In February, 2012 my husband Tom and I took a seven day NCL cruise to Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Of course, we found lighthouses along the way. Our biggest adventure of the trip was getting to the Punta Molas Lighthouse on the Northern tip of Cozumel. When we got off the cruise ship in Cozumel, I noticed a man promoting tours of the island. I figured that getting to the lighthouse on the south end of the island would be an easy task, so I asked him about getting to Punta Molas Lighthouse. He immediately replied that it was not possible because the road to the lighthouse was not, in any sense of the word, a real road, and what there was of it was in extremely bad condition. But we continued to talk about the lighthouse. He showed me photos of the lighthouse and told me that he and his father go fishing out there. I continued to stress how much I really wanted to find someone with 4-wheel drive who would take us out. He then asked me how much I would be willing to pay, and I gave him a figure. It seemed that the figure got his attention. He told me that his father had an old 4-wheel drive jeep and he would give him a call. His father, a wonderful man, agreed to take us to the lighthouse. After picking us up, we stopped at a store to buy some snacks for the trip. I noticed that the key used to start this very old 4-wheel drive jeep was an Allen-wrench.
Before we got to the very bad road, Mario stopped at a friend’s house and made arrangements for him to follow us after he got a new battery. Mario said that he never went out there alone. We then drove to the end of the paved road. At the turn-off was the warning sign: “Enter at Your Own Risk Irregular Path Even for 4 X 4 Vehicles.”
Mario turned down the road. Although the scenery was incredible, the road was bad and at times almost non-existent. Some of the road was directly on coral; other parts were covered deeply in sand, and we got stuck in the sand a number of times. This was not your typical ride to see a lighthouse. As I sat in the back, on the spare tire, and I held onto the overhead bar for dear life, the jeep literally bounced and rocked its way over the so-called road. Sometimes Tom, sitting in the front, was brushed by the bushes that were overgrowing areas of the road. Then there were problems with the jeep, and Mario had to turn the 4-wheel drive on.
The white sand beaches were beautiful; the water was turquoise blue and crystal clear; coral and rocks were all around. Mario showed us where they walked out to the sandbar to fish and where they actually cooked the fish on the beach. It was awesome! We stopped at two Mayan ruins: Aguada Grande and Castillo Real (Royal Castle). Several websites refer to Castillo Real as a Mayan watchtower. Mario said that at one time Castillo Real had been white washed and was believed to have guided boats to the shore. I like to think of it as a Mayan lighthouse!
At one point, we had to stop at a military checkpoint. When Mario told them that he was taking us to the lighthouse, we were waved through. Mario stopped at the well to get water just in case we would need it later. Continuing on the rough road, the jeep hit bottom and the radiator sprang a leak. Mario asked me if I had a dime; fortunately I had one, and he used to tighten the screws to stop the leak. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we later discovered that we had also lost the radiator cap. When we got stuck in the sand again, I began to fear that we would never actually make it to the lighthouse.
Suddenly, in the distance, there it was – the red and white tower of the lighthouse. What a welcome sight! The tower was beautiful and it looked as if it had just been painted. We drove up close to the light. While Mario worked on the jeep, we decided to climb the tower, but there was no door on the lighthouse. There was a large wall around the lighthouse and a rickety old ladder was leaning against it. We climbed the seven steps up the ladder, crawled along the wall, and down another equally rickety old ladder with seven steps on the inside of the wall. Up we climbed – 104 steps to the top. We were pleased to find that the lighthouse is in remarkably excellent condition, although there were a few dead bugs and at least one dead mouse on the steps. The lantern contains a large modern lens with a backup optic on the gallery. The view, as we expected, was awesome!
Thrilled with our visit, we climbed back down the lighthouse and up and down the old ladders. Fortunately, Mario was able to fill the radiator with water and I found a cap that fit on the radiator. Unfortunately the road back was worse than coming. The sun had caused the sand to become softer and we got stuck more often than before. Fortunately, Mario’s friend showed up with good 4-wheel drive jeep. However, at one point we had both vehicles stuck and we began to wonder if we had made a big mistake in trying to visit this lighthouse, especially since nobody on the ship knew where we were. Fortunately, the men managed to get both vehicles unstuck, and even though Mario got stuck several more times, the better vehicle did not. We made it back to the ship with a half-hour to spare. Wow, what a trip! Although the bad road is only 16 miles long, it has to be one of the worst roads in the world!
NOTE: We don’t recommend trying to see this light in the time allotted on the cruise ship. It would have been way more fun to not be concerned about time and have a fish fry on the beach. And we highly recommend that you do not go out on this road alone!
This story appeared in the
Mar/Apr 2013 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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