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Trip Report Day Trip: Playa del Carmen to Cozumel

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We usually spend one week, sometimes two, in either Cancun and/or Playa del Carmen (PdC), usually with no specific plans, however, we try to take one full day trip to someplace unique, so this year, just before Thanksgiving (US), we tried a day trip to Cozumel from our timeshare, which is just outside PdC. We knew we had to take a ferry and had no idea what to do on the island, nor what services there were. It seemed reasonable to initially plan on renting some bicycles and cruising around. However, we quickly learned that the Island roughly is 16x 30 Km and many of the nicer beaches and snorkeling areas are not easily travelled to by bicycle unless one is a competitive cyclist, ( and mind you, we saw a few such cyclists training there ) so I allowed myself to be talked into pre-paying for scooters for the 6 of us in my party.

The web sites for the two ferry operators are m for the Blue and Yellow Ultramar ferries and for the Red, Blue, and White Waterjets. These web sites are in Spanish and English and do have some reasonable info about the island, however, they do not come up on the usual Yahoo or Google web searches, unless you search in Spanish. On-line ticket purchasing is an option, but I know of no-one who has tried that – it appears to offer a bit of a discount if you do. One way tickets are 140 Peso, which is a bit over $12 US. There is no discount for purchasing round-trip vs. one-way, and most tourist friendly websites do advise you to buy one-way only tickets. There is no perceptible difference in service between the two lines. We took Ultramar over and they had some live entertainment, and took Water jet back, on a larger vessel which for us seemed slightly more comfortable. The actual trip however, travels East-west and the nature of the wave action in that area has a north-south component to it, so the boats do roll somewhat throughout the 30 min trip, which will be unpleasant for anyone with easy onset of motion sickness, otherwise, the ferry ride was a pleasant trip.

Upon arrival in the sole town of San Miguel, however, the tour operator we were told to look for as the link for our scooters was not visible. A kind security guard advised us to look for a man four blocks south of the pier, “in front of the McDonald’s” which we did. Amazingly, we found this lone individual, hawking glass bottom boat rides. We showed him our receipt for the scooters, and he immediately started to make numerous cell phone calls, indicating to me that the representation that “pre-payment” of the scooter fee smoothed out the hassle of finding a vendor “on the other side” was totally fictitious. However, in about 15 min two small cars showed up and took my party to another part of the city, where there were two adjacent rental operators, each with 3 remaining scooters to rent. After a considerable amount of time going over paperwork, inspection of the scooters, and some safety instructions to my party, we were on our way.

There is only one main road on Cozumel, and it basically follows the coast of the lower 2/3rds of the island, and then cuts straight east-west from San Miguel, which is on the west side, to the beaches on the east, or Gulf, side. We were advised to start traveling south along the west side of the island, which makes the trip counter-clockwise. This was good advice, as doing so meant we had only to make right hand turns anytime we wanted to go to the water. Going clock-wise would have increased the number of left hand turns we would have to make, as at times the traffic was an issue.

Traveling around Cozumel on scooter was a BALL of fun. We stopped for snacks and drinks at two different waterside cantinas. One in particular was rather rustic, called Playa Bonita, just one Km south of Punta Chiqueros, staffed by a very charming and enthused wait staff, who served us enormous and potent Margaritas, and the menu looked most inviting, as it appeared they were making everything from scratch. I’ll want to return if I can. Most of the best snorkeling and diving is on the west side of the island, and on that side the facilities are private, where a modest daily use fee gets you a package of activities. There is also a State Park called Chankanaab. We did not venture in but did note several recommendations for this Park on many other postings.

On the East (Gulf) side, the character of the island is much more rural, with only a few small businesses separated by long expanses of undeveloped beach. The beaches appear open to the public, and range from very nice, to nice but with lots of seaweed, to very rocky. We saw two blowholes in action which was most impressive. Many of our party found a nice stretch of acceptable beach with an active surf and frolicked in the surf for an hour. We then returned to San Miguel after dark.

In summary, a day trip to Cozumel and scootering around is a highly recommended, if one vacations frequently in the Mayan Riveria area. I recommend getting an earlier start ( we caught the 11 Am ferry – I suggest the 9 or 10 am ferry) and also, recommend either asking your hotel or resort staff to find out who is the reputable scooter companies on the island, OR just walk up 2nd Avenue, which is one block north of the main street, Avienda Benito Juarez. 2nd Avenue has many scooter companies. Recommend do NOT let someone pre-book a rental without knowing who on the other side you are looking for.

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