Cozumel - Occidental Moments
Only 10 miles off Mexico’s famous Yucatan Peninsula, lies the tropical island of Cozumel.. Most people think of the island as a dive or cruise ship destination, but it is so much more than just a stop on your next cruise!
According to Mayan legend, Cozumel was home to the gods, and it’s not hard to image why they believed this with the island’s spectacular white-sand beaches, lush jungle, crystal clear waters, cenotes and Mayan ruins. The island draws visitors from all over the world to its luminous waters and stunning beaches, but there is so much more to do in this tropical paradise than just relax at the beach. Whether you’re an adrenaline junky seeking adventure or looking for a more laid-back experience, there is something for everyone on this beautiful island!
We had always wanted to visit Cozumel and dive it’s rich reefs, so when the opportunity to stay at Occidental Cozumel came up, we dropped everything and hopped on a plane to Mexico!
Located on the island’s western shore, Occidental Cozumel is a special place that brings out the kid in everyone. From afternoon beach volleyball and waterpolo in the pool to scuba diving and snorkeling right out front, there are activities for everyone to participate in. In the evenings they offer an array of live music, acrobats and even fire dancers. This leisurely beachfront destination truly redefined all-inclusive for us with their fully-equipped facilities including three pools, a spa, gym, beach club and 7 restaurants.
Our first night at the resort we had a romantic dinner planned on the beach, but sunset showers quickly changed our plans. We moved inside to the beautiful La Cartera restaurant and had one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had. Champagne and wine, soup and salad, steak and shrimp, dessert and a flaming liqueur coffee! I don’t know if I’ve ever been more full or satisfied! It was truly a spectacular evening with amazing service.
In the morning it was time for our favorite type of adventure, SCUBA DIVING!!! Just offshore and right in front of the hotel is the famous Palancar Reef, considered one of the most spectacular coral formations in all the Caribbean and is rated one of the top ten scuba destinations in the world. Palancar Reef is part of the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park and a portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef in the world. This spectacular reef system spans over twenty-two kilometers and is full of marine biodiversity. This underwater garden is home to rich and varied marine fauna, and it’s not uncommon to swim or dive with turtles, dolphins, eagle rays and even nurse sharks.
The resort has a dive shop on location and is fully prepared to provide diving enthusiasts with everything they need to enjoy a day out on the water. Whether you’re looking to learn how to scuba dive for the first time or you’re an experienced pro looking to do some advanced diving you are at the right spot! ProDive International Cozumel offers a wide range of PADI courses, drift dives, night dives, wall dives and snorkeling. The dive boats even leave from the pier right out front of the resort!
Our first dive of the day blew us away and it was probably one of our top 10 dives that we’ve ever done! We had about four giant eagle rays come in super close to check us out, two massive green moray eels (one free swimming across the reef), a turtle, nurse shark, toadfish, tons of massive lobster, king crab, a seahorse and so much more! We couldn’t believe how healthy the reef here was! We soon learned that most of the reef surrounding the island and lagoons on the south side were declared as the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park in 1996. Even though almost the entire island of Cozumel is surrounded by coral reefs, the park only encompasses the reefs on the south side of the island. Boats are not allowed to anchor or moor within the park and there’s no fishing allowed. Most dive shops in the area also now require their patrons to wear reef safe sunscreens.
The island is also home to the Cozumel Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus) which is listed as vulnerable by IUCN and is entirely endemic to the reefs surrounding the island. The park also has several other species that are under some degree of protection, including green sea turtles, loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles, the Queen Conch, and black coral.
Diving through the swim-throughs at the Coral Garden in warm, clear water was truly magical!!! Drifting along the reef’s deep walls covered with sponges, fans and macro life, and being surrounded by colorful schools of fish, rays and nurse sharks was an experience I’ll never forget! If Cozumel isn’t already on your list of dive destinations it’s time you added it, this is a place you don’t want to miss!
Apart from offering dreamy landscapes and world class diving, Cozumel has a wide variety of ecotourism activities such as kayaking, sailing, snorkeling and ATV rides. Josh and I hadn’t ridden ATV’s in years and decided to spend our second day exploring the island with Wild Tours Cozumel.
The trails surrounding the tour operator in Mayan village of El Cedral, lead to the exotic Jade Cavern Cenote and the Coral Cave. Driving the muddy trails through the jungle was a wet and wild ride! Halfway through our tour we had the opportunity to swim in the turquoise waters of the Jade Cavern, surrounded by stalactites and small bat caves. It was the perfect way to cool off in the afternoon heat!
We had a fantastic time exploring the island and only wish we’d had more time to stay! Thank you again to Occidental Cozumel for an amazing trip and we look forward to returning someday soon!