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Cozumel 8

Review of Paradise, AKA Cozumel, Mexico

March 27, 2017 , In: Global Voyage , With: No Comments
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Known as the second best place in the world to scuba dive, the oldest Caribbean island, and a once vital part of the Mayan culture, Cozumel sure sounds like its has a lot to offer. So… does it? After spending a week on the island, exploring every adventure-packed activity/experience and every hot spot on the island, here is my personal review.

Now, keep in mind, I am not the ‘all-inclusive’ type of gal who sits on the beach all day long drinking and tanning. Don’t get me wrong, I did get my fair share of tanning time in, but that was NOT the main purpose behind my vacation. My goals going into this trip were as follows:

  1. Make friends with some locals, pick their brains about the BEST local food, live music, shopping areas, water sports, fishing, etc., and go explore all of their recommendation
  2. Scuba dive the best places possible (I mean it is famous for scuba diving)
  3. Explore the entire island, making sure to stop at any and all places that appear appealing
  4. Find the best beaches on the island
  5. Eat a TON of authentic Mexican food and Caipirinhas
  6. Find out if I actually like tequila or not…
  7. Explore the night life

Background: flew into Cozumel on a Saturday (5am flight, running off 1 hour of sleep because ICozumel 16 took Miss Iowa out in KC the night before), happened to get upgraded to first-class on the way (woo!), stayed at Club Melia (pretty sure it was an old Club Med that was converted), and went in prepared to gain a few pounds (worth it).

Goal 1. Success: Began making friends with locals on the airplane to Cozumel, as I sat luxuriously in first class (this is not a normal thing for me), sipping Mimosas with my new pal Ronda. Ronda lives in Cozumel, but works out of Chicago, and had a million and a half recommendations for the best places to go. A few recommendations that I would absolutely pass along to you (from both Ronda and other locals I met through my journey):

  • Wet Wendy’s: Outdoor restaurant downtown, great bar, live music. Even taught me how to salsa dance!
  • Money Bar: By far my favorite local place I came across during the week. Outdoor restaurant right on the beach. Need to be there to watch the sunset- incredible! Cozumel 4As I was told, the live music was on point! They played a perfect mix of Spanish music (my new Zumba moves really came in clutch), and American music (through heavy accents of course). Not going to lie, after a few drinks, this happened… typical Kendall. Cozumel 2Overall, highly recommend Money Bar- great music, positive vibes, exciting environment. And if you’re lucky enough to visit on the right night, you may even get a taste of Kendall singing with the band 😉
  • Viva Mexico: Unfortunately I did not make it here, but I heard from every local this is THE place to be.
  • Downtown Square: I learned the hard way that the shopping at the square closes as soon as the cruise ships leave port, around 5:00 pm. So be sure to get there and walk around during the afternoon! The environment of the square is so unique and fun. While it’s the same Mexican souvenirs at basically every shop, you have the chance to bargain with them, taste test tequilas, make new friends, dance to the music, etc. And with no open container laws, I found myself with a drink in my hand at all times as I was shopping around.
  • KiteBoarding: This watersport is exactly what it sounds like- a VERY powerful kite, and a board similar to a wake board. This sport is all about the wind- feeling the wind, becoming one with the wind and the ocean. On day one I saw two kiteboarders on the north end of the island crushing the waves, and immediately knew that I had to give it a shot. I got hooked up with Raul, a Cozumel native who has been kiteboarding since the sport was created about 20 years ago, for my first lesson. You could say that I was slightly intimidated after learning that Raul had represented the country of Mexico in the worldwide Kiteboarding tournament 16 years in a row- bringing home two of the titles… But I went for it anyways (and so glad that I did). Lessons started on the beach, learning how to maneuver the kite. Step by step Raul walked my through the hands-on process of kiteboarding. Before I knew it, I was making perfect figure-eights with my kite, flying it 20 yards out, letting the power from the kite drag the weight of my body through the sand. Step two involved learning how to make the same figure-eights from a seated position, building up enough power that the kite pulled me up from the ground (just as the kite will have to pull you out of the water when re-launching. This came pretty naturally. After mastering all of this (with hours of practice), it was time to get on the board and take it to the water. I quickly realized that this sport is essentially wake boarding in the ocean, using the power of the waves to move you, rather than the power of a boat. Pretty creative sport- but VERY difficult to learn. Overall, I wouldn’t say that I have mastered the sport of kiteboarding… but definitely worth a try if you ever have the opportunity. Be prepared for some serious muscle soreness for a couple of days after that initial attempt!Cozumel 9
  • Fishing: Okay so a fishing trip is one thing that we researched and booked before we went to Cozumel. You need to know what fish/ if any fish are running during the time of your vacation (otherwise you are throwing away your money). Always go out for at least six hours- remember, it takes a solid hour to get out to the deep water to catch the big fish. Personally, I enjoy catching big fish, which is why I prefer to go trolling rather than bottom fishing. So we left Fonatur marina at 7am for a ¾ day fish. Cozumel 15(TIP: if you are prone to getting sea sick, take Dramamine the night BEFORE you go out fishing. If you take it the morning of, you will sleep on the boat all day. I have made that mistake to many times). Over the course of 6 hours, I brought in one Mahi-Mahi, two Barracuda, and my sister brought in one monster Baraccuda. Pretty solid day! And when I wasn’t fishing, I was laying out on the front of the boat sun bathing (I always seem to get the best sun while on a boat)! Absolutely recommend deep sea fishing if the fish are running! But be prepared, if you catch anything big, your arm will be soreeeeee the next day!Cozumel 5Cozumel 6

