In effort to shorten the Cold Northeast winter, we planned a trip to a warmer climate for a long week trip. This time we went to Cozumel, Mexico. Our Daily schedule was simple – woke up to snorkel, had breakfast at the hotel, then did other activities that we had planned for the day, had small lunch or a little snack, went out for afternoon snorkel, then had dinner, more biking or touring the town. The town got really quiet after 9pm. So, we went to bed early and repeated our days at 7-8am. 🙂
- Snorkeling – every day, affordable snorkel tours, and DIY snorkel trips is possible
- Food – great, authentic Mexican food with the price is a lot lower than in the US
- Transportation- walk, bike, goft cart, car, taxi, ferry, bus, boat, and airplane
- Mosquitoes or Zika Risk – No mosquito.
We learned how to snorkel last year during our Puerto Rico trip, so we intentionally booked a hotel that have a corel reef right off their beach on the North End of the ferry.
Here are some places that we snorkeled:
Chankanaab National Park – $21 per person to get in. It’s a great place for family, there is something for everyone. Adult can snorkel and dive, while they have shallower areas for training. If you’re bored or just eat and don’t want to get into the water immediately, there is sea lion and crocodile shows that you can attend.
Tulum, the Mayan Palace – $35 for train ride, park admission, boat ride to take pictures of the Palace from the ocean looking in, and snorkel at the reef. If you don’t want the boat ride, the price was 65 pesos for park entrance $3-5 depending on where you convert your money.
After we toured the Mayan Ruin – Tulum (the wall), we can walk down the steps to the beautiful beach. But we opted to go straight to the tour boat to take pictures of the palace from the ocean, and snorkeled. The water was a bit rough on that day, but by then we were very experienced snorkelers, so we swam out without any issue. Our tour guide let us know which direction was the current. Other boats seemed to cruise along with their people and caught them at the end of the reef.
The Famous Money Bar – The bar is one of the places where boats drop people off to snorkel. After a few days of snorkeling, we figured it was okay for us to swim 50-100 yards out from the shore. The water was nice and calm, and we had our ski belt so it wasn’t much of a problem. We walked along the shore to the opposite direction of the current, swam out, then let the current take us back.
Punta Sur – It’s $18/person to get it. You can walk up 100 steps of the light house. The lagoon is on one side housing at least 235 tagged crocodiles, and beautiful scenic beach on the other. We went at the time the turtle were egging, so we only got to swim at the designated beach area.
A long the west coast, from the north end to the south end, especially near the ferry area, there were people snorkeling through out. We didn’t do it near the ferry fearing the cruise ships polluting the water and our hotel was such a great spot for snorkeling, we didn’t need to go into the water near the ferry. Nonetheless, the water at the ferry was still clear and clean looking. I’d say it’s better than Virginia Beach or Myrtle beach anytime, any day.
Our hotel booking included free breakfast. We were surprised that it wasn’t the “continental breakfast” like some stale cereal and a week old bagel. No Sir! It was “American Breakfast” they call it.
- A plate of Fruits – watermelon, pineapple, apple, cherry, papaya, grape, strawberry, banana, cantaloupe, and honeydew. The fruits might be varieties each day, but they always multiple combination tasted so fresh, so good.
- Drinks – orange juice, or other kinds of juice, we opted to have orange juice every day. They also provided free coffee, but I opted for hot water.
- Main course – egg (sunny side up, scramble, boil, or omelet), sausage, bacon, bean, hash-brown, toast, pancake.
There are so many restaurants in Cozumel, but since we ate a huge breakfast after our morning snorkel, that we didn’t have to eat lunch. We sometimes ate lunch or have some nuts snacks we got from the grocery store there. It was super cool eating some of my childhood favorites. We’d eat in the late afternoon or evening.
Most of the restaurant regardless what you order, they would bring out corn chip and salsa or different kinds of dip. By the time the main course came out, I’d be totally full. So, most of the meals, Mr. and I shared the dinner course together. Our meals costed from $3-22. $22 was the day that we went all out on seafood. We ate until we drop. haha
I read somewhere that even the locals don’t drink the water from the faucet. It was kind of yellow when we looked at it. I brushed my teeth and showered with it.
We met a lady from Canada that would stay at our hotel every year because they bought the timeshare. She gave us some tips such as buying a big water bottle 5 gallons, like the one you see at your dental office. It costed us $7, $10 at the hotel. And it lasted us for the entire hotel stay.
This trip we walked, biked, rode a car, and took taxi, ferry, bus, boat, and airplane.
We rented bikes for 4 days from our hotel room. I forgot to bring cash, so to make it simple, we opt to use credit card for $12/day. Some online website offered $10/day if you rent for 4 days. It was well worth it. We loved biking because it provided a little bit more freedom with parking, we can see more of the city, and forced us to exercise and enjoy the warm weather.
