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.

Related Stories

Troubled Falmouth, Jamaica cruise port finally welcomes first cruise guests

Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas became the first cruise ship to visit the new port of Falmouth, Jamaica which unofficially opened today, months behind schedule.

“We are delighted to see Voyager of the Seas make the first-ever ship call at Historic Falmouth,” said Craig Milan, senior vice president of Land Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “By partnering with the Port Authority of Jamaica, we are working to deliver our shared vision of Falmouth’s rebirth. Together, we are bringing the town’s historic sites to life and integrating the culture and authenticity of this destination into a superior guest experience.”

The port construction is a joint effort between between mega-ship maker Royal Caribbean International and the government of Jamaica. Originally scheduled to open last May, ongoing construction delays pushed opening the troubled port back, rerouting giant sisters Oasis and Allure of the Seas to Costa Maya, Mexico instead. It looks like the port is on track for an official grand opening in March though when Oasis of the Seas will make her first stop at the new facility.

On the ground today in Jamaica, cruise expert Stewart Chiron CEO, tweeted “Crowds massing on rooftops, churches, roadways as town about to enter new Millennium. Feels like Christopher Columbus’ arrival.”Indeed, the historic area of Falmouth, Jamaica dates back to 1790 at a time when Jamaica was the world’s largest sugar producer. One of the major obstacles in the construction of the new port has been building up an infrastructure that dates back to the late 18Th and early 19Th century when it was a central hub of the slave trade.

That was then, this is now.

“Marching band welcoming @RoyalCaribbean #cruise passengers as 1st to visit historic port of Falmouth” chimed Chiron.

Today, guests from Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas are experiencing a new and diverse variety of shore excursions while at Historic Falmouth, including:

  • Good Hope Great House:located fifteen minutes from Falmouth, guests can choose from the new horse & carriage ride, river-tubing, ATV exploring, among others, on this former 18th century Jamaican plantation
  • Dolphin Cove & Dunn’s River Falls:adventure seekers can climb Dunn’s River Falls; zip-line through the lush rainforest canopy or wind down the mountainside on a Jamaican bobsled at Mystic Mountain; or swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove.
  • Appleton Estate: after a scenic drive through the Cockpit Country and Bamboo Avenue, guests can indulge in one of Falmouth’s old-world delicacies by learning to make rum and sampling different aged rums.
  • Rafting on Martha Brae: located five minutes from Falmouth, guests can enjoy a tranquil ride on a 30-foot bamboo raft.

Once complete, the port’s master plan calls for 120,000 square feet of retail shopping and two berths capable of servicing the line’s Oasis-class ships. Located on the islands North side between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, most tours and excursions currently offered at either port will be available from Falmouth.

Some ships previously scheduled to call at Falmough had been redirected to Ocho Rios or Montego Bay where guests aboard Royal Caribbean ships got a discount on the very popular “JamaicaForADay” packages that sounded like just what they need and maybe what super-slow Falmouth construction workers shouldn’t have had.

The all-you-can-drink, all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-play excursion at Sunset Beach Resort pretty much washed away any post-ship diversion blues and brought on the trademark Jamaican party time with no problem mon.

Photos and video @CruiseGuy

Travel guides for cruisers

Sure, you could go to the library and do some research, check out a bookstore for the latest printed guides, but why? Everything you need is right here, literally at your fingertips. Let’s take a look at some of the online resources available to help plan our cruise vacations.

A good first stop is the cruise line websites themselves. There, you’ll find a bunch of good information about the ships, the cruise line and shore excursions they offer. To get more in-depth information about different ports and locations though, you need more than that.

Right here at Gadling we have a bunch of great people that travel the world, reporting on pretty much every aspect of travel on a regular basis. Travel gear and other topics that can totally be applied to cruise vacations are here too like airline information for that flight to the port, hotels for pre or post-cruise stays and restaurants in cities you might not be familiar with.

I like the easy-to-read blog format of this information with a bit of a personal twist to it way better than the dry, catalog-type you might get out of books.

Online travel guides like AOL TravelGuides are good too along with videos that give a clear picture of what you might see when your ship pulls into port. Actually, both Gadling and AOL Travel Guides cover many cities that are destinations for land-based vacations and ports of call for cruises. If your ship stops in Barcelona, you may not need a hotel but learning about the area adds great depth to your cruise experience and knowing what to watch out for, from an experienced land traveler who has been there, is good stuff.

Videos are another online resource that can be really good to consider. AOL has a bunch of them that really give you a good idea of what to expect.

There are other sources out there too. One I like is Insider, a relatively new one that offers over 2000 videos from all over the world, many in HD. From Aruba to Vancouver, you can find a good video at Insider Perks.

If video is not enough cruise-related information for you, try the radio too. has hours of interviews online, waiting to tell you all about everything from the latest cruise news to in-depth interviews with cruise directors, travel experts and more.

Not to throw out all the travel guides, iPhone users have a bunch of Aps that can be helpful too. A new one from the legendary Berlitz name, the Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. At $12 from itunes it’s half the price of the book and updated throughout the year.

Flickr photo by Kenny Miller