The ferry from Playa del Carmen deposits you in the midst of Cozumel’s bustling malecon. Downtown’s main boulevard is lined with luxury shops selling designer clothing, jewelry, duty-free liquor and cigars. Restaurants and bars range from local dives to American fixtures like Hooters and Jimmy Buffet’s Magaritaville.
Highlights of a quick jaunt along the malecon include striking murals painted on low walls along the sidewalk.
While Cozumel’s urban center, which is formally known as San Miguel and boasts a population of more than 90,000, has its charms, the real attraction of the island lies on its other side.
Long known to scuba divers and snorkelers for its reefs and teeming sea life, Cozumel’s eastern side boasts powdery white sand beaches and crystalline turquoise waters. The coastal road runs for miles with spectacular views of the Caribbean unobstructed by any hotels or condos. Cell phones don’t work, and when the sun goes down, there’s no electric power to light up the night.
Years ago one Caribbean tourist destination billed itself with the tag line, “The Antidote to Civilization.” If such a place exists, it could well be found on Cozumel’s eastern shore.
Returning on the ferry to Playa del Carmen feels a bit like decompressing from a dive. Quinta Avenida, with its hawkers, tour guides, T-shirt and souvenir shops, is the flip side of the Cozumel coin. But Playa del Carmen is on the rise, attracting many tourists and residents from Western Europe, Russia, the U.S. and elsewhere.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, savor the experience. Who knows when you’ll get back, and if the antidote to civilization might still be found there.
Story and photos by Robert Adams for TYT
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