Ring in the new year at Indigo Beach Club!

If you are joining us at one of our five Condo Hotel properties this new year’s eve, rest assured that we are bringing the party of the year to you! Every year, Indigo Beach Club hosts a fabulous event, and this year’s party shaping up to be their best yet.

Indigo Beach Club - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

What better way to say “adios” to 2013 and “hola” to 2014 than a fiesta on the shores of the Caribbean? Feast on a lavish buffet of delectable European inspired cuisine and salsa the night away to Latin rhythms provided by Indigo’s resident DJ and live musical acts.

Indigo Beach Club Fiesta - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

It’s going to be a new year to remember, although the open bar means you may have some trouble doing that. Never fear! The staff at Indigo will ensure top notch service throughout the night, and since you are just a short stroll away from your luxurious condo, there’s no hassle getting home.

Let us take the stress out of your new year’s celebrations this year. Located on the white sand beach in front of the El Taj, Indigo Beach Club is European chic meets laid back Caribbean style.

Indigo Beach Club - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Kick off your heels and party the night away under the stars while the palm trees sway along in the breeze.

Meet friends, discover new ones and let all your cares and stresses of the busy year be carried away by the Caribbean Sea.

Indigo’s parties have a reputation for being the place to be in Playa del Carmen and they have had great success with new year celebrations in previous years.

On New Year’s Day, there is no better place to relax and recover than on the plush sun beds at Indigo. Over a delicious nutritious breakfast of fresh fruit, pastries, eggs, juice, coffee and more, you’ll feel like a million dollars in no time.

Indigo Beach Club Sun Beds - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

A dip in the sparkling Caribbean Sea is the best way to shake off the previous night’s indulgences and welcome in a brand new year, refreshed and invigorated.

With just a few days to go, secure your place at the hottest event in town, and send off 2013 with a bang!

Enjoy a Caribbean Christmas in Playa del Carmen

The countdown to Christmas is on and Playa del Carmen has recently come alive in a show of light, color and Christmas cheer. A huge tree has been erected in front of the Sanborns department store in the center of town, decorated beautifully in red and gold.

Christmas tree in Playa del Carmen - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

It seems the residents of Playa del Carmen take Christmas cheer very seriously – hotels, stores and local homes are stringing lights, tinsel and decorations, and trees are popping up all over town.

Playa del Carmen is in bloom with hundreds of bright red poinsettia plants, which really enhance the festive atmosphere around town. Poinsettias love the heat and lots of light, so if you pick one up for your condo, place it somewhere where it can get lots of both.

Poinsettias - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Some may find it strange to celebrate Christmas in the tropics, but here at Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen, a ‘white Christmas’ involves digging your feet into the fine sand of the Caribbean at Indigo Beach Club!

Indigo Beach Club - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Instead of hot cocoa and egg nog, Christmas drinks include creamy pina coladas and refreshing margaritas while watching the turquoise waters lap against the shore. Christmas day viewing includes miles of white sand beaches and sparkling seas instead of old movies!

Events and fiestas are happening every night around town, from the Mexican night at Indigo Beach Club on Wednesdays with unlimited fajitas and traditional pozole, as well as two-for-one cocktails at Imprevist.

Imprevist - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Don’t worry about not being able to find traditional Christmas fare – the supermarkets are stocked with chicken, turkey, ham and all the trimmings for those who would like to prepare a meal in their fully equipped kitchen.

Or better yet, why not make use of your very own private chef to create a Christmas meal for you and your loved ones you will never forget!

Indigo beach club is also putting on a sumptuous spread at their beachfront restaurant in front of the El Taj hotel.

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Don’t have a tree? Well, that is easily fixed! How about a Caribbean-style Christmas tree? The kids will love it, and best of all, there is nothing to clean up afterwards and no messy pine needles!

Christmas on the beach - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

The Caribbean answer to a Christmas tree…

Whatever you decide to do for Christmas, whether entertain on your private terrace, relax by the pool or soak up the sun at the beach, you can be guaranteed it will be a holiday to remember.

While the sun is shining instead of the snow falling and the margaritas are flowing instead of hot cocoa, there is no shortage of Christmas cheer in Playa del Carmen. Come celebrate with us and experience a white Christmas – Caribbean style – on the beach!

Christmas on the beach - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

 Celebrate Christmas on the shores of the Caribbean with us!

