If you ever wonder where great seaside resorts meet fun and entertainment at low cost with lots of booze and tasty treats – look no further, head straight to Mexico. While it may be one of the most controversial countries in terms of politics, economy and crime, the first thing you will notice about Mexicans is that they may not live a wealthy life (as per Western standards), but they all seem very happy and quite content, finding joy in simple life. They seem relaxed and easy-going, unfazed by hurricanes or drug wars, nor Trump and his wall- an attitude to life worth my envy.
Both the West and the East coasts of Mexico have attracted tourists from all over the world for decades but even more so for the last 30 years, when the ever growing cruise ship industry delivered passengers by the thousands all over the Mexican coasts. While most major cruise lines have recently deserted the beautiful Western Baja Californian coast due to political, health and crime issues, the Caribbean coast of Mexico still gravitates lots of American tourists, dominated by Spring Breakers, honeymooners and singles, all ready to have an inexpensive but memorable holiday.
Personally, I prefer the West Coast with its picturesque ports of Cabo San Lucas (faved by Hollywood celebrities), Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, however there are plenty small gems like Huatulco, Xtapa and Zihoataneho- equally charming, but quaint- they remind me of how simple and satisfying life used to be in my own country where small friendly communities lived happily together like a big family.
Just last year I discovered a lovely resort in Huatulco, called Secrets- it is about 40 min drive from the port and it is well worth the entrance fee of $60. The property is modern and surrounded by lush vegetation. There is no shortage of pools and the coast line is breath taking. My friends Sonja and Steve did not get out of the pool for 4 straight hours. Who can blame them- the drink of the day was chokletini!
On the other hand, in the sphere of Mass tourism, Mexico boasts some of the best All Inclusive Resorts in the world, 4 and 5 stars, where you can spend the entire holiday without once stepping out of the property. And why would you, when you have it all within an arm reach- from yummy delicacies to strong cocktails, you can have your guacamole and Mojito without even getting off the comfortable beach bed. Want a massage? There is a cabana on the beach with your name on it. The friendly staff is happy to oblige and meet your every need.
Seriously, food, drinks and music are everywhere. Even if you are not the biggest fan of salsa (both the dance and the appetizer), the party atmosphere is around you and whether you like it or not, you are part of it. Don’t be shocked if you discover that you gained a few pounds at the end of your holiday – being lazy in the sun and constantly stuffed with food and beer takes its toll. The Seafood, tropical fruit and ripe veggies are always fresh and delicious. The food choice is endless, the traditional cuisine is for the most part healthy and always yummy. The typical Mexica restaurant will offer tacos and burritos, sizzling fajitas with choice of shrimp, beef or chicken, quesedias with fresh salsa, beens and guacamole, stuffed Pablano peppers, spicy cheesy jalapenos, empanadas and mouth watering ceviche and enchiladas. Mexicans know how to prepare fresh shrimp and oysters, grilled calamari and octopus or the catch of the day: mahi-maji, tuna or snapper, best cooked in traditional dishes. Have churros, flam or dulce de lece for desert, you will not regret it. I was not a fan of beer until I tried Corona in Mexico and it isntrue what they say- there is nothing better than a cold cerveza in the hot Mexican sun. Modelo, Sol, Dos Equis and Corona are my favorite. Of course, Tequila is the national drink and Margaritas are everywhere, just like the Mariachi bands and with both, the party is non-stop.
Above: Margaritas at the “Thirsty Cougar” in Cozumel
The weather in Mexico is tropical, so during the summer it is quite hot and humid. Make sure you are close to the ocean or the pool with an ice cold drink in hand, to avoid sizzling in the sun. In the winter, it is not uncommon to have spontaneous rain showers to briefly cool off the over heated tourists.
I consider myself a big fan of the Mexican Riviera, because apart from the fancy resorts and friendly locals, I mostly enjoy the hidden little beaches, away from the tourist hot spots.
Just recently I discovered another little gem in Cozumel- a small resort called the Money Bar. The property is situated around the “Landmark”- a prominent building offering luxury condos for rent, a fresh water pool and a traditional restaurant on the beach, where you can have a comfortable sun bed free of charge. There are all sorts of water sports available and you can enjoy a nice massage on the beach after lunch!
While the property is not that big or even well known, I became quickly drawn to its natural beauty, great amenities and friendly service. This is not your typical Mexican beach resort- there are no crowds of tourists, nor deafening music- it is a quiet little oasis with all the comfort and convenience of an exclusive resort. Working on the ship, I have only 2 to 4 hours available to go ashore, so when I found out that the Money Bar was only 10 min away by bike, I jumped on the opportunity to add some exercise to my beach routine. Enjoying a delicious lunch in a place with no noisy tourists was a bonus. If you like snorkeling, you are up for a treat here, there is a a pretty coral reef, not far from the shore and the variety of colorful fish is amazing. There are kayaks and paddle boards for rent, or you can join a catamaran boat for a fishing trip. This place is quiet, but you have everything you need. What can I say: Life is Good at the Money Bar! 🙂
While in Cozumel, you can try something different as well. If you are a cruise ship passenger, aside from the Mayan ruins and the various Beach Breaks, you will be offered a tour called “Salsa and Salsa” . The tour operators will take you to a nice beach resort, where you will learn how to prepare different salsas and guacamole, while fed small delicacies and over served Margaritas, which you will also be taught how to make yourself.
Finally, when you are good and ready, you will be invited to dance Salsa with a Mexican partner. While it may seem easy at first, it becomes increasingly challenging after so many margaritas. I am not sure how much anyone remembers at the end but one thing is for sure- you will find the whole experience surprisingly exhilarating and fondly remember it as the day you were the star in “Dirty Dancing”.
Is there Golf in Cozumel? You bet there is! The Cozumel Country Club offers an 18 hole picturesque golf course, most of which is in a good shape. There are some areas that need attention, but seems I went there out of season, as there were some patches of dry grass. However the rich vegetation, the water lilies and hazards including alligators make it worthwhile and add to the charm of this course carved in the lush Cozumel island jungle. It is also a home of a bird sanctuary and bird watching tours are offered as well.