THINGS TO DO IN COZUMEL MEXICO
Cozumel is a small limestone island surrounded by crystal clear aqua blue waters, just off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
It is a popular destination for cruise ships in the Gulf of Mexico, and so it was that we came to have a day on the island, courtesy of our ship, the MS Carnival Dream.
Until recently, there was only one main road around the island, but in very recent years a second road has been built allowing cars and buses to use a separate road from scooters, motorbikes and bicycles. This makes the island very user friendly and traffic virtually non-existent.
There are many attractions are on the island, not only the well priced cafes and restaurants but excellent shopping. But after you have shopped yourself silly, and burnt yourself in the hot Mexican sun whilst bathing on the beautiful almost white sandy beaches, there are some nice small day trips you can make around the island.
MAYAN CACAO COMPANY
There is fascinating recreation of a traditional Mayan wooden house and garden to visit, and don’t miss out on tasting some delicious home-made ‘mole’, a spicy chocolate based salsa served on a thin tortilla!
An interactive demonstration of how chocolate is made is very entertaining, to be followed by tasting the wonderful artisanal chocolate in the shop on the way out, but only after you have bought some unusual chocolate based products such as body lotion, shampoo and conditioner-who would have thought!
EL CEDRAL CHURCH AND SQUARE
Next onto El Cedral, a quaint village in the south western part of the island which became the island’s first official ‘city’ in 1847. It houses the oldest Catholic church on the island, built in 1848 in the island’s centre. Never have I seen so many crucifixes in such a small space, Mexicans obviously being very devout Catholics. I even managed to score a record of six crosses in the one photo…
Curiously there is also a small remnant but authentic, original Mayan temple right next door to it, complete with a Mayan warrior in full dress, posing for the cursory tourist photos – nice touch!
The church is next to the beautifully decorated white village square surrounded by many small curiosity shops, with black coral (unfortunately made famous by Jacques Cousteau) and silver jewelry as well as other trinkets and clothing.
The square is the site of the Festival de El Cedral, a fiesta held over 5 days at the end of April and first week in May every year, a tradition dating back 150 years. Whilst it originally celebrated the power of the Holy Cross or crucifix, it now also celebrates local artists and music as well as old traditions.
TEQUILERIA – HACIENDA ANTIGUA
How much do you want to know or learn about the making of tequila? Well, this is the place!
This beautiful Hacienda is a replica of a working tequila factory in Guadalajara. The blue agave plant is grown only in Jalisco on mainland Mexico. From planting to harvesting, followed by a number of distillations, it can take up to 22 years to produce the most expensive of all tequila varieties, the dark brown tequila, only US$129 a bottle (and worth every cent!).
And where does the worm in mescal tequila come from? Well it is actually a worm that grows in that particular mescal agave plant…
EL MIRADOR LOOKOUT
El Mirador is part of Cozumel Reefs National Park (or Parque Nacional Arrefices de Cozumel) along the rugged east coast of the island, a much less well developed side with deserted beaches lining the coastal road.
This amazing rocky point has been sculpted by the waves of the Caribbean seas into a mixture of rocky pools, bridges and blowholes. Whilst enjoying its natural beauty, you can also enjoy the delights of a few trinket and food stalls set up there by the locals.
And you simply HAVE to taste the local brew of coco lotto (a devil’s combination of coconut water, rum, tequila and vodka), guaranteed to put you in the mood for an afternoon siesta in one of the colorful beachside hammocks.
SAN MIGUEL TOWNSHIP AND THE COZUMEL HARBOUR OF PUERTA MAYA
Drive through San Miguel and you will see where most of the 100,000 inhabitants of Cozumel live. Yes, the general living standards are a far cry from those of the tourists on the western side of the island. But it is a good reality check to take before you get tempted to burn massive holes in your credit card back at the harbor (although the tourist-dependent residents would surely like you to do that!).
The harbor side has abundant duty free shopping, brand named boutiques and quality craft shops selling unique souvenirs and Mayan handicrafts, a great gift to take home.
The seaside boardwalk makes for a lovely stroll full of monuments and sculptures, as well as many fabulous bars, cafes and restaurants.
Cozumel is a great colourful and friendly place to visit , its a must go back to…PLEASE?..!!
[Photos and videos by Irene Isaacson, who travelled to Cozumel at her own expense]