Published: October 6th 2011October 3rd 2011
I wasnt sure whether to call this ´Cruise Ship Cozumel´but decided against it as it has so much more going for it. But truth be told, Cozumel is very American, full of Americans, either on holiday or let off from a cruise ship for the day. We saw a few bars with Americans drinking massive cocktails with balloon animal hats. Gave me an idea of what the Mayan Riviera is like on spring break and I don´t want to be here!
Apart from this, Cozumel is beautiful regardless. We booked a budget hotel in the centre of town which was 50 metres from the beach, but they didnt say that you dont really swim at this beach! You have to go further out of town and then you can find some stunning places to stay. A lot of hotels have monopolies on the waterfront closer in to town, or you can go to a ´beach club´like we did on the first day which has everything you need right on the water.
As we didn´t arrange diving on our first day we decided to hire a scooter and ride around the island to get a sense for where we were.
First stop was Money Bar beach club which is on the aquatic national park section and we grabbed sun loungers, snorkels and spent a few lovely hours looking at fish and eating nachos and drinking daquiris. The fish life was great for snorkelling - we saw many and varied fish only about 50m off the shore. No coral or reefs though but still great for a first experience.
Aterwards we drove past Corona Beach Bar and a few others, and ended up at Palancar Beach. Again, not a beach in its own right, but a gorgeous stretch of white sand with restaurants and shops. We had a quick swim in the gorgeous blue Caribbean water and set off around the rest of the island.
One side of the island is quite populated whereas the other isnt. The sea is wilder and you are advised not to swim on the beaches as they have dangerous currents and undertows. Being an Aussie and used to surf it didn´t look bad to me but we decided not to chance it, even though we did see people swimming at some of the beaches. They were lovely and secluded but with no
trees, so you would have to put up a makeshift tent to shade you from the glaring hot sun. If we´d had more time I would have liked to have gone to Playa Bonita along this stretch of coast.
The coast was still dotted with occaisional restaurants all selling lobster (not cheap!) and one rastafarian bar which felt like it was in the middle of nowhere.
Speaking of cost, we noticed that Cozumel is quite a lot more expensive than other places we´d been. It was hard to find more typical Mexican restaurants and not tex mex places that also sold burgers at inflated prices! However we did find some places that locals frequented but had to go further out of town and on the recommendation of locals eg La Parilla Mission - great shrimp fajitas!
The next morning we´d arranged diving. Steve had to complete his Open Water certification which meant 2 shore dives and 2 boat dives on consecutive days. I decided to do boa diving on the first day - I was a bit nervous having last dived in January 2010 but they assured me I would be ok.
I´m not sure what
I was worried about as boat diving in Cozumel was easy! They set up the gear for you, you backroll off the side of the boat into 30 degree crystal clear water, and you drift dive until you run out of air and the boat collects you. It was actually difficult not to kick at first!
Our first dive was at Palancar Gardens and was spectacular. We saw a turtle as we were still descending (yay!) and the rest of the 20m deep dive was filled with gorgeous tropical fish and thwim throughs. We even saw massive schools of tiny fish that moved with the currents and you could swim through them and they would just make room for you. Gorgeous.
We then dove at Paradise reef and went in search of ´caballitos del mare´or seahorses. We were lucky enough to see three which I was stoked by. They are tiny and shy and like to hide and it was a highlight for me.
Whilst coming back into town we also saw a collection of boats and were told it was the president of Mexico diving!
On my boat were some interesting characters - some very
ocker sounding Aussie girls, and also a couple of guys from Colorado who were with a band on a cruise ship and decided to spend their day off diving. It´s good meeting other travelling divers and sharing stories.
For lunch we headed to Wet Wendys, a restaurant and cocktail bar. It was full of Americans drinking ridiculously large cocktails and just being American - we figured they had come off a boat for the day. I had blackened grouper which was delicious - it was done with cajun spices and came with a mango chipotle side sauce and rice. Definitely one to try and replicate when back home!
