After spending a couple of days lounging in the beach beds and kayaking the rivers at the Hacienda Tres Rios we needed a change of scenery. We had visited the island of Cozumel in 2003 during a 7-day Caribbean cruise and thought it would be fun to go back and spend the day snorkeling and touring parts of the island that we had not seen before.
The free shuttle to Playa del Carmen was booked solid that day so we had the hotel call us a taxi. The taxi driver was playing a CD of classic 80’s rock and I noticed that the stereo display showed the title tracks in Spanish. The current song was “Ojo de…” and the rest was cut off. I broke out my Spanish dictionary and looked up the first word. Ojo was Spanish for eye. The second word I already knew was “of”, so I had “Eye of…” and since I was rather familiar with this song I started flipping through the dictionary to find the last word while muttering “Ojo de” over and over. At this point the taxi driver turned to me and said, “Del tigre. Ojo del Tigre.” Yes! “Eye of the Tiger” in Spanish is “Ojo del Tigre.” A few more years of practice and I could do karaoke in Mexico.
The taxi dropped us off near the ferry terminal and we found the ticket booths. There are two companies that run ferries to Cozumel and they are both the same price. Hopefully they never merge and form a monopoly. After purchasing our tickets for the next ferry we still had 45 minutes until we boarded. So, we went looking for a hammock and a Mexican blanket, the two souvenirs we really wanted to bring back. We had purchased a quality hammock a few years prior in Puerto Vallarta for $35 USD. So we were a bit shocked when they were telling us the hammocks were $180 USD, but they could let us have one for only $120 USD. Maybe we wouldn’t be buying a new hammock this trip after all. We went back to the ferry terminal and boarded the ferry.
The 30 minute crossing to Cozumel went quickly and once on the island we went looking for lunch. The last time we had visited San Miguel de Cozumel it had seemed like a laid back Caribbean town with not a lot of crowds. Of course, when we visited before there had only been two cruise ships docked at the island. On this day there were seven massive cruise ships and the streets were packed with tourists. We squeezed through the sea of people and made our way up the main waterfront boulevard towards a restaurant we had visited on our previous visit. Just as we started to think we may have gone the wrong way up the boulevard, we found it. After having a good lunch of Mexican food and Mexican Coke in the bottle (made with real cane sugar), we went looking for a rental car.
The taxis on Cozumel are expensive and there is no bus that goes around the island. So the best option for us to go explore this small island was to rent a vehicle. The last time we visited we went to the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio and did not get a chance to see the beaches nor experience the world famous snorkeling. We found Thrifty car rental and negotiated a good price for a Jeep rental. After filling out the paperwork we went out front to where they had the Jeep waiting for us. It looked nice from a distance, but close up, it was a rust bucket. After finding the rusty seatbelts and securing Sydney in the backseat, we started it up. Not only did this Jeep have rust on the body and seatbelts, but from the sounds of it, the muffler and exhaust system were rusted out too. It was loud! But with the crowded streets of this touristy town, this was a good thing. We took off down the street with the loud growl of the Jeep echoing off the plaster walls of the buildings and people racing to get out of the way of the crazy gringos in the loud Jeep.
After leaving the town we travelled south to where the good snorkeling beaches were. We passed beach after beach that were overflowing with tour buses until we came to a sign that pointed the way to some Mayan ruins that we had not seen the last time. We love old ruins and could not resist. So we drove inland a couple of miles and came to where the Mayan ruins of El Cedral were. It actually looked like a small Mexican town with a church, souvenir shops, and a boy with a donkey allowing tourists to take pictures for a tip, but we did not see any big Mayan pyramids or temples. We started walking around and came across a tour group with a guide talking about a pile of rocks. As it turns out, this pile of rocks was the famous Mayan ruins of El Cedral. What a disappointment. Sydney was really intrigued by the donkey, though, so for a couple of dollars we put her on the donkey while she wore a sombrero and we took her picture. She was happy.
Back on the road we continued south and found a nice beach that offered good snorkeling. As we walked down the beach we couldn’t help but notice the large conch shells that were scattered about. The only place we had seen conch shells before were in the tourist shops, so this was something different for us. Sydney immediately went to work building a conch shell castle.
After spending the afternoon snorkeling and having fun on the beach, the park closed and we barely made it out before they closed the gate. We continued on down the road planning to circle the island. Once we rounded the southern tip of Cozumel we came to the wild and undeveloped side of the island. The beaches were a combination of sand and rock with breaking waves crashing on the shore. It reminded us of parts of Hawaii and looked like a great place to explore if only we had more time.
Back in San Miguel we returned the Jeep and made our way down to the ferry for our return trip back to Playa del Carmen. It had been a good day.