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Cozumel

Cozumel...exist in the moment. That's their slogan and it fits the beautiful island perfectly. Many may have heard of Cozumel from cruise ships that include the port of call in its itinerary. Others may know it as a great day trip from Playa del Carmen, as it's only a 40 minute ferry ride away. But the truly lucky ones are those who know it as a week long escape all in itself. With so much to see and experience on the gorgeous island of Cozumel, trying to do it all in just one day is nearly impossible.

Cozumel is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, situated near the eastern tip of the Yukatan Peninsula. There are numerous daily domestic and international flights into Cozumel, as well as two ferry companies that operate continuously from Playa de Carmen. If you'd like to bring a car, the ferry company, Transcribe, departs four times a day from Calica, which is five minutes south of Playa del Carmen.

Since my time was limited, I unfortunately only had two days to spend in Cozumel. We took the ferry over from Playa del Carmen, which was very convenient. The ferries leave from Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen near the McDonalds. If you have a rental car, there is a parking lot at the ferry or one across the street for a few dollars less, at 150.00 pesos a day, roughly $15.

We stayed at El Cid La Ceiba, which was just a four dollar cab ride from the the plaza in the center of town, where the ferry drops you off and where you'll find all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, jewelry shops, and restaurants. The hotel sits on the beach and houses a dive shop for snorkel rentals, a delicious restaurant and an outside spa. If you're more in the mood for just laying back and taking in the sun, make yourself comfortable in one of the hammocks on the sand. All of the hotel rooms have a private balcony which overlooks the ocean, and at night, you can see the cruise ships all lit up as they get ready to leave Cozumel. The restaurant at the hotel serves up delicious Mexican meals all day long and if you'd like, you can choose the all-inclusive food and drink package with your stay. If you're traveling with the family or a group, you'll want to stay here because they offer one, two, and three bedroom suites. There's great snorkeling right outside the hotel, so you can scope out the sea life and then snooze in a hammock.

Singray Beach is close to the hotel on the west side of the island and is home to the Stingray Encounter and Snorkeling. You'll have the opportunity to take pictures with the stingrays and feed them underwater. But watch out for the many fish that will try and snag the food right out of your hands! For the second part of the experience, you swim and snorkel with the stingrays alongside one of the trainers.

One of the most popular and not to missed spots in Cozumel is Chankanaab National Park, located within the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park. Chankannab is a Mayan word meaning "little sea," and is home to the world renowned Chankanaab lagoon which features the only inland coral reef formation in the world. The park is home to Dolphin Discovery, where you can make memories that will last a lifetime swimming with the dolphins. You can also choose from activities such as Snuba, a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving, without the heavy tank on your back, and Sea Trek, where you walk the bottom of the ocean but never get your hair wet! Snorkeling and scuba diving are also available with expert scuba instructors, as well as the opportunity to get certified. While walking around the park, you can see a modern day Mayan village and the cute iguanas that make this their home. If you're more in the mood for tranquility, you can simply relax on their beach.

Dolphin Discovery has locations in Cozumel, the Riviera Maya, and Isla Mujeres, and provides an experience to remember. You'll have the opportunity to shake hands and hug your dolphin, and if you're looking to step up the exhilaration, opt for the royal swim package, and you'll get pushed across the water from the bottoms of your feet by the dolphins, and swept across the water while holding onto their fins. They capture this all not only in pictures, but on video as well, which is available for purchase at the end.

In addition to the Snuba you can do at Chankanaab National Park, there are snorkeling trips that take you out by boat to see all of the wonderful coral reefs for which Cozumel is known. Adventure awaits with the opportunity to zip line across the jungle. Kite boarding is a popular sport in Cozumel, with natives more than willing to enjoy the waves with you. For those looking to learn, Cozumel is a great spot and lessons can be arranged. There are many condos and villas that can be rented near the kite boarding beach. The Country Club area is right on the beach and just four miles from downtown.

The east coast of Cozumel is breathtaking. At the Faro Celerain Ecological Reserve, you can climb the lighthouse which offers a 360-degree view of the island. You'll take a ride through the jungle as the guide talks about the native flora and fauna. At the end of your jungle ride is a gorgeous white sand beach where you can lay in a hammock or go swimming. While on the east coast, enjoy a drink or casual meal at Coconuts, a restaurant on the beach, which has been host to some fun times as evidenced by the various articles of clothing hanging above the bar.

With so much adventure and history, Cozumel has something for everyone. If you've been to the island as part of a cruise, do yourself a favor and go back again. With so many direct flights from the United States and the easy ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, there's no excuse. I only wish we had more time to "exist in the moment."

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