Jazz under the stars in Playa del Carmen

Since 2004, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival has become somewhat of an institution for jazz and live music lovers. Set on the shores of Playa del Carmen at Mamitas Beach, this festival provides a unique evening of world-class international musical acts under the stars.

Now in it’s ninth year, the festival attracted a stellar line up this year, and took place over three days. Some highlights of the 2013 festival included the following stand-out local and international performers:

Aguamala | Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Aguamala

Mexican band Auguamala are committed Riviera Maya Jazz festival performers, having played at every festival since its inception. A blend of Jazz, Rock, Funk and regional Mexican music, they are a long-time favorite among local festivalgoers and are even becoming popular with international audiences.

Their music embodies the colorful, frenetic and often chaotic lifestyle of modern Mexico, and is an excellent local addition to the cultural cross section of the festival.

Brent Fischer | Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Brent Fischer

Heralded by jazz critics and fans alike, The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Group (the band’s original name) has appeared on dozens of CDs over the decades, known for their Afro-Cuban and Brazillian rhythms and Brent Fischer’s unique writing.

Adding a distinctly Latino flavour to the lineup, they are well loved by fans all over the world for their spicy sound and hip-swinging beats. You will be hard pressed not to get up and dance to these guys.

Celso Pina | Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Celso Pina

Celso Pina, ‘The Accordion Rebel’ hails from Monterrey in northern Mexico and has a distinct sound which spans across genres such as hip-hop, reggae, rock, pop, danzon and bolero. Opening the festivities on the final night, Celso created an electric atmosphere with his unique signature sound and it’s no wonder that he’s collaborated with many successful musical acts such as Lila Downs, Cafe Tacuba and Control Machete in countries such as France, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Colombia and Argentina.

Earth, Wind and Fire | Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Earth, Wind and Fire

Headlining the festival this year and proving to be a draw card which attracted a large international crowd were iconic musical sensation, Earth, Wind and Fire. Closing the festival with a bang, this internationally acclaimed act didn’t disappoint, leaving a lasting impression with their signature sound.

Crowds flocked to the sand at Mamitas Beach like seagulls, hungry for the eclectic pop sounds of this iconic group, well known for bridging gap between black and white musical sound in the 70′s.

The last evening of festival was proof that their message of racial harmony and heightened cosmic consciousness is still extremely relevant, and their music has certainly stood the test of time.

We’ll have to wait until next year to see what the festival has in store for 2014, but whatever the lineup, we can be sure it will be another night of unifying, eclectic sounds in a magnificent setting on the shores of the Caribbean.

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival | Mamitas Beach

Tip: The Riviera Maya Jazz festival takes place on the last weekend in November, from Thursday to Saturday. Entry is free, just bring something to sit on and your dancing feet…

The most famous locals in Playa del Carmen

You guys, we have some international superstars in our midst! These Playa del Carmen locals are more famous than One Direction, more photographed than Miley Cyrus, and have less personal privacy than all the Kardashian sisters combined.

They are – drumroll please – the world-renowned frogs of Señor Frogs!

Señor Frogs

These guys might look innocuous enough, but they are fast becoming the most famous residents of Playa del Carmen, with their images spreading far and wide across the globe.

People cannot get enough of these frogs! Everybody wants to be seen with them and is unable to resist their charms.

From tiny babies to mature ladies, these guys have the tourists and visitors of Playa del Carmen in the palms of their froggy feet.

Señor Frogs

Perhaps it’s their friendly demeanor, jovial nature, or larger than life personas that attract people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to them, but whatever the reason, these guys are destined for international super-stardom whether they like it or not.

I can only imagine the number of Facebook profile pictures and family mantlepieces around the globe featuring these guys! From France to China; Australia and the Netherlands, there has never been a group of Playa del Carmen residents to reach such international acclaim!

Señor Frogs

Except perhaps this guy, the Mayan warrior who I suspect is actually the frog’s bodyguard, ensuring no harm comes to his amphibious friends. I certainly wouldn’t want to get on his bad side!

Mayan Warrior

If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is wander down 5th Avenue to 20th street and experience the hype for yourselves. That is, if you can fight your way through the melee of onlookers and paparazzi to catch a glimpse of these guys.

Señor Frogs

We did, and found them friendly enough. I don’t know where they find the patience to keep smiling in the midst of screaming kids and fussy posers who simply must get the perfect shot, but perhaps it has something to do with what one of them is drinking.

