A blue, woven hammock swung lazily in a damp breeze, thick with salty sprays of Caribbean water. Sipping a mojito, I embraced true Cozumel style at the Liquor Box, a local beach bar/fish shack on the east side of the island, where the mojito and mango daiquiris are the potent poisons of choice.
These are unstoppable when paired with fresh fish empanadas topped with guacamole, queso fresco and pico de gallo. After sucking down my drink, and polishing off the last of the empanadas, my tour guide, Rocky, pulled me back to reality as we hopped back inside his open-air jeep to continue exploring the island.
I was staying at the Explorean Cozumel, an all-inclusive boutique luxury resort on Cozumel that specializes in giving guests a true sense of place. It was created out of former bungalow suites that belong to the adjacent Fiesta Americana Cozumel.
The newly created, all-inclusive resort has a sharp focus on activities and exploring the island, all of which are included in the nightly rates. There are 56 rooms tucked back into jungle gardens. Guests have access to the pool, beach and restaurant areas of the Fiesta Americana, but there is also an onsite restaurant in the open-air lobby and a small pool.
But the real reason to stay at the Explorean is its emphasis on the location. My adventure with Rocky was the jeep tour, which included the major sites that usually pull in cruise crowds, with Cozumel attracting 3.3 million tourists each year. But there is a local side to living there, and that's what Explorean seeks to uncover, while giving guests that iconic Cozumel experience.
But knowing my love for local flair, Rocky was able to put his authentic spin on the tour, which was how we discovered the Liquor Box. Another tour highlight was a snorkeling location known as El Cielo, which translates to "heaven," where the water is clear as glass to a sandy bottom strewn with hundreds of starfish.
However, the day I made the boat trip there, a torrential rainstorm put a damper on any viewing. All was not lost, however, as we soaked in the warm, bath-like sea in the pouring rain, drinking Dos Equis beers and laughing at this alternate definition of heaven. Other tour options include paddleboarding, kayaking, horseback riding, sailing and a tour of the San Gervasio archaeological site.
Ultimately Explorean Cozumel guests are those who like to dig a little deeper and see one of Mexico's most beloved destinations from a completely different angle. Go to www.explorean.com/cozumel.html.