Arriving in Cozumel

Cozumel Travel Blog

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Our Airplane to Cozumel
Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday morning finally arrived and we had to get up at pre-dawn to catch an early flight on one of my least favorite airlines, US Air.  I used to have to travel a lot on America West and had a bunch of mileage left.  US Air bought them and, right before we left for India on our last big trip of my sabbatical, US air zeroed out my account of about 100k miles because the never credited me for some miles.  I had to argue with them over several phone calls and finally got someone helpful to reinstate the mileage which ended up being just enough to get Cindy and I to the Yucatan.  The nice thing is that the flight was out of Orange County into Phoenix rather than having to trek up to LAX.  The worrisome thing was that the connection in Phoenix is fairly short and we were a bit worried about missing our connection from Cancun to Cozumel.
Superior Room at the Hotel Flamingo


The flight to Phoenix was short and uneventful and we made it to our Cancun flight with time to spare but nothing but coffee for breakfast.  It seemed like forever before we finally took off but, once in the air, the flight wasn’t too long, about 3.5 hours.  We entertained ourselves by watching I Love You Man which was stupid but funny.  All of our worrying about the connection in Phoenix should have been spent on worrying about getting through the ridiculous immigration line in Cancun.  A gigantic, slow moving line snaked its way up to the few immigration agents.  It was as bad as a line at DisneyLand for the E ticket rides (I know they don’t use tickets anymore but those of you old enough will remember the ticket days at The Mouse which was close to the last time I suffered through that place…).
You have to love Mexican Art!
  The line took almost an hour and a half as we anxiously watched the clock.  We made it through immigration with about 25 minutes to spare prior to our Cancun flight and tried to race through the terminal only to get stuck in another 10 minute line to get through customs.  At this point, we were positive that we were going to miss the flight.

Luckily we got the green light when we pressed the Customs Button (a system we love in Mexico that makes you feel like you are gambling or on the Wheel of Fortune where you press the button and hope you don't get the red light indicating that the burly Mexican man is going to dig through your bags) and raced through the terminal.  Someone directed us outside to get to the shuttle to the other terminal - friggin great, we thought for sure we were done at that point.
Frogs
  According to the less than scrupulous local guy (who of course worked for the taxi company) we had “just missed” the shuttle to Terminal Two where he promised the Aero Mexico flight to Cozumel was.  He said for $20 he could get us a cab (for the 2 minute ride).  When we declined he said how about $10 at which point I figured, with visions of not being able to get on another flight to Cozumel for another day or two, what the hell, if we could make it to the terminal, it would be worth the ten bucks.  The cab never showed up and a few minutes later the shuttle did.  The driver told us that Cozumel was out of Terminal One, not Two and asked what time our flight was.  We told him 5:00 (it was now 4:52 or so) and he did not look optimistic.
Our Fancy Towels from Elizabette
  He got us to the terminal pretty quickly where Cindy ran into the terminal with me grabbing the bags.  A nice guy at the tiny counter helped Cindy and ushered us through security - well at least our bags.  We were so sure that we were going to miss the flight that we didn’t really notice that there were several other people sitting in the tiny terminal.  The flight was apparently on Mexican time and we had made it just in time.

A few minutes later, we were ushered out onto the tarmac and towards a plane that looked exactly like the funny little square one we flew from Managua to Little Corn Island last year.  Hopefully that is a sign that Cozumel will be as much fun as Little Corn was last year.
Cool Mexican Door
  The short, 35 minute flight was pretty cool, low altitude over crystal clear, turquoise and deep blue waters.

At the airport, Cindy bought tickets for the shuttle into town and I hunted around for an ATM and made the mistake of getting out 200 pesos (about $15) rather then 200 dollars worth of pesos at the ATM - apparently my espanol is “no so good”.  We met a Canadian woman from Toronto on the flight who said she had an awesome time diving in Cancun as well as diving the fresh water cenotes (limestone caverns famous in the Yucatan) and was looking forward to diving here on Cozumel.