We biked to the Money Bar and Chankanaab park. It was about 6.5 miles from our hotel. A long the way, we could have jump out to the ocean at any point and enjoy the corel reef.
Downtown Miguel has numerous restaurants and shops. Sitting at the restaurants we can enjoy 3 Spaniards singing with their guitar, or the local kids break out some awesome break dancing moves for a small amount of tips.
I bought some Mexican vanilla for $10. You can buy a small bottle from $3. Price range from $3-15. The ocean front stores the prices are pretty fixed, some small mom and pops shop 1 or 2 street in, you can negotiate the price.
Cozumel is very walking and biking friendly as they have the walk way for both sides of the island. One retiree we met said he bikes around the island all the time. He only lives in Cozumel in the winter. What a life, eh!
We rented a car for $55 + $25 insurance + tax = $92. But in downtown one guy told us we could rent for $10/day. Mr. didn’t trust him so we rented the car from our hotel. It was >150K miles. So we probably overpaid it.
We wanted to tour the east side of the island. It was about 13 miles stretch on the east side, but to bike, it would be 42 miles round trip. *Note: Food other other side of the island is good but they charge USD price and they only take cash, no credit card. So if your budget is small, stick to the west side.
The water is much rougher on this side, the the beaches are beautiful. There is some diving sites, but no one is really snorkel on this side.
Mr. offer to rent a car when we went over to mainland Mexico, I told him “No!” as the review for driving in Mexico isn’t good. I don’t want to mess around with Mexican police and people. We didn’t have a good cellphone signal for maps and such.
Ferry and Bus
We took the ferry from Cozumel to Playa de Carmen $15/person round trip. Then we took the bus (that’s how the locals do) and only paid 40 pesos/person. As we walked from the Ferry Terminal to the street, many taxi drivers were trying to get $150 round trip to Tulum. So, we did pretty well by finding the bus station.
There were two ways to get to Cozumel – Take a flight to Cancun, then take the ferry over to Cozumel. Many people do this if their home city have cheap ticket to Cancun. We opted to flight directly to Cozumel to maximize the warm weather and be fully rested to snorkel. Our flight and hotel was $2000.
Mosquitoes or Zika Risk
The island was super clean, we saw other bugs but we didn’t see any mosquito or did we ever gotten bitten.
We went out for golfing one day at the Country Club, there were many water traps there, but we didn’t see any mosquito. I’d say Zika free in Cozumel. Cancun was a little dirtier and busier, but we didn’t see any mosquitoes there either.
- Right off the taxi, I had forgotten my iPad. Luckily I noticed it immediately. The hotel staff was great, they called the shuttle company. $25 taxi ride later (on top of $18 shuttle fee), I got my iPad and the taxi driver did let us stop to buy the big 5 gallons of water jug.
- We met this Canadian lady who showed us around at the Corel reef pointing out the eel. We almost shared a taxi drive to Punta Sur but we had already done that a couple days before.
- We met this wonderful couple who gave us a ride back to the airport. She bought 30 coupons for the time share here so she gets to stay at this wonderful resort and snorkel whenever she wants. The husband worked as a school teacher, and they both retired. It was to show how affordable Cozumel is. I kept telling Mr. how we could also do it here. ($500 apartment. $200 food, $300 entertainments, $500 for insurance or not. Look at this pharmacy picture, you can get a lot of melds for cheap. )
- Rentals problem. $92 car rental is way too high. We should have done a little bit more research. Scooter is loud and obnoxious. Jeep and go-cart is wayyyyy polluted. We were happy that there were bike routes, but near downtown didn’t have a clear mark for bikes so we had to breathe in some of the smoke. Well, all the cars had their doors open also, so everybody was breathing the same bad air. Mexico don’t have the same EPA standard, so you see a lot of cars producing dark smoke.
- Even with precaution, Mr. still got sick. Our hotel had a generators, but other small restaurant in town didn’t so it must be the food. I compounded pedialyte for him. And he drank a lot of Gatorade to get his strength back. I could have gotten something from the pharmacy, but with diarrhea from Bacteria, it was best to hyradrate him and let the toxins from the bacteria out than using Imodium. Again, our hotel staff was accommodating by given me all the ingredients I needed to compound the pedialyte.
- We didn’t bring the fins. Do it yourself (DIY) snorkeling is the best. We go it on our own term – where, when, how, why are all decided by us. But some of the Corel reefs are far away from shore, having the fins will definitely help. Mr. is ready to try diving. I’m not ready as I don’t like to breathe through a tube.
Cozumel trip was a great success. It offered everything we wanted to do and we were “snorkeled out” by the end of the trip. The food was awesome. I’d come back again in a few years after I’ve exhausted other island. Overall, the trip costed us <$3,000 for 2 persons for 9 days stay including food, transportation, entertainment, rentals and gifts. This trip made us stronger swimmers and stronger couple as we continue to build trust and learned to take care of each other.