Carnaval in Cozumel

One week of diving and driving around a tropical paradise - and they even have good food!!!


Carnaval in Cozumel

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Diving Punta Sur - and having a sea turtle pose for photo after photo
My first seahorse and my first splendid toadfish
Carnaval parades for three nights - really great to see the colors and hear the music - but really nice to have quiet after that!!
Great local restaurants with cheap delicious food${QuickSuggestions} Shopping - head away from the main streets - venture deep into the markets for the best prices - don't shop anywhere that actually looks like it belongs in Canada or the US for real Mexican bargaining power!!

You can see more photos at http://www.pbase.com/kiml/coz07

${BestWay} Rent a VW bug!! So cute and so fun to have a convertible. One word of advice - have the locals tell you how to switch into reverse (not the same as other cars)!! We didn't know how and ended up pushing into parking spots until helpful people came to our rescue!!

Vista Del Mar

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Decorated in a cozy elegant Mexican style using wood, shells, mosquito netting and natural materials. Rooms are clean and comfortable - we had a fantastic view of the main street, cruise ship pier, and ferry pier. Close to everything - restaurants, shopping, diving. No pool, but there is a jacuzzi - it could not be heated when we visited, so it's rather useless.
Vista Del Mar Hotel Boutique
Avenida Rafael Melgar # 45
Cozumel, Mexico, 77600
+52 (987) 872-0545

Los Tres Gatitos

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

No phone, no English, no credit cards - but the Especiale sandwich was something I wanted to go back for - unfortunately only opens at 7pm :(

Point at the menu to order the Mexican snacks and finger foods - some of the best authentic treats I had in the country!! Fill your tummy for under $3US!!
Tres Gatitos (Los)
Calle 7 between Ave 10 and Ave 15.
Cozumel, Mexico

Las Seras Taqueria

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Tacos, Tacos & more tacos - beef, pork, chicken seafood - more combinations that I ever expected existed and all can be customized to fit your exact taste!!

Bean soup with cheese and onions is something I am still craving almost a year later - the best meal ever!!

Two people can eat for less than $10US, including soft drinks, but of course cervezas are cheaper!!

El Morro

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

A long time favorite of divers and locals - discovered by tourists due to its excellent food and frequent mention in guide books.

It's a bit far from the center of town, but worth the cab fare.

Fresh seafood of all types - get the seafood platter to share among 2 or 3 friends and you'll still feel full.

Giant margaritas are great!!
El Moro
Calle 75 Norte #124
Cozumel, Mexico, 77600
+52 987 23 029

Ernesto's

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

It's basic Tex-Mex - really good Tex-Mex.

We went to this restaurant because we could walk to it between afternoon and night dives - wearing a bathing suit and shorts - so it's definitely casual!!

Service was a bit slow and we almost missed the dive boat, but the food was worth the wait!!

Other customers in the late afternoon were a bit spooky - looked like drunken beach bums - and the washroom was downright terrifying.
Ernesto's
Carretera Costera Sur km.4
Cozumel, Mexico
9878723152

Senor Frog's

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

This is the same Senor Frog's that made Cancun Famous, now in Cozumel, too! Senor Frog's is simple to find - just listen for the loud music and wild times. When you enter this Downtown location, you're instantly transported to a different place. Here, the setting is friendly and informal and it's impossible to not relax have fun. The food is mediocre - quickly cooked in large quantities - nothing that will be remembered in a week!!
Senor Frog's
Av. Rafael Melgar No 551, Loc. AD-1
Cozumel, Mexico
(987) 869-1650

Chedraui

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Chedraui (shay-drah-wee) is Cozumel's largest and most modern grocery/department store conveniently located at the south end of San Miguel at the beginning of the Southern Hotel Zone. In the food section you have an excellent selection of dry goods, spirits, fresh produce, meats and freshly baked breads and pastries. A pharmacy, household goods, clothing, personal care products, car parts, furniture and hardware make up the remainder of the store. A great place to stock up and fill that kitchenette in your room. A Mexican chain with locations across the country, Chedraui can be compared to a mini Wal-Mart.

Phone: (987) 872-3655
Chedraui
Zona Hotelera Sur
Cozumel, Mexico, 77600
(no phone)

Casa Antigua Tequila Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

You are welcomed with a margarita or two before you even begin the tour. Pretty good for a $10 fee for entry!!

They grow agave plants to make tequila, and explain each and every piece of the tequila puzzle - how it starts out as a plant that looks like aloe with a big pineapple looking thing in the middle right through to the wonderful liquid that gets you high!!

I think they said it takes like 10 years before a plant is ready to be harvested for tequila. We got a lengthy overview of authentic tequila and the process by which it is made. Patron and Sauza were dismissed as not being real tequila. Don Julio Reposado I believe is still safe as a real tequila though. Mexico has legislated where agave can be grown to create tequila - much like France has decided that champagne can only come from the Champagne area and all others are sparkling wines.


