Click Photo for the Coral Princess Video

The airy lobby at the
Coral Princess, Cozumel.
(Click Photo for the Video)

Dolphins.  They’re everywhere.  Flying over the Coral Princess Resort lobby in a graceful arch.  Skimming the bottom of the pool.  Mosaiced into a small table in Chyrlobyrlos, the lobby bar. Guarding the web site.  Why dolphins? Why not! You are, after all, in a world where dolphins visit.  There is even a national park on Cozumel — Chankanaab — a few miles down the road where you can actually swim with them.

The dolphins caught my bleary eyes as we walked into the lobby.  After an early flight to Cozumel, which meant a sleepless night, my fellow writer, Lena, and I were looking forward to finding a bed for a few hours.  But just past the dolphins teased a glimpse of glorious blue.  Bed, I think wistfully, can wait. 

Our rorom is ready for adventure.

Checking us in was an efficient and very pleasant lady named Jazmin. 

Our room was ready and the bellboy was standing by to take us there.  After, that is, he finished laughing at the mountain of luggage we carried. Writers, after all, never know when they might go from skydiving to scuba diving, beaches to ballrooms, and horses to helicopters, or catch a flight from Cozumel to Canada, and we were prepared for every contingency!  The luggage even included dumbbells and a bicycle; my fellow writer was a fitness expert, so we brought plenty of paraphernalia to ensure maximum workouts.  (I did wonder as we schlepped all this junk around town; who was the dumbbell!)    

We rode an elevator up to the 7th floor.  During previous visits to Cozumel we had stayed on the south side of the island where our lodging was on the ground floor and the beach was sandy and flat.  Never having visited the north end, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It certainly wasn’t this. The door swung open and the ocean poured in. We were seven stories up and could see almost to heaven.

Azul . . . y . . . Azul. . . y . . .!

Ocean blues of all shades flooded my senses. Turquoise clung to the shore where the foamy waves curled over the dark rocks then darkened through the spectrum to navy shade far off toward the mainland where the reef dropped off into the abyss.  We quickly opened the sliding windows and stood riveted.  On the horizon the buildings on la playa punctuated the horizon.  Ferry’s raced each other in the distance as though making up for lost time.  There were no signs from here that a major hurricane had just missed the island two days before. We would see some scars later but for now we took deep breaths and threw away the stateside stress.

Three days earlier we had reluctantly canceled our trip as the airport closed and the island hunkered down.  As we watched the satellite pictures of the monster storm, which had already devastated several islands, we held our breath and prayed for Cozumel and the beautiful Cozumeleños.  A storm the size of Ivan would be catastrophic for the tiny island we had fallen in love with.  Unexpectedly, the storm suddenly turned away from Cozumel and here we were after all — punch drunk from fatigue and profoundly happy to be back.

Dos princessas la playa!

After the view and the salty air worked their magic we decided that it was time to get up close and personal with the ocean.  Dumping our clothes and donning bikini— forget the sunscreen — we hurried out. Minutes later we were at the seawall and with huge grins on our faces we jumped in.  There is absolutely nothing in this world this good!  The cool water bathed away our weariness and the waves made us laugh.  Heaven, we agreed, as we paddled and splashed out to sea.  We played awhile and then headed back to shore only to discover that Ivan’s mischief was still around.  There was a strong current and it was going in the opposite direction of our landing, which would have been fine, except on the north end of the island most of the shore consists of jagged ironstone with limited egress.  And it looked as if we might be in for a long walk home if we had to swim to a downstream hotel that had a ladder.  My friend became a little worried.  Unlike me, she has a low body fat content and buoyancy is difficult.  So she has to swim twice as hard as I do.  We swam hard against the current but progress was slow.  Eventually we teamed up; she held my shoulders and kicked while I breast-stroked as we inched our way back to the ladder.  I was especially motivated to make it since I was not thrilled by the prospect of a long walk.  The next day, Ivan’s influence had weakened and we found the current to be normal and the swimming perfect.  In fact, friends told us that the current usually travels the other direction. Snorkelers are known to put in at spots up-stream and then float down to the Coral Princess.

After our unexpected workout we were ready to crash on the beach.  Coral Princess is on an ironstone reef thus it has no natural beach.  But there are many areas of created beach on several levels so one can be as sociable or as private as one wants. Being rather giddy in our fatigue we chose a spot overlooking the sea away from the other guests.  We didn’t wish to be obnoxious in our noisy laughter and when we finally grew drowsy we wanted our privacy.  Thus we dreamed the day away for a few hours.  Then it was time to wake up, grab a shower and a bite to eat.

The Lobby Bar at Coral Princess.

