“Excuse me? Can I please take a picture of your fish bowl margaritas?”
“Please, please, take one!”
Free margarita? It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
“Oi Aussie, come back when you are finished and talk more with us.”
So we come back and spend an hour or two with the friendly travellers from Iowa drinking their giant margaritas and swapping travel stories, filled with laughter.
I will always fondly remember Cozumel. And not because of the several things that went wrong, but because of the lunch we shared margaritas with the hilarious Americans.
How to get there – ferry ride from hell
Cozumel is a 45 min/1 hr ferry boat ride from Playa Del Carmen. We took a $2 taxi ride to the port and bought return tickets for 320 pesos ($24 AUD) per adult. Both kids were free. A great tip to remember is there are two ferry companies; so buying a one-way ticket (for exactly half) will give you an option of getting either ferry back at an hourly schedule. Buying a return ticket means you have to go with the same company on return at a 2 hourly schedule. The only reason we chose return because for a single ticket there was no credit card, only for return. But I’d go single ticket.
We took the 10am ferry to the island. Now Josh and I love cruising and boats, but this was one rocky ride. We stood outside in the fresh air and were (mostly) fine.
On the way home we took the 7pm ferry back and that was the ride from hell. The ferry pitched from side to side until I thought one of my kids would go over. We had seats outside and despite the cold and spray it was the only thing Josh and I could do to stop the nauseating vomit struggling to be free from our stomachs.
There was a lot of drunk people on the ferry outside laughing every time someone attempted to walk inside or move seats. Swaying back and forth, lurching to one side. Cheers and clapping for those that succeeded.
A poor little boy was more then a little seasick constantly vomiting and although you want to help you have to block your nose and look away before you too barf all over the ships deck.
Looking at the horizon helped you remember it’s not too far and keep a straight edge on things. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life and just as I grabbed the blue barf bag given to every passenger on the ferry the finally the engines stopped and we gently rolled into Playa. Thank God!
I want a 'Mexican Ferrari'
On our way to the port there are many tourist spots and having been warned of the Taxi Mafia on the island charging exuberant rates we decided to rent a car to drive the island for the day.
The island is full of convertible VW’s (punch buggies)! They call them “Mexican Ferraris”. Usually US$65, we talked him down to $50 for the day. 8am – 6pm.
My imagination went wild of all the glorious pictures we were going to take in our shiny red VW with the roof down on a Caribbean Island.
A little walk and to the right was La Los where we were suppose to pick up our Mexican Ferrari. We were told they were not available. We were told a whole bunch of lies from you can’t drive them in the rain (it never rained the whole day we arrived, despite a few grey clouds), this other car is more expensive so you should take this one for the same price and much more.
What could we do? He told us to get our money back we had to go back to the guy who sold us the car in Playa. Disgruntled, we accepted the alternative. We paid an extra $15 for collision damage; I hear Mexico is not the place you want to have a car crash in, and started our tour around the island.
The car was a piece of junk. It was rusted, it was damaged, and it was dirty. But the roof came off and it didn’t use more then $3 worth of fuel the whole day so I guess we are grateful. Still you can get the same price cars on the island so perhaps wait till you are there and see the car before purchasing.
Our journey around Cozumel
Anybody living in Perth, Australia would know that we have a gorgeous little island called Rottnest. Cozumel is Mexico’s Rottnest. Crystal clear waters, beautiful snorkeling and diving. Mayan ruins. White sand. Hot days. The only difference is here in Cozumel you get to drive the whole island meters from the sea (Rottnest does not allow private vehicles). Oh, and there were no quokkas.
We went in a straight line out of town straight to the beach to follow the one road around the whole island. Really, it’s fairly impossible to get lost. Unless you are us, on a search for 1200 year old Mayan ruins, haha.
