Cozumel Accomodations: Is El Centro Right for You?

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Is an El Centro, Cozumel Vacation Right for You?

 
Left, Family enjoying Mexican Independence Day on Cozumel's waterfront promenade. The malecon runs for more than a mile along the ocean in downtown San Miguel and makes for great strolling and people-watching.

We love staying in El Centro so much that we live here most of the year! We enjoy the convenience of being able to walk or bicycle to the markets, the waterfront, to restaurants, shopping and Sunday night on the plaza.

Carey in particular, relishes the fact that downtown is safe enough that she feels quite safe walking around town at 11 PM alone.

For all these reasons and more, we highly recommend an intown base if you want to get the most from your next trip to the island.

Of course, vacation time is precious--not to mention expensive. So before you make the decision about where to stay on your next trip to the island, we suggest you ask yourself the following questions to determine your Vacation Profile.

#1 Are You an Active or a Passive Vacationer?

We call a "passive vacationer" someone who is so burned out from work they just want to be lounge chair potatos sipping margaritas by the pool and reading a paperback all week. If this is your style, you may be happiest staying at an out-of-town resort or all-inclusive.

On the other hand, if you're the kind of person that gets bored silly by day three with the tired old trip up the concrete stairs past the ice machine between the pool and the room, standing in lines for food and drinks and having to get up early in the morning to snag a chair by the pool, an in-town vacation beckons.
This one man factory on Calle 3 produces pressed clay tile of the type that can be seen in many of the island's finest homes and restaurants.
Above a segment of San Miguel's pretty, interesting waterfront taken from a boat. Note the narrow sand beach with small fishing boats pulled up on the sand. Behind is a seawall and a broad paved promenade that runs for approximately 1.5 miles and makes a great early morning or sunset exercise walk or stroll.

Many resorts here hire young people called "Animators" to liven things up poolside by encourage you to play watervolleyball or join in the karoke tournaments. If you stay in town, you're going to have to animate yourself. Fortunately, that's not difficult to do in downtown San Miguel with so much variety just awaiting your attention.

RIGHT, girls from "the hood" take a break during Cozumel's spectacular, week-long carnival. Mamas work over time for months ahead to pull the elaborate costumes together.
Shoppers can explore the back alley stores, going back again and again, if they want to bargain for the best prices on silver, leather goods, hammocks, pottery.
And if you like to eat, you'll be able to stroll to a different restaurant for every meal if you like with prices ranging from $3.50/person for a giant meal at a local loncheria to $25 plus at one of the many upscale eateries in El Centro.

ABOVE RIGHT, the garden eating area behind loncheria Sabores. This eatery is popular with people who work downtown -- both gringos and Mexicans. The portions are large, the food home-cooked Yucatecan cuisine, the prices under $5 US including soup, a jimaica drink (made from hibiscus blossoms) and a choice of 6-8 main courses that change daily.

San Miguel in general and El Centro in particular is also great for people watching. Rent a bike and tour the back streets of town where you will be met by friendly smiles. Stroll the plaza and see what's going on locally. There are frequent free events here that draw Mayans and Mexicans for all over the city.

 

And, don't forget the nighttime in town, when the whole place comes alive -- not just in the tourist district but all over town. Children play soccer in the streets until midnight on weekends, couples stroll the waterfront in the cool of the evening and restaurants and nightspot don't even start to get revved up until 11ish.

#2. One Vacation Style Fits All? Or Not?

If you're a solo traveler or everyone in your group likes to do the same kinds of things, then you're travel planning is greatly simplified. But we all know that miracle seldom happens. Mom wants to shop 'til she drops. You and your spouse want to dive. The kids want to get their hair braided and work on their tans by day and hit the dance clubs at night. And Grandpa wants to go and lay bets at the Sports Bar.

In-town stays give your group walking distance access to the best shopping on the island and, the best restaurants on the island,
La Choza, an pretty, open-air restaurant in the heart of downtown serving, as you can see from the sign "Tipical" Mexican home cooking.

There are also several great spas for massages and aromotherapy. And there are dance clubs, late night bars and the list goes on. In short, pick a good intown location and you won't be shuffling people around all day and into the evening--they can entertain themselves just fine. And that leaves you free to do what you want to do!

For those in your group who want to hit the beach every morning? Taxis are everywhere and rental cars are reasonably priced. You can sample a different park or beach club every day of a one-week trip to the island. Better yet, you can pick the place based on your interests. Some beaches are for strictly for snorkeling, others offer surf fun and beach toys galore.

 

San Francisco Beach Club is one of more than 10 free beachfront facilities around the island where you can wile away the day on a lounge chair or hammock for the price of purchasing a couple of cokes or a simple lunch. Many have all sorts of beach toys and snorkeling gear for rent quite inexpensively.

#3. Do you want a rest from the kids -- or are you looking forward to spending more time with them?

If you go on vacation to get the kids out of your hair, most resorts have kid's clubs that will entertain your children while you and your spouse do your own thing. Some are excellent. Some not so hot. It's all over the board.So do your research if you choose that option.

Parents who think of vacations as an opportunity to spend quality time with your progeny, will have a lot more options with an in-town vacation.

For families, we highly recommend staying at a Vacation Rental. Villas here are built behind high privacy walls and usually have pools, gardens, terraces, hammocks.

In short, plenty for the kids to do on their own without you having to watch them every second or shuttle them off to a Kid's Club babysitting service.

 

If you have teens,it's so safe downtown you can let them out to explore on their own. There are also loads of adventures you and your kids can enjoy together.

Younger children will be thrilled with trips to the grocery, El Mercado and just walking around town where they'll see so many other children their own age -- only they have a different color of skin and speak another language.

ABOVE, shot of a religious procession through the streets of downtown's El Centro .

#4. Are you Interested in Exploring Spanish/Mayan Culture?

We know this is a loaded question that makes you look bad if you respond Nay I just want to get the dang mariachis out of my face so I can stare at the ocean in peace.

And, hey, that's cool.Some people don't go on vacation to explore--they just want a quiet, well-earned rest.But if you ARE interested in visiting a foreign country for more than just beach chairs in the sun and bargain prices, downtown San Miguel is a fascinating place to start.
If there are people in your group interested in Mexican and Mayan culture, you'll find plenty of places to explore in town. Shot above is of some of the crypts in the local cemetary at the south end of Avenida 5 a block in from the waterfront.

In fact, we will go so far as to say that downtown poses a pretty unique opportunity to explore and mingle with people from another culture without having to worry about getting mugged or your purse snatched.

RIGHT, local Cozumeleño dance troupes practice for months and then dance in the streets all week during Carnival.

We can't emphasize enough how safe and friendly this town is. It's possibly it's major charm and a big reason why tourists who visit keep coming back again and again--because Cozumel's greatest resource is its people.

Interested in more articles and information about visiting or staying in El Centro? Then check out the following links