We ventured to Coral Princess' El Galeon, overlooking the pool and the sea.  El Galeon is decorated with a nautical motif. Beautiful wood paneling covers the walls. There are portholes on the walls and ship artifacts.  An intricate model of a ship oversees the foyer.  Plenty of plants decorate and separate the tables for privacy.  The place was quiet, the lunch diners gone, and the dinner folks not yet ready; we had not eaten since the wee hours of the morning.  Luckily, the restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., so it is always convenient for dining.  And eat we did, like snuffling pigs looking for truffles. The wait staff was efficient, the food was presented beautifully, and the cuisine was delicious. Fajitas and guacamole are a passion of mine and I enjoyed my meal immensely.  My friend had a huge plate of nachos.  I thought she had abandoned her health kick because it was vacation.  I had no idea she planned to work off the calories later with a race walk to town so I enjoyed myself for a few moments longer.

Flame trees in paradise.

You must walk Cozumel
to discover treasures.

Refreshed, we began our walk to town to find a few friends.  A word of warning!  Do not do this if you are not somewhat fit.  Nor if your friend is an exercise fanatic and you are a slug.  Lena thinks running five or ten miles before breakfast is fun.  I think the only time one should run is if a man-eating lion is chasing you.  And then, you only run a little faster and a little further than everyone else. Coral Princess is about two miles from town unless you are out of shape, then it is an eternity.  Still, for the most part there is a wide sidewalk and it is a pretty trek flanked by brilliant flame trees, magnolia, green creepers, and other flora.  If you are used to walking, it is easy and worth saving the taxi fare. But it was only after walking it two or three times a day for several days that I stopped hurting (and complaining) long enough to enjoy it.  Since our visit was just after the hurricane the mosquitoes were bloodthirsty so bug spray came in handy. Thankfully, on other Cozumel trips we did not have too much trouble with critter bites.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Coral Princess was the staff.  From our first moment to final checkout we were treated with friendly and efficient service.  A welcome drink made with fresh juices and looking like a tropical sunrise, was served up by the smiling Daniel, a gentleman who has been welcoming guests here for seven years.  Our mound of luggage was hauled up to our room with nary a complaint.  Every staff member we came in contact with took great pride in their work and many had been at the hotel for years.  Other patrons staying at the hotel noticed the same thing and we learned that many of the guests were repeat customers.  Some of the staff were concerned that we would find it too quiet since it was low season.  But we were ready for a rest and found this to be right up our alley.  

The beach front at Coral Princess is well thought out.  There are many levels of sandy beach tucked away.  The hot tub is on a lower level, a little apart from the pool, so a bit of privacy can be found while one soaks. Then, a few steps away I collapse into a lounge chair and bake and snooze while listening to the heartbeat of the sea just inches from my toes.  On the main level is a large double pool with a swim-up bar on one end.  Thanks to the brilliant soul who invented this concept. I can get a workout and then take a break with the added bonus of avoiding bikini creep when crawling out of the pool for a margarita. 

Ppol - palapa - party!

On the other end of the pool stands La Palapa, the casual pool front restaurant and bar, open from 7 a.m. to 11 p,m., it is a hangout for guests.  Light food, light conversation, and sea worshipping is available here. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays when the Coral Princess staff grill tempting meals of shrimp, lobster, and beef.  Below the pool is a beach leading to the concrete stairway escorting guests to the main event.  The sea is the focus of all of this and it should be.  Many pleasures and treasures await the swimmer and diver who slips into the sea aqui.  The rock ironstone wall is home to so many sea creatures that I feel I am in a living museum. I never tire of the view and I have to be forced out of the ocean to do anything else. 

The gym or the sea for workouts!

When tired of eating, boozing, and resting, a volleyball net awaits.  Or pop down into the dive shop to book a tour or rent some snorkeling gear.  The Coral Princess has a very good exercise facility consisting of a cardio room overlooking the sea and a weight room.  I have this on good authority from the fitness freak that I am sharing quarters with.  Of course, I have no first hand knowledge of this as I avoid such places like the plague!

For those of you who even in paradise need your sports fix you can find a large T.V. at the Chirlobyrlos lobby bar; open from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., with a 2 for 1 happy hour from 7-8 p.m.; watch your team as if you never left your home couch. 

The décor of the Coral Princess blends seamlessly with the island.  Contemporary beach furniture with comfy cushions are scattered invitingly here and there throughout the hotel — no need to be uncomfortable here.  Interesting sculptures and pottery about the hotel add interest.  Rooms are bright, sunny, and spotless, ranging from spacious studios to three bedroom suites.  All the amenities are at my service, from continental breakfast to satellite TV, to large comfortable beds and hot showers.  Prices are reasonable and seasonal rates can be found at rated #1 on the net, backed with a 110% lowest price guarantee.

Caribbean calm
-after Hurricane Ivan!

In the early morning the sun awoke us and I loved to look down at the freshly swept sand, untouched and awaiting my footprints.  I mean, come on, I barely sweep my floors at home, and here the beach sand is swept each day.  The white sand is dotted with thatched roofs fronting the sea and although I am not an artist I yearned to paint this scene.  Occasional snorkelers drifted past while gulls hopped about looking for a dropped morsel or two.  Normally, I am not a watcher, nor is quiet meditation an interest of mine, but the peace afforded from seven floors above the world grabbed my attention and slowed my thoughts. Until my friend reminded me it was time for yet another torturous “walk” to town to see what new friends and foods or foolishness we could find.

