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Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

Los Angeles
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Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

(Part I of our Trip Report is on the Cancun Forum, Part II is on the Isla Mujeres Forum, Part III is on the Tulum Forum, Part IV is on the Valladolid Forum, Part V and Part VII are on the Playa del Carmen forum)

Day 1: Took the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel (156 pesos per person one-way). Very nice ferry ride. It took about 30 minutes. Once in Cozumel we walked to our hotel, Villablanca. It took us about 35 minutes. The taxis wanted 90 pesos to take us, which we thought was absurdly high, based on what we’d been paying in other places on our trip. Despite doing a lot of research about Cozumel, there were some things that were really surprising, like taxi rates.

The hotel: Villablanca was great. We booked our room for 6 nights on Expedia for about $50 USD a night. When we arrived they offered us the opportunity to upgrade to an ocean-view suite for $10 USD more a night, which we did. I looked at both types of rooms before deciding to upgrade. The standard rooms seemed very nice as well, just a little smaller and at the back of the hotel away from the ocean and the view. I was surprised, after reading reviews of the hotel, to discover there is no sandy beach at all and the snorkeling off the pier was nothing special. In other words, Villablanca is not really a hotel people stay at to access the water out front—unless you’re diving with the shops nearby. They have a very nice pool and hot tub and many dive shops in the immediate area. There is also a mini-mart and a couple of restaurants right next door. We didn’t eat at the hotel restaurant, which I don’t even think was open for dinner this time of year. Another thing that surprised us about the hotel was the fact that there is a cruise ship terminal about a half-mile south, which at first bothered us, but turned out to not really be a big deal. Also, the maids leave the door open when they clean and that lets in the mosquitoes.

Once we were settled into our room, we walked south along the water to The Money Bar, which we’d read good things about. The walk was pretty rough. It was very hot out and certain parts of the road had no sidewalk. But we were adamant about not letting the taxis rip us off. The Money Bar was very nice, and isolated. They have Happy Hour from 5-7 with 2 for 1 drinks. Live music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 6-8. Despite the awful name, this was the best place we hung out in Cozumel. The have beach chairs and loungers and bathrooms and showers you can use for free, and decent snorkeling. The ocean is beautiful from this part of the island. All the piers and ports are out of view. We ate some hot wings which were nothing special. Then we walked back to our hotel. At this point we realized that Cozumel is a big island with no public transportation for tourists and expensive cabs. If we wanted to see any more we needed a car, which we were told cost about $40-60 USD a day. So when a salesman guy stopped us walking home and offered us a car for $20 USD we talked to him and agreed to return two days later for a 90-minute sales pitch. We ate dinner across the street from Villablanca at La Hach. My wife was craving American food. We ate chicken fingers and burgers. Good food and a great view.

Day 2: Decided to motivate and try the snorkeling by the pier in front of the hotel. Lots of fish but no reef. Lots of boats around, which was a little weird, but there are people snorkeling all along the coast and it seems like the boats are careful. Had lunch at Papa Hogs. My wife had a burger, which was good. I had a chicken quesadilla which was not good. Dollar draft beers were great. Then we walked back to The Money Bar for snorkeling and live music. Good band. The snorkeling was good, still not much of a reef near the coastline. Very strong southern current. Caught a cab home (50 pesos after negotiating down from 90).