Goal 2. (Scuba Diving) Almost a success: I have done a lot of scuba diving since gettingCozumel 10 certified seven years ago. This was actually my third time to dive Cozumel- but every time is completely different. I got to dive this time in perfect conditions: 80-degree water, perfect clarity, private charter, wonderful dive master, brand new dive shirt… ideal in every way. I was hoping to explore the Palancar Caves (recommended by local friends), but did not get the opportunity- meaning I’ll just have to go back to Cozumel again one day… darn ;). Instead, I dove Paradise Reef and Barracuda Reef, both of which were fantastic! Despite the fact the Paradise Reef was only a 45ft dive maximum, I still got to see beautiful sea turtles, eels, beautiful fish (its way too difficult to put into words their beauty), massive crabs and lobsters, barracudas, etc. The highlight was the 6ft shark I dove with at Barracuda Reef. This shark swam so effortlessly and with such ease, like it had absolutely no worries in the world. And to be part of the shark’s world, even for just a few minutes, is indescribable. Especially considering such a large percentage of the ocean is believed to be unexplored and undiscovered. It is like a whole new world down there- yet, all of it was hand crafted by our God. So cool. Anyways, after completing the second dive, I ascended (very slowly- I have made the mistake before of experimenting with decompression sickness) to find the most breathtaking sunset.

Goal 3. (Explore the entire island) Success: I was beginning to feel like there was a lot of Cozumel that I had not yet seen. So, we decide to rent a Jeep and make a day out of exploring the island. Using recommendations from locals throughout the week, we mapped out a plan to cover the entire island. I quickly learned that Cozumel is TINY (literally can drive the entire Cozumel 24island in a few hours), and the locals seem to live off of the bare minimum. Along the way, we stopped at any place with live music, we stopped for drinks and appetizers on the beach, we stopped at huts on the side of the road selling handmade goods, we even stopped for a good tequila tasting. Traveling around the outskirts of the island I was absolutely mesmerized by the beauty in creation, and couldn’t help but pray and thank God for allowing me to witness all of it. The clear, aqua sea; the hot rays from the sun counteracted by the soft breeze in the air; the marinas filled with people, fish, scuba divers; the tourists and the locals filling the beach sun bathing, surfing, diving, snorkeling, parasailing, paragliding, sand volleyball, water sports; even the beachy smell in the air filled my heart with happiness and gratitude.