We checked in to the Hotel Flamingo (review below) which Cindy found on TripAdvisor.
Dorados de Villa Restaurant
com
and it looks cute with nice, clean rooms, an open courtyard with lots of local art on the walls and a cool looking bar (not to mention the topless, Mexican mermaid art which always gets my vote!)  Since we were starving, we opted for beers at the bar and local food from the little taqueria across the street.  The bartender Ivan is a nice guy from Mexico City who spent most of the evening instant message chatting with his French girlfriend who is currently a naturalist/teacher on a boat in Egypt - quite the international man.  Cozumel is pretty empty and he said that business has been down all year.  It ends up that we are the only ones currently staying at the hotel.  We did take a walk over to the central square which seems a bit touristy (the Cruise Boat dock is just down the road and the whole area is somewhat like Cabo  designed for a bunch of drunken tourists to buy tacky souvenirs or have more cocktails at Carlos & Charlies or the Hard Rock Café.
Mexican Weebles protecting the casa
  I am sure we can find a bit more authentic Mexico off the main drag.  I stayed up watching the Angels game but, sensing lameness as in the first game when the left the bases full again in the 7th, bailed and went to bed.  It ends up that this was a good idea as the game finished god knows when in the 13th inning with an Angels error to allow the Yankees to win.  The weather seems a bit overcast and windy so we are not sure how that will fare for our diving adventures….

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Other than being a bit noisy with local partiers, we slept pretty well in a surprisingly comfy bed and woke up to a very windy, overcast morning.  Breakfast is included at the Hotel Flamingo and the two really nice ladies on staff made me a really tasty omelet with potatoes, chilies and chorizo and Cindy Huevos Mexicana with onions and cilantro.
Main Street in Cozumel
 

After breakfast, we decided to walk to a couple of recommended Dive Shops and see what the outlook was for diving over the next few days.  Walking down the main road the sea looked pretty rough with white caps and spray shooting up onto the road from the sea wall.  On the way, we stumbled on a parade that appeared to represent the cultures of the world with Mexican kids wearing different colored shirts and hats to represent the countries of the world.  

Our first stop was at Deep Blue conveniently located just off the square.  They seemed very nice and knowledgeable and told us that the Harbor Master closed the port today and they weren’t sure about tomorrow.  The outlook hopefully improves later in the week.  Next we walked a bit out of town to the Scuba Club Cozumel  which is an all inclusive dive resort that Cindy’s brother-in-law recommended.
Cheaper than Wa l Mark!
  They do allow non-guests to dive and it looks like a pretty nice place but we think we made the right choice to not do the all inclusive thing since it is off season and the guests were locked out of diving today too.  We got the info and costs on diving and the story was pretty much the same, hopefully tomorrow will be better.  The best part of the walk was a big, private house on the way that had the figurines in the picture that kind of look like Mexican Weebles (Muy-weebles?).  I kind of like the little Mexican dog in the pink skirt and especially the frogs - Mucho Gusto!

On the walk back, sensing that we were going to have a lazy day, we decided to try shopping at the Mega Market, sort of like an upscale Mexican Target and Grocery Store where we found all the essentials (tequila, cerveza, chips and beach towels).
Dive Blue boat
  It is actually a really nice store and even the touts outside were helpful, mellow and nice.  We walked back to the Flamingo and across our street saw the sign in the picture which is pretty funny “Cheaper than Wa l Mark”  We aren’t clear on what you have to talk to Judy about to get the free shot of tequila but hope to do so one day.

