The island of Cozumel: the whole story

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

Cozumel: a pleasant surprise.

Have you ever made a judgement on a place based on a short experience or visit, without actually venturing further afield? We are sorry to say that for a long time we had fallen into this trap when it came to the Island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, and are now willing and ready to make amends…..

In our defense, there are two reasons which may justify our previously biased and fairly narrow-minded opinion. Firstly, Cozumel is a cruiseline destination, and at first glance could seem wholly commercialized to cater for the customary needs of the cruiseline visitor and party-goers; with hiked-up prices to match. Secondly, the island is renowned for a being a mecca for scuba-divers, due to the exquisite surrounding  reef and abundant marine life; hence our original mindset, ‘If we are not divers, why bother….?’

Well, it’s time to eat humble pie.

A short walk from the ferry port, once we had passed the blatantly built-up and touristy area  of shops,  restaurants and so on, we heaved a sigh of relief as we came across proof that the quaint town of San Miguel (the main town on Cozumel) still exists. Narrow streets,  smaller and more traditional-style houses, shops, eateries and drinkeries alike… much more our cup of tea! Not to mention that we had opted to stay at a private house not far from this part of the centre , so everything was easily within walking distance. As we began to realise, the local, laid-back island atmosphere makes for a very safe environment to explore on foot, or by other independent means.

It has to said that diving is the big thing; you can quite literally find diving centres, equipment shops ,and even diver’s bars, here, there and everywhere . For all of you diving enthusiasts, whether beginners or seasoned divers, this is a MUST do and MUST visit; it is not by chance that Cozumel is considered to be home to the second-best reef in the world, after that of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The plethora of dive sites covers every ability, including a wreck dive to explore a vessel which was sunken in 2000. The crown of all dives however, would be awarded to the Palancar Reef and Santa Rosa Wall, which has been said, never disappoints…;diving is a field to be expanded upon in a later blog.

Be that as it may, Cozumel has even more to offer, and not just for divers! We thoroughly recommend hiring a bike or moped and heading off around the island to see for yourself, as this can turn into quite a personal adventure, and will leave you with fresh stories to tell. Being 48km in length and 16km in width, there is a decent amount of ground to cover, so it obviously depends on your fitness and mood; we however, loved the idea of grabbing a picnic, cycling, and then taking a dip wherever our fancy took us. Points to note: the west coast (facing the mainland) has much calmer waters, whereas the east coast (facing out to the Atlantic) is famous for strong currents and large waves. Once again, it merely depends on your capacity as a swimmer, but whatever your level, take the necessary precautions!

We absolutely loved choosing random spots to explore; on the west coast in particular, there was an abundance of marine life to see by just snorkelling, especially in the rockier patches. You will also come across the odd restaurant, beach bar and beach club, all fully equipped for snorkelling and partying alike. Perhaps we should mention that in order to have the freedom of choice we opted to hire our snorkelling gear in San Miguel.

And that’s not all! At the Southern tip of the island is the beautiful Punta Sur, or Punta Celerain, home to lagoons, mangroves, velvety beaches….and of course the faro (lighthouse)! In an attempt to  conserve the eco-systems of a large number of species, it’s understandable that the area is not fully accessible to visitors, but it is well worth the visit, being a place of such beauty. There are varied activities here, including guided tours of the lagoon, and even of some archaeological remains, the Tumba del Caracol, associated with what was once termed a local deity.

That must be all, right? Emm, nop…

Special note must also be made to the San Gervasio archaeological site, (approximately 14km from San Miguel) wherea guided tour is highly enlightening; as well as the lovely Isla de la Pasión (The Isle of Passion), a tiny island found towards the northern extreme of Cozumel, where you can escape from the world via a fishing boat, and hide out in a hammock all day long if you wish. Sometimes  just the name of a place is enough to make us want to see it for our own eyes!

We rest our case…

Cozumel is rich in beauty, and has much much more to offer than would appear at a brief glance.  Whether day-tripping or even better, overnighting it, we thoroughly recommend finding out for yourself.

Don´t forget that your concierge can help you to organize a trip to Cozumel!

Our special observations:  the distances from the entrances of the Faro Celerain Park and San Gervasio to the treasures they hide within, are 5 and 6 kilometres respectively, an important point to note if you are cycling it….


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