Work and Play

Catching up on the latest changes on Cozumel is a good day at the office

By: Maribeth Mellin

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Cozumel’s dining scene
features fresh seafood.
My husband and I vacation far too infrequently. Our latest attempt involved a week on Cozumel off the mainland Yucatan coast. We booked a week at two of our favorite hotels and planned to snorkel, read, sleep and eat anything that tingled our taste buds. I intended to ignore the laptop (yet it somehow appeared in my carry-on bag). Cameras were to be used for candid snapshots only. Note taking was out of the question.

Ah, the best-laid plans. You know the drill. When you work in the travel business, true vacations are but a dream.

How dare I complain, however? We indulged in plenty of relaxation, devoured sublime ceviche and ahi, sampled mango sorbet at an outdoor cafe and spent hours snorkeling among dazzling coral formations and sea creatures. Old friends shared local gossip over fettuccini and pad thai. New acquaintances guided us through the latest attractions.

If only all my workdays were like this.

I manage to stop in on Mexico’s largest island at least once a year. It has become a treasured haunt over nearly two decades. This time, after a nine-month absence, I found Cozumel had changed dramatically. The waterfront malecon promenade had swallows imprinted in new pavement and a new sculpture park graced the north side of San Miguel. Pedestrian streets were widened, stores remodeled and the main plaza was undergoing a major renovation. (Tell your clients to visit the plaza on Sunday evenings, when families congregate for live concerts and dances.)

We were particularly impressed with Discover Mexico, a new indoor/outdoor attraction that defies traditional labels. Our tour began with a breathtaking video collage of snow-capped volcanoes, colonial cities and folkloric dancers flashing on multiple screens. An exhibit of collector-quality folk art displayed Mexico’s astonishing artistry. Outdoors, we could hear macaws squawking beneath grass umbrellas and trails wound past scale models of colonial churches and ancient pyramids. The museum is a popular port tour for the many cruise ships calling at the island, and also delights locals fascinated by their country. If your clients are serious folk-art collectors make sure they visit the excellent gift shop.

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at La Cocay, a gourmet restaurant with a longtime following. Now located near the main plaza, the sophisticated (although laid-back) restaurant was packed the night we sampled stacked salads, seared ahi and a chocolate dessert so rich we had to leave some behind.

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The Mandara Spa at the Presidente Cozumel
is one of the best spas on the island.
We also feasted on fettuccini and grilled sea bass at Alfredo di Roma, killer guacamole at Casa Denis (one of the island’s oldest restaurants) and conch and shrimp ceviche at Coconut’s on the wild windward coast. If your clients have time for only one outing while on Cozumel, have them explore the windward coast in a rental car or on a tour. The views are incredible, the beaches deserted and the roadside cafes serve fish straight from the sea.

Cozumel’s hotel and spa scene has improved considerably, as I discovered during a divine hot-stone massage at the Wyndham Resort’s Islander Spa, after touring the new Aura Cozumel Wyndham Grand Bay. The luxury boutique hotel, which officially opened Jan. 24, is part of Wyndham’s complex on the island’s south shore, and it offers 96 sophisticated suites with LCD TVs, iPod docks and direct pool access from the patios.

We spent two blissful nights at the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel, a resort I refuse to leave for even a moment when I stay there. In fact, I had a hard time wandering away from our oceanview suite’s generous terrace, cloud-like bed and garden rain shower, though I did take time for a massage and Vichy shower at the hotel’s Mandara Spa. Even if your clients aren’t staying there, tell them to linger over a lengthy lunch at the hotel’s El Caribeno restaurant.

We also spent five nights at the Coral Princess, a real gem for travelers of moderate means. All spiffed up with new paint and furnishings, the hotel has radically improved its culinary offerings, expanded the beach area and installed a spa area and gym.

Have your clients staying here order a large jug of purified water for their rooms. At less than $3 for several gallons it’s one of the island’s best deals, and they’ll be helping the environment by refilling their plastic water bottles. It always helps to do your part to preserve paradise.

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La Cocay
Calle 8 between Avs. 10 and 15, San Miguel

Alfredo di Roma Presidente InterContinental Resort
Carretera Chankanaab, Km 6.5

Casa Denis
Calle 1 Sur 132, between Avs. 5 and 10, San Miguel

Coconut's Windward
coast road, no phone


Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa
Carretera Costera Sur, Km. 12.9
US 888-293-0293

Aura Cozumel Wyndham Grand Bay
Carretera Costera Sur

Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort
(Mandara Spa, El Caribeño restaurant)
Carretera Chankanaab, Km 6.5

Coral Princess
Carretera Costera Norte Km 2.5