Cozumel was the port we were most excited about visiting, after reading tons of articles, blogs, and reviews, about how amazing the underwater scenery is. It was the whole reason we did our Open Water Diver Qualifications in the first place! But unfortunately, rough seas resulted in all the water based activities being cancelled on our port day, so it’s still a mystery to us. We do hope to return someday to explore what lies beneath.
Excursions on offer
There are tons of water-based adventures on offer, from scuba diving and snorkelling, to interactions with sharks, dolphins, and manta rays. Since we had done our dives in Costa Maya, we changed our plans to an adventure that appealed to our sense of FOMO (Fear of missing out!). It was the first time we had the option of taking a submarine ride, and we were excited to experience the underwater world in a different way, but the weather prevented that from materialising.
This port was the easiest to explore if you had nothing pre-booked and wanted to explore on your own. With beach chairs facing the massive cruise ships and relatively cheap stores alongside some branded ones, you could easily spend a day eating, shopping and lazing around. There are also kiosks where you can book tons of excursions or rent dune-buggies with which to explore the island at your own pace.
There are theme parks and gardens, beach clubs and ziplines, downtown shopping districts and Mayan ruins, all waiting to be explored. If you wanted to visit Chichen Itza, you could do it in one of two ways. Either fly out for around $1000 per person and spend time there, or take a tour that involves about three hours of driving each way, which leaves you with just about an hour or so to explore the site. You could also just walk out of the port and explore the surrounding area, where there are souvenir stores and cafes, and just see where the day takes you.
Jungle ATV Adventure
We found an operator across the road from the port that offered more activities than the operators in the port did. After perusing the options and ruling out city tours and ruin-hopping, we decided to spend our day on a jungle adventure on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), and it did not disappoint. Just be sure to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also note that the cash price is always cheaper than paying by credit card, so make sure to carry some dollars around if you don’t want to pay the extra credit card fees.
The activity was done through Wild Tours at El Cedral, a fifteen minute drive from the port. Colourful flags and blooming flowers greeted us as we got out of the car, and after a quick driver’s licence check we were ready to hit the jungle.
There are lockers to rent if you want to stash some stuff away (for a fee, so once again, make sure to carry cash), or you can keep your belongings at your feet or tied down at the back of the vehicle. Note that anything you take with is bound to come back caked in mud. They provide helmets, bandannas, and bottles of water, and then you’re on your own. A helpful tip if you want to learn from our mistake, and especially if you’re in the front seat with a maniacal driver: use the bandanna to cover your face so that you don’t get mouthfuls of mud every few minutes.
We were lucky to be there the day after rain, so the ground was muddy and pot-holed, which gave us plenty of obstacles to aim for. They usually put four people in each ATV, and with one half way stop you can reasonably switch drivers once, so decide up front who wants to drive and who’s just along for the ride. It’s easy to drive and you could have a relatively calm drive if you were so inclined, by avoiding the muddier spots, but where’s the fun in that.
There is a lead car that guides you across the track, and the rest of the ATVs follow in a line. We allowed ourselves to lag behind the group a little, which gave us the chance to accelerate and hit the muddy spots at full speed for maximum fun. It was the dirtiest I’ve been in my adult life, and I enjoyed every minute!
The halfway stop is at a little cenote that smells faintly of sulphur and is refreshingly cool. Life jackets are provided and it’s a nice place to rinse off and get refreshed before the return journey. The day we visited there was a chill wind in the air, so the water was too cold for my liking, but about half of the group went for a dip and loved it.
The return journey was muddier than the first half, and the whole excursion felt a little too short as we were really having fun in the jungle setting. There’s a little bathroom to get washed off after, and they arranged taxis to take us back to the port. As soon as we stepped out, a disgusted store owner laughingly muttered at us to go and get washed off and then come back and buy stuff at his store, as we were all caked in mud from head to toe. We still had a couple of hours to spend in port after, and spent that time wandering around the little souvenir stores in the area, but you could easily go and explore more of the island too.