What to see in George Town, Grand Cayman and Cozumel
October 22, 2007 9:38 PM   Subscribe

What should I see in George Town, Grand Cayman and how can I reliably get from Cozumel to Tulum?

Taking a Western Caribbean cruise with my family (3 teens) in a couple weeks and two of the ports are George Town and Cozumel.

I'm not familiar at all with George Town. Can anyone suggest interesting things to do/see. We'd prefer an activity that gets us away from tourists and souvenir stands and more in contact with the local culture. Of course, we'd also consider any must-see natural attractions.

Also, is there an inexpensive but reliable way to get from Cozumel to Tulum and back? Excursions through the cruise run about $85 (yes, it's a nice bus, but I have a hard time being on a group's schedule and stopping for long "breaks" at more souvenir stores). Other suggestions for Cozumel would be appreciated as well.

Thanks for your help.
posted by wilburn to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We got a day pass at the Wyndham Cozumel downtown for $30 each, and that was perfect for us- all you could eat and drink, a beautiful pool, water activities and snorkeling gear. It fulfilled my dream of lounging in a beautiful tropical setting. The cab to and from was $13 each way.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:42 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, for any and all cruise questions, you need to get yourself over to the forums at CruiseCritic.com, pronto. Those people KNOW cruises! I was completely freaked before my cruise, and all my fears were put to bed after hours reading about ever conceivable topic on the boards.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:43 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

On the first question: Seven Mile Beach , Cemetery Reef, and Smith's Cove.
posted by Exchequer at 10:19 PM on October 22, 2007

There are little shuttle vans running from Playa del Carmen to Tulum constantly along the one coastal road. As far as I could tell, you just waited by the side of the road.

But you still have to get from Cozumel, an island, to Playa del Carmen.
posted by smackfu at 10:54 PM on October 22, 2007

Stingray City was a great time in Grand Cayman—it was rainy and muggy when we were there, so we descended just 12 feet below the surface, with full SCUBA gear and sat on the ocean floor for an hour playing with the gentle stingrays and swimming around them. It was about $70/person and included everything we needed to know and do. And it was gorgeous. We had two guides and five people on our little boat.

We booked through this site and despite looking a bit sketch, it was exactly as promised. We only had trouble identifying our guy at the pickup point at first, but they were absolutely awesome guys, beyond friendly and experienced divers.

Something to consider.

And in Cozumel, we did the Dolphin Discovery Royal Swim, where the dolphins played all around us, and then after swimming away from the group would tow us back with the dorsal tow, and where two would, in tandem, push up from under our feet and lift us out of the water. This was... amazing. And relatively affordable, though maybe not for four. Still something I won't forget.
posted by disillusioned at 11:33 PM on October 22, 2007

I have done the Cozumel-to-Tulum excursion several times. Unfortunately I was but a sprogling at the time and am having trouble remembering how we did it, once we got to the mainland. It was certainly not through a cruise.

Anyway there's a ferry that goes from Cozumel to Cancun and back multiple times a day, about a 45 minute trip I believe unless they've gotten a faster boat since I was last there.

We either rented a car in Cancun or took a shuttle to Tulum, once we were there.

My favorite place in Cozumel was Chankanaab, a little state park on the island, great snorkeling. I believe they have a "swim with the dolphins" options now too, as was mentioned above. The beach was nice but I also liked the forest-y area around the lagoon.

The restaurants in the city have changed so much in recent years that I'm afraid to suggest anything, in case it's gone or has changed ownership. We used to know the owners of the "Waffle House" that was in town there, awesome breakfast. There was also a great pizza place called "Pizza Rolandi" but I have no idea if it's there now.

The "other side of the island" was always a day trip we made. It's the windy side, and it's a lot of beach but lacking in establishments/restaurants/etc, which can be a good thing. It was an amazing place to collect sea fans and shells that had washed ashore...which were also frequently thick with tar. If anything I recommend you rent a car and take a drive around the perimeter of the island on a nice day.
posted by Squee at 12:30 AM on October 23, 2007

2nding the "other side" of the island. The town on Cozumel is on the mainland-facing side of the island, has some good restaurants but is very touristy along the waterfront streets. You can rent a jeep and escape to the minimally developed far side where there are beautiful beaches and far fewer people.