Day 3: Woke up early for our vacation-club presentation. Got a good free breakfast from the Park Royal buffet and talked with our host. Then she showed us around the hotel and we talked with some salesman, and 90 minutes later we had our car and free passes to Chankanaab water park. Well worth the sales pitch. Got our stuff from the hotel and drove to Chankanaab. Good snorkeling. Nice reef and lots of fish. The park was nice with many activities. We didn’t spend much time there because we wanted to take advantage of the car. I would recommend this place, especially if you have kids. Then we drove south to the Playa Palancar Beach Club. Had lunch. Fish ceviche which was okay, and expensive. The beach club was nice. They actually have a sandy beach. They run snorkeling boats out to the reef ($30 USD for 1.5 hours). We didn’t go in the water here. Kept driving all the way to the other side of the island, which is very different, and very beautiful. Glad we had a car to do this. Stopped at Coconuts on the cliff for a beer. Beautiful view and very picturesque. Kind of a sleazy vibe, though. The male server had a fake stuffed penis under his apron that he liked to show people and he could make it squeak. Fun, drunken atmosphere. Strange, since other aspects of the place are very kid-friendly. They have lots of birds and animals around—like a mini petting zoo. Continued driving. Stopped at Mega in town for supplies. Then back to the hotel. Margarita in the hot tub at sunset. Very nice.

Day 4: Drove back to the eastern side of the island for an early picnic before the rental car was due back. Beautiful beach with lots of locals swimming in large tidal pools. Stopped at Mega again with the car for more supplies. Took out $3000 pesos at an HSBC ATM and only got $2000. Nightmare. There were three other ATMs in the area and I just gambled and lost. My bank has since given me my money back (provisionally). First and only time this happened to us, and based on the currency denominations we did get, it seems the ATM was just out of cash. Welcome to Mexico. You roll the dice every day. At least the cops left us alone with our rental. Returned the car. Sat by the pool. We walked to town that evening but there was nothing going on. Depressing. We weren’t sure if this was because it was Sunday, or some holiday, but lots of the shops were closed and the restaurants empty. On a positive note there was a cool drumming acrobatic show going on in the main plaza. Then we walked back to the hotel.

Day 5: Hung out at the hotel and relaxed most of the day. Went across the street to La Hach to watch the sunset and drink a beer. That’s it.

Day 6: By this point we realized the entire economy of Cozumel centers around the cruise ships, and that things are more exciting in town during the day than they are at night. We decided to act like cruise ship tourists and have lunch at Margaritaville—at least the place had people in it. Good expensive food and very strange atmosphere. Who knew so many people were still stuck in the 1980’s? On a side note, we were charged $170 pesos ($15 USD) for two diet cokes. We protested and had the price lowered to a merely ridiculous $92 pesos for both. But we did get to watch the waiter humiliate himself by dancing on stage. Glad we went. Also went to Rock and Java (I think it’s called) a small bar just south of downtown. Nice place with a good cheap menu (for a tourist place) and an ocean view. Wish we’d found this place earlier (before Margaritaville). Again watched the sunset at La Hach.

Some final thoughts on Cozumel: You really need a car here, which can be a problem if you are on an extended trip and are trying to watch what you spend. The taxis make their money from the cruise ships, which is why they’re so expensive. There isn’t a lot to do on the island other than go to beach clubs or water parks in a car, or go diving, sailing, etc. If those activities are not in your budget, you may find yourself spending a lot of time by the hotel pool or drinking beer in your room (which is what everyone in our hotel seemed to do at night).

Part VII of our trip report will be on the Playa del Carmen forum…we went back there.

Liverpool, New York
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1. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

I have never heard the town centre described as depressing. That is just not a word that springs to mind when I think of Cozumel.

I've always found plenty to do on Cozumel without spending a fortune. The idea of sitting in a hotel room drinking beer is what I'd call depressing.

Maria

The Colony, Texas
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2. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

I'm with you Maria. I was in town just last Sunday and I could barely see the band or the people dancing because it was so crowded. We went into many shops that night too - saw fire dancers and the spray can painter and lots of stuff going on. Love being in town on Sunday nights. You can see my pics in my trip report.

We usually rent a condo and a car , but on evenings we are going to drink in town we get a taxi. From the north end to town - which is about the same distance from Villa Blanca to town it costs us $30pesos...a little over $2 bucks for 4 people. Not really what I would consider a rip off. We do enjoy snorkeling so we are all over the island every day that is one advantage to having a car. I couldn't imagine being here without one. Maybe an AI would give you more entertainment ? Of course it would be more than $60 a night.

