Cozumel: Paradise found in Mexico

In the news, it seems we most often read of a Mexico that is unsafe to visit. Always with an eye on the safety of their passengers, cruise lines have modified itineraries for ships that call at Mazatlan on several occasions. While frequent visitors to Mazatlan stand up for it as a testament to it being safe, it seems the place just can’t get over the safety issue. Travelers want to go places to have fun, not to get robbed, beat up or shot at. Still, to discount the entire land of Mexico as unsafe would be wrong. There are some very safe places to visit in Mexico and Cozumel is one of them.

Cozumel is an entirely different place and to think for even a minute that it is unsafe to visit because it has a Mexico after it’s name is about as wrong as saying Martin Sheen is crazy because Charlie is.
First, let’s get our bearings straight. Cozumel is the biggest island in Mexico, located on the Yucatan Peninsula on the eastern, Caribbean side of Mexico. Mazatlan is on the west side of Mexico, way far away from Cozumel. It is separated from the Yucatan Peninsula by the Yucatan channel which is 12 miles wide.

The town of Cozumel is called San Miguel with a population of about 95,000 people. Most of the population of the island is in the town of San Miguel, on the west coast of the Island facing mainland.

On a land vacation, there are plenty of luxury hotels, first class facilities and services. Cozumel International Airport (CZM) is easily accessible from most major cities by many airlines and not far from hotels, beach and other attractions. Cozumel is world renowned for its diving because it hosts one of the largest coral reefs in the world, a big attraction for SCUBA freaks and snorkelers.

On a cruise vacation, one of the most attractive parts of the deal is that you unpack once but get to visit multiple destinations. As your floating hotel goes from place to place, you can choose to go ashore to get up close and personal with wherever it is you are visiting or stay on the ship. In most cases, it’s worth getting off the ship but if you’ve been there before there is a temptation to stay on board and enjoy the ship while most passengers are gone.

Cozumel, Mexico is one of those places that no matter how many times you have been there, the order of the day is to get off the ship. If you cruise much, odds are you will be seeing Cozumel from time to time and that is a very good thing.

That said, let me introduce you to a place I found in Cozumel years ago and return to almost every time we visit.

Paradise Beach is a short cab ride from the cruise terminal and a must-do destination when visiting either by land or sea. It’s a day at the beach like no other with crystal clear water and some of the best food and drink on the island.

Located 5 miles from the International Cruise Ship Pier, it’s about a $10 cab ride each way and there are plenty of cabs available. Once there, one of the first things you notice is how very clean the place is. From the parking lot to pretty much every square inch of the 300 foot-wide sandy beach, the place is spotless, much like you might find in a 5 star beach resort.

The next thing you’ll notice is that it is free. There is no admission here like many other beaches and prices for optional services, food and beverage are reasonable. You could probably just come here and sit in the sand on the beach for free but that would be a mistake. They have some of the best food and beverages on the island which really add to the whole experience.

Chairs are available to rent for only $2 (I paid $15 on Miami Beach not long ago) and the array of toys they have to play with is considerable. A trampoline, 14 foot-tall climbing iceberg, full snorkel gear, floating mats , kayaks, 10ft water slide, a Jungle Joe floating multi-tiered climbing structure, paddle boards, coconut trees to climb or a spacewalker bungee can be had for $12, unlimited use, all day.

It’s a good idea to get there early but only because more time at Paradise Beach is just a good idea. Once settled in, someone will be by to attend to your every need. They will bring you food from an extensive menu that does not get any more authentic than this. Try the Chicken Quesadillas or Guacamole and Chips. You will thank me later. Everyone does.

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