The Volkswagen Beetle was discontinued in its native Germany in 1978, but production continued in Mexico for an additional 25 years. And so one of Germany's most famous automotive designs has become a Mexican icon. The low-cost Beetles were a smash hit here for decades, and you still see a fair share puttering down the roads. Especially, it seems, in Cozumel.
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.
During our stay in Cozumel, we adhered to a strict regimen of breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day, always at a new place. By the end of the week, our bellies were beginning to squeeze through the buttons of our shirts, and we were happy to be done with all the eating. But the meals we enjoyed in Cozumel were among the highlights of our trip.
When preparing to explore Cozumel, a logical place to begin is the Museum of the Island, found near the ferry pier. I know, I know... the weather is great, the water is crystal blue, and the amount of things to do outdoors is overwhelming. Who wants to spend time in a museum? But the overview of Cozumel's history, geography and ecology is brief and well-presented, and afterwards you can reward yourself with an excellent breakfast in the museum's restaurant.
The lack of awe-inspiring temples on Cozumel belies its true importance to the Maya civilization. Home to the goddess Ix'Chel, the island was a sacred place of pilgrimage and a major center of commerce. We took a tour of Cozumel's main cluster of ruins at San Gervasio, in the center of the island, and learned more about the beliefs of this fascinating people.
During our week in Cozumel, we were invited to a number of restaurants. From chic to rustic, modern to traditional, we sampled a little of everything the island has to offer. It was an intense culinary program and there were times when, regardless of how delicious the shrimp ceviche or grilled snapper was, I almost couldn't take another bite. Here are some of our favorite finds.
The eastern coast of Cozumel is completely different to the west. It has none of the calm, crystal blue water, nor anywhere near the tourism. After stopping in at Cozumel's original town, El Cedral, we took a short drive up the coast and ended at a rollicking bar named Coconuts.
Walking home after lunch in Mérida, we encountered a funny old dog nervously guarding the doorway to an antiques store. It was skinny, small and completely bald, save a few whiskers sprouting from its head, and I wondered aloud how old it must be. "A year and a half", came an answer from inside the store. Wait, this thing was a puppy? Indeed, as I took a knee, it bounded over to me full of playful energy. I reached out tentatively and touched my first Xoloituzcuintle: the Mexican Hairless Dog.
Cozumel is most famous for its crystalline waters and amazing coral formations, but after about an hour of bouncing on horseback through a thick, humid forest and exploring forgotten Maya ruins, I began to take seriously the island's true diversity.
With iridescent waters and one of Earth's best reefs just offshore, it was no coincidence that we choose to spend a week on Cozumel immediately after obtaining our scuba certifications. The Caribbean island has long been regarded as one of the world's premiere diving destinations.