We’ve been in Cozumel six nights already but I’m still feeling giddy like it’s the first night of vacation. I love it here! Cozumel is an island just east of Playa del Carmen, a quick two hour trip from Akumal including driving and ferry time. We have been here a bunch of times, and every year it becomes easier for us to get here and settle in.
The first year, we spent a whole day driving completely around the island going door to door to hotels asking if they allowed pets, and none of them did. Finally, a little hotel called Villa Blanca took pity on us after I broke down into tears, and said we could stay one night with our dog. After they saw that Diego was a quiet, well-behaved dog, they said we could stay on, and we ended up living in that tiny hotel room for a month. The next year we realized the hotel had superior suites for just five dollars more, so that trip was much more comfortable. Then the next year we found Costa del Sol, a small group of homes in the south of the island, which we enjoyed for a few years.
This year we decided to try out the new condo buildings in the north of the island. The advantage with the north is that it is a lot closer to the town center, and the accommodations here are brand new high rise towers with amazing infinity pools, modern units, and of course beautiful views. But what is also great is that people actually live in the north….it’s not just all-inclusive hotels. However, the one disadvantage is that it is a longer boat ride to the good diving in the south.
Anyway, we both had to laugh at how easy things were for us this time. We decided last minute to head out here because there was construction happening at our condo in Akumal. In a few hours we had packed, booked a condo, loaded up our car with all our toys including two paddleboards and Pancha’s crate, caught the car ferry to Cozumel, drove off the ferry, met the condo manager who gave us our key, and we were moved in! So much easier than the first few years! And oh my god the condo is amazing. Here are a few photos and a video.
A few hours after we got here the security guard called up and said, “Look out your window.” There was a school of dolphins swimming by. So beautiful!
So far I’m totally sold on the north side of this island. Pancha and I go for walks every morning and evening, and there are a ton of locals out exercising and walking their dogs. The wide sidewalks are lined with trees so there is lots of shade, and there are even kilometer markers for the joggers and cyclists to measure their workouts. This island is full of exercise-junkies. Next week they are hosting a half Ironman, and in November is the real Ironman, which attracts a lot of athletes from all over the world. But the coolest part is to see all the locals exercising themselves. This is not typical for Mexicans, and it reminds me a little bit of New Zealand. Like New Zealand a lot of the joggers cruise at a very modest pace, but I love that they are out there just doing it. Very cool!
The town center is really lovely, too. Built around a typical Mexican plaza, the centro has lots of restaurants, bars, and street performers, and once the sun goes down everyone just hangs out there. Old people dance in the plaza, young people hang out on benches, little vendors sell food, and of course there are lots of dogs everywhere that keep me entertained.
We found a wonderful new dive shop located just a few doors down from our condo. The dive master Fernando is a really friendly guy from Acapulco, and the operation is very organized and professional. I was so excited to dive that I couldn’t wait for Mark, so the first day I dove without him while he caught up with work. This is not typical for me….I used to be so nervous to dive and would never go without Mark. But again, it’s this vacation-giddiness that has overtaken me!
Finally, we can’t get over how friendly the people are here. Cozumeleños are a lot different from those that live on the mainland, mainly because this island has been inhabited for more than a hundred years (compared to the coast that was developed for tourism just about 40 years ago, and all the workers were recruited in from the neighboring state of Yucatan). Thus, the Cozumeleños are a distinct group of people that have lived here for generations. They are a bit more educated, more cosmopolitan, and enjoy a higher standard of living than those on the mainland. Many own their own businesses and steady tourism keeps everyone comfortable and happy. And they are just so darn friendly! We’ve already met so many people who have welcomed us. One waiter gave us an open invitation to dinner at his house and spent time carefully giving us directions to where it was located.
And we are lucky to be here today, September 16, for Mexican Independence Day. This date marks the start of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain, over 200 years ago. This is what happened. On the night before, at 11pm on September 15, 1810, Mexico’s “Father of the Revolution” Miguel Hidalgo shouted the Grito, a cry of patriotism and independence, in order to rally the people and encourage them to revolt. Since then Mexico celebrates this night by re-enacting the Grito. This is done all over Mexico in every town center.
Last night we headed down to the Palacio Municipal early to enjoy the festivities. Several streets were blocked off and there was a huge mobile amusement park, carnival games, several stages, professional dancers performing traditional dances from all the states of Mexico, bands, and tons of food and beer vendors. The place was packed with what seemed to be everyone on the island: families, kids, old people, one month old babies, etc. We had some delicious tacos and enjoyed a few beers while sharing a table with a New York couple who hooked us up with shots of tequila out of their backpack.
Then the Cozumel mayor stood up on the balcony of the Palacio Municipal and made the pronouncement.
First he listed the rights of all people in Mexico, and then he began the grito, which was basically a salute to the revolutionaries, “Viva Hidalgo!” and “Viva Allende” and each time the crowd would repeat back “Viva!” Then he brought it closer to home, “Viva Cozumel!” and “Viva Quintana Roo” (our state), and again the crowd cheered back “Viva!” Finally he ended with three cheers for Mexico: “Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!” Then he rang the bell and a spectacular fireworks show began. Here are a few photos to capture the evening!
After the fireworks show we wandered around the carnival and were entertained by the rickety rides and unusual games. One man was auctioning off a whole warehouse of merchandise in a matter of minutes. We watched him get hundreds of people to buy random junk instantaneously. Mark was fascinated!
We are already talking about how maybe we need to spend more time in Cozumel, and put this spot into our regular rotation. For now, we are enjoying it! Viva Cozumel!