Category Archives: General

Diving Alternatives in Cozumel – Things to Do on Land

Hola. I have now had several friends, friends-of-friends, and even a recent friendly stranger, reach out to me and ask for advice on things to do here in Cozumel, especially for those who don’t dive. I’ve sent lists of various ideas, what’s kind of become my personal ‘short list’ of ACTIVITIES and FOOD that I enjoy here on the island on my dry days. I figured it might be worth sharing in a post, so here goes.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and there are new things I discover every day, but I think it’s a good start. But please, ask questions and add to the comments section, below – I’m more than happy to answer and can continue to update with ideas and information.

 

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Street Art. It’s cool and it’s everywhere. RS2016

ACTIVITIES:

  • The Museum / Museo de Isla Cozumel – small, but a nice visit to learn about the history and geography of the Island, plus they often have at least one temporary exhibit of local artists, smaller history stories, etc. It also has a cafe on the second floor that lots of people say is great for breakfast and lunch – sunny, facing the water, etc.

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    El Museo RS2016

 

 

 

  • The Planetarium – Cháan Káan. New facility and seems really well done. They have constant programming, new exhibits, and lots and lots of good feedback. Interest for all ages. Movies, etc. (I haven’t gone yet, but plan to any day now…).
  • San Gervasio – the ruins.  A small-mid size ruins site on Cozumel Island. Fascinating history, lovely well run site, with parking and amenities. It is well worth a trip, and something you can likely do for an hour or two, leaving time for a few other stops.  Such as…
  • Rent a car and drive to “The Other Side” of the island – over to the Eastern shore – gorgeous, easy drive, stunning beach views, little places to stop to eat, drink, buy some souvenirs that are (usually) more handmade – you can see one woman making textiles and embroidered things, e.g. – and less expensive. Really, though, the goal on the other side is to have a remote, sunny, lazy beachy kind of day. It’s beautiful.
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    RS2016

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    RS2016

  • The Temazcal Sweat Lodge  I did this with a friend – it’s a traditional Mayan ceremonial sweat lodge. A very nice and knowledgeable guy runs it. We were picked up at our hotel (Casa del Mar – my favorite hotel on the Island, and frequent home away from home) and went out to the jungly site. There, we had a short, relaxing introduction to the history and
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    RS2016

    traditions of sweat ceremonies (worldwide, and Mayan-specific), and then were guided through the motions of the ceremony – first saluting the 4 main elements, and then entering the honest-to-goodness sweat lodge for another hour or so of sweating and guided…thinking and thanking, etc. And it is definitely sweaty, but not as oppressively hot as I feared it might be. Afterward you immediately plunge into a cool, natural cenote on the grounds, and wind down, and then are taken back to your hotel. It’s really quite cool. And my body and skin felt great afterward – extra bonus.

  • Walk all through town and take pictures and try snacks and poke around – I still do this all the time. The sights and sounds, colorful buildings, flowering trees, the people – all delight.
    Fruit at Market RS2016

    Fruit at Market RS2016

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    RS2016

    I can point you to specific things if you are interested – the municipal town market (produce, meat, fish, lunch counters, some local pottery, etc.), a nice bakery, a cool chocolate maker, high-end jewelry, local tacos and food, – whatever you like yourself, ask and I’ll do my best.

  • Snorkeling, swimming, SUP (stand-up paddle-board), beach clubs, fishing charters, there is parasailing available, jet skis to rent here and there, bicycle and scooter rentals, and so on – there are lots of outdoor activities for non-divers in Cozumel.
  • There is a really nice and modern, but inexpensive, movie theater, (click here for shows, times, and language info) where features shown after 7pm are usually offered in English. There are typically 6-8 current movies showing each day. (It hardly rains here, at least for long, but you never know…you might just need a break from the abundant sunshine.)
  • Whenever in doubt, find a spot by the water, grab a drink and take in one of Cozumel’s free, spectacular sunsets. Each one seems prettier than the last.
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RS2016

FOOD:

  • I’ve started to do some fuller reviews on TripAdvisor (see here), but in the meantime, here’s a short list of local favorites: Otates (for tacos, tortas, and their famous Pozole), El Pique (great tacos, open after 6), El Foco (tacos, burritos, etc.), Cuatro Taco (sl. ‘elevated’ tacos, and closer to Melgar (the main drag).Beyond these, though, there are tons of other great little taco joints and welcoming family-run places that serve delicious traditional Yucatan-style food – all of which are good. I have literally never had a bad meal in Cozumel. All the people are nice and fun, and the prices and value cannot be beat.
  • La Perlita is also a great local fish restaurant, and they specialize in preparing the invasive Lionfish – the fish itself is truly delicious, and eating out becomes a good deed – you’d be helping the ongoing effort to rid the coral reefs of this dangerous species by creating a stronger consumer market.  (And to learn more about the Lionfish issue, start here.)

