I stayed in Cozumel for around two months while I was doing a school summer research. As a student, I had to adjust my budget and learned how to live like a resident without an extra source of money.
I had the concept that living in a touristic town was very expensive. After being in Cozumel, I realized that once you get a general idea of a place, is easy to save money.
I am going to share with you a little bit of what I learned about Cozumel, my first impression of the island, some experiences I had there, my favorite places, the food I liked the most and all the prices I still remember, just to give you a small picture of the place.
What is Cozumel?
Cozumel is a Caribbean island in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico, that is situated 30 or 40 minutes by ferry from Playa del Carmen. Most of the people I know haven’t heard about it because the most mentioned place in Quintana Roo is Cancun, known for its turquoise beaches and white sand. But let me tell you that Cozumel has more than that…
The name of the Island is related to the meaning of the Mayan words “Cuzaam luumil”. Cuzaam (swallow) Luum (place) IL: (of, related to).
Legend says that the first habitants of Cozumel where Mayan women that wanted to establish a worship for Itxchel (goddess of the fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth). When they arrived at the island the first thing they saw where swallows flying everywhere, so they decided to name the place “Cuzaam luumil” (Place of swallows). Every Mayan women at least once in her life, would visit the island and ask the goddess to have a fertile life. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the name was undergoing changes which for phonetical deformation ended up being “Cozumel”. The worship for Itxchel keeps intact and the island still has lots of swallows.
Statue situated in the Downtown of Cozumel, next to the Ferry’s station
I’m from Jalisco, México. I had the option to fly from Guadalajara, Jalisco to Cancun, and find the way to get to Cozumel from there, or making a stopover and get directly by plane. The last option was expensive, so I decided to fly to Cancun (for 180 USD) take a bus there in the airport called ADO, to playa del Carmen (4.5 USD); it was already night time. Finally took a ferry to Cozumel (for around 7.5 USD one way). My first impression was that during the journey I saw something jumping out of the water, It was dark, so I kept guessing whether that was a dolphin or a whale. Not too far from there, was a bunch of lights; the Island. It was the perfect picture. My first time in the Caribbean, white sand, the translucent water, and that beautiful Mayan town. On my arrival to Cozumel land, the only thing I could see was this.
The water was clearly translucent and the sand seemed to be white, but…where was the Mayan design of the town’s businesses or the monuments I was expecting to find? I still loved that seeing.
The first week I learned about the place, its history, the food, local’s accent, common expressions and how to get to some places the cheapest way possible. I also made some friends and we found out that there is a taxi’s monopoly and buses are prohibited from passing by the most touristic places. We asked locals for another way of transportation until we discovered white and red minibusses that stop a few blocks away from downtown, just next to Chedraui. They give you a ride around different points of the town, except beaches, for only 6 MXN (0.30 USD). The thing was that my friends and I wanted to go to the beaches but we couldn’t afford 300 to 400 pesos (17- 23 USD) per ride every time we wanted to go. Somebody mentioned that there were Spongebob’s and Patrick’s vans that every Saturday give rides to any beach that people choose and then go to pick them back. It was crazy because we organized ourselves to go to the closest beaches everyday afternoon paying like 9 dollars per taxi and on weekends we were going to the farthest ones in the Spongebob’s vans for like a dollar per person, the only thing we were asked to do is take a minibus to Coppel Canada of the “Caracol” (snail) before of midday, wait for the van there and enjoy our day at the beach.
Sky Reef Cozumel
Museum of the island of Cozumel
When I started getting to know the Island, it was impossible for me not to fall in love with it. Just as I had imagined, I found the Mayan houses, ruins and archeological sites that I was expecting to see.
Beautiful places in the Island
The places I enjoy the most there were El Cielo, Palancar, Playa Azul and SkyReef all with a unique style. Playa Azul with large areas of white sand to enjoy. Sky Reef is more like a restaurant with snorkeling equipment for rental, you just have to buy something to get the right to stay there. The rock’s formations and an extensive marine life bring a unique underwater seeing without mentioning they usual band’s show that for me was really funny. Palancar has been recognized as one of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world.
Palancar. Cozumel, Quintana Roo Mexico
And finally, my favorite one. El Cielo, as its name meaning, this place is the heaven on earth, once you get approach you can see that the water start changing its normal Caribbean turquoise color, to a translucent lighter aquamarine (I’m trying to describe it, but you have to see it to understand why it’s too difficult to explain exactly how it is). When you get into the water the first thing you’re going to see are starfishes, if you go during the night time you are going to enjoy a dance show performed by luminous fishes which is something that I can’t explain either. This set of wonders that the place has is what describes the name of “El Cielo” (The Heaven).
El Cielo. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico
One thing of Cozumel I will never forget about is the people that live there, they were most of the times kind and helpful. Since the time they took to answer the interviews that I had to do in my research to the way they helped out to get to a place, on some occasions taking me personally, even though they didn’t know me. The only thing I didn’t like of the Island was that it’s not a developed place and it is difficult to get out of there to find what you need, especially when you’re a student. I remember one day that I literally went all around the downtown of the island just to find a place that would allow me to print a paper from the internet, without good results; anyways, the delight of being there it’s not minimized with that kind of drawbacks.
The typical food of Cozumel is “Ceviche de caracol (snail ceviche)” it sounds weird but it has a good taste, like shrimp. I also tried Yucatecan food there like Salbutes and Panuchos, they were delicious and cheap.
Salbute and Panucho
Every night from 8 to 9 they make a show with dancing fountains, and Mexican music in the principal plaza, which is something beautiful. Near to the fountains, there’s a woman that sells Machacados, a delicious fruit and ice beverage that I recommend you to taste.
Dancing fountains, downtown of Cozumel
There’s a lot to say about what to do in Cozumel. I am going to write about that in my next article.
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