No one's got an exact figure, but the little island of Cozumel off the tip of eastern Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula likely has the highest JPV ratio – jeeps per visitor – in the country. You'll see the spunky, open-topped vehicles darting around the island's main town of San Miguel, whizzing down the Caretera Sur to the diving mecca at Chankanaab National Park and zipping over the trans-island highway to the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio.
Bouncing along the highway to the ruins, few tourists are aware that they're riding over an ancient path trod by millions of Mayan women who came from villages across the empire to pray at the shrine of Ixchel (eee-shell), their goddess of love and fertility.
The ruins cover two square miles including sites of the goddess' shrines and palaces along with modern-day restaurants and souvenir shops. Guides will tell you the name Cozumel comes from the Mayan word Cuzamil, meaning “place of the swallows” – Ixchel's favorite bird.
Tourists pour into the 29-mile-long island all day long. More than 2 million visitors a year step off the gangplanks of cruise ships docking there for the day, while stay-over guests – often packing diving gear – hop off jets at Cozumel's international airport. Many other visitors get to the island on frequently scheduled water ferries from mainland ports on the Riviera Maya and Cancun.
Buy a tour of the island, and chances are you'll end up in a jeep caravan. The four-wheel-drive vehicles, developed by the Willys-Overland Company in World War II as an all-purpose scout car, make it easy to explore Cozumel's off-road historic sites and the jewels of nature found along its powdery white beaches.
Just about all of the 30 resorts, hotels and inns listed in Cozumel's official guide offer tours, some included in special package deals. The Coral Princess Resort, for example, is promoting a three-night, four-day stay at rates as low as $549 per couple.
The deal includes lodging, a free jeep rental for three days, breakfasts each day and entrance fees to San Jervasio and to some parks and museums.