There are experiences which are created and planned – like Disney World. Some of these have their charm, but what you experience is exactly what a team of marketing experts in an office building somewhere (these days perhaps in Hong Kong, or maybe Beijing?) decided you will experience – nothing more, nothing less.
Other experiences are not planned or created – they simply happen. The place you are, the people your with and what you see and feel while you’re there is well beyond the control of any corporation or travel agency. Yes, planning is an important part of getting there and making the most of your visit, but the experience itself is defined by your own personal reaction and many random factors shaped by geography, nature and cultures that have developed over centuries.
Isla Mujeres and Cozumel – Top Islands in Mexico and the World
This is the case with two of the world’s favorite islands, Mexico’s two Caribbean islands, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Recently, both have been ranked among the top islands in the world, for example, Isla Mujeres in TripAdvisor and Cozumel by Scuba Diving magazine. (Here is also a nice blog post of a traveler sharing their experience on Cozumel.)
They share the wide, soft white beaches and turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea – some of the most beautiful in the world. They share the heritage of the ancient Mayan people and the warm, welcoming culture of their descendants. They share warm, sunny weather all year round, and excellent diving access to the world’s second largest barrier coral reef.
And, by geographical luck, they are located about an hour away from each other. Either can be accessed quickly from the Cancun International Airport
Isla Mujeres is a tiny island just of the coast at Cancun. Coming directly from the bustling city of Cancun (where the ferry leaves) – which is quickly becoming the largest on the Yucatan Peninsula, and a cosmopolitan hub for travel and international events – the difference is like day and night.
You feel like you’re arriving to a different world. Yes, the climate and the beaches are the same, but suddenly you’re in a quiet place, a sleepy island where time hasn’t seemed to go anywhere in the past few decades.
Cozumel is has ferry access from Playa del Carmen. In addition to diving in the reef, there is deep-sea fishing, boating, sight-seeing, Mayan pyramids, golf and much more. One of the ideal ways to spend a day on Cozumel is to rent a scooter or a motorcycle (there are Harley rentals!) and just tour the island enjoying the warmth of the open air. The freedom to simply explore and discover the jungle, the ancient ruins and relaxing beaches at your own leisure is truly a unique experience.
Cozumel also has a small city (about 80,000 – a bit smaller than Playa del Carmen.) In this city you can enjoy the shops of knickknacks, artwork and handicrafts. There are also excellent restaurants, including many that sell the local catch of the day – fried fish is a local specialty.
Yes, on both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel you can buy tours, you can plan your day and decide what you want to see. But here, these are only tools to make it easier to find a unique experience that is shaped by the place and its culture that you will not find anywhere else.
-by Thomas Lloyd