Cozumel – A Different Mexico

categories: mexico travel

Park Royal Cozumel

I found myself making acquaintance again today with the Mexico City airport and availing myself of the opportunity to again consume tacos al pastor. I was through this airport on a trip this previous February. I could not help but notice at this tie the differences between the circumstances of the two trips. The Amateur Traveler show has enabled both trips but in a very different fashion. In February I took some of the proceeds from the show and spent them on a trip to Mexico (Mexico City and Oaxaca). This trip was being sponsored by Royal Holiday. They flew me down to Cozumel to show me the Park Royal resort in the hope that I would have a good time and write about it.

I enjoyed both my trip to Mexico City and Cozumel though to be sure two trips had little in common besides the passport stamp.


Mexico City can be an intimidating city with regard to safety and crime. The U.S. state department actually has language in their recommendations on Mexico City travel to avoid hailing a taxi on the street unless you want to die or some frightening words to that effect. On the plane into Cozumel, I met an American who works as a security consultant who was flying down to close on a house. Before purchasing the house he has done a lot of research and said that Cozumel has almost no crime. Sandra, who works for Park Royal, told the story of a woman who was picking up a rental jeep. She was told it was a blue jeep, was on such and such a street downtown and the keys were in the car. As it turns out there were two blue jeeps on that street with the keys in them and she took the wrong one, but no one bothered to tell her until she checked in the wrong jeep. They assumed correctly that her mistake was accidental.


Mexico City is a massive city that some predict will someday succumb to its own demand for resources and to its own pollution (underestimating the Mexico City inhabitants according to many). Cozumel also has limited resources as an isolated island. For this reason, hotels when they were rebuilt, after the near-total devastation caused by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, were required to build:

  • desalination plants capable of meeting most of their water needs
  • water treatment systems that could render such water potable
  • sewage treatment systems
  • systems for composting organic waste


Cultural Distance

While Mexico City can certainly be intimidating there is no doubt that it supports a vibrant culture. The distance between Mexico City and the US was heightened by avoiding the Zona Rosa district which has become somewhat of a tourist ghetto.

Cozumel has an economy centered around tourism and thus often seems to have less distance between it and the United States which is one of its major customers. Cozumel seems to be a gateway to Mexico for those who are not ready to jump into Mexico with both feet. Cozumel is a place that will be very comfortable for Americans. It is a place where you do not need to speak Spanish and at times it seemed to me to be more like an extension of Florida rather than a foreign country. This will, of course, recommend it to some travelers and take it off the list for others.

Urban Jungle / Tropical Jungle

There is no mistaking from the moment that you fly over Mexico City the vastness of that city. Nor is there mistaking that you are on a tropical island as you fly into Cozumel. The color of the water is strikingly beautiful in a way that I have only seen in the Caribbean. The landscape of the island seems only partly to be settled at all with much of the island still jungle. Almost all of the hotels are on the side of the island facing the other resort cities of the Mayan riviera. The far side of the island is more windswept, rugged and uninhabited. The Mayans believed that a woman should make a pilgrimage to Cozumel (to what we now know as San Gervasio) at least once as it was associated with fertility. I have no doubt that more than one honeymoon couple has found Cozumel to still have some claim on fertility.

So I find that I enjoyed both trips but in very different ways. Mexico City is a way to dive deep into Mexico. It is challenging, exciting and bustling. Cozumel is welcoming, beautiful and relaxing. It is still Mexico, but not the one you have been seeing on the evening news. And speaking of the evening news, no so far as I have been able to learn there have not been cases of swine flu on Cozumel.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

5 Responses to “Cozumel – A Different Mexico”



I love Cozumel and really enjoyed seeing the improvements to being a bit more “sound” in the systems dealing with fresh water, as you mentioned. While there, a horrible storm hit and the center of San Miguel was flooded. We were walking the streets, watching people deal with the “disaster,” and noticed there was no panic…no theft…no worry. People were helping one another and giving each other food. It was a much different Mexico…based on my other travels within the country at other times.

PB Resorts


Cozumel looks like a great place to have a vacation in Mexico. I love the sunset photo you added. We also have a blog on Mexico travel, with a lot of great info! Check it out at

Janet Palma


Hi there,

I just returned from my second trip to Cozumel and it sure has grown up some since 1995. I stayed at the far cheaper, less glamorous El Cid La Cieba Hotel next door to the Park Royal. I heard the El Cid had to do a great deal of rebuilding after the hurricane, although they are now only starting the process of remodeling and upgrading the place. It needs some help to keep up…Do you have any idea which hotels actually have their own desal plants since the hurricane? Since the Park Royal is relatively new, they probably installed one when they built the place, no? I also write for the Green Economy Post and I never did get this information when I was just there in December. Still a quaint island and yes, the locals do say it is the safest place on earth to them.



My understanding is that pretty much all the hotels had to rebuild and in the rebuilding there were a number of new requirements. I don’t recall if having your own diesel was one of them but water treatment and recycling were.

Janet Palma


Thanks Chris. I just emailed the GM at the resort to ask him if they have a private desal plant or how do they treat their water. Despite the lower quality of accommodations, I never got sick eating at their restaurant and I at there exclusively. The resort is still remodeling so I am wondering what other upgrades they need to do vs are required to do by law there.

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