There's a regular ferry from Cozumel to Cancun, and it's easy to rent a car within blocks of where the boat lands. Jeeps are popular, and usually stick-shift. From there you can head south to Tulum. The highway is wide and in good condition, and signs are fairly easy to interpret even if you don't speak spanish, but the locals' driving behavior can seem a little reckless compared to most of the US (NYC excepted).
posted by jon1270 at 4:11 AM on October 23, 2007

Georgetown proper is just a small city. Interesting to walk around a bit, but not a good final desitnation.

Grand Cayman is dominated by two big industries, Tourism and Off-shore finance. The local culture is pretty much devoted to those things. It's a relatively wealthy place for the Caribbean.

For snorkeling, Stingray city is good but requires planning. You can get out to Cemetery reef just by renting a mask and fins.

If you can rent a car I suggest a spin to the far end of the island where you'll find Rum Point. Deeply laid back. A couple of little beach bars. Some hammocks and beach chairs. Bring your bathing suit and just hang out for as long as you can. Do Jimmy Buffett proud.
posted by dzot at 6:44 AM on October 23, 2007

Cozumel to Tulum you can take a "collectivo" - like a 16 passenger van. They run every 15 minutes or so down the highway, and stop at random points. The way to tell which collectivo to catch depends on the colour of the stripe. They cost about 10 pesos or so to climb in. Obligatory Norte Americano warning; it can get cozy in there. My family and I didn't mind. The natives are really decent folks. Don't watch the road though, as driving in Mexico can be a really frightening experience.

Alternatively, the taxis are very reliable, and will wait for you as you complete your task. Please make sure that you discuss the price up front, tell them how long you want them to wait for, and make sure you are both talking about US dollars and not pesos.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 7:12 AM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses! We'll probably try either the other side of the island or a collectivo to Tulum.
posted by wilburn at 2:02 PM on November 2, 2007

Response by poster: PostScript:

Really enjoyed our Western Caribbean cruise and the ports. Family voted for beach lounging instead of trying to see a lot of places.

On Grand Cayman, we went to Sea Grape Beach (part of 7 Mile Beach), which is just a couple miles (although $5 a person by taxi van) from the cruise terminal. Nice, sandy beach with rentals and an outdoor bar/restaurant. Kids were excited to see tropical fish, although not really a snorkeling beach. We were told the best snorkeling beaches were much farther away and it would be more difficult to arrange for a return pick-up.

We decided to find a better snorkeling experience in Cozumel. A diving book in the ship's library recommended D'Azul-Ha. It also turned out to be within just a couple miles of the cruise port as well ($2-3 a person by taxi van) and it was great. No real sandy beach, but a thatched hut bar/restaurant with tables and lounge chairs (and clean restrooms), which we were free to use all day as long as we rented equipment from them and bought a few beers and lunch (which was fairly cheap and tasty). Snorkeling was great. In fact, a lot of cruise ship snorkeling excursions were dropping anchor just offshore from us. Highly recommended.

Also, I must recommend a specific tour guide in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. After fighting our way through the pushy guides on the dock, we happened across Conway Buchanan, who offered us his mini-tour bus for the day. Instead of just hustling us from one tourist spot to another, he gave us a great peak into Jamaican culture. He paused at roadside stands to show us local spices (and let us buy some Red Stripes for the tour). He took us for Patties which are their fast food. He explained the governmental and education systems and wasn't afraid to share his opinions. He answered all our questions. He also let the kids use his cell phone which had unlimited calling to the US. Most importantly, when we did stop at a major site, like Dunnes River Falls, he kept himself between us and the incredibly aggressive peddlers. After the trip, all the kids said this was their favorite part. At $20 per person, a great value and very highly recommended. Contact information. Conway (Cash) Buchanan, kasha_buck@yahoo.com, Cell 876-771-1239.
posted by wilburn at 5:58 PM on November 30, 2007

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