One of the games I like to play with myself while traveling is, How many different types of transportation can I use in one trip? While down in Playa del Carmen recently, I had a few hours to kill and thought, hey, I could go to Cozumel and back, thus adding “ferry” to the list that already included bus, train, plane, taxi, and foot. So I walked into town and took a very pitchy ferry ride over to the island. Once there, I had no plan for what I was actually going to do. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money and time going to the other side of the island to look at crocodiles or heading out in a “glass-bottom boat” that appeared to be a regular rowboat with some plexiglass in the bottom. So I decided to just walk around the town.
The first few blocks off the ferry dock are incredibly touristed. It’s the kind of shopping area that makes me uneasy with its naked capitalism. (I understand how tourism works; I just don’t like to think about it. It’s like thinking about where meat comes from.) But if you walk a little farther, you get out of the zone of Hard Rock Cafes and Diamonds International and find a place that’s a little quieter, a little more normal, and a lot more picturesque.
Something you see all too rarely in the Midwest are things painted bright colors for no reason other than that it’s much less depressing to have a green-polka-dotted fence than a plain white one. Cozumel has a lot to offer: snorkeling, boating, shopping, dining. But next time you’re there–or any other highly touristed place–take the opportunity to wander back into the neighborhoods, away from the touts and the crowds, to get a little peek at the real town.