When we got back to our room, we found the Swan Towel on the Bed from Elizabette who is going out of her way to make us comfy (and insure a tip).  We ended up drinking beers and tequila with Cheetos (interesting, different taste for the Mexican market) and some very tasty Jalapeno Chips while we tried to watch Football.  The TV reception is less than stellar so, rather than trying to watch Ben Rothlisberger who was so wavy that you couldn’t tell who was Pittsburgh and who was the opponent, we watched the New Orleans absolutely smoke Eli Manning’s Giants.
Mexican Fish LOVE Watermelon!
  We decided to take a walk north to Casitas beach that supposedly has good snorkeling and work up an appetite for dinner.  Sunday is a pretty mellow day here in general and, with the weather, particularly mellow today.

We headed into town for dinner at Dorados de Villa which, even though it is right on the square and probably frequented by the Cruise Boat crowd, was really pretty tasty with Shrimp Fajitas for Cindy and Camarones al Aglio for me.  Our waiter was actually a really friendly, non-pushy guy and we had a good time.  After dinner, it was a windy walk back to the hotel where we watched the Chicago Bears throw the game down the toilet.  Hopefully the weather improves tomorrow.

Interesting Fact of the Day: Sponge Bob Square Pants speaks Espanol!

MORE TO FOLLOW SOON.
Corals in Cozumel
...Diving Ensues (finally!)


Monday, October 19, 2009
Well we woke up Monday to windier, vaguely stormy weather and had omelets for breakfast which were pretty tasty.  We walked over to Blue Dive and found out that the harbor is still closed so no diving today.  That doesn’t really leave a ton to do in Cozumel but hey, to quote Odd Todd, “It’s better than working!” so we headed back to the hotel.  Elizabette’s creation for the day was a turtle towel and heart towel with fake flowers and a few Hershey’s kisses which you can’t complain about too much. We did sit here wondering why we are paying to stay in a boutique hotel in Cozumel to blog about not being able to do anything because of the weather �" at least there are beers in the fridge and a bottle of Centenario Reposado to keep us (me) entertained ;-)

We decide we would watch a move and ended up watching a fairly interesting Mickey Rourke movie called Killshot that was pretty enjoyable.
Back Roads of Cozumel
  After a nap, we went to a little house that served Comida corridas, basically a home cooked, fixed price meal that was really good (and really cheap).  Cindy had a tasty corn soup with a chile relleno and I had chicken soup with rice and a rolled beef thing stuffed with eggs in sauce which was really tasty.  We ended up talking with two crusty old scuba divers who were really entertaining and had some funny stories (sort of like fishermen, all divers have lots of long yarns to talk about). The one guy went to the Great Barrier Reef for his 60th birthday and told a story about getting left at sea at night on a dive for a bit.  This did not inspire Cindy to want to go night diving...

After lunch we stopped by the dive shop again to check on the prognosis for tomorrow and it looks better so we said we are in.
Yummy Comida Corrida in Cozumel
  We dropped by one of the many tequila stores for a tasting and hoping to buy something interesting but it was way overpriced and not much that we couldn’t get at home.  At the dive shop, we asked about a sports bar to watch the games (baseball and football) and they suggested a local bar (obviously ex-pat) called Kelly’s where we watched the Angels finally win a game in the playoffs and then watched Denver (where most of the clientele were from) beat San Diego (whom we heartily rooted for).  After inadvertently insulting the bartendress by assuming that her husband that she mentioned was the owner (a crotchety, old Denver guy) I ended up accidentally overtipping her because my Peso to Dollar math sucks but it made her happy.  It made Cindy happier to know that, while a year older than the bartendress, she looks ten years younger and is of course way hotter :-D

Hopefully tomorrow works out for diving!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So we woke up for breakfast and it was definitely still a bit stormy out so we weren’t sure if the boat would actually make it out.
Horse Cart in Cozumel
  We trekked over to the dive shop and they said yes, for sure we are going out.  Once people started rolling in, we all tromped down to the harbor while the crew organized the boat.  We ended up talking to two veteran divers, Lori, a younger girl from Lansing, Michigan and Steve, an older guy from somewhere in Florida.  Eventually we climbed on the boat and headed off to pick up some additional divers.  We stopped at a couple of hotel docks and picked up Steve, a large, outspoken veteran diver from Houston and Mark, a guy from the Bay Area who looked like the younger brother of a high-school friend of mine.  I later asked him if he grew up in the OC, but he didn’t (although he said if my friends parents were rich, he would consider adopting them). 

