Exploring The Fine Sights, Festivities and Flavors of Cozumel

There’s something about discovering new places with family. It’s more than simply touring with them – with every journey, I learn something new about their outlook on life, as well as the inspiring things they encounter along the way. Now, #JuanderWithUs on part 3 of our all-American adventure, as we head out of the islands of Florida and into the exciting beaches of Cozumel.

After departing from Miami, our Norwegian Cruise liner then made its last stop down south at Cozumel, a Mexican island in the Caribbean home to world-class diving spots, Mayan ruins, and captivating wildlife. Spending several days on the cruise, my dad and I were finally excited to tour once again.

As the cruise ship docked at the Cozumel International Pier Mall, we decided to explore its selection of shops – right before going out into the city.

We first visited an exhibit dedicated to Mexican traditions – including the famous Dia de los Muertos (Day of The Dead), when many ordinary Mexicans build religious altars to pray for their departed loved ones.

From our visit to this solemn yet vibrant art exhibit, we further went back in time at the Mayan Cacao Company, to discover how the ancient Mayan civilization first cultivated and crafted chocolate – one of their most famous cultural contributions to the world. I was delighted at the flavors of the Mexican variety of chocolate – not only because of its earthier, spicier taste, but also because it tells a story of how this world-famous treat came to be.

Right after, we dropped by the Discover Mexico Park Cozumel, an interactive green space filled with miniature versions of famous churches, Aztec temples, and colonial architecture. Beyond these sculptures however, there were also religious exhibits for the patron saint Our Lady of Guadalupe, which my dad enjoyed browsing through.

More colorful sights awaited however, as we headed to a street market with delicious artisan snacks, intricate tiled art, and energetic tribal dancing. Truly, Cozumel has a lot to offer for anyone interested in finely crafted food and art.

From our cultural and culinary tour of Cozumel, we then opted for a more relaxing stroll at the El Mirador Beach, a picturesque landmark located on the island’s east coast. With its rugged natural beauty, it’s a place one could easily unwind in away from many overdeveloped tourist spots.

More than its treasured cuisine, Mexico is also known as the birthplace of tequila. On our next stop, we headed to an authentic tequila factory, where we learned about its unique distillation process, as well as the numerous varieties of the famous alcoholic beverage. There’s definitely more to tequila than margaritas and shots, that’s for sure!

From our visit to the tequila factory, we then explored the lush Cozumel countryside on the road, where we passed by beautiful green landscapes unlike anywhere else in Mexico.

After our short countryside adventure, we then headed to another Mayan cultural sight. Apart from their world-class chocolate, they are also known for their Mayan rain dance, a performance that has the dancers suspend from a pole high up in the air. While I was a bit skeptical about this tradition – true enough, it started to rain afterwards. I guess there are just some things we can’t always explain!

As lunchtime came, I then craved for something a little more filling, which was why my dad and I dropped by this hacienda-style restaurant called Pancho’s Backyard. From its savoury salads, to its hand-baked tortillas, and its made-from-scratch margaritas, this was a delightful dining experience made even better by the relaxing marimba music played by the locals.

Finishing our hearty and fulfilling lunch, we then went straight back to our ship to prepare for another tour. Going back, it was like seeing a massive parking space for cruise ships. From the Royal Caribbean to the Norwegian Escape, it was amazing to see how many vacationers from around the world converge on this beautiful island.

After arriving at Cozumel, I learned about a small corner many Filipinos working in Mexico can call home. This soon became our next stop, a Filipino restaurant called Seaman Republic, where we enjoyed plates of fresh seafood. With its owners being proudly Filipino, one can even see photos of Manny Pacquiao and Pia Wurtzbach used for their ladies’ and men’s restrooms!

Soon after our Filipino meal, our cruise then embarked for another trip along the Caribbean Sea. From my view from the deck, I enjoyed observing the seascape, right until I saw the stunning sunset.

As night fell, I then enjoyed the onboard entertainment, watching the award-winning Brat Pack theatrical concert. It definitely brought back memories of the 1980s, where we saw musical numbers inspired by the hit movies of the decade. I then called it a night after this high-energy musical. With our bags packed, my dad and I were ready to tour more of Mexico after disembarking from our cruise.

The sun then rose the next day, as we were about to end our cruise on the Norwegian Escape. After about 8 days onboard, I would surely remember the hospitality of the Filipino crew, as well as the numerous friends we’ve made along the way.

Now, we were ready to head onto our next stay on land, the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort and Spa. With its beachside views, exquisite tropical interiors, and friendly staff, it was like being at home in the midst of the island’s rugged terrain.

After unwinding and taking a stroll by the hotel, dad and I decided to have another delightful lunch at Le Cap Restaurant, where we enjoyed a lighter set of mussels, fish, and salad.

I followed it up with another afternoon of unwinding, as I thought of spending the rest of the day by reading and relaxing by the pool. The gorgeous views of the sunset made the experience even better.

We then began the last day of our Cozumel tour as we dropped by The SPA, where I had a traditional Yucatan-style massage unlike any other treatments I’ve tried. Here, one has to step inside a large red room that felt like a clay oven, which was just as hot yet even more rejuvenating than a sauna.

Craving for an Italian lunch, my dad and I then visited the Alfredo restaurant, where we feasted on several delicious plates of ham, pasta, and seafood. While it is a gourmet restaurant, the dishes we ordered had a flavor to them that anyone can appreciate.

From our gourmet-style comfort food lunch, we continued our day relaxing by the poolside. Cozumel’s peaceful blue seascapes are something I’ll definitely miss – still, both of us had to pack our bags soon, as we had to catch our next flight to Mexico City.

Arriving at the airport, we then helped ourselves to another Cozumel-style snack of meat, vegetables, and tortillas, while we waited to board our Mexico City-bound flight.

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