Goal 4.(Find the best beaches) Success: San Martin Beach was by FAR my favorite beach on the island (And trust me, I explored a lot of beaches). After hearing about this beach from multiple locals, I knew I had to try it out. This beach had the softest sand, the perfect breeze, and the best up-beat environment. It was filled with so many genuinely happy people. I would go back to Cozumel solely to visit San Martin Beach again.

Goal 5. (Mexican food and Caipirinhas) Success: Trust me when I say I ate and drank my way through Cozumel. And Playa Del Carmen for that matter… Clothes are feeling a little tighter as I sit here traveling home… but completely worth every bite of food/ sip. My rule when traveling is to never go to a chain. I want to try the food the locals eat, I want to understand their culture in every way possible. So I order foods I have never heard of- what is the worst that can happen? The best food I had on the island was the seafood (ceviche specifically) and the guacamole. Absolutely delicious. I have to mention my favorite drink to order in Mexico, the Caipirinha. Made with sugar, limes, vodka or Cachaka (from Brazil), and ice, this drink is perfect. If you haven’t tried one, you are missing out.

Goal 6. Success: Tequila? NOT FOR ME. I went in with an open mind, I mean, I do enjoy a good margarita, so why not sipping tequila? To test out my palate, I did an hour-long tequila tour, finished off by a tasting of three 100% agave non-commercial tequilas. Apparently this is cozumel 25supposed to be the best of the best. The tasting was intense- rinsing and preparing your palate and nose between each tasting using water, limes, cinnamon, and coffee beans. Needless to say, the tasting did not go well for me. I don’t know if I developed a taste aversion to tequila in college or if I simply don’t enjoy the flavor, but either way it is not for me. I did learn, however, the chocolate tequila exists… Being the chocolate fanatic that I am, I fell in love with the stuff! You cannot taste the tequila flavor at all- simply creamy chocolaty goodness. Highly recommend chocolate tequila. One more thing I learned… Jose Cuero (and ANY tequila that is not 100% agave) is for mixed drinks only, not for sipping.

Goal 7. (Explore the nightlife) Success- kinda: Well, turns out Cozumel is pretty chill at night. It definitely does not compare to Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, or Cabo nightlife (don’t worry, I have explored all of those as well). All tourists seem to LOVE Senior Frogs (although I am Cozumel 21convinced they water down their alcohol). I went twice while I was there and had a fun time- but in the sense of a bar, not a club. Viva Mexico is said to be the fun local spot at night. Like I mentioned earlier, I did not have the chance to make it there, but every time I went past it, it didn’t seem too busy. Definitely on my bucket list for the next dive trip to Cozumel. Overall I would say- Cozumel is fantastic for watersports, diving, fishing, having very busy/ adrenaline filled days. However, it is not the hot spot for a wild nightlife. One other thing I have learned throughout my trips to Mexico- ALWAYS WATCH YOUR DRINK. You do not have to have a prescription to buy pharmaceutical-grade drugs in Mexico. Therefore, anyone has access to very powerful drugs and can slip you something any time. Be smart. Do not accept drink from strangers.cozumel 20

 

Tourist traps: I don’t know about you, but I do not go on vacation to be suckered into tourist traps. I prefer to dive into the culture of each place- which is whyI rely on making friends with locals for recommendations. A few tourist traps I want to share with you (just in case you ever plan on visiting Cozumel).

  • USD to Pesos conversion. Make sure to know the conversion each day (currently 20 pesos to $1 USD). Always pull out your phone and double check the conversion. Easiest way is to always pay in Pesos- everything seems to be cheaper when you have Pesos.
  • Taxis: ALWAYS ask up front how much a taxi ride will be. If you wait until the end, the drivers will scam you and charge you insane amounts.
  • Double and triple check your bank statements. Often shops will try to overcharge you. Be smart with your money.
  • Do not go on a fake pirate ship. Enough said.

 

Overall, Cozumel is absolutely incredible. If you are the adventurous type of traveler, this should definitely be on your bucket

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