San Gervasio is largest and most significant Mayan ruins site in Cozumel, located only about 20 minutes from the cruise port. (Photo by Jessica Kwong)

Traveling to Mexico, even its tourist destinations, always raises the unfortunate question: Is it safe?

While no place on earth is 100 percent safe, I discovered why Mexico’s biggest island, Cozumel, is considered, compared to its counterparts in the mainland, out of harm’s way.

It has to do with just that.

Located in the Caribbean Sea, 12 miles off Playa del Carmen and the Yucatan Peninsula coastline and about 50 miles south of Cancun, Cozumel is more isolated from the criminal activity that makes headlines.’

People watch the sunset into the Caribbean from a pier in Cozumel. (Photo by Marjorie Miller, Associated Press)

I arrived by cruise ship, like many visitors. Upon off-boarding, my travel buddies and I didn’t let the touristy restaurants and souvenir stands distract us from our mission to explore the mostly undeveloped island. We contemplated renting a car to see all its 30 miles in length and 10 miles in width at our leisure, but settled on a private van tour.

Our guide, Miguel Santa Maria, took us first toward San Gervasio, Cozumel’s largest Mayan ruins. We traveled on a simple roadway, occasionally passing colorful houses and lush vegetation.

“People in Cozumel drive slow because it’s not necessary to drive fast,” Santa Maria said. “It’s a small place, a nice place.”

The ruins weren’t massive but still significant, as advertised. San Gervasio was the main site on the island for natives to worship Ixchel, the goddess of love, fertility and medicine. Among the structures still standing is a pyramid known as “the house” and a restored arch. Most were open for guests to walk through. The upside of them not being the best known Mayan ruins is there was plenty of breathing room.

Next, Santa Maria brought us to Club Cozumel Caribe at Playa San Juan. It was a secluded and relaxing beach perfect for lounging, taking dip in the aqua blue water and grabbing a bite to eat.

Our final stop with Santa Maria was San Miguel, the city center of Cozumel. On the drive there, we saw big, nice houses as well as some that looked run down. I wondered if most of Cozumel’s residents were wealthy. Santa Maria said it is home to people of all income levels, but that it isn’t cheap to live on the island. I asked why Cozumel is “safe” from narcos, relative to other vacation spots in Quintana Roo and other Mexican states.

“Do something (bad) and there’s two exits. Boat and plane. And authorities will be waiting for you on the other side,” Santa Maria explained in Spanish. “In Playa del Carmen and Cancun, there are many exits.”

He added: “There aren’t many police here. Nothing happens.”

I wandered through the many shops, cafes and restaurants at Plaza San Miguel and took in the serene waterfront view on Avenida Rafael. I was enticed to take a ferry to Playa del Carmen and Tulum, because it was only 45 minutes long. The beach at Playa del Carmen was beautiful and bustling, the ruins at Tulum were epic.

After that whirlwind, though, I was more than content to take the ferry back to the comfort of Cozumel.

by  Jessica Kwong

Source: OC Register



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