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    RS2016

  • El Billi (or “Billy the Griller”) – an open fire grill full of delectable grilled meats (chicken, poc chuc, chorizo, ribs, kebab), potatoes, and onions, and served family style with hot img_2953homemade salsa, beans, rice, slaw and tortillas. Awesome, über-casual ‘joint’ deeper into town. Oh my god is it good – especially if you’re really hungry. Order the mixed grill for the number of people you’re with, and chow down!

 

 

  • There are also several Italian restaurants – at least 3-4 I’ve liked and gone to over and over: Guidos (pronounced ‘geedos’ in Español), Rolandis, New Especiales, and La Cocay.
  • I’ve had several lovely and delicious meals at nouveau Mexican restaurants that have really pretty settings in lush gardens and patios, great salads and fish dishes, and so on – try Kondesa, Kinta, Jacinta, and a few others.
  • For an awesome café-style lunch or dinner, go to Le Chef. They are renowned for their Lobster Club sandwich, and it truly is a must-try. (lobster, bacon, cheese…holy cow) It is the best lobster sandwich I’ve ever had. (and I’m from the New England shoreline!)
  • Finally, my absolute favorite, Local 707. This place is small, so you definitely need reservations (easy via Facebook), but it is awesome –  I finally got in there, and now I’ve gone about 8 times, and plan to go a lot more. Delicious, friendly, cool, interesting. It can get pricey if you try lots of different things (and wine), but a) you’re going to want to and b) it is truly very reasonable, especially for what magic they’re doing in that kitchen. I love it.

Seasonal:

Depending on when you visit, there are many special events going on in Cozumel all year.

Carnival RS2016

Carnival RS2016

In February, the awesome Carnival parade runs through town – floats, costumes, dancing, and fun. It’s a true spectacle.

In May, there is an annual fishing tournament that draws thousands of participants, and the stakes are big!

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Ironman Half Men’s Champ 2016. RS2016

In the early fall, there are now several world championship level triathlon events, including the Ironman Cozumel Half in October, and the Ironman Full in November.

(There are several more events, nearly each month – ask and I’ll find out for you!)

 

 

So there you have it – a first batch of suggestions, at least.  There’s really more and more to find all the time.  So what did I forget?  What other kinds of things do you want to do? Let me know if you have specific questions on anything, too – I’ll respond asap.

Gracias!
Rachel

Diving the Donations: Baja Sur and Hurricane Odile

Just a quick post while I’m thinking of the residents of Cabo, La Paz, and all of Baja Sur – who could surely use our help after the recent destruction by Hurricane Odile.

I was scheduled to travel for a second time to beautiful La Paz, MX, this coming weekend for a week of awesome diving with a group of friends – and of course with sea lions, large schools of fish, and a lot of hearty ‘small stuff’:

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Sea lions, La Paz, MX 2012

A pretty hefty sea horse.  La Paz, 2012.

A pretty hefty sea horse. La Paz, 2012.

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Swarmed. Big schools in the Sea of Cortez. La Paz, 2012

Sadly, those plans have changed due to the storm a couple of weeks back.  The Cabo airport is still closed, power is not fully restored, potable water is a problem in places, etc.  Selfishly, I’m very disappointed, of course, but have also been looking around the web for advice on how to help the folks who live there.  The short version: It comes down to the ease and versatility of the almighty dollar.  (Donating “stuff” is well-meaning, but rarely effective in the long run.)

I won’t be fortunate enough to spend my tourist dollars there, so I figure I’ll still send some of the green stuff by making donations to disaster relief efforts.

Now, I’m not “pushing” for these organizations, but after consulting a number of articles and organizations on-line, these two seem like pretty good options to me, so I just figured I’d pass along the info.  Here are two reputable sites that offer donation services:

The International Community Foundation programs in Baja Sur

The Mexican Red Cross via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

And, if you ever get a chance to dive (and spend some dough) in the La Paz area, take it!
It’s a beautiful place with great diving conditions in the Sea of Cortez, and a ton of sea life you don’t see every day.  I really enjoyed my stay at Club Cantamar and had a lot of fun and wonderful dive masters from their Baja Dive Services.  Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 10.32.46 AM

Here’s to the people of Baja Sur – wishing them all a speedy recovery.

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Divine. La Paz, MX. 2012

Next up:  Great Whites in Guadalupe!

 

Diving the WCS and “Beneath the Sea”

This was a good week for Diving the Water Column.

First off, The SCUBA diving market show Beneath the Sea was in town, at the Meadowlands Expo Center in New Jersey.  I headed over on Sunday and met up with my good buddies from Ocean Horizons Scuba in Brooklyn, NY, to take a look around.

BTSIconDanDiveSafetyDayDivers Alert Network (DAN) kindly offered members discounted admission to BtS (thank you, DAN), and the show was jammed with dive travel information, dive gear to sample, and many other scuba-related products and services.

