This post may contain affiliate links that allow us to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Teaching yoga for one week at Secrets Aura Cozumel was wholeheartedly relaxing, nourishing and culturally enriching—and experience elevated by the boutique-style charm, beauty and authenticity of Cozumel. In exchange for teaching one yoga class daily at 9 a.m., I and a guest were provided full guest privileges for seven nights as part of a fitness teaching exchange program organized by Fit Bodies Inc.
Preparing and Packing to Teach Beach Yoga
Having traveled three times in the previous year to teach yoga for one week stints at all-inclusive resorts in Tulum, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, I felt well-seasoned as the date approached for my fourth teaching vacation. I packed efficiently, with one small roller suitcase that fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane, and one medium-sized carry-on. After completing the week, I found that I didn’t use several of the extra clothing items and could pack even more efficiently in the future. All that is needed for one week in paradise with exercise and fine dining in mind is three summer dresses that can each be worn twice, three exercise outfits that can be hand-rinsed and re-worn, one bathing suit that can be hung dry nightly, two beach cover-ups, one pair of flip flops, two pairs of comfortable sandals, shorts, T-shirts, undergraments, pajamas and toiletries.
Travel to Cozumel: Airport and Ferry
Travel to Cozumel from most destinations outside Mexico requires a flight to the Cozumel airport with a stopover, or a direct flight to Cancun, then a two-to-three-hour journey by taxi, then ferry, then another taxi to get to any accommodation in Cozumel. I flew direct into Cancun and arranged for a private transfer by van from the Cancun airport to the Cozumel ferry terminal in Playa Del Carmen. I was a little taken aback when I arrived in Playa Del Carmen, and realized I had to carry my bags through a winding outdoor mall that eventually led to the ferry terminal. Signage leading to the ferry was poorly marked. Once I figured it out and reached the ferry ticket kiosk, I found myself in the thick of a major party scene on the Playa Del Carmen beachfront (it was a Sunday in late March).
The ferry departs once an hour, so I bought my ticket and waited with a large crowd, most of whom appeared to be locals. The ferry ride itself takes about 45 minutes. Rocky but scenic seating can be found on the top deck while a smoother ride can be found on the lower deck. The ferry lands in San Miguel del Cozumel, the island’s main town with a touristy, bustling center. (Cruise ships stop there daily so the storefronts facing the Caribbean Sea are filled with cruise ship crowds).
Taxi stands are located on both sides of the ferry terminal. I was prepared with plenty of cash for taxi rides since taxi drivers in Cozumel do not take credit cards. One small mistake I made was not exchanging American dollars for pesos—I was charged more for taxi rides when paying with foreign bills than I would have been charged if I had paid in pesos.
San Miguel de Cozumel
I was struck immediately by the boutique-style charm of San Miguel de Cozumel—colorful murals painted by local artists, shops with hand-crafted clothing and cafes serving authentic Mexican food. (By comparison, many resorts catering to tourists don’t serve local cuisine). Two days later, I returned to town to photograph the murals, explore the side streets and sample food at vegan-friendly cafés.
Staying at Secrets Aura Cozumel
Upon arriving at Secrets Aura Cozumel, which features an serene open air lobby near the beach, I checked in and got settled in my room. I was given a lovely second floor room with two queen beds, a spacious bathroom and deck with a hammock facing a pool located toward the back of the property. Towering palm trees surrounded the deck, making a soothing setting with flickering shadows of shade crossing the outdoor space throughout the day.
The room and facilities were not without its flaws—the refrigerator in the room and the bathroom in the buffet restaurant didn’t work, and several lounge chairs at the pool were broken. Yet, the resort appeared well staffed, with clean and well-maintained grounds, and well-run restaurants with lightening speed fast meal service.
Teaching Beach Yoga
Yoga classes took place on the beach directly past the Market Café, where buffet meals are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A word about towels used for the exercise classes: prior teachers have complained that beach towels are in short supply. I walked a few feet past Secrets to Sunscapes Cozumel, the family resort sister property to Secrets. The Sunscapes pool area, located next to the Market Café, has a large towel kiosk with an ample supply of towels. I took towels from that kiosk daily, which the pool staff was happy to provide.
Attendance at the yoga classes was low during my stay the last week of March. While March is typically a busy season for many Mexican resorts due to spring break crowds, the guests at Secrets Cozumel were very low key when I was there; many were older couples in their 50s, 60s and even 70s. I did have a few regulars return to my yoga class two or three days in a row, mainly Americans who greeted me warmly and followed my modified vinyasa flows comfortably.
