We jumped onto an ADO (bus) and headed for the less touristy “playa del Carmen”. How exciting.. this place is so highly recommended!
Walking from the terminal to our hostel, our little hearts sank. More tourist stalls, key chains, fridge magnets and tank tops repeated every 2 metres displaying “I’m in Playa del Carmen Bitch”… luckily we didn’t buy the Isla Mujeres tops.
We get to our hostel “ Enjoy Playa” and as all the reviews had stated… it was, at least trying to be, a party hostel. Our host Tony Bimbono showed us around, and informed us of our free shots of tequilla that awaited us later that night. Enjoy Playa hostel was quite small but colourful. Our dorm was a bit steamy with the baño in the middle and no ventilation. The lockers were enormous which is always great! The roof top space was really nice with hammocks, a cool view and it even provided breakfast, so of course, we were sold! Obviously excited by the prospect of binge drinking with Tony Telephonie, we headed out for a look-see.
We wandered up the crazy Calle Quinta Avenida (the main drag) which was jam packed full of shops, restaurants and bars all geared towards both domestic and international tourists. It was again not really our cup of tea (or cerveza) but we found a nice place to eat tacos before we went and sat on the beach.
A Boat @ Playa del Carmen
The beach is full of resorts, tourists and locals day drinking and enjoying the sun. Although the sun refused to shine, we found a spot in front of a beach volley ball court where some locals and one very, very drunk American girl were playing.
We couldn’t look away… although she dove (and face planted in the sand) for every ball (whether or not the ball was anywhere near her).. she was incredibly entertaining! She was so drunk her tiny bikini was probably not the best choice for her very active game plan. After the tenth nip slip we couldn’t bear to watch anymore and headed back to Enjoy Playa.
The next day we set off to Isla Cozumel. We had really hoped to do a scuba dive but the bad weather had closed both scuba trips and snorkel boats, in fact the whole coast line of reef was closed due to the swell. Cozumel is a popular cruise ship port of call famed for its scuba diving. It is the oldest Caribbean island and the largest in Mexico.
The Village Square @ El Cedral, Cozumel
At the port we were approached by a tour agent trying to sell us a rental car. We did plan to rent a car so we stopped to chat. It was going to be tax free “because you are this side of the island”, ONLY a 20% credit card fee as she advised against getting money out at the nearby ATM that would charge us US$30 (no ATM on the planet charges that much!), she was certain there were no ATMS on Cozumel and adamant that we couldn’t get a better price. One thing was for sure, she was entirely full of crapamente. If there is one thing we are familiar with… it should be car rentals and insurance. We unfortunately decided to break our helpful new friend’s heart, jump on the ferry and suss it out for ourselves.
The ferry was so rough and after 40 minutes of not talking and deep breathing we arrived on Isla Cuzumel without vomiting everywhere! Unfortunately can’t say the same for the five other passengers who lost their quesadillas.
Isla Cozumel Sign @ La Plaza, Isla Cozumel
We priced up a few rental places in San Miguel town and ended up renting a little Nissan March through HTL, who were very helpful and reassuring about the lack of insurance, to zoom around the island with. Cozumel was big (48km long and 16kms wide) and surprisingly enough it did have ATMs, and even banks!
Jess’ first time driving on the right actually went very smoothly… only needing a couple of reminders that she was a wee bit close to the edge of the road. Our first stop was a small village called El Cedral. We read that El Cedral is the oldest Mayan Ruins on Cozumel Island, dating back to 800 A.D. We visited the cute little church in the square and next to it were some small ruins. It was such a nice little village, once the capital of Cozumel, it was very small and felt a bit deserted besides a couple of shop venders but it was a Sunday.
Iglesia El Cedral @ El Cedral, Cozumel
El Gato y El Coche @ El Cedral, Cozumel
We continued right round the south of the island and stopped at a small deserted beach where half the road had fallen down onto it. The sea was beautiful, so clear and the brightest turquoise. Jess went for a snorkel alongside local spear fishers. 5km further round we found the most beautiful white beach but it was a bit rough to swim so instead we had a very overpriced juice in a bar overlooking the beach and carried on all the way back into San Miguel town. It was a really fun drive.
Jess and the Mexican Flag @ El Mirador, Cozumel
The town itself was beautiful with colourful side streets, amazing graffiti and lovely people bustling about. We sat in the plaza and watched four Mayans dressed in traditional clothing with their skin painted in beautiful patterns playing an ancient Mayan game called “Pitz”. Pitz was part of Maya political, religious, and social life. Played with a rubber ball slightly smaller than a foot ball, players attempt to bounce the ball without using their hands through stone hoops attached to the sides of the ball court. These guys were knocking the ball back and forth using their hips only and trying to get it through the vertical hoop on a sloaped court. It looked really difficult.
We sat in the plaza for ages people watching and enjoying the occasional waft of fresh warm churros. Luckily we didn’t get any as the ferry back was even rougher than the way there and half the boat were being sick. The waves were insane!
Dinner was at a local restaurant we had read about called Don Sirloin. Cheaply priced (for Playa) and amazing Sirloin steak tacos! Recommend!
Having enjoyed our couple of days in Playa but with no interest in staying any longer the next morning we jumped into a collectivo heading down the coast to Tulum, third time lucky for a bit of culture. Tulum ruins here we come!
The Saddest Seesaw/El Columpio Triste @ El Cedral, Cozumel
Accommodation MX$774 – Enjoy Playa Hostel. 6 bed dorm, breakfast included.
Food and drink MX$1070 – Mainly restaurants/ bars.
Transport MX$1,222.00 – ADO Cancun – Playa Del Carmen (1 hr) $146MXC, Car Rental on Cozumel (1 day) $800MXC, Ferry Playa – Isla Cozumel return (40 mins -1 hour each way )MX$276.
Shopping MX$228 – Sarongs for the beach.