Real Talk…this is an almost guide.
Half of the island is crammed with tourists while the other half remains wild and free; an extreme divide for just one small island. Welcome…to Cozumel, Mexico.
We took the ferry to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen early in the morning. I had previously researched which parks to visit and what types of activities were available so I felt pretty well prepared for our visit. However, as soon as our ferry hit the docks in Cozumel, the entire plan crumbled. Instead of grabbing a taxi to Chankanaab like I had planned, I was coerced into renting a questionable jeep from a sketchy guy I met on the streets while my friends were in the bathroom. I’d like to say I am surprised, however that tends to be how traveling works, you gotta be flexible. Luckily Cozumel is fairly touristic and so I wasn’t to worried about my safety in Mexico renting a car from a stranger…Moving on…
Our jeep; she was red, she was a lady and we called her “Lindsay”. We squeezed ourselves into her, turned the key and… “pffft pffft pfft”… “Don’t worry” our new friend and reputed owner of “Lindsay” the jeep, said as he waved us on, “just keep trying… she will start”, he ensured. Ok, sure…well eventually she did. Without further hesitation, we crossed our fingers and rolled out as at this point we all felt pretty committed. She had no gas… step one…get gas. As if we wanted to have to start her up again. Don’t worry it all worked out, as long as we stayed out of fourth gear…and third…and second. It was really a first to fifth kind of day. I saved my Linsday snapchat story for you guys at the bottom of the page, you will see what I mean.
Well, now that we had wheels we were no longer limited to walkable or cab-locatable tourist destinations. We had free range of the island. So let’s get to it, after lunch though. First things first, we stopped at one of the lovely restaurants downtown which had a live band playing for a rather enjoyable snack of nachos.
Things to do in Cozumel
Our initial plan was to hit Chankanaab National Park before cruise ship tourists arrived to take all the good spots. This park is just a taxi ride from downtown Cozumel. It is a private park with swimmable beach access. Here you can access a family friendly area, complete with snorkeling, scuba diving, zip lining, nature trails, and of course, a tequila factory. With a 385 Peso admission ($21 USD), this park includes a dolphin and sea lion show and is perfect for families who are looking to hangout all day. Interested in the park? Check out some useful tips for visiting Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park.
Check one, we are not a family. Check two, we now had a trusty jeep, so we decided to skip this tourist hot spot and went for something off the grid.
To San Gervasio Ruins we went. While I say this is off the grid, it is not impossible to get to. Tour companies do offer trips to the ruins, but I guess when people visit Cozumel they are more interested in a fun in the sun spot and not so much a learning location. I know this because of the lack of people in this rather large and open archeological site. I truly believe that the San Gervasio Ruins are an example of Mayan archeology not to be missed, like a mini Chichen-Itza.
San Gervasio was a hub where women would travel to make offerings to the goddess Ix Chel, deity of the moon, childbirth, fertility and weaving. For 90 pesos ($5USD) you can enter the ruins and spend at least a half day enjoying them. As it is fairly spread out, there are a number of beautiful jungle walks to appreciate while you traverse from site to site. Here you will find typical Mayan pyramids, as well as locations for offerings, and abodes where the visiting women of the time would stay. The archeology was in great condition which made visiting these ruins very pleasant.
Back in “Lindsay”, with fingers crossed that she starts without a push. It was like a dream, one turn over only and “vroom, vroom” off we went.
Our original plan had us visiting Faro Celerain Eco Park next. It is located on the southern tip of the island and is one of Cozumel’s top destinations. This park, also known as ‘Punta Sur’, includes a 2,500 acre ecological area which protects a variety of indigenous species including birds, crocodiles and sea turtles. Here you can also find an archeological area called Caracol Mayan Ruins as well as an old lighthouse which can be explored. Lastly, within the park there is Laguna Colombia, a calmer, swimmable area complete with hammocks. Again this would be another great spot for families to enjoy. Admission into this park was 255 pesos ($14USD).
With Linsday the jeep working well we drove the perimeter of the island following the ocean on the way to Faro Celerain Eco Park. This was one of my favourite parts of the day; with no top on our jeep, the warm wind blowing and the sun shining, how could that not be enjoyable? Along the way we decided to stop for a quick walk on one of the extraordinary beaches as to enjoy an introspective look out into the ocean. Ok…back on track.
We arrived at the Eco Park late in the day. Too late as it were. The park was closing at 4:00. Where had the time gone? Oh well, I guess that’s the spirit of travel, to enjoy the moments that are offered.
We decided to hit Palancar Beach instead, to enjoy a swim and grab a bite to eat. This beach is popular among cruise ships as a destination for scuba diving, kayaking, and all other water sports. Here it is easy to charter a dive boat to transport you to a reef which is considered excellent for divers and snorkelers of all levels. We however, decided to just take in the sun and swimming here.
After enjoying some time to work on our tans, we headed to the famous Albertos Restaurant (there are 3 on the island) for some good seafood. Yes it was good and yes it was fresh. Who doesn’t like to top off the day with some garlic grilled shrimp and some fish fresh from the sea. We enjoyed our meal on Palancar beach, dusted with beautiful white sand wearing no shoes and with Shakira and Carlos Vives playing in the background providing auditory ambience. For the boys, there were beers!
As the sun was about to set we headed back to our trusted “Lindsay”, the jeep to drive home. This was the closest call yet. “Lindsay” seemed a little sick. She coughed, and coughed and coughed. Enough to cause some concern, but then, a few minutes later, trying the key once again, she sputtered to life. Back to Cozumel we went.
Our day on the island was ending. What a better way to finish it off than to enjoy some drinks at the beautiful Turquoise Beach Bar and Restaurant. With a steady stream of island reggae, we ordered their special Turquoise margaritas and watched the sunset from 3 perfect swings over -looking the views provided by Cozumel herself.
It was time to return “Lindsay”, the jeep, to her rightful owner. One last time she started up for us and we parted ways. As we walked to catch the ferry back to Playa del Carmen, I reviewed my day on the popular island of Cozumel and found it truly enjoyable. By renting a vehicle we were able to explore both heavily tourist oriented areas as well as to enjoy our own surprising, less popular destinations. This was a day where I was not once overwhelmed by the rumoured hoards of cruise ship patrons but instead was able to enjoy interesting sites, hot sun, and great food. Thank you, “Lindsay”, the jeep! (Don’t forget to check out her story at the bottom of this page).
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