As we boarded the ferry to the island of Cozumel, Mexico, we had one thing in mind: taking a swim in the ocean. We hadn’t been near the surf since last March, which is way too long for this ocean-loving family. However, before we could skip into the waves we had to get settled into our new rental house and figure out the beach scene on the island.
It turns out that Cozumel has a very different kind of beach scene than we have been exposed to so far. This makes sense as we are in cruise ship territory and the island has 3 cruise ship piers that allow for thousands of passengers to disembark onto the island daily. So, after examining the Cozumel interactive beach map we found out that the nearest beaches were all home to beach clubs. These are private businesses that have rented the beach and surrounding area and set up restaurants, pools, and beach-side lounge areas. While the shoreline and waters of the island are technically free for all people, you have to go through the beach clubs in order to enjoy a day at the beach. That is unless you want to head over to the less populated east side of the island where you will still find deserted stretches of sand. However, taxi cabs on the island cost a pretty penny and a one way trip to the east side beaches costs well over $60.
So, after figuring this all out we decided that for our first beach foray we would stick to the west-side of the island and experience a beach club. After reading all the reviews and descriptions we decided that Playa Palancar would meet our needs. This beach club charges no admission price, but for their services (lounge chairs, restrooms, etc.) you are expected to buy food and drink from their restaurant.
After a quick $20 taxi ride (this is when we really miss having our own car) we were on the beach and the kids were immediately jumping the waves. The reviews were spot on about Playa Palancar and the beach with clean and the services adequate. The palapa style restaurant fit in nicely with the surroundings and the wooden walkways between the different services were a nice touch. They have foam floats for rent, and the kids spent the day floating on the waves and digging for shells and coral in the sand.
The only snag of the day came when we tried to give the kids their mid-morning snack. Immediately upon reaching into our bag and taking out snack cups a very annoyed looking waiter showed up and informed us that no outside food was allowed on the beach. In our best Spanish we tried to explain that we were going to order food and drinks from the restaurant but that it was only 10am and the kids just needed a small snack before they got back into the water. The waiter wasn’t having any of thi,s and he proceeded to have a fit and remind us that this whole area was only for paying customers. So, we headed to the restaurant and ate our guacamole and chips early. Once we had paid our bill and tipped him we weren’t bothered again the rest of the day. In retrospect we should have ordered something first thing upon arrival at the beach as the staff obviously depend on the tips that they get as their income for the day.
Once the whole “food and tipping” experience was out of the way we continued to have a lovely day. It wasn’t at all the beach experience that we were used to, as motorized boats zoomed by and cruise ship passengers sipped large tropical looking drinks from their lounge chairs (you don’t ever see that at a Maine State Park beach). However, the temperature of the water was perfect and the waves just right to keep the kids happy. When the sun hit the water at different angles you could see at least 5 shades of blue, reminding us all that we were truly in a very special environment. Playa Palancar wasn’t as secluded and pristine as some of our other favorite beaches, but it sure felt good to be back at the ocean.