When the time came for me to write of my Cozumel experience, I could think of nothing better than purchasing a box of crayons. A dash to the market brought the purchase of a box of 96 rainbow hued sticks. In opening the box, the aroma of kindergarten began dancing around me. It became an instant permission for play and I delved right in. In doing so, I found myself right back in the mindset of luxurious Cozumel.
A recent vacation to the enchanting isle of Mexico’s Cozumel left me searching for words and ways in which to describe the life in Cozumel’s many colors. It was a time I wanted to encapsulate in my memory, and its greatest glory, I knew, would be in finding ways to communicate to others the verve in each hue.
As a travel writer I have been known to describe the essence of beautiful places, the solemnity of holy places and the sorrow of places whose bliss was disturbed, yet on this journey the beauty of the colors seemed to clear the slate in my mind and leave only awe behind. I decided to allow the wonder to overtake me, so I might experience this setting, and worry about the writing of it at another time.
Our opulent Carnival cruise ship pulled expertly to the pier of Cozumel and our disembarking was smooth, never betraying that we were breaching both water and land. In no time at all I realized my experience here would be one of complete Fiesta.
We were greeted by guards soberly dressed in sterile looking white uniforms with black leather sashes holding their guns in place. Their dark eyes scanned each vacationer like their eyes were x-rays to our souls. As we passed the guard station we were greeted by young, beautiful natives dressed in authentic Indian costumes from years gone by. The colors of the costumes were a psychedelic mixing of colors; only somehow it wasn’t garish. The enactors were lithe and copper skinned with gleaming black eyes and hair with bright white toothy smiles seemingly shouting, “Fun!” Their wardrobe was one of brick red, yellows, greens, blues and gold, all pieced together in the most enchanting way. Others were posing while swathed in a faultless mixture of yellow, scarlet, olive green, copper, yellow green, robin’s egg blue and granny smith apple. It was a dazzling visual sight.
As the indigo heavens lazed overhead we met with Hector, our tour guide for the day. Hector had caramel-tinged skin, ebony eyes, an accent disguising his knowledge of English and a ready smile to make our day an event we would long remember. For the first leg of our tour, he pointed us toward a razzmatazz colored jeep. My husband decided he was best equipped to do the driving, herding the stick-shift grinding vehicle into the disorderly and narrow streets of the city, while attempting to keep track of Hector in the lead vehicle.
While traveling through the city we passed through a scrambling of people, sounds and aromas. The city was a visual carnival of tourists, natives milling about, people of all ages hocking items in the streets, and the everyday people living their lives in the midst of tourisms pull. There was a din of multinational accents, revved up engines and beeping horns in the snarl of traffic, as well as dogs barking and the shouts of vendors hungry for US dollars. The olfactories were bombarded with seawater brine, perspiration of those eking out a living, the pungent odor of chickens cooking and emphasized under the heat of the noon sun.
It wasn’t too long before we pulled off onto a dusty dirt road the color of tumbleweed. Hector signaled us to follow him and then raced ahead, hitting every pothole in the worn road. Apparently this was exactly his intention too, as when he stopped after a while to check on the drivers he asked, “Enjoying our ‘Mexican massage?” All this he found terribly funny, I might add. I could tell by the way his grin reached from ear to ear.
As this seemed a providential time, my husband alerted Hector our jeep’s gas gauge was on Empty and our ‘check engine’ light was a glaring dandelion color. To our concerns Hector stifled a chortling laugh as he replied, “Si Senor, Welcome to Mexico”, before once again speeding off. In hot pursuit we continued past brush, grass and trees, all a blur of forest green, inch worm, green yellow and yellow green all covered in road dust.
Just as our internal organs were about to start swapping places, he jolted to a stop in a small parking lot we’d come upon. At first all you could hear were our moans as we clawed our way out of the jeeps. One look at the beach however and our jovial spirits were renewed.
Hector escorted us to a beach where we were scheduled to take a boat to a private island escape. What we saw were sinking and half submerged boats aligning a bit of shore. One hearty lady in the party actually began to board one of these holey barges before Hector could laughingly say, “No Senora, the boat she is coming”, while pointing towards a speed boat quickly approaching the nearby dock. Once aboard the shamrock hued boat we were jetted across the sea green water to the awaiting leisure of Passion Island, truly an adult version of a child’s sandbox.
