By Tam Warner Minton
If you are looking to vacation in the Caribbean, there are many destinations to choose from. Most have beautiful beaches, clear water, and plenty of sunshine, so how do you choose? Well, what are you looking for? I believe islands are like people, and they all have different personalities. What makes Cozumel so special? Personality, comfort, great service, and yes, food!
1. What lies beneath the blue water. Cozumel is a diving and snorkeling mecca, a true paradise discovered in the 1960s by Jacques Cousteau himself. As a diver, I can highly recommend Cozumel for its astonishing clarity, visibility of 100 to 150 feet, and the glorious “drift.” The current is usually a comfortable, pleasing force, allowing one to drift along, whether snorkeling or diving, to see the beauty and color of the reefs. The fish are varied and colorful, and most snorkels and dives fall into the relaxing category. If looking for more excitement than a lazy drift, check out Punta Sur, The Devil’s Throat, and other faster current, deeper dives. The reefs of Cozumel offer both beginners and experts beautiful and exciting diving.
2. The laid-back atmosphere. You can go to the Caribbean for late night clubs, dressy venues, and flashy casinos. If that is your desire, Cozumel is not your place. Cozumel is not flashy, and more often than not, it is quiet after 10 p.m. It is an island of families, and actually has the highest standard of living in the country of Mexico. The island has a breezy, easy, and very laid-back vibe. The Mexican standby of “Oh, let’s do it tomorrow” (manana, manana) is present on the island. No one is in a rush; there is no hurry scurry in Cozumel. Take it easy… and while you are at it, take a siesta. Everything will still be there when you wake up.
3. Amazingly different ecosystems. Often, one wonders if the east side of the island of Cozumel (the windward side) is the same island as the west side (facing the mainland, and leeward). The east side has endless sandy beaches, gorgeous aquamarine waters crashing into shore, and low lying, succulent vegetation. It is a different island from the lush, rainforested west side where the waves gently lap onto land. Visit the north side of the island and its lagoons and rare birdlife, a place where roads do not exist and cars cannot go. The interior of the island is still wild, heavily forested, and untainted by civilization. The only developed side of the island is the west side, though the east side has a few bars and beach clubs. Cozumel is also a labyrinth of cenotes and underground rivers, though most of them are not readily visible, and only expert cave divers venture in.
4. Access to the mainland is easy, as ferries run every hour to Playa del Carmen. It only takes 30 to 40 minutes to get across the channel. The ferries make access to the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza easily available, and a day on the mainland at the Natural Parks of Xelha (shell-ha) and Ixcaret (shka-ret) is always fun. Stepping from the ferry onto the dock at Playa del Carmen one can feel the difference in the atmosphere. The mainland crowds are bigger, the shopping is more intense, and the beach is a busy, busy place.
5. The foodie restaurants. Cozumel has grown and gained in amenities, such as the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course and the country club, but one of the best changes in Cozumel is the quality of the restaurants. It’s not just tacos and chips and salsa anymore. There have always been nice places to have dinner in Cozumel, but now there is true culinary artistry for traveling foodies to enjoy. Restaurants such as La Cocay, Buccano’s at Night, Guido’s, and Kinta’s are blossoming on the island. La Cocay’s has a Mediterranean ambiance, and their Florentine and Napa salads are so beautifully presented it seems a travesty to disturb them in order to eat them. The Lobster Tempura at Buccano’s at Night is delectable, Guido’s Garlic Bread is legendary on the island, and Kinta’s serves local art along with their fantastic Mexican foodie dishes. The food is worth a trip in itself!
Ah, Cozumel. A lovely, slow-paced paradise. What are you waiting for?
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