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Cozumel’s Punta Sur

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The Faro Cerlain Eco Park is the official name of the reserve which extends across the southern point of Cozumel, but most refer to it as the Punta Sur. Here, you’ll find one of the island’s best beaches, a lighthouse offering a tremendous view over the Caribbean, and a natural mangrove lagoon in which crocodiles dwell. We visited toward the end of our week in Cozumel.

The first (and last) thing you’re going to notice about the park is the horrifically pot-holed road which leads in and out. After fifteen minutes of neck-breaking bumps, you’ll find yourself at the Cerlain Lighthouse. Be careful if you decide to climb it… or at least more careful than me. I was jogging up, trying to beat Jürgen to the top, and smashed my head against the ceiling. So despite the bright daylight, the view I enjoyed from the top was full of stars.

After shaking off my concussion, we took a quick look into the small maritime museum on the bottom floor of the lighthouse, and then embarked on a boat ride around the lagoon. Just inland from the coast, a thick mangrove forest is home to a number of interesting birds, including kingfishers and pink spoonbills. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, but I was more concerned about watching the water, because the lagoon is filled with crocodiles. Just a few minutes after our tour began, we saw one… a huge beast, moving with terrifying agility.

The best part of Punta Sur is the beach found at the very end of the park, with great snorkeling at the nearby reef. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for this, and the water was too rough for swimming anyway. But we still had a great day out. It’s not the easiest place to get to, and that potholed road is no joke, but it’s worth the effort, particularly if you have an entire day to spend there.

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December 17, 2013 at 12:14 am Comment (1)

Cozumel – Island of Swallows, Scuba and Cruise Ships

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Almost ten years ago, we took a cruise leaving from Miami. Turns out, and we might have suspected as much, Jürgen and I are not cruise-people. We found it to be a week-long exercise in boredom, and even the scheduled stops were agonizing. Pushy vendors in Jamaica, Margaritaville in the Caymans, Bingo on-deck. Luckily, there was one bright spot on the itinerary: Cozumel. We had a fantastic time during our day on the Mexican island, and vowed to return one day. A decade later, we made good on the promise.

Found just a few kilometers off Mexico’s Caribbean coast, straight across from Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is home to 90,000 people. But the population swells to twice this number almost every day, thanks to the cruise ships which call into port. While arriving on the hour-long ferry from Playa, we counted six gargantuan boats lining the island’s shore.

The name “Cozumel” comes from the Mayan Kùutsmil, which means Island of Swallows. Associated with the fertility goddess Ix’Chel, the island was famous across the Maya world as a place of pilgrimage and worship. But by the time of the Spanish Conquest, the culture had already fallen into ruin and there remained but a handful of indigenous people to greet the newcomers.

Today, Cozumel has been invaded by a different kind of conquistador: pleasure-seeking cruise-shippers, tens of thousands of whom arrive every morning, then leave as the sun goes down. The crass commercialism which goes hand-in-hand with this kind of tourism dominates the ocean-side streets of San Miguel, the island’s main city, but we had very little to do with it during our week on the island. Cozumel revealed itself to be much larger and more diverse than we had reason to expect.

The island is perhaps most famous for its scuba diving. With healthy coral reefs and crystal-clear water lining its shores, the diving at Cozumel is some of the best and most accessible in the world. We would take advantage of this, and also be introduced to some of the island’s other, lesser-known sights, including lagoons, horseback riding, jungles, Maya ruins, incredible restaurants, and even a working pearl farm.

We spent seven days on Cozumel as the guests of the island’s tourism commission, who were eager to show off how rewarding an extended stay on the island can be. Cozumel gets plenty of tourists, but not many stick around for more than a day. And that’s a mistake.

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December 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm Comments (0)

Puerto Morelos: Chilling in the Shadow of Cancún

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After a week in Mérida, we took our first road trip, venturing east to the neighboring state of Quintana Roo. But unlike the majority of visitors to Mexico’s Caribbean coast, our destination wasn’t the party mecca of Cancún. Instead, we hopped a bus headed for the quiet village of Puerto Morelos, about a half hour south.

Puerto Morelos Yucatan
The Leaning Lighthouse is Puerto Morelos’ most well-known sight

With an agreeable blend of locals, expats and tourists, the small town of Puerto Morelos is found directly between Cancún and Playa del Carmen. But in spirit, it’s worlds away from either. No clubs in Puerto Morelos will blast their speakers until dawn, and there’s not a theme bar in sight. And since we were hoping to complete a scuba certification course, a task requiring a lot of study, work and rest, the relaxed vibe was exactly what we wanted.

Puerto Morelos is split cleanly in half by the highway which runs north-south along the coast. The side closer to the beach is the tourism zone, with restaurants, souvenir shops and a large population of American and Canadian expats who have moved in for good. The other half, referred to as La Colonia, is where the majority of locals live. We were usually on the beach-side of town, but spent our nights in La Colonia, in the Casitas Kinsol. The division between the two sides of town is real; moving between them requires a trip of two kilometers through a swampy marsh, but a taxi only costs about 25 pesos ($2 USD) each way.

Although we eschewed our characteristic program of sightseeing in favor of learning how to dive, we became very familiar with Puerto Morelos during our week there. It’s not a town which will appeal to those looking to dance the night away, enjoy a luxurious weekend at a high-end hotel, or mack on sexy bikini bunnies. But if you want a quiet vacation on a gorgeous beach, delicious and affordable food, friendly locals and excellent diving, you could hardly do better.

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Great and affordable place to stay in Puerto Morelos

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December 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm Comments (4)
Cozumel's Punta Sur The Faro Cerlain Eco Park is the official name of the reserve which extends across the southern point of Cozumel, but most refer to it as the Punta Sur. Here, you'll find one of the island's best beaches, a lighthouse offering a tremendous view over the Caribbean, and a natural mangrove lagoon in which crocodiles dwell. We visited toward the end of our week in Cozumel.
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