Off the Beaten Path Cozumel



Description:

Cozumel is one of Mexico's destinations that really does have the best of both worlds. Tourists come and go daily by the boatload, and you can see why as this is one of the world's best diving/snorkeling destinations. Fortunately, it's also surprisingly easy to get away from the crowded spots on this little island. With a short trip away from the main tourist strip, you'll be able to enjoy Cozumel in tranquility and peace. The beaches, ruins, and landmarks are less glamorous than some of those on the mainland, but that just means that they're less visited and better preserved.

Author: JennyMM


Day 1 - Cozumel


For your first look at the island, rent some scooters in the morning. There are separate scooter roads along many of the highways, and plenty of rental places around town. If you're up for it, this is one of the best ways to see the countryside as you travel. Head down the west coast from San Miguel to get a look at some of the pristine beaches, and stop at Paradise Cafe at the southern end of the island for lunch. Relaxed and laidback, the Paradise is the best place to get you in the vacation state of mind. They also happen to have some of the best seafood on the island, ready to be washed down with a cold local beer. After lunch, take a private horseback tour at Rancho Buenavista. Although somewhat touristy in appearance, this is actually an amazing local experience that serves as a memorable introduction to Cozumel's natural landscape and history. The guides are all local and several are of Mayan descent, and all of them combine personal lore with historical facts for descriptions of the ecosystem, wildlife, and ancient ruins. With a private tour, too, you'll be free from other travelers to enjoy a more personal excursion. For a perfect place to sit back over dinner after all that riding, stop into El Moro in San Miguel, a Cozumel institution patronized by locals for decades. It's not hard to figure out why after you try one of their incredible shrimp dishes or a different local specialty. The Hacienda San Miguel is a lovely colonial-style property with a tranquil garden courtyard, less than a block from the ocean and many San Miguel attractions but still with a secluded feel. The staff is one of Hacienda's main charms, who will go well out of their way to help you with suggestions, directions, or anything else you might need. Try to get a second floor room facing the street for better views and a private balcony.


1

Paradise Café

Location:

Costera Sur Highway, Km 33
Outside entrance to Parque Punta Sur
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

visit website


2

Rancho Buenavista

Location:

Avenue Rafael Melgar & Calle 11 Sur
Acuario restaurant in San Miguel
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

tel: +52 987 2 1537
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3

El Moro

user rating

Location:

Calle 75 Norte #124
between Avenidas 2 and 4
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

tel: 52 987 872 3029
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4

Hacienda San Miguel

Location:

Calle 10 Norte #1500
Entre 5ta Av. Y Av. Rafael E Melgar
77600 Cozumel, MX

Contact:

tel: 1 866 712 6387 (US Contact)
fax: 52 987 872 7043
visit website


Day 2 - Cozumel


One of the easiest ways to get around the island is to rent a car for the day, and you'll need a 4WD car for the trip to Punta Molas. Take the whole day to discover the sights of the northeastern part of the island, starting with Cozumel's most impressive Mayan ruins at San Gervasio. Once a sacred site for worship of the Mayan fertility goddess, it was a place of frequent religious pilgrimage. There are guides about who can be hired for small fees, but the placards outside the structures give enough information for casual visitors and you can more easily explore the surrounding area, where you might happen upon some unmarked ruins. Another draw for this archaeological site is the spectacular reptilian wildlife, as technicolor iguanas several feet long frequent the ruins, and you might even glimpse a python. There are a few small tourist shops here, which actually can have better prices and merchandise than stores in other parts of the island if you're looking for a souvenir. Continue east from San Gervasio for a stop at some of the eastern beaches. Most are too rough to swim in, but Chen Rio is one of the few exceptions, with completely sheltered areas for a quick snorkel or swim. The facilities here are pretty basic and the food is overpriced, though, so head a bit north to Punta Morena, where the fresh seafood and casual fare are way underpriced, and the laidback surfer vibe is perfect for a relaxing lunch. Continue north along the coast, a scenic drive where you'll get to see some of Cozumel's non-tourist life and its most beautiful but unswimmable beaches, until you can't drive anymore. Only accessible by 4WD vehicles, the ride out to Punta Molas is rugged but it's worth it when you get to this remote spot. There used to be restrictions about where you could and couldn't go here, but not anymore so you can just explore the area and climb the old lighthouse for a breathtaking view of the ocean, jungle, and some smaller Mayan ruins around the point that you might otherwise have missed. The ride out and back can take awhile, so you'll probably be ready for dinner after you get back into San Miguel. Los Otates is just 2 or 3 blocks off the tourist strip, but there's nothing but authenticity at this place, where you can be adventurous to try tongue or brain tacos, but can also just get some seriously delicious burritos, tacos, and beer on the cheap. Try the gringas, a house specialty, as well as some of their incredible fresh salsas. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but this is definitely one of San Miguel's best food joints, as evidenced by the large numbers of locals who stop here.


