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Mexican Caribbean

SmarterTravel

Author: Debbie Berryman
Date of Trip: July 2014

When there are so many spots to visit in the Riviera Maya and you only have a week, what’s a traveler to do? We decided we’d break up our trip into 3 destinations and enjoy our favorite spots, spending two days at each! We got an excellent deal flying into Cozumel, Mexico. We would stay in Playa Del Carmen, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, in that order.

Arriving in Cozumel, we bought a ticket at the airport for the shared transit van to the ferry dock, a very efficient and cheap way to go. The ferry arrived in Playa del Carmen, where we walked a few short blocks to our mom and pop hotel, The LabNah, right off of the famous Fifth Avenue. No TV or phone but you get a clean, comfortable room and a balcony with great views of the beach nearby. They even have a nice pool to dip in, and a fresh continental breakfast every day but Sunday. Price can’t be beat. The next two days were spent lounging all day at a beach club, where we shopped, had a massage, ate and drank — all from the comfort of our beachfront lounge chairs! We did go out one evening for a fabulous meal at El Fogon, which was about 6 blocks into the city, and well worth the walk and money! The Wal-Mart was conveniently located on the walk back, where we picked up some supplies. If you end up with too many supplies, taxis are readily available to take you back to your hotel.

Day 3 we boarded an ADO bus conveniently located a few blocks from our hotel for Central Cancun. The bus is cheap, comfortable and goes from point to point with no stopping. We took a cab from the bus terminal to the Gran Puerto ferry dock for our next ferry ride to Isla Mujeres. The short ride is always entertaining with musicians on the top deck. We decided to stay at a downtown hotel close to North Beach (Playa Norte) instead of our usual beach hotel because now beachfront lodging is becoming expensive in Isla and for a short walk, one saves a lot of money. We ate at our favorite place for breakfast and lunch…the local Mercado (Market). It’s by far the best value and everything is made fresh, including the freshly squeezed juices. For later snacking, street vendors in front of the main square by the basketball courts provide lots of yummy options for cheap. Again, sun and relaxation were tops on the list. We found that the beach clubs are also increasing in price per chair and drinks, much more than Playa del Carmen, and so are the massage rates and shopping. But hey, you are on North Beach, so enjoy!

After returning to the Cancun side, we returned by taxi to Playa del Carmen. The cab driver offered us a good deal, $45 for 4 of us, so we took it. He got us there QUICK! We then had a quick bite by the main square before going back to Cozumel.

We stayed in a B&B away from the downtown tourist zone (that only provided breakfast as an extra charge). Turns out that was a great blessing because it made us explore our area. We walked a mile in each direction, checking out all the options. A family pizza place was suggested, and we had a filling and tasty pizza there. The next morning, we walked to another spot, which looked promising but we were told that they had a function to cater and would not be serving that morning. They suggested La Cozumelena across the street. We struck gold! The most amazing food, service and great prices. Everything was so good, we decided that would be our breakfast spot whenever we are in Cozumel!

Our favorite thing to do in Cozumel is explore the Island by scooter, since we are not divers. I understand the diving is phenomenal. But we are quite content to go all around the Island for the day, stopping off to have a cold one here and there and get in the water. Bob Marley Bar on the tip of the Island is a favorite spot, as is Coconuts and the restaurant on Playa Bonita. Cozumel has a very rocky coastline and if you want soft sand, you have to go to the other side of the Island. Once you make the turn at Bob Marley’s, the water and coastline become absolutely mesmerizing, it is so beautiful. You need to keep your eyes on the road, though! There are no guard rails on this stretch of pristine beach and a long glance might land you in a perilous situation — the drop off may not be steep, but you might find jagged rocks all the way down! We often find a place down that road where there’s a break in the dunes and you can walk to the beach. I set down a Pareo, take a dip, or enjoy a snack/drink and admire the unspoiled beauty. It feels like you are the only one on the planet. Oh, and for those who don’t know what a pareo is, its those sarongs that are sold at all the stores down there…buy one, they are so versatile! It’s hard to imagine staying in the “tourist” area downtown during a trip to Cozumel. Going around to the other side of the island gives a whole different feel and appreciation. It’s almost untouched. We hope it never changes.

Shopping is very good in Cozumel, great prices and lots of variety. Just remember to think twice about buying jewelry. You’ll probably pay way too much unless you really know something about it.

The Cozumel Airport is small and therefore very easy to fly in and out of. So unless you are staying somewhere on the other side of the island, it’s a very quick trip from downtown.

Our trip was a week long, we hit our favorite spots and we are now waiting for the next deal so we can return!

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