Señor Frogs

Either way, it was great to get up close and personal with these international superstars. They were fairly tight-lipped and didn’t say too much, although considering the level of international stardom they have reached, I suppose that is understandable.

As the most famous residents of Playa del Carmen, I suppose from here on out they will only communicate through ‘their people.’

I’m just happy that for the rest of my days, my claim to fame will be that I met the world-famous frogs of Señor Frogs in Playa del Carmen.

Sampling the world at Taste of Playa

Every year in Playa del Carmen, the parque fundadores at the southern end of Fifth Avenue becomes a stage for showcasing fine international cuisine at the Taste of Playa food festival.

Taste of Playa

Crowds of locals, expatriates and visitors converge in the square next to the iconic white church and striking ‘Portal Maya’ sculpture to sample local and international flavors from all across the globe for just one day in late November.

Parque Fundadores

If your stay with us at Condo Hotels coincides with Taste of Playa, we encourage you to head down and experience a wide selection of local restaurants and bars serving up their very best flavors with innovative creations and classic favorites.

I was blown away by the variety of cuisines offered, from local delicacies to Japanese, Thai, Lebanese, Italian and more. Never before had I eaten fresh ceviche, sashimi, barbecued lamb tacos, Thai satay sticks and locally made ice cream all in the one day!

Taste of Playa

I may have over-indulged, sure, but who could blame me with the world’s flavors gathering in one place?

I know Playa del Carmen is famous for its fantastic restaurants, but there is simply something special about having them come together to showcase the wonderful selection of international cuisine available in this colorful, lively town.

Not to mention the electric atmosphere as Playa’s diverse, multi-cultural population comes together to eat, drink and be merry while celebrating the wonderful food scene of this town we all love so much.

It was my first time at Taste of Playa and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was extremely impressed by the quality of samples offered, and loved experiencing an excellent cross-section of Playa’s dining scene in one place.

Taste of Playa

A few tips for Taste of Playa goers for next year:

1. Arrive early. Gates open at 3pm, and tokens are available for purchase then. We arrived just after 3pm and there were already substantial queues for tokens, which only grew throughout the afternoon.

2. Buy more than you think you need. Due the queues, I decided to ‘over purchase’ tokens, and ended up using them all. There was so much variety, including sweets, drinks and desserts, so it wasn’t too difficult to go through my tokens.

Taste of Playa

3. If you see something you like, get it! It can be a little overwhelming to have so much to choose from, but I found it best to try anything I thought looked good, rather than planning what to eat when. Due to the crowds, it was a little difficult to negotiate the small space, so go with the flow and sample as as you go. Ice cream for a starter? Sure! it is a food festival after all…

4. Decide on a meeting point and time. If you are going in a group, designate a meeting point that you can return to meet up with friends and family members. Eating is a serious business in Playa del Carmen, and as a result Taste of Playa is a busy place. It can be difficult to keep groups together, so unless you want to buy a VIP ticket for the event, pick a meeting point to ensure no one gets separated from the group for too long.

Taste of Playa VIP

The VIP zone…

We hope you’ll join us next year to sample the wonderful local and international cuisine at Taste of Playa 2014! See you there!

Sanborns arrives in Playa del Carmen

The new Sanborns department store has recently opened in Playa del Carmen, and we are very excited to introduce this Mexican retail icon to our Condo Hotels guests. The newly built store on Fifth Avenue, just around the corner from Porto Playa, Villas Sacbe, El Taj and Maya Villa, is open for business and ready to welcome shoppers and browsers through it’s shiny new doors.

Sanborns sign

This is not just any store. Sanborns opened its first store in Mexico City back in 1903 and has since become a historical and cultural icon in Mexico.

Originally known as Sanborn Brothers (Sanborns hermanos), the company began as a family business before becoming part of the Sanborns group – one of the biggest chains of stores, pharmacies and restaurants in the country.

The trademark of the franchise, the three owls, represent Mr. Frank Sanborn and his sons, Francis and Jonathan, so the family legacy of the chain continues to this day.

Thanks to Playa del Carmen’s conservative building laws prohibiting high-rises, the building has been developed in an attractive low-rise style, covered with leafy green vines. Large palm trees have been planted at the front entrance, and there are outdoor spaces to relax in after a long day’s shopping.

Sanborns exteriorSanborns seat

Inside, the store has the very best in beauty products, fragrances, electronics, fashion and even has a pharmacy. It also remains true to its cultural heritage by showcasing high quality handicrafts from all over Mexico. If you are looking for a special gift for someone, Sanborns will have what you are looking for.