The Carnival Cruise line owns this island and reserves it for their customers. The island has no theft, a point I’m sure the cruise line adamantly demands of their employees. Carnival also guarantees there will never be more people on the island than what there are lounge chairs on the beach. It’s created to promote nothing but leisure and fair-weather days.
Passion Island was everything a private island in tropical waters should be. We were shown to changing cabanas with bright mustard walls and thatched roofs in shades of tan and copper. Inside there were mannerly employees to escort us to available areas for changing and storing our clothing. We then entered a paradise of white and silver sand and a pure periwinkle sky only divided by the gulf waters. The water had layers of color depending on the depth of the sea in each area. The welcoming shallows were a sea green. By the time you waded in to your neckline, it was a robin’s egg blue. Further out the water became a turquoise blue. And, when your eyes hit the horizon, the water was a solemn cadet blue. The water was not as warm, as buoyant, nor as clear as Caribbean waters we’ve experienced, and yet it was as mesmerizing and sensual as any fantasy.
After bathing in the caressing waters and basking under the near equatorial sun we were fed by the guides who’d brought us here. Hector was at our beck and call plying us with food and drinks. They offered a range of sodas as well as ‘safe’ water and ice. If you cared to imbibe, there was plenty of liquor at your disposal. The meal was dry barbequed chicken, baked fish, rice, fresh fruits, chips and salsa and a fresh garden salad. We found this same meal at each port and excursion from the cruise line and decided it must be ‘the foreigner’ special.
After all we could eat and drink, Hector introduced us to the island’s wild life. Our first visit was to a young raccoon who dallied in a nearby palm. The raccoon had been brought here by a land bridge that had later washed away. The little raccoon was injured when he first appeared to the guides and in return for their care, he became additional entertainment. Hector handed me a wedge of the juicy watermelon left from lunch and encouraged me to draw near to the ‘coon and proffer it. The little creature was timber wolf in color with a tan tail and a sepia mask. He eagerly stretched his nimble paws out to graciously accept this gastronomic gift he was obviously quite fond of. It made for a great ‘Kodak moment’.
Next Hector walked with us to a small inlet with olive green water and pointed out an asparagus colored crocodile that appeared to be about five feet long. Hector was able to coax the croc’ toward us with the sight and smell of leftover chicken from our lunch. True to all we’d seen and heard the croc’ seemed to amble as we first approached but when the chicken was produced he took on an Olympian’s momentum. While my husband stood a few feet from this feeding frenzy, I kept a greater distance between myself and this young water demon. I knew I was plenty close enough when from where I stood and photographed I was clearly able to hear the crunching of brittle chicken bones in the wrath of crocodile teeth.
Then, to make genuine our Mexican experience, we were ready for a siesta. The island is covered in colorful serapes hanging between the palms, forming hammocks among the trees. We willingly let our satiated bodies sink into the folds of the cloth and allowed the breeze to gently rock us into an even greater stage of relaxation. Sighs of contentment could be heard all around. I simply cooed while my husband declared, “This is heaven.” Fronds swept the skies in adulation above us until sleep took us captive. Awakening in paradise it was a most difficult task to return to the mammoth cruise ship and raucous good times awaiting us that evening. I couldn’t bring home the Caribbean sky, seas or sand, but nothing can ever take away the memory of the slice of serenity we experienced in colorful Cozumel.
If You Go:
Cozumel is Mexico’s only Caribbean island and can be found 12 miles off the country’s shore. It is well-known by divers for its reefs and ranks among the five top dive locations in the world. We can thank Jacques Cousteau for bringing Cozumel to the attention of the general populace in 1962, when he made a TV documentary there. It’s a popular port for cruise ships because of it’s diversity of water sport and seaside activities.
There’s no boredom on Cozumel, unless that’s your dream vacation. For those who enjoy being active there are many opportunities for fun. Those who are water inclined have options to: snorkel, catamaran, go to caverns, kayak, deep sea fish, swim with dolphins, power boat, swim and relax on the beach. For those interested in other endeavors you will find: biking, shopping, jeeps, ATVs, hiking, horseback, golfing and both the cooking and tasting of Mexican cuisine.
There are Mayan ruins on the island though not nearly as spectacular as the ruins you can tour a few minutes away on the mainland. Ancient Mayan women came to the island of Cozumel on boats to worship Ixchel, the goddess of fertility.