Wisconsin
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3. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

"The taxis wanted 90 pesos to take us, which we thought was absurdly high,..."

I don't know, but to me a $9.00 cab fare does not seem like a ripoff.

WindLaker

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4. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

Just the fact that this poster went to Margaritaville shows that they didn't do research about affordable places, not to mention that Margaritaville is a totally Americanized, non Mexico type place.

Maybe I'll check out the rest of this posters trip reports to see if they found anything to do that was not expensive at the other places they visited. Beach resorts towns aren't cheap, but we find things to do on Cozumel that don't cost much and we certainly don't have much money. It's all relative.

At least they liked Villa Blanca. We love Villa Blanca.

Cozumel, Mexico
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5. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

90 pesos to Villa Blanca is "about" what it should be from the ferry pier. It is $7 from Punta Langosta as posted on their website.

I read all of Jaw75's trip reviews. All of them have the same general tone and experience. He stated upfront he was trying to do it on a budget. He succeeded at that.

I think we all become a little jaded focusing on one locale. We are experts on Coz as we spend a lot of time on this forum. When I did Isla Mujeres last summer, I remember how hard it was to find good sources of current information without posting the same "touristy" questions. You'd have to be on all of those forums for months to learn what you needed to learn to get the "local's swagger". Multiply that by the number of places he stayed.

His "no AC" story is pretty funny.

I'm glad he went to the trouble of writing all this.

Texas
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6. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

I'm glad he went to all the trouble of writing his experiences also. I enjoyed reading his other posts about other places.

I think it's difficult to visit beach places in Mexico on a low budget...they aren't as inexpensive as they were years ago. Maybe I'm just old and require certain comforts.

Texas
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7. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

Thanks for the report. I enjoyed it.

However, you missed a lot of the best stuff and places so next time give us a chance to give you some suggestions........

Cozumel, Mexico
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8. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

90 pesos is about right, that is about is about $8. Before I moved to Cozumel I paid $18 plus tip in N.Florida for a 3 mile trip. I live on SS income and I can not imagine being that tight. It may be going up, but taxi fare is still cheap when compared to the States.

Los Angeles
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9. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

I understand some of you think I missed out on a lot in Cozumel. I'm sure I did, that's why I was a little frustrated by certain aspects of the island. Cozumel, more than any of the other five places we visited in Mexico, has a specific scene and vibe. Many of the tourists there have been going for years and years, and they know all the little inside tricks. Which is great for those people. Reading TA can be helpful, but it can't make up for the fact that it was my first time there. We crash landed there not really knowing what was going on, and this was our experience. The "depressing" Sunday night I described was indeed depressing. The restaurants were empty. The major bars were either closed or empty (Carlos and Charlie's, Senor Frogs, Margaritaville, etc. We weren't looking to go into those places, but the fact that they were all closed says something about the night in question). The salespeople on the street and in the shops were hurting for business. I was in Mexico for five weeks and I never saw anyplace else this down. Like I said, the only reason we went in to Margaritaville was because we got tired of being the only people in a restaurant.

We attributed the quiet evenings we experienced in Cozumel to the fact that most tourists there were divers, who preferred to take it easy at night.

I could have done more research, sure. I thought I did a bunch. But most of what I wrote down was info about beach clubs that were a $30 USD round-trip cab ride away, all so I could pay 150 pesos for average ceviche.

Everything would have been different with a car.

Finally, regarding cab prices. Cozumel cabs tried to rip us off every time. That's just a fact. They can get away with it because the cruise ship tourists don't know any better. I took cabs throughout this trip and I have a good idea of what things should cost. Is $18 USD really an affordable round-trip cost from VillaBlanca to downtown. It seemed like way too much.

And by the way, sitting in your hotel room drinking beer only starts off depressing. It gets better quickly.

Birmingham, United...
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10. Re: Trip Report Part VI: Cozumel

I'm enjoying the trip reports but Jaw did state he thought the cab fair was absurdly high based on what he had paid in the other areas he had visited.