Rare is the day in Cozumel, Mexico, when there isn’t a brilliant
white cruise ship looming on the horizon. The behemoths parade in
and out of the island’s waters as if competing in jumbo-size
regattas and more than 2 million passengers wandered its streets in
Most passengers stick to Cozumel’s waterfront Avenida Rafael
Melgar, browsing through jewelry galleries and souvenir shops, or
head for heavily advertised beach clubs. Precious few explore the
beaches and streets favored by locals.
There are ways to avoid the cruise-ship crowds and enjoy the
pleasures of the island. Use the following suggestions to help your
clients get the most out of their time at Mexico’s most famous port
Walk a few blocks away from the crowded parking lots and streets
around the piers before waving down a cab. They’ll save a
considerable amount of time waiting in line for overpriced
transport. The shops and restaurants away from the waterfront are
more interesting and less crowded than those near the piers. Walk
along avenidas 5 and 10 and take time to sit under a shade tree at
the main plaza.
Hire a Cab
Taxi drivers charge less than $20 an hour, and clients can see
the highlights in about three hours. Head for the windward side of
the island, where wild, windswept beaches are usually deserted (the
water is choppy). Stop for a cool drink at a small restaurant on
the sand before heading inland to the archaeological site of San
Gervasio. It’s not as impressive as the Mayan sites on the mainland
but take less than an hour to tour.
The Palancar Reef just off Cozumel’s shores is the
second-longest barrier reef in the world. Serious divers should
consult a Cozumel dive shop before their cruise begins. “Any of our
services can be booked ahead of time,” says Bill Horn of Aqua
Safari, a professional shop. “Advance notice is significant because
the ship’s schedule can be a challenge.” Most dive shops also offer
snorkeling tours to the best reefs. There is also good snorkeling
off the sands of Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club on the southern side of
the island. The club doesn’t get busloads of cruise passengers; it
has a restaurant and pool, and water toys are available for
Stay at a Hotel
The serene Hotel Presidente Inter-Continental offers reduced
rates for cruise passengers who want the use of a room for the day.
The hotel also has a $25 day rate that includes use of the pool and
a secluded beach (the snorkeling here is excellent). Meals, well
worth the splurge, are extra. The Hotel Brisas Cozumel, a few
blocks south of downtown, has a day-use fee of $25 per person for
unlimited food and drink and use of the beach club with pool and
good snorkeling. Use of just the facilities is $10 per person.
If clients are looking for high-quality Mexican folk art, they
should hop the Playa del Carmen ferry (it runs every half-hour and
takes 30 minutes). The shops along the crowded town’s waterfront
and Fifth Avenue carry a far better selection than Cozumel’s
For more information, www.isla cozumel.com.mx.
Dining For Those in the Know
Cozumel does have a rather impressive two-story McDonald’s and
raucous Carlos ‘n’ Charlies and Hard Rock Cafe franchises.
But why should clients eat somewhere predictable? Suggest they
check out these local favorites instead:
Ambientes Cozumel -- Blissfully powerful air conditioning cools
the art-filled dining room and an indigenous cayumito tree shades
the courtyard. Clients should try fresh pita bread stuffed with
flank steak and manchego cheese, crab rolls with bacon and mango
margaritas. Av. 10 Norte between calles Salas and 3 Sur
Guido’s -- Clients should bypass the tables by the wood-burning
oven and head for the shady courtyard out back, where cruise-ship
captains and staff often gather over pitchers of sangria and crisp
pizzas. And do be sure to tell them not to miss dessert -- the
coconut ice cream topped with Kahlua. Av. Melgar 23 between Calles
6 and 8 Norte (987-872-0946).
Jeanie’s Waffle House -- The huevos rancheros atop a fresh
waffle is wonderful but, whatever clients choose, will be enhanced
by the view. Jeanie’s is just south of town, behind Acuario’s
restaurant, and her tables are just a step from the sand. Av.
Melgar at Calle 11 (987-872-4145).
La Perlita -- The ceviche and whole fried fish are as fresh as
can be at this neighborhood seafood market and restaurant. Lunch is
the main meal here and the hungry crowd is largely made up of
families and local workers on a break. Clients will have to take a
taxi to La Perlita it is too far to walk from the downtown and hard
to find. Av. 65 Norte between calles 8 and 10 Norte