Welcome to Cozumel!


There are some people who think that Cozumel is a separate country that lies in the midst of the Caribbean Sea. It is in fact a tropical island that belongs to Mexico. Although when you are there it certainly does feel as though it is a world of its own. And although diving among a world-class coral reef is the primary objective for many, it certainly is not the only reason to visit Cozumel.

The island of Cozumel offers several hotels that range from simple lodging to all-inclusive, luxury resorts that have all of the amenities that one could want for an indulgent vacation stay. The Iberostar Cozumel is of the latter and the basis for this blog post.

From the moment you enter the spacious lobby, you will feel the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders. As an all-inclusive resort, it means that you do not have to pay for meals or drinks, including alcoholic beverages.

You will be given two sanitized bottles that you can refill at one of many water stations that dispense purified water. This helps cut down on plastic waste and is a part of Iberostar’s commitment to improving our environment.

After a quick check-in, a bellhop will take you and your luggage to your room which you will find to be spacious and well kept. At once you notice that the grounds are lush with tropical flowers and trees. The next thing that you will notice is the melodic sounds of tropical birds singing their enjoyment of this luxuriant landscape. And then take a short walk to the beach. You will be amazed!

Enjoy a stroll along the spacious tropical grounds of the Iberostar resort. The multitude of gorgeous flowers and the warm sea breeze place you into instant island mode.

Palms abound on the complex which has meandering walkways that take you past cozy, colorful bungalows. Throughout the complex are numerous restaurants and places where you can grab a mid-meal snack or a beverage of your choice. And did I mention it? It’s all included in the price of admission!

The beach at the western end of the Iberostar complex is ideal. A stroll along the unencumbered seashore before dinner gives you a breathtaking view of the stretch of sea that lies between Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Nightfall happens much too fast with all of the activities. But of course, when you are on island time, you can choose to do as much or as little as you want. Our first night rewarded us with a full moon that rose over the resort as we strolled along the boat dock.

Getting to Cozumel from the USA is very easy. We booked our stay on one of the many internet travel sites and the price included flights from our home base in Sacramento, California. The day began, intentionally, very early so that we would arrive in Cozumel by mid-afternoon so that we could get acclimated. Our flight of about 2 hours took us to Denver, for a brief stopover and then a 3-hour or so flight to Cozumel.

The airport in Cozumel is small so getting in and out is relatively quick and easy. Numerous clean, well-maintained taxis await you just outside the terminal and the prices are reasonable. We were a party of four, and we rented a van that cost us US$44.00 from the airport to the Iberostar hotel some 30 minutes away.

There are other ways that will get you to Cozumel, including one of many cruise ships that port there. However, the Iberostar is far enough away from the cruise ship docking area that passengers rarely go there unless they get a day pass.

Scuba diving and snorkeling are very popular reasons that many come to Cozumel. The beach at the property is shallow for some distance outward and is a perfect place to snorkel, especially under the dock which holds a huge variety of fish and rays. The Iberostar also takes out several daily scuba diving excursions. Contact the hotel for details.

Above is the conch (pronounced conk) which lives in the seas around the Iberostar resort. Locals have eaten them for many years and now the number of sea snails has been significantly reduced. However, you can still see many in the waters just off the Iberostar beach thanks to conservation efforts.

The rare pink pearls of the conch are highly prized by pearl enthusiasts. However, please do not go out and harvest conchs as this is strictly forbidden! It is said that only 1 out of 100 conches contain these rare pearls.

The clarity of the water around the island is even more enticing owing to its warmth. There is nothing like an early morning hike along the shoreline followed by a refreshing dip into the welcoming water.

The sea life around the island and its amazing reef is sure to please even the most experienced diver. It is typical to see something or witness an event that one has never seen before. Our scuba diving friends witness a large loggerhead turtle being groomed by small fish at an undersea cleaning station. We saw several nurse sharks and two stingrays among a huge variety of fish that included a massive French Angelfish.

El Cielo (heaven in English) is off the coast of Cozumel and is called that because of the numerous starfish that live there. Get it? Stars in the heavens? There are several tours that you can take to get you to Heaven in Cozumel. Check with the tour director in the Iberostar.

After a great day of snorkeling, our tour group served us fresh fish ceviche, chips, fruit, and Mexican beer!

A favorite pastime that many enjoy when they come to Cozumel is bird watching and bird photography. There are many species of birds that live on the island or use it as a stopover resting place. There are five bird species that are only found in Cozumel making it a popular destination for international ornithologists. On our visit to Cozumel, we hired a local guide to take us birding. Not only was he very knowledgeable about the island’s bird species but also about the rich history of the island which he shared with us. During the five-hour excursion, we saw over 65 different species of birds and a huge portion of the island. Above is the bananaquit, a charming little bird that can be seen in the bushes and trees of the Iberostar complex.

Above is the Cozumel Emerald, a hummingbird that can only be found on the island of Cozumel. We were lucky enough to see several of them during our stay.

The Hooded Oriole, above, is a winter visitor to Cozumel just like many of us who do not particularly like the cold weather where we live.

