May 4, 2003 through May 11, 2003
Another loosely organized trip, this one with the infamous "Sisters", Kathi and Beth. Neither had been to Cozumel before. Some of the "informational parts" of this page are repeats of my previous Cozumel trip.
What The Heck Is Cozumel?
I'd say most people have heard of it. Cozumel is an island off of the coast of Mexico (near Cancun, pretty much directly across from Playa Del Carmen), in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo; look just to the east of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea. It's the largest Mexican island in the Caribbean, and is also the most populated. It's about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.
Pre-Trip and Flying Stuff
Passport required ... you're leaving the U.S.! Considering the changes to Airport Security recently, zip tie your bags - don't lock them. TSA folks will just clip the locks. If your bags are zip tied, they'll clip those too ... but they'll also re-zip tie them. My carry-on for this trip was a backpack. Everything else was in checked baggage.
Few airlines go to Cozumel directly. Continental's hub is out of Houston, so with them, you'll stop there going to and from Coz. This time I flew US Air; their hub that goes to Coz is Charlotte, NC. When I checked, no flights left Miami that went to Coz ... all of those stopped in Cancun first, and required a change of planes.
Security in Coz wasn't quite as bad as last time, but it was very thorough.
Where We Stayed
Casa Del Mar is fairly close to one of the cruise piers, but quite a distance from Downtown (take a cab). Decent rooms, nice bar that has seats in the pool for the bar, halfway decent restaurant, too. Ernesto's is a little restaurant across the street that also rents scooters ... which we did, and went around the island twice. As in the US, be very careful where you go on them, and don't dare drive drunk ... not everyone watches out for the scooters, and from what I understand there's an average of one accident a month at least.
First two days (when the other Kathy was there with Kelly) we dove with Del Mar Aquatics. They're not bad; they have big boats, they're right across the street from our hotel (and have another hotel just down the road that they work with), and the dive masters are usually very nice. Competency, however, is somewhat suspect when it comes to newer divers - you might want to go with Liquid Blue, the operator we dove with for the rest of our trip (not counting that last dive at Chankanaab Park).
Liquid Blue is a bit more expensive than other operators, near as I know, but they are worth it. Roberto is the owner and primary dive master for Liquid Blue; Michela runs the office and basically keeps Roberto organized. Should they need it, they have other dive masters and farm out work to other dive shops. A couple of trips were with Lars from Sweden, and the boats were contracted from other ops (at least one time it was with Black Shark, I think). The other boats, size wise, would seem to compare with the Liquid Blue boat, but design wise do not compare ... so dive with Roberto if you can. Lars is great, but the boats you end up on aren't always the best.
See the notes on the other trip for information about shopping.
Scooters: They look like fun. Thing is, at anything over 45 KMH, you can't hear much. Always wear your helmet, and keep the occupancy down to one or two. Do not do as the natives do (during the first trip my sister swears she saw a family of five with a dog all arranged on a scooter/moped somehow).
The scooters are fun as long as you're not driving around downtown. Go around the island - there's a the main road along the water that heads south out of Downtown; it makes the turn to go along the south side of the island right at The Rasta Hut and Paradise Cafe. Stop there, get a Coke, and continue your journey to Senor Iguana's where the road makes a right turn to cut across part of the island and takes you back to Downtown.
On To The Dives
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