I’ve never really been a fan of cruises; for one reason: I always hated the thought of docking in a country, getting off the boat and only enjoying the place for a few short hours.
I’m one of those travellers who love to soak myself into the culture, food, people and aura of a place for a minimum of five days; so every time I was looking at trips, cruises never crossed my mind.
Recently my friend invited my husband and I to her wedding and lo and behold, it was aboard a cruise ship! Despite my past reservations about them, this was one boat I wasn’t missing!
But I had one question: where would we be stopping? Our four-day Western Caribbean cruise had an eight-hour stopover in Cozumel, Mexico and I was amped! I’d never been to Mexico before and all I could think about were the tacos, tequila and guacamole. I was excited, of course, to visit a new city, a new place, but with such a short timeframe I wasn’t sure what all I’d be able to do.
We woke up early that morning and realised the boat had finally stopped moving after two days of being on the high seas. We were in Cozumel.
Some of the other travellers in our group had booked ATV tour excursions and other bookings prior to the trip, but I really didn’t want to be locked into one activity for the entire stay, so my crew and I opted for a taxi tour. Our driver took us around the tiny island, stopping at stores, bars and historical sites along the way.
Here’s how we made the most of our 8-hour stopover in Cozumel, Mexico!
San Miguel Market
I love perusing markets and squares and touristy shopping areas when I travel; so when our driver suggested a quick tour of the San Miguel market I was excited. The square was loaded with colorful and vibrant storefronts selling the best souvenirs, clothing and accessories. I purchased gifts for family and friends, the cutest dress and the most beautiful handmade, embroidered bag. The square was, as you’d expect, touristy, but for me, I love the fact that I got a crash course into mixing and mingling with some of the people who made the island come alive.
Pro travel tip: Visiting markets and souks and plazas is one of the best ways to really immerse yourself in a country’s culture. There you’ll get a real bird’s eye view of all the little nuances special to that location.
The best tacos in Cozumel?
Yes, yes and yes!!!! One of the stops we made were to this little hole in the wall restaurant. Again being such a touristy destination, I didn’t have high expectations for the quality of food. But listen; the chefs at El Sazon del Camaron Restaurant served us the most delicious tacos I’ve ever had in my life. They were definitely cooked with love; foot included! We had beef tacos, octopus tacos, shrimp tacos, fish tacos, guacamole, salsa and chips! And get this, the tacos were about $1 each! We sat there for about an hour and ate to our hearts’ content!
Pro travel tip: Food is always a great way to literally taste a city’s culture. Always venture out and try foods that you’ve never heard about before, that are unique to the location.
A mid-day tequila tour
It almost felt like a set up; the tequila factory is literally across the street from the taco joint; this was perfect! After stuffing our faces with tacos of all kind, tequila was exactly what we needed. We walked over to the Los Tres Tonos factory and were greeted by the most vibrant tour guide ever. We learned all about how tequila is made, the ageing process and the difference between the commercialised “made for sale” bottles and the more handcrafted, genuine brands. After our brief class, it was time for the tasting! Whew! We had almond tequila, chocolate tequila, caramel tequila, tequila that was aged for more than 12 years, some a bit younger and aged for about three years. After our lesson and tasting, we were hammered lol! Perfect for a stopover in Mexico!
Pro travel tip: If rum tours aren’t your thing, book a quick cooking class!
Soak in some nature, some history
Nature is my thing, so we headed to San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological Site. Although this wasn’t one of the most exciting adventures I’ve had, it was indeed interesting. Here, we learned a lot about how the Mayan people lived and how this particular area was so crucial to the women of this culture as it related to their love lives and fertility. This is the site where they paid tribute to the goddesses who helped them find love and bore healthy children. Remnants of the houses, hospitals and temples remain and are a beautiful sight to behold.
Pro travel tip: Reconnecting with nature and history is always a great travel experience. Hit up a beach, take a short hike or head to a museum.
Ever since my husband and I started travelling the world, we made it our thing to always have a quick photoshoot in whatever city we land; he, the photographer, me, his muse. With the clock ticking and time winding down to head back to the dock, we stopped at this roadside fruit stand to make sure that our tradition lived on. The vendor was gracious enough to let us use his perfectly stacked watermelons and mangoes as our photo props.
Pro travel tip: On short trips where you’ll only be in a city for a short while, travel with a change of clothes, or two, and swap outfits every so often. This allows you to post multiple photos from your short trip, but without the photos being repetitive with the same dress in all your photos. This is one of my fave travel tricks and I do it all the time!