The day after our arrival, we noticed a tremendous number of cars, scooters, and bicycles speeding past us as we walked along.  This was unusual and we speculated what might be going on.  A treat awaited us.  Cozumel celebrates her Independence Day on September 16 with a massive parade.  The first thing we noticed were men.  Lots and lots of men! Men in uniform.  Ooh whee!  This writer has been single and celibate for a very long time.  It was rather like being a diabetic in a candy store!  So much variety, so unavailable!  Men in uniform are required to behave a certain way, eyes forward, sober, vigilant. These men did just that. Well, mostly: a few eyes did turn our way, along with the odd whistle.  We were definitely enjoying ourselves.  We were amazed at the composure and crisp appearance of the uniforms.  We were already hot and sweaty yet most of these soldiers looked fresh as the days catch! As we followed along we saw more and more ranks of military.  There were an incredibly number of different uniforms.  Some looked familiar: camouflage, olive drab, white, navy, correlating to what I have seen in America .  But there were many more branches that I didn’t recognize, all standing tall and ready to represent their Mexican home with pride. 

Tropic Gear From Around the EquatorNext paraded school children of all ages.  Each school wore different uniforms with a different flag and each student marched in step as they passed the noisy crowd.  A lovely queen of the festival rode by on a float and I cheered as loud as the locals.  Near the end of the parade came fire trucks and ambulances followed at the end by horse riders.  The last rider was a young boy who rode a very rowdy horse that just wanted to run.  The boy (though small in stature) was an exceedingly accomplished rider who, despite the horses repeated attempts to bolt, maintained complete control. 

Something seemed different, my friend and I mused.  This parade was different that what we were used to.  We finally realized what had caught our attention.  There was nothing artificial here. No big inflated balloons, no over-decorated tacky floats.  Just pride.  Pride in a heritage, pride in the armed forces, pride in the future as seen in the faces of the marching children and the families cheering them on.  These are people who have overcome much and will do so again.  These are the faces of Cozumel — people, who have welcomed us, served us, befriended us, and allowed us to share in their life for a little while.  The thought humbles me and infuses me with gratitude.

Jeeps and Java!

The parade ends and our stomachs remind us we have run off without breakfast.  We set out to remedy that and recognized Emilio from a nearby shop.  He was eating something quite appetizing and pointed out a tiny little storefront which served up real Mexican food.  This little place is opposite the Flamingo hotel, half a block up from the waterfront on Calle 6 Norte.  I never did look at the cafe's name; sorry, we were much too busy inhaling the enchilada with mole sauce.  It became our desayuño du jour and if you like Mexican food served up fresh, hot and inexpensive, hunt up this little place.  For a bit of a different breakfast, continue on up the street right past the Flamingo to the Coffee Press.  There you can get a great cup of coffee, crispy bacon to go with your huevos, and for those, (like my healthy soy-nut, tofu-eating friend,) who prefer a healthier breakfast, there is a lovely fruit and yogurt dish garnished with granola and pecans and made while you wait.  This otherwise junk food lover found this to be a wonderful way to start the day and my fit friend almost persuaded me to change my wicked ways — at least the culinary ones!

Our bellies distended and our legs fatigued, invariably we drive off to a beach to catch a little tan and nap so we could be rested for our next adventure.

Get Your Beach Gear Here
Following a day of sun, sand, and shopping, we rush back to the Coral Princess to watch the sunset from our seventh story balcony.  After the last light fads and the lights across the water blinked to life we shower off the days sunscreen and sand and prepare for a night out on the town.  Two women in a hotel room can be a royal pain sometimes, with the clutter of clothes and cosmetics becoming an annoyance to even the best of friends.  This was not a problem in our room since there were lavish amounts of dresser and closet space and the bathroom was spacious enough to accommodate the two of us, as we got beautiful again.

Most nights we walked, into town to the dismay of the taxi drivers who were certain that this time the two crazy ladies would take a taxi.  But we loved the evening peace and the smells of the island as we wrestled over the large issues of life and settled the smaller ones.  And we knew that after a night of dancing at Señor Frogs, interspersed with trips to the hot dog man outside on the street, we would finally be ready for a quick ride home to our comfortable beds.

A time for everything.

There is a time for everything, so said the wise King Solomon.  A time to live — and we did.  A time to die — and we didn’t! A time to leave. . . ! But can one truly ever leave a place that weaves its spell so completely around ones heart and soul?  Can one leave a place that is so satisfying and full of special memories? An island surrounded by color and scented by the sea and the flowers that grow in lavish abandon from every rocky crevice? A land where people are kind and the pace is slow enough to enjoy them?  Where language is of the heart as much as of the lips? I cannot.  Not completely.  And so my dear new friends at Coral Princess and the larger Cozumel community, I will remember. And in the memory, I will carry you always with gratitude and love for the precious gift you have given me — that of yourselves.

By Bobbi Buchanan, Arkansas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent, with Lena Hunt Mabra, C
ozumel Correspondent, in tow.