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Life moves a bit slower on an island. Hitchhiking is a marvelous way to enjoy this slower pace, meeting some interesting new friends in the process.
Even if you don’t know much about Mexico, you may have heard of Cozumel before. Why? It’s on the Cruise Ship route. Everyone knows someone who’s been on a cruise ship, and they’ve probably stopped here at some point.
This is plainly evident by all the jewelry shops and touts that line the main street of San Miguel by the docks. But don’t let this description of Cozumel dissuade you, because it’s very easy to travel to the opposite end of the island where you’ll find almost no buildings and plenty of beautiful empty beaches waiting for you.
Cozumel On A Budget
Cozumel Island lies only 6 miles off of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, and can be accessed by regular ferry service from Playa del Carmen. The trip takes about 45 minutes, and costs $13 one way.
The island is well known for it’s fantastic SCUBA diving and snorkeling, as there is a protected marine park/coral reef along the coast. But if you don’t feel like spending money on these activities, there are also some Mayan ruins and plenty of pristine beaches to check out.
My friend Morgan was visiting me from the States that week, and we decided to venture over and explore Cozumel on the cheap.
Exploring Cozumel Island
After disembarking from the ferry, we wandered into the heart of San Miguel and bought a couple of $1 cans of beer to drink along our walk.
It can be extremely frustrating to hitchhike around any type of town. There’s no point in sticking out your thumb for a ride on busy streets, where people are a lot less likely to stop or even be headed in the same direction as you are.
So we walked. For over an hour in the hot sun.
Eventually a colectivo (group taxi) drove by, and we jumped in with some locals. It wasn’t going very far, but it got us out of the sun and further down the road for less than $1.
This van also took us through some local neighborhoods that we never would have seen on our own.
Hundreds of simple concrete low-income homes where many local tour industry people lived. Resort staff, street vendors, and others who make their living off the thousands of cruise ship passengers who pass through on a regular basis.
Hitchhiking With Fellow Travelers
Dropped off back on the main road, we were finally in a more rural area that was perfect for bumming a ride. After a few failed attempts, it didn’t take long until a car stopped for us. I think it helps a bit when you’re traveling with a woman in short-shorts…
Morgan and I crammed into the back of the small sedan with 3 travelers from Buenos Aires.
Our saviors Matias, Thomas, and Victoria had rented an old beat-up car and driven it down here from Mexico City. They were headed for the beaches on the far side of the island.
Sounds like a plan!
We were ready to get out of the scorching sun and into the water. So off we went.
Quiet Cozumel Beaches
The Eastern side of the island is pretty barren. Luckily there is very little development, so the beaches are still tranquil and inviting. Occasionally you’ll find a small bar/restaurant, or a group of thatched-roof souvenir shops, but that’s about it.
We stopped at a nice beach with an outdoor bar, thanked our new friends for the ride, grabbed another beer and went for a swim in the crystal clear water.
Cozumel is primarily made up of limestone, so there are plenty of cool rock formations along the beach for the waves to crash against.
Fish Tacos On A Cliff
Swimming will make anyone hungry, so we walked down the road for a bit to Coconuts Bar & Grill for some tasty fish tacos to snack on while sitting on top of a beautiful cliff overlooking the ocean below.
It was starting to get late now though, and we still needed to find a ride back towards town to catch the ferry.
Hitchhiking in the dark is never very productive — the clock was ticking.
On the road again, we spied a gringo couple in the parking lot with a bright-red rental jeep. I ran over to ask them for a lift. It turns out they were just arriving, not leaving. But the woman said if we waited around for 30 minutes, she’d be happy to let us tag along.
One look at her husband, and we quickly nixed that idea. He was completely wasted! Like “hospital emergency room time” kind of drunk. They obviously didn’t read that road sign earlier…
We politely declined and decided to hoof it for a while…
Six People & A Dog!
After a few drive-bys with no luck, we spied a tiny hatchback full of people. We stuck our thumbs out anyway, just for the fun of it. They looked sorry they didn’t have any room and kept on driving.
But 5 minutes later, we found the same car stopped on the side of the road with someone waving us over! Our new friend Miguel offered to sit in the trunk area so we could both squeeze into the car with the 4 of them and their dog. How’s that for Mexican hospitality?
It turns out they also hitchhiked frequently, and didn’t want to leave us stranded.
Just more proof that people who hitchhike are awesome.
We arrived to town just in time to catch the last ferry back. ★
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Have you ever hitchhiked before?