On Tuesday you read about the nuts and bolts of our recent trip to Mexico so today I thought I’d like to focus on the fun stuff! While I’ve visited both Cozumel and Playa del Carmen numerous times as one-day cruise ship stops, this was my first time spending the night. While Playa is fun, it’s also overrun with touts, tourists and all the gimmicky go-alongs. I found Cozumel much more laid back and appealing. Below are the activity highlights from our Cozumel stay.
Cozumel is a wonderland of sea life! In fact the father of scuba diving, Jacques Costeau, ranks it as one of the top scuba and snorkel sites in the world. The extensive reef system will keep you busy for days and the stellar visibility makes it a great place to learn if you’re wanting to give scuba or snorkel a try.
Tip: Use reef safe sunblock when on Cozumel – help keep these grounds gorgeous for the generations ahead. In fact, some dive operations and marine parks like Chankanaab mandate usage of reef safe block.
Drive the Rugged East Coast
Rent a car for a day (or more) and explore the wild and rugged East coast of Cozumel. This is where you will see the big surf. A loop of the main road (without stops) takes about 1.5-2 hours but there are plenty of places to investigate along the way. Oceanside bars abound, along with the small souvenir stalls next to them and there are plenty of great photo ops. For history buffs, visit the Punta Sur lighthouse, San Gervasio ruins and the Iglesia de San Miguel. Cozumel is 96% jungle so nature lovers may want to try a jungle tour that includes crystal clear cenotes and the chance to see coatis, crocs and monkeys. For the party crowd, several tequila tours are dotted around the island – be sure to check those out!
Tip: Most bars, shops, etc. along the East coast are cash only so stock up on pesos (or US dollars) before you head out on this drive. US dollars are widely accepted but when dealing with small vendors you’ll get a less favorable exchange rate than if you use pesos. Also, not much cell phone service out this way.
Enjoy the Town of San Miguel at Off Hours
To get the most out of this charming city, try to time your visit pre or post-cruise ship hours (usually before 10 or after 4-5). While not as bad as those in Playa del Carmen, more touts, etc. are out when the cruisers are in town. Thankfully they leave each day, whereas in Playa they tend to be there for the week. Enjoy a walk along the lovely promenade, scout the vendors in the main square then delve into the back streets for a more local/authentic feel.
Across the board, people were friendly and there are plenty of great bars, restaurants and shops to explore. A few favorites we came across were Restaurante del Museo for a lovely open-air, waterside breakfast and Guido’s and Del Sur for dinner. Try a yummy marquesita (nutella and cheese in a crispy crepe) from a street vendor for dessert! My friend and I loved the sweet/salty taste, our spouses not so much. A trip to the Mega grocery with carts that lock on to the angled moving walkway is also a fun experience.
While I wouldn’t go out of my way to arrange being here during Carnival, if you do happen to be, it is certainly worth attending! One of the oldest and largest events, Carnaval de Cozumel is one of the most important carnival festivities in México. It begins the week before Mardi-Gras culminating with the largest parade on that date (Fat Tuesday). It’s an event filled with locals but you will be welcome to celebrate too. There are many great viewing spots on the second floor patios of various restaurants along the main street. A unique travel memory, for sure!