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Cozumel - Off the beaten track

El Castillo Real

About 17km (11mi) from the Carretera Transversal, down the same intimidating road that leads to Punta Molas, are the large Mayan ruins known as El Castillo Real. The archaeological site, as well as the hike-in ruins a few kilometres away called Aguada Grande, are both quite far gone, their significance having blown off into the breeze some time ago. Still, half the fun is in getting there, right?

Other ruins of interest include the temple at San Gervasio, which was erected by the Mayans as a tribute to Ixchel, the moon goddess of fertility. Female pilgrims came here from all over the region to pay tribute. San Gervasio sits between San Miguel and the east coast, northeast of the Carretera Transversal.

Punta Celarain

The southern tip of Isla Cozumel has a postcard-perfect historic lighthouse, which is accessible only via a dirt track 4km (2.5mi) from the highway. From the top of the lighthouse, built in the early 1900s, you get a special all-over view of the island below. Also making the Punta Celarain worth a visit is the on-site navigational museum. If you want to turn this trip into a full afternoon, stop off at some of the isolated beaches on your way - they're just a jump over the sand dunes.

Punta Molas

Head northeast, fellow traveller - we're talking the most northeast you can get on this island - and you'll find yourself at the deserted lighthouse of Punta Molas. But don't forget to bring along your 4WD, as this point isn't the easiest to reach. Start your journey beyond where the east-coast highway meets the Carretera Transversal, and continue along the poorly maintained, infrequently travelled road toward Punta Molas. If you decide to tackle this trip, fill up that gas tank and be aware of the risk, as you can't be assured that help will be easily flagged down in the event of a breakdown. And here's something nice to know if you're headed there: faro is Spanish for lighthouse.

Once in the vicinity, you'll find some fairly good beaches and some minor ruins. The best camping spot along the road is at the lovely Playa Bonita.

The East Coast

For beautiful seascapes, head over to the eastern shoreline - it's as wild west as it gets on this here island. Punta Chiqueros, Playa Chen Río and Punta Morena are peaceful alternatives to the island's more crowded west-coast niches. Unfortunately, at many of the east-coast beaches the riptides and undertows can make swimming a precarious venture.

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