Despite growing up an hour from the border, I have actually never been to Mexico… until now!
While Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco) is a popular destination for college spring-breakers and those looking to relax on the beach, aside from that there’s not much to do and I heard the scuba diving in that part of the Sea of Cortez is meh. I thought of going to the Mayan Riviera with my dad in 2017, but since I had to mail in my passport for my visa I didn’t want the stress of wondering if it would come back to me in time for this trip, so we went to New York and Washington, D.C. instead. (Last time I took a chance on getting my passport back in time, my friend had to meet me at Port Authority in New York while I changed buses from Philadelphia to Montreal, talk about a close call!).
Anyway, I haven’t been on a solo trip since Egypt in late 2017, so I’m excited to have some alone time exploring a new destination.
If you recall from previous posts, I did not originally plan to be in Cozumel at this time. I was in Cancun for a few days before my dives got cancelled, so I thought I’d move some things around and try my hand in Cozumel. As you’ll soon see, it didn’t always work out as planned, but I still had a great time.
Here is all about my time in Cozumel sandwiched between my time in Cancun! Please forgive the formatting of pictures (I’ll fix it when I’m in front of my computer again!) and shoddy quality of my underwater pictures, most of the pictures were actually screencaps from video. I hope to buy a proper GoPro before my next scuba trip whenever that may be!
Thursday, 2 January: After my dives in Cancun got cancelled, I quickly changed my plans to arrive at my Cozumel hostel early and return to Cancun when the weather cleared up later that week. I took a cramped, hot van to Playa del Carmen, where I killed an hour walking around and sitting on the beach before taking the ferry across the water to the island of Cozumel.
When I arrived in Cozumel, I checked into my hostel: 2tank Dive Hostel. It’s right in the town center, which absolutely makes up for the underwhelming rooms. I walked around the town and got dinner and a drink while watching the sun set over the water.
Friday, 3 January: Finally, diving! There was four of us from my hostel plus our dive piled in a van destined for the harbor. We shared a small boat with a few other dive companies. It felt a little crowded on the main deck but there was plenty of space above… maybe to a fault, I got a wicked sunburn as a consequence of falling asleep between dives.
Our first dive was a reef called Paso de Cedral. On the reef, we saw three hawksbill sea turtles! We also saw barracuda, a huge lobster and I spotted a flounder under the sand. Our maximum depth was 30 meters but we spent most of the dive around 20 meters.
After lunch on the boat, we went to the second dive site: wreck C53 Filipe Xicotencatl (please don’t ask me to pronounce it). It was purposely sunk in 2000 as a tourist attraction after being in the Mexican navy. The boat is 56 meters long and 12 meters tall. Although there was not much fish or reef life, the wreck was easy to penetrate and awesome on the inside! We dove for 45 minutes with a maximum depth of 20 meters.
Saturday, 4 January: All dives got cancelled today so I rented a car (only $35USD!) and drove around the island. First, I stopped at Sky Reef for a bit of snorkeling. I’ve been quite spoiled diving and snorkeling just doesn’t do it anymore. All the interesting reef life seemed to be beyond the buoy line and I didn’t have fins so I got tired quickly. I was more content staying on shore, reading and drinking a smoothie.
Then, I drove to Punta Sur. I was interested in going to the Eco Park for snorkeling but the water was closed for swimming. Also, they had animals (flamingos and alligators) and wasn’t sure if it was ethical so I erred on the side of caution and skipped it. I’m thinking of doing some more research and writing a post on whether or not Punta Sur Eco Park is really ethical for future visitors (please let me know if you’ve been, especially recently, I’d love any help I can get).
I made my way along the east coast of the island, stopping anywhere that looked interesting along the way. I stopped at some blowholes and a lovely beach called San Martin.
I finished my route back to town and called it a day. Upon my return to the hostel, I was told the dives from the hostel tomorrow were cancelled too. So I looked into booking cenotes (sinkhole filled with groundwater) dives because as they’re inland, they’re rarely cancelled because of weather.
Sunday, 5 January: I got the 0700 ferry to Playa del Carmen and had a tasty breakfast before leaving the dive shop (Ko’ox, I loved them!) with a small group for two cenote dives.
Our first destination was Casa Cenote. Surrounded by beautiful greenery, this cenote links to the sea, so it has a unique mix of salt and fresh water and fish. We saw a few tarpon and a one meter alligator! The water was extremely shallow (our maximum depth was 7 meters) and great for snorkelers as you can always see straight to the bottom and beyond.
Our second dive was at a famous cenote: Dos Ojos. Although I was a bit apprehensive about a cave dive, the passages are massive and there are points you can come up safely (which makes it also a great destination for snorkeling). The visibility was incredible and only limited by our flashlight beams. With the wonderful cave and rock formations and immaculate visibility, it’s easy to forget you’re underwater. We even surfaced in a cave and saw fruit bats, it was spectacular to hear their squeaks echo through the tavern lit only by other divers’ torches. Again, the depth was minimal (maximum 9 meters) so it was lovely, long dive. Probably one of my all-time favorites.
Monday, 6 January: Another big day for diving! My dive shop was awesome enough to let me do multiple dives in one day to make up for the two days of cancelled dives.
Our first day of the day was a reef called Santa Rosa. It was quite nice, I loved swimming through the arches and seeing filefishes more closely. We went quite deep (31 meters maximum but hovered around 20 meters for most of the dive), so it was shorter at 37 minutes.
Our second dive was at a site called Yucab where we saw a massive eagle ray: my first one! We also saw a few smaller rays, both resting and free-swimming. It was so amazing. It was a more shallow dive (maximum 16 meters) so we stayed down for 50 minutes!
Our third dive was at Paso de Cedral once again. It’s a lovely reef and we saw another hawksbill turtle. We also had a large snapper following up for a while. I think when he saw my tattoo he made a run for it though. Our maximum depth was 21 meters and the dive was 38 minutes.
Our last dive of the day was at the C53 wreck again, so you can see my wreck pictures above as I’m sure some photos from that dive got mixed in with the others, too. We saw a spotted moray and few lobsters. Our maximum depth was 20 meters and our dive time was 39 minutes. We ascended to a gorgeous sunset!
Between dives, we would go back to the marina to pick up some people and drop more off, but me and another American (from Southern California) did all four dives. There was meant to be a night dive but the shop didn’t supply the instructor with a fully charged flashlight, ugh! It was especially frustrating for those of us who brought our own (like myself).
It was a very long day, but was about to get longer as I made my way back to Playa del Carmen for the last time to go back to Cancun. I got back to my hostel at midnight and was practically asleep before I even got into my bed.
I will post soon about my time in Cancun, stay tuned!