The owner of our simple hotel in San Miguel was clear about it: go to Playa Mia. It’s beautiful and there’s no need to pay for drinks at a beach bar in order to have access. Probably the best beach in the whole island.
Right, I replied. I think I’ve read about it in a blog before coming.
I sure had. “Best budget plans in Cozumel” was probably the name of the post.
So you park at the end of the Playa Mia resort car park. You’ll see a gate that is half open. Don’t worry, it’s public access – just go through it.
The gate is green, right? I was tempted to add. But I refrained, lest she thought I was an obsessive travel prep freak. [Maybe I am, but I also like travel blogs and have a memory for such details].
Just make sure you go early so you can get shade under a palm tree.
And so we did. The morning after we were parking our motorcycle just shy of 9.30am, right next to the famous gate. It took us less then five minutes to reach the palm trees, which occupied a small patch of beach between two beach clubs, Playa Mia and a smaller one. Both of them offered colorful floating water parks. We spotted quite a bit of trash, so we decided to keep walking and try to find a more secluded area of palm trees.
Another 5 minutes of walking took us past the smaller club to another area of small palm trees where we settled. We were alone, with a scenery belonging to paradise.com.
We went in the water for a glorious swim in crystal clear waters. In the distance, we could see the constant traffic of boats doing the classic snorkeling tour offered in the island, departing at the pier and aiming for El Cielo, El Cielito and the Palancar reefs. 4 hours at a steep price of 40 dollars per person
As we walked back to our towels in the shade, a staff member of the neighboring club approached us.
Just beware of the boats that will be arriving in a few minutes, he warned us, with a friendly smile. Turns out, other people were getting ready for their arrival, too: worker kayaks and paddle boards were being lined up on the sand and, as it happened, one of the beach cabins was opening up as a kiosk selling cigars, souvenirs, and 30 minute massages. Oh well.
The first boat arrived. It was a catamaran with no less than 80 people on board, all ages. They disembarked, the younger kids racing to pick up their life jackets to enter the water park. Some couples and families stopped to pose for a photograph. They all spoke American English.
Do you want massage? offered a Mexican lady, but most of the Americans were eager to hit the beach park and its facilities. Souvenirs?
A second boat arrived. In a few minutes, the quiet, secluded beach had turned to a bustling environment in which everybody was actively engaged in some form of beach enjoyment: climbing up the floating structures or paddling around them, laying on sunbeds with margaritas ready to hand, or wolfing nachos or burgers at the restaurant palapa.
It was getting hot so K. and I went for another swim. Will there be more boats? We asked the nice gentleman who was helping them land.
Yes, just one. But you can swim over there.
Shielded from the mayhem by the last boat, and looking South to an empty stretch of beach, we enjoyed another wonderful swim in which we spotted quite a few fish and even a manta raya.
Back at the towels, we saw that the first group were making their way back to the boat. So soon? we thought. We guessed there were other sights and attractions on the menu, so they had to be going. Quite a few of them had pretty bad sunburns. Man, going on one of these tours looks pretty exhausting!
By 1 am the beach was quiet again, with little more action than the souvenir shop being closed down for the day.
Time for a beer, we thought. K headed to the bar, but returned empty-handed: the club didn’t serve outside customers, but only cater to Fury Catamaran tours, as we later found the outfit was called. Oh well. We’re the stubborn type, so ended up taking a long-ish walk on the beach to the next resort, Mr. Sancho’s.
After our nth swim, we decided it was time to call it a day... By then there were a few other groups in our area of palm trees. Most were European, French and Spanish, couples and groups of friends in their twenties and thirties.
We walked past the private beach club. Quite a few members of staff were still there, presumably watching the place. Some were playing cards, others checking their phone apps…one of them was dozing off on a hammock. A few walks away, it was peak time at the first area of palm trees – the one closest to the carpark. Here it was mainly local families enjoying huge picnics and blasting reggaeton music from their portable sound systems. In the sea, dozens of kids played in a small area, with empty floating parks to one side and the other.
Empty private facilities, crowded public land. K and I talked about this contrast as we made it back to our bike, and over dinner. We were happy that locals had the opportunity of enjoying a place like this, but sad that there were so few places for them to do so, as all the prime spots on the Western coast of the island were taken up by expensive hotels, resorts and beach clubs.
Call me a socialist, a pedantic Euro, but this traveler only believes in paradises that can be found on public lands.