A bit of confusion ensued where another couple was not where they were supposed to be (or as we later found out, the dive shop wasn’t where they were supposed to be) so we hung around another dock for a bit before an older couple from upstate New York joined the party.
Larry Goes Tequila Tasting in Cozumel
  They ended up losing the vote and got stuck with the novice divers (that would be Cindy and I) but they seemed OK with it.  Our dive master Alan was a nice kid who seemed pretty responsible so we felt pretty comfortable.  Cindy had a little look of apprehension in her eye but was probably just worried about descending (sinus troubles) and drift diving which neither of us has ever done. 

Everything went well with two really nice dives at Paso de Cedral and Yucab with tons of fish, corals, sponges, turtles, lobsters, etc.
Shops in Cozumel
  The visibility was just OK for Cozumel but that still makes it better than most of the world and certainly anywhere we have ever dove (at least in this century, that would be Nicaragua and Hawaii with lots of snorkeling elsewhere in Asia).  Cindy had a little trouble getting down but did great and the drift diving is very cool, slowly flying by gigantic sponges, corals, colorful parrot fish, lurking groupers, etc.  The only challenging thing is, since the current is so strong, it is hard to stop and look around but very cool to fly by the amazing scenery.

Joe and Terry, the couple from New York, were hoping to do a bunch of night dives this week but apparently business has sucked lately and people keep canceling which occurred today.  I volunteered if they would go out with three people and the shop agreed so Cindy and I had a short time to run out to a little great looking place that just ended up being ok and then heading back to the boat to head out for a twilight dive followed by the night dive.
Diver's Arch in Cozumel
  The twilight dive at Tormentos was a pretty fast drift dive and then it started raining.  The night dive at Paradise was fun but nowhere near as good as the one last year on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.  It ended up that the current was so strong that everybody night diving ended up on one reef so it kind of looked like LA traffic.  We tried to jump in quickly and speed away from the crowds which kind of worked and we did get to play around with a friendly octopus and several puffers.  Vollrath the dive master is really into turning off all the lights to see the bio-luminescence which is cool for 3 or 4 minutes but we did it for almost half of the dive which is very zen but kind of boring.  We did manage to see some large crabs and lots of little shrimp and other reef creatures.
Horse Cart in Cozumel
  Meanwhile, Cindy (or Yolanda in Mexican) reviewed our itinerary for moving back to the mainland.

We ended up walking just off the square and having dinner at Café Denis which was surprisingly good, partially due to our good natured waiter.  Cindy had pork tacos and I had a shrimp chilli relleno that was pretty good.  The waiter thought he would one up me by giving us some habanero salsa but it really wasn’t that hot (although provided a good excuse to order another beer or two).  After dinner (and actually after paying) he insisted on giving us shots of tequila (silver but good).  Meanwhile, a band was playing in the square and we were forced to listen to Mexican inspired, bad remixes of 60’s tunes vaguely reminiscent of Peruvian Flute Bands playing pop tunes.  This of course forced me to watch South Park Pandemic/Pandemic 2 on the laptop while Cindy slept.
Cozumel Dive Map (from http://searobincozumel.com/divesites.htm)
  We did decide that, if the weather is good, we think we will dive again in the morning and head out to Playa del Carmen on the afternoon ferry rather than leaving in the morning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
We woke up to drizzling rain and had our last breakfast at the Hotel Flamingo and got a late checkout before walking over to the dive shop.  The rain was not about to deter them from going out so we all piled on the Medusa and headed out for a couple dives with the veterans Lori, Gary, Steve and Mark from yesterday's dive.  Vollrath the Dive Master decided that the first dive should be the Cathedral at Puntas Sur on the far southern side of the island.  It ends up that this is considered a somewhat advanced dive as it goes to about one hundred feet and involves some swim-throughs and a large cave cathedral with a dedication to a local diver inside the "cathedral". Here is a flowery description from http://searobincozumel.com/divesites.htm

