Traveling to Cozumel, featuring five quick travel tips!

Today my parents and I are traveling to Cozumel! Unfortunately, that also means awakening at one a.m.

The loud *beep beep* of my alarm woke me like the dead on Halloween, not very willingly, and I grabbed my bags and was out the door by a quiet 1:30 to head to the airport. By 5:30 our first flight from Seatac to Dallas-Fort Worth airports had left and after about four hours of unrestful sleep we rushed through our one-hour connection to our next flight which would take us to Cozumel, Mexico. Steps three and four were to pick up the rental car and check in to the hotel.

I would recommend renting a car if you plan to travel around the island a great deal, but otherwise, a taxi is more economical for this island. To get from our hotel, which was at the far south side of the island to downtown at the ferry terminal it was 260 pesos which, at the time, equates to $13, however taxis charge their own exchange rate so in American the taxi would have charged $20. Save the $7 and get pesos from an ATM in a bank, there are several at the park across from the ferry terminal and they will give you the money at the current exchange rate. Our rental car cost $400 American for a ten-day vacation. In order for a taxi to cost as much as our rental car, we would have had to go between our hotel and downtown 30 times! 15 roundtrips, in other words, we could have gone downtown every day and not had it cost as much as our rental car. As you can see, a taxi is a cheaper method of transportation around the island, and if you’re up for walking or biking around downtown many people do so, just mind the chaos!

There is one reason a rental car is better than a taxi though: you can go wherever you want, for the most part. If you want to eat somewhere local you either need a car, know enough Spanish to give a taxi driver directions or be willing to walk or bike. Having a car also makes it easier to go to some of the tourist destinations, such as the smaller ruins on the island, the Discover Mexico museum, Chankanaab park, or the eco-park at the southern tip of the island.

We stayed at the Iberostar hotel near the South end of the island and found this hotel to be well worth the money! This is an all-inclusive eco-resort that was a valuable choice for people on a budget. We chose to stay in a suite and subscribed to the ‘VIP’ program which provided a few extra commodities which made the price and the stay phenomenal. We were more than impressed with the service, and the multitude of activities including multiple pools, beachfront access, scuba diving and snorkeling, an archery range, and a full entertainment staff putting on activities across the resort among others. All-inclusive also includes free drinks at any of the many bars and the VIP program includes premium wines and liquors free of extra charge. Within the VIP program, there is also a free massage for each person in the party, an exclusive clubhouse featuring a private pool, a bar serving premium liquor, coffee, and smoothies, an entertainment area, and a guest services person. Our suite was a bit more per night but was right next to the beach with a view from the back porch making it well worth the additional cost for me.

With both getting the rental car and checking into the hotel out of the way the vacaciones was ready to begin!

We dropped our luggage off at our suite and then I changed into a simple dress for dinner. Immediately upon walking in, I was stunned by a man making Mexican coffee with fire! He poured vodka and Kahlua into a silver pitcher which looked eerily similar to Aladdin’s genie bottle and lit it on fire, he then poured the fire from one pitcher into another and back again several times before pouring the alcohol into two coffee cups and adding coffee which had been fermented in fruit and spices over the top. You’ll find that I’m not much of a coffee drinker but this savory treat was a decadent new taste for my palette. The all-inclusive dinner is served buffet-style and there are three restaurants on the hotel campus, a Tex-Mex, an Asian restaurant, and a steakhouse, which all require reservations. For dinner, I had seafood gnocchi in a pink sauce. Normally I would advise against having anything at a buffet that might spoil easily because you can’t be confident how long it has been sitting out, however, the chef made this gnocchi fresh in front of me and gnocchi is a personal favorite of mine! Another important thing to note when staying in Mexico, you should avoid drinking or using tap water because it might have e-Coli in it. Do not drink, brush your teeth, or even open your mouth in the shower as you risk getting ill. The hotel was especially conscientious of this in a way that was still eco-friendly, they provided cold, filtered water at each of the tables which eliminated the risk of e-Coli contamination while avoiding single-use plastic, a detriment to wildlife especially ocean life.

At the end of dinner, we were lured out of the dining hall by the near-distant sound of Mariachi. There was a five-person Mariachi band in the lobby which played while guests clapped along, the sound filled the night with a sense of excitement and was an extravagant end to a long day.

Outside of the lobby, a group of salespeople had brought souvenirs and goods, including some beautiful jewelry and carvings in from town for the hotel guests. Unless you like a ripoff don’t buy any of it, if you like something it’s cheaper to take a taxi into town and find it than to buy it from these salespeople, everything is about 2x the price as it is in town. My dad picked up a nicely woven Seahawks bag for $30 American, we found it for $10 the next day.

The day was excellent: travel was stressful and anxiety-inducing, but with nothing having gone wrong and a welcome surprise as to how wonderful the hotel was, I felt this vacation was off to an amazing start.

In case you missed them:

1) I would recommend renting a car if you plan to travel around the island a great deal, but otherwise, a taxi is more economical for this island.

2) I would advise against having anything at a buffet that might spoil easily because you can’t be confident how long it has been sitting out.