I was happy to speak to some reps from various companies I admire, from the wonderful DAN to enthusiastic and serious instructors from NAUI, product reps from Sherwood, Aqualung and Cressi, among others, and our awesome travel friends from Casa del Mar in Cozumel (see my previous post), Sam’s Tours in Palau (also mentioned here, previously), Palau Dive Adventures, and many others.

Oh, and the Sea Shepherds, too.  One out of three of their booth staff was friendly and informative when I stopped by…and I appreciated her conversation very much.  But then big news hit the very next day, too: congratulations to the Sea Shepherds for their part in the ongoing struggle toward the banning of Japanese whaling in the Antarctic!  Fantastic news.

Monday night, it was on to a sharp panel discussion from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in NYC, called “Saving the Last of the Wild: Protecting our Oceans.”  WCS

The event was short and focused on raising money from the various patrons in the audience, and the panel of speakers was really impressive: Caleb McClennen, Executive Director of the Global Marine Program for WCS; Alisa “Harley” Newton, Senior Pathologist for WCS Zoological Health Programs; and Tim McClanahan, a Senior Conservation Zoologist who runs the WCS Coral Reef Programs in Kenya.

Each gave a good talk on his/her specialty area, and tried hard to offer a fair amount of hope regarding what are generally very troubling topics: Ocean acidification, coral extinction risks, coral and sea star diseases, and fisheries management.

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WCS “Saving the Last of the Wild” panel (RS, 3/2014)

So…what’s the upshot from the week?  After browsing Beneath the Sea, and listening to the experts, I think it’s pretty much the same drill, at least for myself:

Keep at reducing our carbon footprints, try to contribute to organizations that fight for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and to lessen over fishing and by-catch waste, download (if you haven’t) – and actually USE – the very cool Seafood Watch app seafood watch appto avoid consuming endangered fish species, and for crying out loud, stop with the plastic bags and excess disposable plastic crap.

 

Oh, and…get scuba diving, ASAP, of course.   I know I’m counting the days.

 

 

 

Diving the Barf Bag: Roatan, part 2

(or: “How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Purge Valve”)

So, one of the things I didn’t quite get to in my previous post about being a new diver in Roatan, Honduras, was…that little thing about the time I had a case of the pukes.

After doing my certification dives from shore, and going on one pretty controlled dive from the boat on the second afternoon, I was feeling quite relieved and accomplished.  I was also feeling like relaxing, hanging out with all these cool new people, enjoying the luau-esque dinner at the hotel, having a couple of drinks, surely not enough water, and going to bed a wee bit too late.

from scientopia.org

from scientopia.org

 

Oh, and believing the new pal who swore he’d bang on my door to wake me up the next morning, “in plenty of time!”  Yeah, right.
(First dope-slap beginner lesson learned: don’t forget to pack a reliable alarm device.)

Well, instead, I woke up with a jolt, was quite late, rushed over to the boat area, and felt the burn of a few weary stares from the folks who didn’t appreciate the new girl holding things up.  I can’t remember every detail, but between my nerves, my poor hydration and rest, and the rough conditions on the water that day, I was feeling downright gross.

As we got closer to the dive site, I was ok, but anxious – after all, this was only my first full day on a dive boat, plus I felt like a jerk on top of it.  It was all making me very tense.  So after getting my gear on properly, and doing my second-ever giant stride from a boat, I was calming down and just about to descend with my instructor when – oh, sh*t!

Up it came.

And then: OH, SH*T!  WHERE DID ALL THESE FISH COME FROM?!!!

Swarmed

Swarmed

In case you haven’t heard it, one very apt euphemism for seasickness – more specifically, for barfing in the ocean – is “feeding the fishes.”

They were around me like moths to a flame.  Flipping and flapping.  And at the time,  I really resented the little jerks for adding insult to injury.

After a minute and a much-needed laugh, I regained composure and truly felt fine.  I was a little nervous, and counseled that if I wanted to call the dive, I should, but also told that very often you feel better once you’re under.

I went for it, and that proved to be true:  I felt fine, had a fine dive, saw lots of cool stuff, even did pretty well on air consumption, completed a text-book safety stop, ascended slowly while looking above me for any potential obstructions.  Then once on the surface, I inflated my BC, smiled for a second at the wonder of diving…and then puked my guts out again.

OH, HEY AGAIN, MY FISHY FRIENDS.  (YOU LITTLE JERKS.)

Luckily, by then it was time for the surface interval.  Of course, by now there were numerous suggestions – from ginger candy to magnetic bracelets to saltines.  “I feel fine now,” I swore.  “And I never get seasick!”