Beach Yoga Daily Routine
One to five people attended my beach yoga classes. After my second day teaching, my friend arrived who would be staying with me for the rest of the week. I was grateful for not only her company, but her support during my yoga classes as well, especially on the days when only one other person attended.
Similar to my style of teaching during my other beach yoga vacations, I led a simplified yoga flow without any chaturangas (yoga pushups) to make the asanas (poses) manageable for all levels and abilities. This approach proved useful on the last two days, when a shapely middle-aged woman with weak knees took class. She kept up with the flow and did well holding a balancing pose I threw in at the end of class.
My friend and I chatted with her enthusiastically; on our last day, she very sweetly said that she would miss us. It was a touching moment to end a week of teaching small classes with students who seemed to appreciate my teaching despite low class attendance.
The Restaurants and Food at Secrets Aura Cozumel
Three of the restaurants –Windows (Mediterranean), Oceans (seafood with vegetarian Mexican options) and the Market Café—are all located on the beach with incredible ocean and sunset views. By comparison, most of the restaurants at Dreams Tulum, Dreams Onyx and Dreams Royal Beach, where I taught beach yoga previously, do not have ocean views. Bordeaux, the French restaurant, is located away from the beachfront near the resort’s main plaza.
Food at the restaurants was decent. As a vegan, I enjoyed the hummus plate and vegan steak at Windows, and the tofu ceviche and cauliflower tacos at Oceana. French food is tough to replicate without certain culinary training, so I didn’t expect shooting stars from the food at Bordeaux. Each restaurant serves house wine included with your stay, with other wine options for an additional fee. I did well at the lunch buffet, where I ate a large plate of freshly made corn chips, guacamole and refried black beans daily. The lunch salad bar had a small selection of fresh shredded vegetables, but was made up for in spades by the authentic Mexican side dishes.
The Beach at Secrets Aura Cozumel
The beach at Secrets Aura Cozumel is serene, clean and clear of sargassum that is known to have taken over coastal Riviera Maya in mainland Mexico. The water was comfortably warm and slightly choppy in late March. The immediate shoreline is rocky, although surprisingly lacking in fish. While the Western side of the island, where most of the resorts are located, is known for its Palancar Reef, the reef acessible by snorkeling near the shore is minimal. Divers and snorkelers can access the more impressive sections of the reef located father out to sea.
The Evening Entertainment
The evening entertainment at Secrets Cozumel was impressive, especially considering the small size of the resort. One night, muscians and dancers donned in elaborate traditional Mayan body paint, costumes and head dresses performed okot (Mayan dance) and drumming on the beach. Several other nights, acrobats performed using a bunjees and torches.
Nature and Excursions in Cozumel
A highlight of visiting Cozumel is to experience local culture and nature by taking a guided tour to areas of the island away from the resorts. On our last day, my friend and I took the Mayan Heritage all-day excursion with Xplor Tours. The first part of the tour involved exploring Punta Sur Eco Park located on the Southern tip of the island about 45 minutes from Secrets.
I had thought of renting a car and exploring on my own but found myself relieved that I had chosen a guided tour. The tour guide not only led the way, but provided commentary about the history of the island, preservation efforts and Mayan cultural traditions throughout the day. Punta Sur Eco Park features an incredible desert-like landscape with historical architecture—a stunning lighthouse and small Mayan ruin—and a beach club where we snorkled to a protected reef that can be reached from the beach front.
Afterward, we rode by windowless buggy up the Eastern Coast of the island to Pueblo Del Maiz, a replication of an ancient Mayan Village. The day culminated in a guided tour by locals dressed in ancient Mayan attire who demonstrated hand-made chocolate and corn tortilla making and performed a Mayan fire ceremony. At the end of the tour, both our guide and the lead guide of the pueblo emphasized their appreciation for our attendance, stating that the fee for the tour and any additional tips would go directly toward supporting their local Mayan communities. We were sure to tip all of the guides generously.
Final Thoughts on Teaching Beach Yoga in Cozumel
My week in Cozumel is a blinding vision of warmth. The warmth of appreciative students at my cozy yoga classes. The warmth of the local Mayans and Mexicans. The warmth of the rippling salt-infused sea air as I drove past miles of remote coast. The warmth of the gently flowing waves. The warmth of freshly fried tortilla chips. Not only did I enjoy sharing yoga with new aquaintances, but I left with a newfound respect for Mayan culture and ecotourism. I hope to return someday with my family on an ecotourism- themed trip to further support the local community.