Is an El Centro, Cozumel Vacation Right for You?
We love staying in El Centro! We enjoy the convenience of being able to walk or bicycle to the markets, the waterfront, to restaurants, shopping and the plaza.
For all these reasons and more, we highly recommend an in-town 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 potatoes 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.
Many resorts here hire young people called “Animators” to liven things up poolside by encourage you to play water volleyball or join in the karaoke 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.
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 $5-8/person for a giant meal at a local loncheria to $25 plus at one of the many upscale eateries in El Centro.
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.
There are also several great spas for massages and aromatherapy. And there are dance clubs, late night bars and the list goes on. In short, pick a good in-town 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.
#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 speak another language.
#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.
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. Just practice common sense security.
We can’t emphasize enough how 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:
Exploring Downtown San Miguel
El Centro Recommendations for Group Lodging
El Centro Recommendations for Singles and Couples
A Walking Tour of Downtown San Miguel
Cozumel with the Kids
Biking on Cozumel Island
How to Be More than Just Another Tourist
Map of El Centro