Anyway where was I? Oh yes, the journey. The highest speed is 90kms, but we were more comfortable around 60km (that’s pretty much how fast the car would go anyway) so we could just watch the scenery the whole time. As we approached Playa Chen Rio we knew this was the perfect spot for our family.
Our kids were super excited about the “pirate cove” and we grabbed our towels and swimmers and headed to the bay for a swim.
The winds were fierce and we didn’t last long, but it was time enough for Mia to swim in the sea, make a sandcastle, help me try and crack open a very dry, husky coconut we had found and even find Captain hook’s treasure (we planted a coin in the sand for her to dig and find – boy was she elated with that!)
Back in the car and we realize it was coming on 1pm. We spotted a tiny little place that seems to be buzzing with activity and decide to pull in for lunch.
Lunch on Cozumel with new friends & margarita fish bowls
We pick a beautiful table overlooking the ocean and order a quesadilla for the kids with fries, nachos for me and a hamburger for Josh. The total bill works out to be about $30 – expensive, but it is Cozumel.
I am wondering around taking pictures of Mia in a hammock, with maracas, and with cowboy hats when I spot these giant fish bowl margaritas. I head to the table of loud Americans and ask if I can take a picture of them.
Soon they are laughing and we are talking and they have invited me to take one of the Margaritas they ordered. They asked for medium ones and were quite shocked they came out the size they did.
My food arrived so I head back to my table with my free giant sized margarita. After we finished lunch I heard a holler, “Aussie, come and talk with us.”
So I headed back to their table and made myself at home. We spent an hour of laughs and conversation with these 3 dear couples. Every year they go away together and have all grown up since high school in their little town in Iowa.
They are fascinated with our travel story and gave us great tips on other places to visit. Josh made a remarkable connection with one guy in property development who needs a new website and lives in the same town as Warren Buffet. He invites us to come stay with them if we ever head back to the States. Josh and I are excited and decide perhaps we should head back to see the under-rated middle of the US.
So much laughter finished with Facebook swaps, photos, tequila shots (spat into the left over margaritas) and final hugs. The precious Americans were all in their 50’s and we could have been their children, but they were fun and well us Aussies are a riot so it made for a fabulous afternoon.
This is what I remember about Cozumel.
The journey continues
We continued our journey realizing far too much time has passed.
Josh really wanted to see some ruins so after getting slightly lost we found a very small temple dating back 1200 years. It’s not much, but it’s old.
We arrived late at San Francisco Beach. You can sit on lounge chairs and enjoy the pool, restrooms, water toys and beach by spending $10 per person on the menu. We arrived at 4pm and they were closing at 4:30pm and we decided it just was not worth it. If we had been there all day it would have been good value, but not for half an hour.
So we continued on our way and before we knew it the kids were asleep. So we parked the car and watched the sunset over the ocean (yay!) and at 6pm filled the car up with $3 worth of fuel and returned it.
There was an hour wait before our 7pm ferry, which we were happy just to grab a snack in the terminal and be first on board for those coveted outdoor seats. That snack? Fresh, crunchy, yummy churros – delicious!
Finally off that sticking ferry we decided to get a taxi straight home since the kids were tired and we were so queasy. The taxis charged 50 pesos home. I am not sure if it’s a Sunday night surcharge or just because here was a dozen tourists vying for them, but we were okay to spend AUD$3.78 to be home and lie down.
Kids went straight to bed and it was at least 2 hours before I could eat something and not feel nauseated.
Am hoping our trip to San Pedro will not be the same.
Despite the queasy boat and crappy Mexican car I will still remember Cozumel fondly. I can see why the cruise ships line its shores and the Americans visit in packs during their winter. It’s a beautiful island with lots of great beaches and restaurants.
Highly recommend a daytrip to Cozumel; it will have you in high spirits.
We have over 60 photos of our day on Couzmel that you can go check out in our Photo Journal!
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Great story and beautiful photos
I was wondering if you could let me know the name of the restaurant in Cozumel with the fishbowl sized Margaritas?
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