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.
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.
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.
It was as though we'd left reality and entered an advertisement for Bacardi. A group of friends taking a leisurely boat trip across the turquoise water of the Caribbean. Anchoring and carrying a cooler full of drinks onto a private beach. Snorkeling out into the water, lounging on the sand, drinking and eating pineapple burgers. This was our excursion to the Cozumel Pearl Farm... just another day in paradise.
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.
For such a small town, Puerto Morelos has a number of great places to grab a bite. There were a few we loved so much, we returned to them over and over again. Here are our favorites, and one that we would urge you to stay away from.
One reason Jürgen and I chose the Yucatán Peninsula as our home for 91 days was our desire to learn how to scuba dive. This is one of the best places in the world to do so. After some research, we decided on the four-day certification course offered by Wet Set, a scuba-diving shop found in Puerto Morelos.
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.