Because El Caracol means “snail” in Spanish, there persists a myth that a giant conch shell once sat on top of these Mayan ruins, which are located in Cozumel’s Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. However, the name and snail sculptures that adorned the dome of the tiny temple actually refer to the rows of real snails that were embedded in the stucco.
In addition to the myth of the conch shell, it is believed by some that the Caracol structure functioned as a weather warning system, producing a whistle signaling the impending arrival of a hurricane, and serving as a lighthouse or beacon that alerted the mainland. Instead, the building was simply a miniature temple that was surrounded by larger buildings. Visit El Caracol on a sightseeing tour or an adventurous 4WD tour of Cozumel.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Because it’s similar in size and shape to a burial mound, this sight is also known as the Tomb of Caracol.
- The Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, which contains El Caracol, is home to exotic birds, crocodiles, and sea turtles, and is a must-see for nature lovers.
- The snails on the dome were placed in the directions of North, East, South, and West.
How to Get There
Found within the Parque Punta Sur nature reserve in Cozumel, El Caracol is located in the southern part of the park. Inside, you’ll need to head down a small dirt road leading toward the Punta Celerain lighthouse to reach the ruins. Buggy and Jeep tours of the island typically include a stop in Punta Sur.
When to Get There
Open hours at Punta Sur are Monday through Saturday, from 9am to 4pm; it’s closed Monday. The easiest and most convenient way to see El Caracol is via an island tour that includes the park. The park is located about 20 miles south of San Miguel de Cozumel and is accessible via taxi as well.
El Cedral is a tiny village on the southwest side of Cozumel and the site of the oldest Mayan ruins on the island. Most of the Mayan temple that stood on the site has been torn down, but a small archway remains. Tours of Cozumel usually include a stop at El Cedral as well as El Caracol.