The grounds of the Iberostar Cozumel are spacious and there are many birds that live on the complex including several Caribbean Flamingoes. These beautiful long-legged pink birds are also called by many names including the American Flamingo. At Iberostar, you can get up close to these magnificent creatures and better appreciate their beauty.

Each porch comes with a hammock and each day we had several peacocks and hens that visited us as we sat on the veranda. They are very friendly and seem to enjoy our company as much as we enjoyed their visit.

The peafowl is originally from India where it is considered the national bird. Males can have a train that is over 5 feet long. Males are called peacocks, females are called peahens, and young are known as peachicks. These birds are one of the most recognizable birds in the world! 

Not every bungalow comes with a cat but ours did. This was our daily visitor, whose hardest task was to stretch and yawn as he was always on island time, like us.

This is the Spiny-tailed Iguana and there are many that live among the grounds of the Iberostar Cozumel. They range in all sizes from small juveniles to larger males. But don’t let them put you off. The young juveniles consume a diet consisting mostly of insects and the adults are primarily herbivorous, eating a variety of flowers, leaves, stems, and fruit.

The coatimundi is another animal that makes its home in Cozumel. They are somewhat like raccoons and their snout is long and somewhat pig-like which is part of the reason for their nickname ‘the hog-nosed raccoon’.

It is now time to talk a little about the food and beverage service at the Iberostar. There are two main restaurants: The one that is near the lobby serves buffet breakfast and dinner and is closed for lunch. The second is closer to the beach and only serves a buffet lunch. For dinner, this is one of several specialty restaurants that allows guests to make dinner reservations. It specializes in steak, while the others are Asian and Mexican-themed. And again, all of the food and beverages are complimentary. The drinks shown above are delicious mango mojitos!

Each day the main theme of the buffet menu changes, although certain staples remain. One thing that you will clearly enjoy is that you never have to say, “What do you want to eat today?” You just walk over to the restaurant and I guarantee that you find something to eat that you will enjoy. The only problem is, trying not to return too many times to the spacious buffet tables!

The sushi at the buffet is always made with the freshest ingredients. The most interesting thing about this part of the buffet is that you will probably not see a bigger bowl of wasabi anywhere!

Pineapple and ham go together like peanut butter and jelly. This was actually one of my favorite dishes. It went well with the seasoned mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables.

You might find yourself with little or no self-control and then wind up making some of the strangest combinations of food for your meal. Oftentimes I could not decide what I wanted because there were so many choices. Once I combined a delectable seafood ensemble along with steak, potatoes, carrots, and fried chicken! And it was delicious!

So, there are some of us who consider desserts to be one of the food groups. At the Iberostar Cozumel resort, dessert certainly qualifies as being at the top of that particular food group! Each day the dessert menu changes and the delectable cuisine is simply amazing.

Desserts are served in abundance at the Iberostar Cozumel resort. The fruit is so fresh and the chocolate is heavenly. The origin of chocolate’s 4,000-year history began in Mesoamerica which is present-day Mexico. Mexico is where the first cacao plants were discovered and it was the Olmec people who were the first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate. During ritual celebrations, they would drink the chocolate and would use it as medicine.

A trip to Cozumel would not be complete without a visit to the heart of the island, which is downtown San Miguel, or “Centro” as it is known locally. There you can find all sorts of items from inexpensive shoes to local and mainland Mexican-made souvenirs.

When in Cozumel do everything that you want to do, even if it means wearing a cool hat for a souvenir photo!

Día de Los Muertos, known as the Day of the Dead, is a festival that is traditionally celebrated beginning on October 31 and ending on November 2. Families gather to welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink, and celebration. In recent times, it has become more popular worldwide since being featured in the animated movie, Coco, and in the James Bond 007 thriller, Spectre.

Above is a cool souvenir shirt featuring Día de los Muertos which is celebrated in Cozumel with much fanfare, parades, and celebrations.

Black coral has been used historically by islanders for medical treatment and in rituals. In recent times this jet-black thorn coral has been used in jewelry making.

In Cozumel, divers must reach very deep depths in order to harvest it. Sadly, black corals have been declining in numbers and are expected to continue declining due to the effects of poaching, ocean acidification, and climate change.

 

The workmanship on handicraft products found in Cozumel runs the gamut. However, with due diligence, one can find outstanding bargains and very unique jewelry and works of art.

A morning dive, a nice lunch, and an afternoon stroll through the markets of Cozumel may entice you to stop in one of the local watering holes for a refreshment before heading back to the hotel. And although Cozumel is clean and safe, always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be a dumb tourist and flash large sums of money.

One morning in Cozumel you may awaken and realize that today is the day you have to go home. And if you love Cozumel as much as I do, you will also realize that the time spent here was simply not enough. Of course, this is what vacations to exotic and beautiful places are all about. They help you unwind; they help you recharge, and they help you by adding another drop to your bucket of places that you want to see and the experiences that you want to have in your lifetime.

All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me with any questions, comments, or authorization to use photos or for signed, high-resolution prints.

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