The island of Cozumel in the Mexican Caribbean is the definition of a tropical paradise. Soft white sand beaches and turquoise waters call to sunseekers from around the world to pack up their swimsuits and leave the real world behind. A mix of ancient Maya history, untouched nature and real Mexican hospitality, once you arrive you may never want to leave.
If you are in Cozumel for any length of time, you quickly realize that the town runs on cruise ship clocks. As the giant ships dock, the island comes to life along the Malecon, with cruise lovers taking over the streets, seeking shopping deals on diamonds and silver or partying with margaritas at Señor Frogs. As the sun begins to set and the big boats set sail, the calm takes over and the island feels like a small fishing village once again. Sundays there are no ships and the island rests, most shops are closed and the day is spent with family and friends.
Scuba divers and snorkelers flock to the island to discover the Mesoamerican Reef and its vibrant sea life. It is the second largest reef in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef, with incredible coral structures and an incredible variety of exotic and colourful fish. There are some highly advanced dives in the depths but the beauty comes right to shore.
Most visitors to the island will only see the west coast with its high end shops, restaurants, luxurious beach clubs and the easy access to the spectacular reef for divers. The real beauty of Cozumel is found on the east coast known fondly as “The Other Side”. Those in the know will skip the Malecon and take a jeep ride to the undeveloped rocky shore for views that will knock you out and total seclusion from the world. No cel service, no wifi, no electricity, just you and the great blue sea. An afternoon at one of the rustic beach bars like the infamous Rastas with fresh seafood and cold beers and all your troubles are forgotten.
The island is rich in biodiversity and the numerous exotic species of animals, birds, plants and reptiles makes it an ideal destination for nature lovers. Release baby turtles to the sea or witness a mama turtle making her nest in the sand at Punta Sur.
Take a midnight boat ride in the lagoons with a biologist to search for crocodiles and bioluminescent creatures. Spend an entire day at the Cozumel pearl farm and feel like Robinson Crusoe at the remote location reached only by boat. Explore the San Gervasio archaeological site on a bird watching tour to encounter the more than 260 species of birds that make the island their home. You don’t need to dive the depths to discover the magic of Cozumel.
Apart from the world-class views and adventures, the people of the island are what make it truly special. They are warm and welcoming and remind you to embrace the island vibe, slowing life down, disconnecting from technology and really enjoying the company of friends and family. Whether you are visiting Cozumel for a day or a week, it will leave a lasting impression and you’ll always have a little piece of Mexico in your heart.
Cover Image credit: Kelly McLaughlin