
The final chord of Carnaval de Cozumel is hundreds of fireworks soaring into the sky. Then, the celebrations turn into a massive street disco until the morning.
El Cedral Fiesta
This holiday has its roots in Mayan times when the Mexicans fought against invaders during the civil war in the Yucatan. At that time, the Maya waged an aggressive war against the locals and attacked them with superior forces.
It all started when a man named Casimiro Cardenas asked for shelter for himself and a group of fleeing refugees in a church. The construction could not withstand the attack and collapsed, taking the lives of almost all the people hiding there. That man was among the survivors and thanked the Lord God for salvation. After that, he promised to hold an annual celebration in his honor if he reached a safe place. Fortunately, people escaped by swimming to the island of Cozumel from the mainland, and Casimiro kept his word.
Now, from April 29 to May 3, locals hold annual large-scale celebrations in the small town of El Cedral. At first glance, the festival looks like a typical fair. You can enjoy the variety of food sold in the stalls. Tacos, French fries, and grilled chicken are the most popular snacks. At the same time, drink lovers will have a chance to sample a large selection of beers and tequilas.
If you are visiting El Cedral Fiesta with kids, they will find something to do as well. The organizers arrange various games, contests, and entertainment for all ages. Prizes are also an obligatory attribute of this holiday.
The most grandiose events taking place within the celebration are cockfighting, bullfighting, and horse racing. The spectacle is not for the faint of heart, but it perfectly reveals the local culture and traditions. In general, El Cedral Fiesta offers a great time in the company of fiery Mexicans and integrates you into their rural lifestyle.
Mexicans are true to tradition, and the annual Maya Crossing is perfect proof of that. This event was the result of an ancient custom. The Maya believed very much in otherworldly forces and therefore brought an offering to the goddess of fortune by canoeing from the mainland of Mexico to Cozumel. Then, they brought back good omens and the event grew into a celebration.
Today, this 2-day festival begins in the evening at Xcaret Eco-archaeological Park. People dress like the ancient Maya, dance, eat, and party at the local farmers’ markets as part of the main event. Then, they pray all night and ask the higher powers to make the trip easy for the canoeists.
In the morning, at the first light of the sun, up to 1,000 canoes set out on a 20-mile-long round trip to Cozumel Island. Each crew includes 6-8 paddlers. They get to Chancanaab National Park and then return back. Although the trip is relatively short, the strong currents in the Yucatan Canal make it difficult.
The arrival of the canoeists in Xcaret is the key moment of the crossing. People on the shore joyfully greet them with gifts and food and continue the celebration until the morning with local food festivals.
This iconic event is very important in terms of observing Mexican traditions and self-familiarizing with the Mayan culture. However, some take it as a personal challenge. Indeed, you feel a kind of inner liberation or accomplishment of the goal by canoeing the way. The festival is very popular among travelers and welcomes guests from all over the world.
How to reach the desired celebration venue in Cozumel?
Since public transport on the island is not very developed, travelers prefer rental cars to move around the area. Yes, cars for rental in Mexico are the right choice, so we recommend that you consider a Jeep for vacation. Firstly, they are cheap, and secondly, they give freedom of action. Also, you don’t have to look for a bus stop and endure the lack of space in a cramped interior.
Thus, take advantage of Cozumel Jeep rentals by booking on the scheduled date. Keep in mind that an early reservation promises a benefit in terms of price and model range.
So, are you ready to start your festive adventure in Cozumel? Then use our little guide and plan the journey of your dreams!