South of town and just beyond Playa San Francisco , a paved turnoff leads to El Cedral (8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, free), the oldest Maya structure on Cozumel , located in its namesake village. Once the hub of Maya life on the island, it is the first Maya site that the Spaniards stumbled upon in 1518; allegedly, the first Catholic mass in Mexico was held here.
Today the site is small and underwhelming though it still bears a few traces of the original paint and stucco. (It’s amazing that these remnants are left, despite the passage of time—and its use as a jail in the 1800s.) Tour operators, including horseback riding guides, often bring visitors here to wander about and buy handicrafts.