2

Playa Chen Rio

user rating

Location:

Costera Este Highway 3.5 miles north
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

tel: +52 987 872 0972


3

Punta Molas Faro

Location:

Puna Molas Road
(where the Costera Este Highway ends)
77600 Cozumel, Mexico


4

Los Otates

Location:

Avenida 15 between Calle Salas and Calle 3
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

visit website


Day 3 - Cozumel


Rent a car or some scooters for another day to get around the island. You can't go to Cozumel and not journey down to see its most spectacular sights: the coral reefs. The best place to do this is on the southeastern end of the island, at one of the many spots inside the Parque Marino de Cozumel. Some of the diving/snorkeling spots can be really crowded, as a lot of dive operations tend to bring their groups to the same spot. However, there are several ways to uniquely explore this underwater paradise, including a new type of combination snorkeling/diving called "snuba". Since it still hasn't quite caught on yet, you can get a private trip out with a dive instructor, who gives you a brief introduction course to the equipment, which is simply an oxygen tank that stays on the surface, and there's a line to a small mask that allows you to breathe underwater without the complications of scuba diving. This allows you to out to some of the more remote reef spots in the park without taking a lengthy certification course. Of course, if you're already SCUBA certified, there are plenty of operators who can take you out on a more serious diving tour, too. Either way, Cozumel's underwater flora and fauna are not to be missed. On the way back north along the western coast, stop by Playa Corona, a quiet and less-frequented beach spot that's a wonderful place to stop for a couple of the amazing tacos and cold beers offered by the little cafe on the sand here. There's also some great snorkeling in the shallow water just feet off the beach, if you're up for a little more underwater viewing. Otherwise, just relax on the sand and take a break. You can try out some more of the beaches along the coast here on the way back to San Miguel if you want to, but be aware that this is prime tourist area and will probably be busy. A nice alternative is to get back into San Miguel in the early afternoon and take a walk around town to see some of the local sights. There are a couple of galleries with amazing examples of traditional Mayan art, such as the Mayan feather, which features oil paintings on bird feathers. You can also find some fascinating local history at the two museums, Museo de la Isla de Cozumel, a small and more typical history museum, and the Pax museum, a more unique take on exhibiting the past with huge displays of musical instruments, ceremonial masks, and other indigenous artifacts. In the evening, snack on some deliciously fresh seafood at Los Moros del Morito, where you'll definitely need a little Spanish since this place is nearly exclusively frequented by locals. Then, take a stroll around Playa Central, where there is usually some live music being played around the square as well as some hopping local nightlife.


1

Parque Marino de Cozumel

Location:

Costera Sur Highway
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:



2

Playa Corona

user rating

Location:

Zona Hotelera Sur
Costera Sur Highway Km 8.5
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

tel: +52 987 872 0972


3

Museo de la Isla de Cozumel

user rating

expert pick

Location:

Avenida Rafael Melgar at Calle 4
(San Miguel)
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

tel: +52 987 2 1475
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4

Pax

Location:

Ave Benito Juarez and Ave 15 Norte
San Miguel
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:



5

Mayan Feather

user rating

Location:

Avenida 5 and Calle 2 Norte
San Miguel
77600 Cozumel, Mexico

Contact:

tel: +52 987 869 0548


6

Moros del Morito (Los)

Location:

Ave 35, 356, intersects at 3 Sur and Morelos
San Miguel
77600 Cozumel, Mexico


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