Tag Archives: Cozumel

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.

 

RS2016

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.

    RS2016

    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.
    RS2016

    RS2016

    RS2016

    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
    RS2016

    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

    RS2016

    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.
RS2016

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.)

    RS2016

    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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 Cozumel: the Splendid Toadfish

It had been far too long since I had been scuba diving in Cozumel, so I couldn’t wait to go a few weeks ago (March 2015), and it certainly did not disappoint–especially after this long, cold winter in the Northeast.

Of course, we had our typically wonderful welcome at Casa del Mar, a lovely and friendly resort specializing in dive travel. Plus, it was my first time diving with Cozumel Marine World – a newer dive operation established and run by local experts and good friends who know the Cozumel and Palancar reef areas like the backs of their hands.

As usual, Cozumel was fantastic. We saw many spotted eagle rays – probably on 4 or 5 different dives – and lots of turtles, grouper, nurse sharks, and other large fish.  We even had dolphins swimming with the boat on the first day – always a bonus.

ERAY FACE RS2015MAR

Eagle Ray Face RS2015MAR

More so than usual, though, this time I found myself really focused in on the tiniest critters.  It seemed like there were arrow crabs everywhere I looked, and I got my first decent shot of a pretty little anemone shrimp.

Anemone Shrimp CZM RS2014MAR

Anemone Shrimp CZM RS2015MAR

Arrow Crab RS2015MAR

Arrow Crab RS2015MAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trip there also wouldn’t really be complete without a sighting of the endemic Cozumel Splendid Toadfish. I couldn’t find a great source today online, but according to Wikipedia:

The splendid toadfish, Sanopus splendidus, also called the coral toadfish and the Cozumel splendid toadfish is a species of toadfish entirely endemic to the island of Cozumel. Commonly found under coral outcroppings. Dens can be spotted by the sloping sand patch. They are very difficult to coax out in the open.

I’ve seen them before, but these guys turned into the real diving highlight of this trip, for me.  Not only did we see a bunch throughout the week in their typical little hiding spots, like this:

Cozumel Splendid Toadfish RS2015MAR

But on the week’s night dive, our skilled dive masters, Paulino and Jeremiah, also found one out swimming around, fully exposed, so we could see its unique patterning and coloration. We all spent a good, long time with the fish, getting a good look at its markings.  Just beautiful.  I didn’t have my camera that night, but am still hoping we might get a picture from a fellow diver on the boat (a new acquaintance who I’m not in touch with, so…I’m actually not too hopeful…), but then again, I have the memory burned in my brain.  In the meantime, here’s an example of this beautiful fish:

Beautiful Splendid Toadfish; source unknown

Beautiful Cozumel Splendid Toadfish; online-source unknown

That sighting pretty much made our whole night.

Bottom line is, though, any trip to Cozumel is always fun, and packed with great diving, great reefs, and great people. Especially our friends at Cozumel Marine World and Casa del Mar.

I already miss being there, so here’s looking forward to the next one.  Gracias, gracias, gracias.

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.

photo 3

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.

 

 

 

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.