Sanborns perfumesWooden ornamentslaquer ware

Sanborns is also famous for its cafeteria, and the Playa del Carmen branch is no exception. It has a full service restaurant with a wide selection of Mexican and European dishes, as well as coffees and desserts, with a view of Fifth Avenue  and Av. Constituyentes through the large glass windows.

Sanborns restaurant

My favorite section is however, the cakes. Colorful, artistic creations line the glass cabinets and would make a very special addition to any celebration. Of course, you can also buy cake by the slice, to be enjoyed with a delicious cup of coffee.

Sanborns cakes

For chocolate lovers, Sanborns has a unique selection of truffles, which can be purchased individually or as a hand picked box. If you are looking for a unique dinner party gift, I would say that a carefully selected box of Sanborns truffles, made from rich Mexican cacao, would impress the most discerning host and ensure you are invited back!

With Christmas approaching, there is also a wide selection of children’s toys on offer, including some lovely Christmas themed gifts.

Sanborns Christmas

So for those of you coming to visit us for the holidays, there is no need to bring gifts down with you. Toys, electronics, perfumes and unique local handicrafts are now at your fingertips within a large, air conditioned building ensuring you can do your Christmas shopping in comfort and style.

As the slogan says, “Meet you at Sanborns!”

A girls’ trip to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres, meaning ‘Island of Women,’ is the site of an ancient Mayan temple dedicated to Ixchel, the Goddess of fertility, medicine, and the moon. It was given its current name by the Spanish, who found many female shaped idols of the Goddess when they colonized the island, so it seemed fitting that my first visit to Isla Mujeres would be on a girls’ trip.

My friend was planning a trip to Isla Mujeres at the same time my mother was visiting me in Mexico so she invited us, along with another friend who is a regular visitor to Playa del Carmen. The girls’ trip was born out of chance, serendipity or perhaps fate, but either way, I was happy to be finally visiting Isla Mujeres after experiencing the beauty of it’s crystal clear waters on our whale shark tour back in August.

Our ferry departed from Puerto Juarez, Cancun, about an hour north of Playa del Carmen. They are very regular and run every half hour so we purchased our tickets at the port. We sat on the top deck for the beautiful twenty minute ride across the water; I was excited for my Mom to experience her first ever Caribbean island.

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approaching isla

We disembarked at the dock at the western side of the island, and headed off on foot to the famous ‘Playa Norte’. We procured sun loungers and umbrellas from Tarzan’s beach club, and took to the water which shone like topaz under the bright mid-morning sun.

playa norte

It was absolutely, unmistakably, beautiful.

The beach of Playa Norte is the most popular and well-known of the island, and I can understand why. Flanked by fine, white sand, the water is the most beautiful shade of turquoise and as calm as a swimming pool.

After soaking in the water and getting our fix of vitamin D, we headed back through the town in search of a golf cart to rent. We didn’t have to look very far – these dinky vehicles are one of the most popular forms of transport on the island and rentals are easy to find. We negotiated a rate of 400 pesos for the whole afternoon (US$30), and took off to explore the south end of the island.

golf cart

At only five miles long, Isla Mujeres is very easy to explore. We drove past luxury homes and through the quaint, colorful local town in the center of the island, before arriving at ‘Punta Sur’, the southern-most tip.

We paid 30 pesos (US$2.50) to enter the grounds of the temple of Ixchel and made our way along the paved walkway to the very end of the island where the ruins were located. It wasn’t so much the temple itself which made us gasp in awe, but the breathtaking view from the top of the craggy limestone cliffs across the Caribbean.

temple of Ixchel

temple cliffs

The wild ruggedness of the sea crashing into the rocks was in stark contrast to the calmness of the water we’d swum in at the northern end. Though vastly different in appearance and feel, both scenes were equally beautiful, and it amazed me how such a small island could be so naturally diverse.

To top it off, modern steel sculptures dotted the landscape, reminding me of the importance of human civilization existing in balance with the natural environment. At first, I thought the sculptures detracted form the natural beauty of the site, but after I had wandered around for a while, I realized that they had actually enhanced my experience.

sculpture Ixchel

With the sea breeze whipping at my face and the sounds of the powerful waves crashing into the limestone below, I could feel the sacred nature of this ancient place of worship, and understood why the Maya chose ‘Punta Sur’, the southern-most tip of a tiny Caribbean island, to build the temple of the Goddess.