On our second day of diving Steve came out on the boat with me to complete his qualifying dives. We had wanted to dive the Santa Rosa wall as he had been recommended it and the crew agreed to take us there. It´s a sheer wall dive and goes down to about 100metres. We went only toabout 22 metres although you have to watch your depth as it is so easy to get disoriented and not realise how deep you have gone. It was stunning in its topography and sea
We finished off the double dive with a shallower dive Tormentos (not scary despite its name!) and saw a lobster, sting ray, turtles and beautiful corals.
We celebrated Steve´s qualification with a big seafood platter of lobster, conch, fish, shrimp and octopus. Conch was actually nice - a bit like cuttlefish in texture. I don´t think I´ll be rushing back for a whole plate of it any time soon though! Poor Steve was starting not to feel so good so wasn´t able to fully enjoy it, but I managed to eat enough for 2 of us I think! The restaurant was called La Perlita and again a little further out of town and recommended by our taxi driver as everything seemed to be shut (we figured out it was Sunday after a while).
We rested for the afternoon and headed out for a bite to eat. There was a fiesta happening in the main square with bands and dancing and locals had come out to take part. There were also some interesting food stalls- basically locals with trestle tables selling their gladwrapped plates of food which Steve said reminded him of a lions club stall in
Overnight came a massive thunderstorm. So massive that it kept waking me up with heavy rain and thunder. So THIS is what the wet season is like here! We were lucky to have not experienced it until then. Unfortunately it carried on through the next day, but also coincided with Steve being quite unwell, so it felt ok to take it easy and hang around the hotel a bit.
We went in search of a coffee place recommended by Lonely Planet only to find it had closed down and ended up at Starbucks which was ok! It was in a big shopping mall which again had Americanised bars full of Americans wearing balloon animal hats. We went in search of another restaurant in the LP, this time found it there and Steve watched me eat lunch - a bargain 60 pesos for soup, fish tacos and an agua jamaica - or hibiscus water. They love their flavoured waters here!
The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up on emails and blogs while Steve rested. After happy hour cocktails at the hotel we then headed out (again!) for me to eat. We ended up at Wet
Wendys and I ended up having a ridiculously sized margarita gigantesca. They told us they put 5oz of tequlia in it (or 5 shots) so no wonder I was very drunk afterwards! No balloon animal hats to report though.
The next day we decided to dive again and headed out in the sunshine to Palancar again. We dived the horseshoe this time, which is the most amazing reef I have ever seen in terms of topography - amazing coral fans, gorgeous sponges and so interesting to explore with many more swim- throughs. Again we saw the big cloud of tiny fish and played with them.
When we emerged from our dive the weather had turned bad and it had started to rain. By the time we got to a beach for our stop off in between dives the rain was torrential and felt like it would turn into hail. It was better being in the bath- warm water than out on the jetty where the wind and rain was!
After we waited for the storm to clear a little we headed to Yucab reef for our shallower dive. Again, lots of lovely sealife, a stingray, many angel
fish and generally a nice dive. It had a very strong current so at one point I curled myself up into a ball and just let myself be carried along like that!
As it was our last day we headed out to do some shopping, via Chinese Buffet which Steve said he felt like after a couple of days off food. It was actually pretty good! We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for souvenirs before finding a cocktail bar overlooking the water to watch the sunset. The waiter asked us where we were from and since we were the only people in the bar must have requested Australian music - we were subjected to an hour or so of ACDC, INXS, Kylie, Dannii Minogue, Darren Hayes, Natalie Imbruglia and every other Australian piece of music they had! It was cheesy but very entertaining and enjoyable, especially as they had the video clips to go with it!!
Our last night ended with Anj eating a super yummy angus beef burger at the Argentinian steak restaurant around the corner from our restaurant.
This morning we jumped on a ferry to Playa del Carmen and said our sad
goodbyes at the bus station - Steve was heading back to London via Cancun and me to Tulum.
More in my next installment!
There are more photos below