Cozumel is a small island, an hour ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. Expect awesome beaches, world-famous diving, wildlife park, pretty city center, and lots of tourists. Whether for couple of days like us, or for a longer vacation, Cozumel is a good choice for a trip with kids. Here is why.
1. Beach time!
Cozumel feels like a little tropical island in the Caribbean. Which is exactly where we are:) East (ocean) side of the island has rougher coast. The waves are big, the wind is stronger. Not exactly a place to let your kids swim around, but it’s worth a stop. Even if just for a picture. West coast is milder, with lots of free beaches, paid beach clubs, beach bars and restaurants.
The 70 km road around Cozumel is perfect for beach hopping. We take it easy, stop for the view, for a swim, or a bite. Our highlight is a random wild beach, empty wooden stall providing much needed shade, and waves! Powerful, never ending, breaking on the rocks. And getting splashed by the waves is better than swimming. When we get hungry, we move to a nearby bar with a nice beach, guacamole, and plenty of sand for kids to play with. And a sunset treat to end a day – a reef beach bar with decent snorkeling.
2. EVENING play time in the Plaza
During the day, the city center belongs to one-day-cruise-ship tourists. Usually we run away from such places, but when I need to entertain three kids alone for couple hours, the Plaza is an obvious choice. The twins and I are busy small-talking with bored tourists, while Piko climbs the “Cozumel” giant letter sign. Yes, he is a professional photo-bomber, being featured on many vacation pictures. When it gets too hot, there are two water fountains he can enjoy.
At night, the Plaza belongs to kids. Better than an amusement park, better than a fancy playground. What is a regular water fountain during the day, turns into a colorfully lit, carefully choreographed light and water show. Make sure to take dry clothes and a towel. You will get wet, either by standing too close or by running after your kids, who will stand too close. When the show ends, the kids are so disappointed they demand an encore. And they get it! And this time, the staff takes down the fence. The kids are wildly running among the jets of water. And parents? We have a blast watching the kids, until we want to leave. Then it’s time to dig out all parenting skills we have.
3. Meeting crocodiles in Punta Sur Ecopark
If there is one place to visit on Cozumel, it’s Punta Sur Ecopark. It’s scenic, fun, educational, and kids love it. A rough road through jungle takes us to a crocodile laguna. Despite a safe distance, seeing these huge beasts so close it’s thrilling. Next stop is fresh juice in Ecocafe by a lighthouse, where it’s too easy to forget time. We almost miss a 40 min boat ride further out to the lagoon. After spotting more crocs, we are ready for some chillout time. We are disappointed with all the algae on the beach and overpriced drinks in the bar, but I can imagine that with a calm sea, it is a perfect ending to cool off from wildlife encounters.
Being in an attractive destination means you will not be alone. Cozumel is a popular cruise ship destination, and one day tourists are like a disease to usually polite and friendly locals, who don’t have to worry about returning customers. One example to speak for all – in Alberto’s Beach Bar, we not only ate absurdly overpriced fish, we had to deal with rude staff, so unlike any other experience elsewhere in Mexico. If it was not for sleeping kids and empty stomachs, we would have left. And maybe it’s a shame we didn’t. By becoming paying customers we contributed to the tourist trap. So how to avoid the crowds? Visit the city center until 10am before the ships disembark, or after 6 pm when the ships start to leave. Ignore the pushy salesmen. Ask some friendly locals where they would go instead of relying solely on TripAdvisor.
Cozumel is popular and it’s for a good reason. It’s a great place to visit. We were there for three days and could easily stay longer. The laid-back island life is contagious.