Celebrating the Day of the Dead in Mexico

The Day of the Dead is a fascinating cultural celebration dating back to ancient times. It is a time of honoring and remembering those who have passed, through color, food, drink and music. On November 2, families all across Mexico gather in local cemeteries, singing, laughing, eating and drinking, believing that the spirits of their departed loved ones return to visit them that day.

During the week leading up to November 2, visitors to Mexico gain a sneak peak into this ancient tradition, experiencing some of the sights, smells, tastes and customs unique to Dia de los Muertos. 

Day of the Dead in Playa Del Carmen

At the end of October, colorful skulls made from sugar and chocolate appear on the shelves of the local supermarkets.

Day of the Dead skulls

These are often used to decorated altars within family homes, along with other food, drink and trinkets. It is believed that the spirits of the departed return on November 2 to enjoy earthly pleasures like food, drink and music, and families ensure their loved ones have their favorite treats waiting for them.

Day of the Dead altar

Altars and grave sites are decorated with golden marigolds and other flowers. It is believed that the bright color and strong scent of the marigold helps the spirits find their way back to the earthly realm to spend time with their families.

The flowers are sold in the market in large, bulging bunches of color, and are an important ingredient of the festivities, reminding us of the vibrant beauty of life.

Day of the dead flowers

A special bread, Pan de Muerte is baked and sold in the market leading up to the Day of the Dead. The type of bread varies in different regions of Mexico. In the Yucatan, the bread is covered in sugar crystals, while in Oaxaca, faces are baked into crust and hand painted with vegetable dyes.

pan de muerte

Many stores and homes will be decorated in the last week of October. As the Day of the Dead is just after Halloween, in some parts of Mexico with a large ex-pat community from the United States, Halloween decorations will also abound.

Children dress up in their best ghoulish costumes and ‘trick or treat’ for candy and small coins. I’m always impressed by the lengths parents go to to dress their children up as scarily as possible!

My favorite part of the celebration, however, are the ornate altars erected in homes, stores and hotel lobbies. Altars usually have three levels, signifying the different realms of existence, and are always decorated in bright colors of gold and pink.

day of the dead altar lobby

It is a real treat to visit Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebrations, and I love observing all the different customs associated with the ancient tradition. In coming together to remember the dead, people are filled with a sense of togetherness and aliveness, while enjoying the good things in life -family, friends, food, drink, music and laughter.

 

Tepoznieves: The Sweet Taste of Mexico

Just around the corner from the properties of Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen, is a little ice creamery with a lot of character. Tepoznieves is not your normal ice creamery, however. It is a very special place where you can discover the unique flavors of Mexico, and where one scoop of the delicious refreshing treat is never enough.

tepoznieves

Tepoznieves is situated on the corner of Constituyentes and Avenida 10, just around the corner from Porto Playa condos. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but at just 25 Pesos (around $2) for a small cup with two scoops, I’ve decided it’s a very, very good thing.

The best thing, however, is that you will be offered samples of various flavors before you decide on your favorite.

And I’m talking about very unique flavors here! Tequila ice-cream (yes!), queso (cheese), avocado, mantequilla (butter) and more. Of course the usual suspects are still available such as chocolate, but it’s not just any chocolate, this is Mayan chocolate made from pure cacao with dark chocolate chunks and it is absolutely delicious.

counter at tepoznieves

There are fruit sorbet styles such as passionfruit, limon and mango as well as creamy varieties such as coconut and vanilla.

Both cups and cones are available and you can mix your favorite flavors to create a unique taste sensation. They have some of the most original ice cream flavors I have ever had, such as deliciously fruity guabana or the blow-your-head-off ‘coffee with yoghurt’.

Initially some of the flavors seem a little strange, but I love the way they take off-beat ingredients such as basil, rice and corn and turn it into a delicious sweet treat.

The really adventurous can even sprinkle on a little chili powder for a truly local taste!

The small store is beautifully designed in bright colors and ornate decorations, creating a vibrant atmosphere for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Small tables decorated in brightly colored fruit and vegetables adorn the sidewalk where you can sit and watch the world go by as you savor your refreshingly treat.

