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Archive for November, 2013

            It’s getting close to winter time and that means one thing for many.  Thoughts of a winter vacation in the Caribbean.  Many people like to take cruises and if that is you, check out my article on cruising for some good tips.  Others like to fly to a destination and soak up the sun and sand at a beach resort.
           One of the more popular places to visit in the Western Caribbean, especially if you like to dive, is Cozumel, an island just off the Yucatan Peninsula closed to Cancun.
            Cozumel has a population right around 65,000.  It is surrounded by the beautiful turquoise colors of the Caribbean Sea.  It is not only the largest island in Mexico but probably its most beautiful.
            The island’s only town is named San Miguel de Cozumel and between December through April during the day you are surrounded by wall to wall tourists going into the shops and restaurants that line the waterfront.  There can be as many as eight cruise ships docked on a single day and there are not enough berths for them, so some have to use the tenders to get people ashore. 
            The island runs about 29 miles long and about nine miles wide and there is a 3,000 foot channel that separates it from the Mexican mainland.  Most of the interior is jungle filled with insects and a few unpreserved Mayan ruins.  But the island is really known for its beautiful beaches and a center for diving.  I have a friend who dives there and he said at 4:00 p.m. as soon as the last cruise ships pull out, all the store prices drop.
            Naturally the western side of the island has the best beaches since it is protected from the open Caribbean.  The eastern side is rockier and faces the open sea which creates a pounding surf and dangerous swimming conditions.   But those beaches also have a wild beauty to them.
            For the ancient Maya, Cozumel was an important ceremonial and trading center.  It was like Mecca and the Mexican natives all tried to make one visit there in their lifetime.  In the 1500’s, Spanish explorers used the island as a base to attack the mainland Indians.  By the end of the 1600’s most of the Indian population had been wiped out by the European diseases.  And then from the early 1600’s through the mid 1900’s, the island was a favorite hideout for pirates.
            Until World War II, no one even realized the island had potential until the U.S. Air Force was stationed there to scout for Nazi submarines in the Caribbean during World War II.   There was some development after the soldiers spread the word about its beauty but it took until an early 1960’s documentary by Jacques Cousteau before things really started happening.  The documentary showcased the spectacular coral reefs and caught the attention of scuba fanatics.  This tropical isle twelve miles off the Yucatan coast is now one of the top diving destinations in the world.
            As you head downtown from the cruise ship terminals, a short block in from the waterfront is the Plaza Principal, the central plaza.  A bright yellow clock tower rises behind the plaza and a red tiled roof gazebo sits in the center.  There are wooden benches where the local vendors sit and visit as well as a statue of the Mexican president and hero, Benito Juarez.  There are a couple of bars where you can sit and have a cerveza—either Dos Equis or Corona are good choices—and watch the world go by like the locals or shop in the stores that surround the plaza. 
             And, if you are docked at the cruise terminal and have to take a taxi to town, ask another couple to share the ride with you.  There is a set rate & four ride for the price of one.
             There are also ruins on Cozumel to visit that aren’t as spectacular as on the mainland but a local guide told me that a recent hurricane uncovered some wonderful ruins that are being carefully preserved by the Mexica government and will soon be opened to the public.  Watch  for the announcement in the next couple of years.  They claim they are even better than the ones now visited on the Yucatan mainland.
                FYI: I am working hard this winter to finish my next book.  It takes place on cruise ships in the Bahamas and Yucatan Peninsula.  Watch for the announcement when it is finished.  Meanwhile don’t forget to visit Amazon for soft cover or kindle versions of my other books.  They would make great Christmas presents.  And if you visit my webpage–www.kileenprather.com–& email me, I can send autographed copies to you for your friends or relatives.
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