Cozumel  is one of the few places in Mexico where Carnaval is celebrated with vigor, though the island’s one-night celebration is still pretty mellow compared to the weeks or months of partying that mark the holiday elsewhere in the Caribbean and in South America.
Held in February, Carnaval in Cozumel centers around a parade of floats and dance troupes, all decked out in colorful dress, masks, and glitter. Entire families come out together to participate and watch.
Spectators dance and cheer in the streets as the floats go by, and many join the moving dance party that follows the floats with the largest speakers. Eventually the parade ends up in the center of town, where more music, dancing, and partying continue late into the night.
Residents of the village of El Cedral celebrate their namesake festival beginning around April 23 and culminating on May 3, the Day of the Holy Cross. Traditionally, the festival entails daily prayer sessions and ends with a dance called the Baile de las Cabezas de Cochino (Dance of the Pigs’ Heads). The festival, begun by a survivor of the Caste War to honor the power of the cross, has morphed over the years into a somewhat more secular affair, with rodeos, dancing, music, and general revelry.
Every May, Cozumel  hosts a popular sportfishing tournament known affectionately as the Mexican Boat Rodeo (tel. 987/872-3701, www.grandslamdelcaribe ). Anglers from all over Mexico participate—including nearly 200 boats—and international anglers are welcome as long as they register their boats in Mexico. The tournament is timed to coincide with the arrival of big game to Cozumel’s waters; tuna, dorado, marlin, and sailfish are often among the fish caught.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing that the main town on Cozumel is officially called San Miguel. Hardly anyone, local or tourist, calls it that, preferring just Cozumel instead. One story, among many, is that the city got its name when construction workers unearthed a centuries-old statue of the winged saint on September 29th, the very day Saint Michael the Archangel is traditionally celebrated. San Miguel was designated the town’s patron saint, and every year September 29th is marked with a city-wide celebration, including special masses and religious processions, a rodeo, food stands, music, and general revelry, mostly in and around the central square and San Miguel church.
Ironman Cozumel (www.ironmancozumel.com ) is the only qualifying event in the Ironman series to be held in Mexico, featuring a course that’s as beautiful as it is grueling. The swim (3.8 kilometers/2.4 miles) is certainly the most distinctly cozumeleño part, starting and ending at Chankanaab National Park , with gorgeous underwater vistas, and scuba divers and sea creatures observing from below.
The bike ride (180 kilometers/112 miles) entails three laps around the island, with lovely sea views but crosswinds strong enough to topple unwitting racers. The run is oddly uninspired, three laps between downtown and the airport, although the sunsets there are spectacular (and you’ve got until midnight to finish).
Ironman Cozumel is held in late November and attracts over 2,000 triathletes from around the world.