What’s more, Tepoznieves uses all natural ingredients which means no nasty chemicals or additives. Children are safe to enjoy a special treat on a hot day without parents worrying about preservatives or artificial flavors.

family at tepoznieves

The all natural ice cream also makes a lovely desert after a dinner on Fifth avenue, as it is such a lovely spot to sit in the evening and catch a cool sea breeze.

night lights at tepoznieves

I think everyone who visits Playa del Carmen should visit Tepoznieves, to experience the unique flavors of this wonderful country. Never before has ‘going for ice cream’ been such a culinary and cultural experience, and its convenience to Condo Hotels’ properties means there is simply no excuse not to stop by for a scoop… or three.

ice cream

Believe me, once you try it, you’ll be back for more!

A Day on Cozumel Island

Situated just off the coast of Playa del Carmen is Mexico’s third largest Island, Cozumel. We decided to experience Island life for a day and headed over on one of the fast ferries which depart regularly from the port at the southern end of town.

Tickets are around $12 per person, one way, and can be purchased at the ticket counter at the port. Ferries run all day from early morning to late evening to ensure you maximum time on the island. As it was our first time to Cozumel, we didn’t know what to expect so decided not to make plans and to simply take the day as it came.

Ferry to Cozumel

We took our snorkels as we’d heard about the fantastic coral reef fringing the island. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the world’s largest barrier reef.

Upon alighting the ferry at the port, we were surprised by the designer store fronts and high end brands in residence on Cozumel. A glimpse of the large international cruise ships docking at the port put the pieces of the puzzle together; it is a popular stop-off destination for Caribbean cruises.

We bypassed the shiny stores and headed through the town into a quaint, brightly painted square. Old men sat peacefully watching the world go by while women gathered to gossip and wrangle small children. This was the sort of laid back island life I had hoped to see, and it was lovely to stroll through the square under the shade of old leafy trees.

It was nice to see that despite the importance of cruise ship tourism to the local economy, there was still a local flavor alive and well on the island.

Cozumel street

Door in Cozumel

We wandered through the back streets of the town and admired the brightly painted buildings and quaint local restaurants. It was mid morning and the sun began to beat down strongly, encouraging us to seek out relief in the Caribbean Sea. Somewhat stubbornly ignoring calls from enthusiastic taxi drivers looking to make a fare, we resolved to explore on foot and headed south along the coast.

Yellow house in Cozumel

We passed a few waterfront restaurants with access to the water, wondering where we would find a suitable access point into the cool Caribbean. The water shone like bright blue crystals, reflecting the sun’s rays, begging us to submerge in it’s cool embrace.

We came to a lighthouse which sat on a lovely bay and decided we could wait no longer – we were going in! Only two other people were on the tiny beach as we laid our bags down and prepared to cool off. The water was deliciously refreshing and small colorful fish darted around the rocks beneath the surface.

private beach in Cozumel

Rejuvenated by our swim in our ‘private bay,’ we then guzzled down ice-cold sodas and snacked on chips and salsa at the waterfront restaurant, admiring the view. It was a weekday, and we had to pinch ourselves that we were sitting beach-side on a Caribbean island, while most people we knew were slaving away at their jobs back home.

We decided to explore more of the island on foot, and cut through the center of it. We emerged at a bustling town full of locals going about their busy days. Squares, government buildings, hospitals and stores buzzed with the midday rush. It was hard to believe that just across the water from Playa del Carmen, there was a busy, functioning city with a thriving population.

We stopped in at a local restaurant for lunch, far form the tourist trail. While we dined, we chatted to the owner of the restaurant who was more than happy to fill us in on the state of the island. He told us that the economy was suffering a little since the hurricane of ’05 which damaged some of the reef system and washed away some of the beaches on the east coast.

Restaurant in Cozumel

But he enjoyed the slow pace of life on the island – it was the only life he ever knew. He dreamed of moving to the colonial town of Valledolid some day, but wasn’t sure when that would be.

It was great to get a local’s perspective of the island from someone who has seen all the changes occur over the years. It struck me how vulnerable islands are to the natural environment, compared to the mainland where growth simply continues along the coast or inland.

I was glad our experience of Cozumel consisted of a nice swim, a good walk, and some interesting conversation with the locals.

Foodstall in CozumelSlow paced island life on Cozumel…

As we made our way back to the dock to depart on the ferry, I wished the island well in it’s attempt to balance large scale cruise ship tourism with the local culture, and hoped the local people, especially the friendly restauranteur, would continue to thrive in their beautiful island home.