To get to the Explorean Cozumel’s outdoor lobby, you cross a wooden walkway that doubles as a bridge over a small, wooded pond; it’s as if you’re checking into the resort’s own realm of adventure. In a way, simply booking your stay at this Cozumel resort was the beginning of an adventure in itself. The resort’s very mission is to disconnect its guests from their routine realities and connect them to natural Cozumel. That’s shown in almost every aspect of the Explorean.
The moment you step onto the property, you’ll immediately notice the architecture and its relationship with natural lighting. The roofing above the lobby and neighboring Lol’Kan (meaning “yellow flower” in Mayan), the resort’s only restaurant, lets in just the right amount of natural light, even on brilliantly sunny days, creating a naturally pleasing ambiance.
The same idea is seen as you walk the densely wooded pathways to your room, as plant life simultaneously flanks you and provides natural shading from high above. It is in your room, though, that you discover the Explorean is serious about its mission to disconnect: There isn’t a TV, and a wide porch/balcony sliding door basically invites you to explore. For the Explorean and its staff, it’s the politest way they can ask their guests to not stay holed up in their rooms.
Unique to the Explorean, relative to most other all-inclusive resorts, is its excursions program. The friendly and knowledgeable staff help craft a schedule of mini-adventures for the duration of your stay. Over the course of my four-night visit, I went snorkeling twice, tried paddle-boarding for the first time, explored Cozumel on an island jeep tour, visited natural landmarks by bike and basked in a mesmerizing sunset while rocking to the rhythms of the waves beneath my kayak.
Each excursion I attended was exceptionally led by a guide who was charismatic, knowledgeable and accommodating, giving clear instructions and orating island history and cultural lessons in both Spanish and English. Álvaro and Renata led my favorite excursions: the jeep island tour and the sunset-kayaking trip, respectively (both primed with a bounty of photo ops).
We began the island tour around 10 a.m., driving along a quiet two-lane road draped with shrubbery and overhanging tree limbs that reminded me of my rural hometown. It was a peaceful scene that eventually coalesced into a showcase of Cozumel’s modest culture and its wondrous natural sights as the journey continued.
Our first stop was a visit to a “cenote,” a hybrid of a sinkhole and a cave with freshwater that is speculated to have been used as shelter by early Mayans — and as modern-day makeshift pools for those unafraid of potential crocodile encounters. We then ventured to the quaint, quiet town of El Cedral where I braved a variety of authentic, delicious Mexican tequilas — without lime or salt, mind you — surprisingly without a souring face.
The tour concluded with visits to beaches with monument-like rock formations and cozy bars and a walkaround of Cozumel’s charming Parque Benito Juárez with its surrounding murals and shops.
Then came my final excursion: a calming, kayaking trek accompanied by the backdrop of a captivating, fading sunset. It was a semi-arduous journey that kept me engaged but never felt too difficult, as I was, perhaps, too enamored with the stars slowly peering through the ensuing night sky and the sunset beyond.
Our excursion paled in comparison, however, to the annual “Travesía Sagrada Maya,” or the “Sacred Mayan Journey,” wherein participants paddle in groups for anywhere from four to 12 hours (depending on ocean conditions) from Xcaret to Cozumel to honor Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon, medicine and fertility.
Typically, guests partake in one or two small-group excursions a day, consuming mornings and most of the afternoon. To prepare for these all-day events that sometimes physically challenge you but are never too daunting, a morning basket with coffee (and accompanying sugar, cream and mugs), two glasses of orange juice and freshly baked bread packaged with an inspiring note from the staff is placed outside your door.
For a full breakfast, Lol’Kan offers menu-less service, as they’ll cook up just about whatever comes to mind. Lunch has a daily-changing, three-item menu but also obliges by the “you think it, we cook it” rule. Dinners are based on a set menu, and there’s also a self-serving bar to supplement meals.
In addition to relaxing in the quiet nature of the Explorean, guests also have full access to neighboring all-inclusive resort Fiesta Americana and its pools, spa, gym, seven restaurants and the beachside amenities just one set of stairs away (but not vice versa). The Explorean also has a pool of its own, focusing on a more serene experience, as opposed to Fiesta Americana’s luxury-hotel setting.
When it was time to leave, I felt a sense of sadness because it was time to reconnect with regular, daily life. Even if only for a few days, the Explorean Cozumel succeeded in its mission of disconnecting me from the worries of reality and granted me the opportunity to indulge in a wholesome, natural experience I won’t soon forget.