Eventually, I let it go.  Until, we were gearing up again, and one helpful new friend said:

“Don’t worry, Rach.  If you have to blow chunks down there, you just do it right through your ‘reg’.  Make sure to keep it in your mouth.  Puke, purge, and you’re good to go.”

Um…what?!  That definitely did not put me at ease!

Second stage mouthpiece - Not an ad, just the (very good) regulator I use.

Second stage mouthpiece – Not an ad, just the (very good) regulator I use.

Unlike some stories I’ve since found on the web, the question of vomiting while diving never came up in my open water class.  It just never occurred to me to consider it, never mind the correct procedure.

But of course it can happen.  You just need to think through the right steps and at least imagine it, so you don’t flip out.

How to Vomit While SCUBA diving:

  1. Relax, don’t panic, get your buddy’s attention if you can
  2. Keep your regulator mouthpiece (second stage) IN your mouth, and hold it firmly in place
  3. Vomit into and through the regulator second stage
  4. Use the purge valve immediately after to clear out the offending material (taking the usual care to deflect the direct burst of air with your tongue)
  5. Take your time, relax, make sure your buoyancy is under control, check your air
  6. Regain composure and resume your regular, calm breathing
  7. Proceed along, changing to your back up (octopus) air source mouth piece, if necessary
  8. Either make a controlled ascent (do so if you’ve switched to the octopus) or if you feel better, just calmly finish your dive

Please note:  I have never done this, myself, and still hope I don’t have to.

Then again, now that I have many more dives under my belt, I don’t even think about things like coughing, laughing, even sneezing down there, and all with the regulator in – it truly becomes like second nature.  (Sneezing gets a little snotty, yes, but really not a big deal.)  Hopefully if it ever does happen, it will be as unpleasant as barfing topside – but no worse.

All that said, I have recently read some conflicting opinions about this – even on the DAN site, which surprised me – so I’m going to continue to find out more, and will update if I come across anything good.  Some people recommend taking the regulator out of your mouth, chucking up into the water, and then immediately putting the unsullied mouthpiece back in place.  The main rationale for this method is that you risk clogging up your regulator if you were to keep it in your mouth, or – much more to the point – that when you take the reflexive, sharp inhale immediately after vomiting (which we all do), you might inhale solids that are stuck in the regulator and therefore choke.

The very strong counter argument – and the one that I was since taught and strongly believe – is that when indeed you take the reflexive, sharp inhale immediately after vomiting (which we all do), you most certainly do NOT want that inhale to be all water.  That will definitely cause you to cough, gasp, suck in more water, panic, be unable to get your regulator back in…and good night Irene.

So keep the regulator in!  Then purge if you need to, stay calm, and get the camera ready – after all, if you “feed the fishes,” you might as well get some good shots to tell the tale!

Please let me know – have you ever vomited while on a dive?  Do you disagree with keeping the regulator in place?  Leave a comment – I’m sure these will be educational and entertaining stories, but above all I hope, of course, that they all ended safely.

Cheers?
Thanks for reading!

Dear Cozumel,

Oh, how I wish I were arriving there, today!

I had sights set on my typical February dive trip to Cozumel, but just couldn’t make it happen. So my beloved group of diving buddies from Ocean Horizons Scuba in Brooklyn, NY, are on their way there, as I write.

I’ve decided to use my bitter disappointment as fuel to finally get it together, write a maiden post here, and “publish” this new site, once and for all.  So, here goes nothing!
(and just kidding about the bitterness.  well, sort of…)

This first post is definitely not a clever new idea, and it’s certainly not burdened by research.
It’s just a love note to Cozumel, the beautiful Palancar Reef, our friends at hotel Casa del Mar (especially Sandra) and the special dive masters met over the years (especially Mario!).

Me and Mario, CZM 2009ish

Me and Mario, CZM 2009ish

One small part of my plan here on Diving the Water Column is to formalize a bucket list of future diving destinations and dive sites – an evolving, work-in-progress list. Cozumel might not be on that particular list, but only because I’ve been there so often.  (lucky)  One thing is for sure:
as long as there’s air in my tank, I’ll always return to Cozumel.

And any scuba diver who hasn’t been?  Do yourself a favor.  All the dive sites I’ve been to along Palancar are awesome.  Great visibility, gorgeous corals, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, the endemic splendid toad fish, and on and on.  I’ve also had the good fortune to dive the nearby and spectacular Cenotes in the Playa del Carmen region, and took a prop-plane day trip from CZM to Isla Holbox in the Gulf to snorkel with the majestic whale sharks.  Amazing day.

Whale Shark rightinthekisser Aug2009

Rightinthekisser 2009

Holbox Plane View 2009

Holbox Plane View 2009

So thank you Paul, Cozumel, Sandra, CDM, and all of my friends from OHS!

And as for today, I hope you guys get out of Houston very soon, and ‘get in the pool’ tomorrow.  Have a blast!

I’ll catch you on the next one.