Monday, November 12, 2012

I Did it My Way

How I Afford To Travel

If you follow my blog you know that I am a huge fan of everything Quintana Roo, especially the town of Playa del Carmen, and the islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.  Yes, I have visited these destinations frequently and have done most (certainly not all) of the touristy things to do.  One of my absolute favorite things to do in this area is snorkeling at the Underwater Museum and the Mesoamerica Reef, which is the largest reef in the Western hemisphere.  I love the vibrant underwater life around both of these spots and typically this is my choice activity.  Which is why on my latest trip to Playa del Carmen, I decided to do something I had never done before.  I decided to head over to Cozumel, walk right pass all of the snorkel tours, rent a scooter and take a self-guided tour of the island.

If you aren't familiar with this area, Cozumel is the largest inhabited island in Mexico and is a quick ferry ride (about 45 minutes) from Playa del Carmen.  With a population a little over 100,000 in 2011 and a year round temperature right around 80 degrees, Cozumel has become one of the most important tourist destinations in Mexico.  But enough of that.  Let's talk about my day!

I arrived on the island a little later than planned due to hanging out a little later than planned the night before, but I still had plenty of time to explore.  To save a bit of time, I rented a scooter from the vendor on the ferry ride over.  This was probably more expensive than negotiating a rate with a vendor on the pier, but the price was still much less than I anticipated - $35 for the entire day, including full coverage insurance. 

The vendor gave me a map of the island but there were a few things that I already knew I wanted to see, such as Celarain Lighthouse located on southernmost part of the island inside a park called Parque Punta Sur and at least one of the Mayan Ruin sites.  I set off on my plan to circle the entire 30 mile long island, but it didn’t take long to find something that peeked my interest - a military base with  a circa WW II fighter plane at the gate. Rumor has it that during WWII, this division of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force was assigned to an Air Force unit based in Luzon (Philippines).  These pilots, who called themselves the Aztec Eagles, participated in more than 90 combat missions, totaling more than 1,900 hours of flight time in support of U.S. and Filipino troops*.  Interesting right? 

I pushed on and ran across a lighthouse located inside of a busy marina.  I walked around taking pictures and watching as the workers of the marina smiled and carried on with their day.  There is also a large residence inside of the marina that looks abandoned.  This was one of two lighthouses that I saw during my journey.  The other was located on a dock.  Neither was open to walk up.

I continued my self-guided tour of the island.  The scenery was breathtaking as I passed beach after beach (there are close to 40 official and unofficial beaches total).  The crystal clear water continued to call my name and I had ignored it long enough.  I simply had to stop for a sun break, and some lunch.
Because someone had recommended Playa Mia Beach Club, this is where I headed.  I didn’t realize there would be an admission fee, but I sucked it up and paid.  Playa Mia is very commercial and I found out later, a popular tour for cruise ship passengers.  Luckily for me, there were no ships in port and I had the beach practically to myself.  I lounged around for most of the afternoon, enjoying the sun and the quiet. 

I left Playa Mia and made stops at a few secluded beaches, watching the sunset along the way.   Needless to say, I never made it to Celarain Lighthouse or the ruins, but I had no regrets.  Cozumel had impressed me and I knew I would be back.  Sooner rather than later.

*courtesy of World of Warplanes
For more pictures of my day, please click here!