Newest Review: ... at us! They weren't bad and, of course, the hat went round for a collection as we approached Cozumel. We arrived at the jetty at the mai... more
Member Name: grahamt
Date: 03/12/09, updated on 03/12/09 (49 review reads)
Advantages: A lot packed into quite a small area.
Disadvantages: Trying to find the best deals
Our trip to Mexico this year involved many excursions but for the most part on the mainland, along the Mayan Riviera from Cancun in the north to Tulum in the south. However, there was one place other than this that we wanted to visit and that was the island of Cozumel, just around a three-quarter-hour ferry trip from either Cancun or, in our case, Playa del Carmen, being the nearest town to our hotel.
From Playa del Carmen there are two ferry companies competing for your business. I say competing but, to be honest, the competition isn't very fierce. They effectively deliver alternate sailings and at the same price, whichever company you choose. You can buy a return ticket but I would advise against it as the most convenient crossing for your return trip may not be with the same company with which you travelled out. I suggest you buy a single each way; the cost when we visited was 140 Pesos per person.
The crossing was absolutely packed and quite interesting. We were sat inside on the upper deck, next to the side so we could see the sea. Here the sides of the boat are covered by mostly clear, plastic sheets. However, what we hadn't realised was that they weren't tied down too well and so flapped when the wind caught them, which always seemed to coincide with a burst of spray from the wake of the ship! After getting splashed once we spent the rest of the crossing hanging on the the sheet to prevent it happening again!
A small band entertained us on the crossing. They set up their equipment right next to where we were sat but fortunately the speakers weren't pointed at us! They weren't bad and, of course, the hat went round for a collection as we approached Cozumel.
We arrived at the jetty at the main town on Cozumel, San Miguel. Right opposite is the Plaza Principal, an open area with shops, restaurants and bars all around it. In fact, this is pretty much what San Miguel is all about. Outside of San Miguel it is mainly hotel complexes but here you come to shop, eat and be entertained. There are also a number of Mayan ruins you can visit though most are, I understand (we didn't have time to visit), not as impressive as those on the mainland such as Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba, but probably well worth a visit if you are spending more time on the island.
The main areas of interest appear to be south of the ferry terminal, and that's the direction we took. The main shopping area seems to extend back from the coast about 200 metres before it starts to peter out. However, it extends south around a kilometre so there should never be nothing worth investigating. Many of the shopping areas are arranged as open-air malls. Once you reach Plaza Punta Lagosta you've pretty much reached the end of most of the interesting stuff. This is where we turned around and started making our way back.
Despite the evident competition between shops, we still found a large difference in prices for very similar goods; it pays to do a lot of browsing before deciding on a purchase. We did and came away with some interesting and attractive purchases. One in particular was exceptional. My beloved really wanted to buy some jewellery (well, no surprises there then) in Mexican silver and amber. She was really after a necklace but couldn't find just what she wanted. She did, however, find a very nice bracelet in a shop called Joyeria Viridiana in the Plaza Punta Lagosta shopping mall.
The owner could see we were interested and we asked the price. The first offer was always going to be just that, an opener. We said, as you do, that it wasn't really what we were looking for. Anyway, after a bit of haggling he offered to split the bracelet to form three links as a pendant on a silver chain with the remainder split into two link earrings, all for 100 Dollars US (£65). I could see my beloved's eyes light up so we agreed and, to give him time to do the work, went off for lunch. When we returned the result had turned out even better than we could have hoped and this set is now one of her favourite pieces. Result!
So, where did we go whilst we were waiting? You're not short of places to eat in San Miguel but most that we saw were noisy, packed and not offering anything that could in any way be described as "interesting". So, we asked the locals and were pointed virtually next door to the Plaza Punta Lagosta shopping mall where we were at that moment. On Calle 7 Sur, just about 50 metres up from the coast road you find a little traditional Mexican restaurant called Costa Brava.
It's main attraction was it's clean but simple appearance and with not too many customers already occupying the tables. As usual, we checked out the loos before ordering, just to check what state they were in: clean and nothing to cause offence. The seeming lack of customers was probably because it isn't a flashy, noisy place that sticks itself in your face in order to attract your custom; just the way we like it. We had a choice of tables and, I have to be honest, none with what you would call "a view". If that's what you want then look elsewhere.
The food was excellent. We had a large plate of mixed Mexican dishes which we shared and washed down with several bottles of Mexican lager. There was as much in this one dish as we needed for lunchtime refreshment although we did follow up with a couple of desserts; well, you have to don't you? Total came to around 400 Pesos (£20), which was a bargain. I see that in their Internet site, if you print off their webpage and present it on payment you even get a 10% discount!
By now it was time to make our way back to the ferry. We revisited a number of the outlets we had explored on the way down and inevitably made a few more purchases of souvenirs for friends and relatives. We finally stopped for another beer or three at a bar right on the corner of the Plaza Principal, facing the ferry terminal. Here we could sit and watch the World go by and sip our drinks until the ferry docked. Prices here are not cheap, probably because of the prime position and there are other bars all around that probably offer better deals. However, the environment and atmosphere was pleasant, so we stayed.
Of course, there's a lot more to Cozumel than this but, if you're on holiday on the Mayan Riviera and fancy a day out to Cozumel than I can recommend it, if you objective is shopping, eating and drinking. If you want to lay out on the beach than I can't think of any reason why you would want to come all the way here to do it if you weren't planning to stay.
Summary: An island off the coast of the Mayan Riviera, that's worth a visit, at least for a day
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