"A dive here begins on a sandy ridge inside the wall at 70 ft. Moving out to the edge of the wall you will find a mound of large coral structures that reach from 45 feet down to a depth of 100 ft or more. Traveling North you will arrive at the “Cathedral” a large cavern with a vaulted ceiling, where shimmering streaks of sunlight filter in through cracks and crevices, bright blue oval window penetrate the darkness ahead of you. The “Cathedral” has multiple openings, making it easy to move through, and is one of the most impressive caverns on the island."

When Cindy heard "one-hundred feet" a look of panic flashed across her eyes so we talked to Vollrath explaining that she is a new diver and hadn't been that deep, nor had swam through caves.  He assured her that it would be OK and offered to be her dive buddy.  Also, in discussing her issues with descending with him, we figured out that it wasn't so much ear issues as it was mask squeeze and he told her how to simply deal with that by exhaling into your mask through your nose (something intuitive to me but I guess I never bothered to think about telling her...oops).

The dive was absolutely awesome, probably the coolest tropical dive we have ever done! Cindy had no trouble descending to the start of the dive where we started winding through the reef and the swim-throughs.  Vollrath immediately reneged on his offer to be Cindy's dive buddy so I hung back to watch her but she was comfortable and having no buoyancy problems.  Even at just under 100' the water was warm and the visibility was great.  We saw tons of fish, corals, sponges and wildlife and swimming into the Cathedral itself with the light coming down from above was really cool.

We did a second drift dive at La Francesca with tons to see including turtles, a giant green moray eel trying to devour a trigger fish (who ultimately escaped), huge rays, blue and black parrotfish, lobsters, eagle rays and tons of colorful corals and sponges.  All in all a great day of diving. 

Now it is a race back to the hotel to grab our stuff and run for the afternoon ferry to Playa del Carmen






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Our Airplane to Cozumel
Our Airplane to Cozumel
Superior Room at the Hotel Flamingo
Superior Room at the Hotel Flamingo
You have to love Mexican Art!
You have to love Mexican Art!
Frogs
Frogs
Our Fancy Towels from Elizabette
Our Fancy Towels from Elizabette
Cool Mexican Door
Cool Mexican Door
Dorados de Villa Restaurant
Dorados de Villa Restaurant
Mexican Weebles protecting the casa
Mexican Weebles protecting the casa
Main Street in Cozumel
Main Street in Cozumel
Cheaper than Wa l Mark!
Cheaper than Wa l Mark!
Dive Blue boat
Dive Blue boat
Mexican Fish LOVE Watermelon!
Mexican Fish LOVE Watermelon!
Corals in Cozumel
Corals in Cozumel
Back Roads of Cozumel
Back Roads of Cozumel
Yummy Comida Corrida in Cozumel
Yummy Comida Corrida in Cozumel
Horse Cart in Cozumel
Horse Cart in Cozumel
Larry Goes Tequila Tasting in Cozu…
Larry Goes Tequila Tasting in Coz…
Shops in Cozumel
Shops in Cozumel
Divers Arch in Cozumel
Diver's Arch in Cozumel
Horse Cart in Cozumel
Horse Cart in Cozumel
Cozumel Dive Map (from http://sear…
Cozumel Dive Map (from http://sea…
Cozumel Hotels & Accommodations review
Nice little Boutique Hotel in Cozumel
Hotel Flamingo is conveniently located a block and a half in from the main drag in Cozumel about a five minute walk to the main square and the ferry d… read entire review
Cozumel
photo by: sassylassie22