The Maya are believed to have first settled Cozumel by the early part of the 1st millennium AD, and older Preclassic Olmec artifacts have been found on the island as well. The island was sacred to Ix Chel, the Maya Moon Goddess, and the temples here were a place of pilgrimage, especially by women desiring fertility. There are a number of ruins on the island, most from the Post-Classic period. The largest Maya ruins on the island were bulldozed to make way for an airplane runway during World War II.
The ruins of San Gervasio are located approximately at the center of the island and are the largest remaining ruins.
The island is about 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) wide, and is Mexico's largest Caribbean island. It is Mexico's third-largest island, following Tiburón Island and Isla Ángel de la Guarda. It lies some 10 km (6.2 mi) from the mainland, and 90 km (56 mi) south of Cancún.