The highlight of the museum was the end where they had the tequila samples. They had approximately 9 or 10 different types of tequila including regular, orange, cinnamen, ambrosia, vanilla, some blue kind which tasted like candy. We tried a shot of just about each kind, and some we had seconds on. They also had these tequilas for sale, as well as honey that is made only from the agave plant - definitely different tasting than clover honey!!
Hacienda Antigua Tequila Museum
Transversal Kilómetro 9.8
Cozumel, Quintana Roo
01 987 869 4677

Dive with Martin

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Dive with Martin did deliver what we were promised - 5x2tank dives, a night dive and a video of one of those dives.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to get them to take us to the more advanced/less damaged reefs without hounding them and complaining constantly. In the end, to get to Punta Sur, I had to find a boatload so that they would take us - they needed at least 5 divers to go "all that way" - luckily, we found 4 other divers who were qualified and willing to go.

Safety was an issue - one of the divemasters brought 2 open water students out on 2 dives. One OW student was at the front of the group, one was at the back of the group. The divemaster was not paying attention to either one!! I was not impressed as I ended up babysitting a student diver on a dive I PAID FOR - in my opinion, I should have been awarded another dive for free!!

That being said, not all divemasters are created equal!! One divemaster actually plays tour guide - he can find the smallest sea creature to show the entire group and manages to keep everyone close together. Another divemaster manages to keep everyone close together, but basically just floats by all the fish and sea life without sharing it with the tourists. The third divemaster is the one mentioned in the paragraph above - I actually reported him to PADI!!

The boats were fast and in good mechanical condition - no problems there.

We had requested 100cu ft. tanks and only received them on 3 separate dives. They did not have enough 100cu ft tanks to meet the needs. At home I dive 120s or doubles, albeit in cold water/drysuit, so I do prefer larger tanks on all dives. I was able to get over 60 minutes on an 80cu ft tank on two dives, but for the deeper Punta Sur and Colombia Deep sites, 100s would be on my wish list.

Would I dive with Dive with Martin again? Yes, but I wouldn't do all my dives with them - there are technical diving shops on the island that will guarantee certain sites if that's what you want - it's a higher price, but a better result as well.
Dive with Martin
Zona Hotelera Sur in La Ceiba Hotel
Cozumel, Mexico, 77600
+52 987 22 610

The Week in Review - Part I

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Sunday, February 18th

I don’t have to get up until 4am, but I wake at 3am – GREAT, even less sleep!!!

Off to the airport. The -10C temps feel almost balmy compared to the -30C we’ve been experiencing all week.

Land in Cancun just before 10am local time – there are 2 hours difference between Moncton and eastern Mexico, not the 1 hour I had thought. We make our way to the bus/shuttle counter and Stephanie decides we should take the bus to save $10 in transportation costs. The bus won’t be leaving for another hour and the shuttle leaves in 15 minutes, but hey, it’s a whole $10!!

So we walk across the airport property to the bus depot and wait. The bus also drives at 50km, not the 100km limit, so it is a one hour trip to Playa del Carmen. We arrive with little time to spare to catch the 1pm ferry to Cozumel. In taking the bus (and saving a whopping $10) I have spent $9 for locals to carry pieces of my luggage, whereas the shuttle would have picked us up at the airport door and dropped us at the Cozumel ferry – GREAT!!!! Needless to say, I will not be willingly choosing the bus for transportation on the return into Cancun.

On the ferry, I meet two women from Los Angeles. It is their first time out of the US and they are quite inexperienced travelers in general. They don’t realize that they are heading into Cozumel during Carnaval, the busiest tourist season for the island. They don’t have hotel reservations and they don’t have diving booked. We see them later in the day standing at the side of the road, looking puzzled, with their luggage in tow.

Another man with a cart attached to a bike transports out dive gear and luggage to the hotel, a few short blocks from the ferry terminal in Cozumel. He even brings it upstairs in the hotel, which has no elevator. When we arrive at the hotel, our room is not ready, so we dump our luggage into the housekeeping suite and we’re off to the dive shop to confirm dive times for the week.

The weather has been bad on Cozumel since Friday, so the dive shop is booked up with divers who have to get their dives in before leaving the island, so we are delegated to afternoon dives for most of the week. The weather is windy and cold (sweatshirt weather) and very overcast. We hope that it clears up quickly.

Sunday evening we watch the Carnaval parade from our hotel balcony. We have a great view of the parade, cruise ships, and seafront in general – an A+ view!!! The hotel is fine – not a 5-star location, but for the price we paid, we’re quite happy with the accommodations.

We decide to have supper at a restaurant listed in the guide book that I had picked up – Los Tres Gattos (The 3 Cats) which advertises that you can fill your tummy for under $3US. 75pesos later, we are full and have had our first authentic Mexican dinner, complete with Sandwich Especiale!!!

Monday, February 19th

We decide to take in the local shopping and visit a market so that we can stock the fridge in our room. Fresh fruit and fish are aplenty, as are extremely fresh chickens – we watch the butcher make the kill!!! We head back to the hotel with pineapple, mango, papaya and a few other tasty treats.

Diving is at noon, so we take a cab to the pier. We are on a boat with a friendly couple from Illinois, Tom from Toronto and a guy from San Francisco, who doesn’t speak to anyone. Two dives later we are all happy with the day having seen a seahorse, a turtle and a splendid toadfish.

Back to the hotel for showers and a view of the Carnaval parade once again. However, exhaustion takes over and we decide to “take a quick nap” before heading out for dinner. At 11pm, I wake and change into pyjamas before calling it a night. Oooops!!!

Tuesday, February 20th

Breakfast on Fat Tuesday – we walk to another restaurant listed in the guidebook to learn that it is closed mornings this week, so we choose another one and walk there. Thankfully it is open and has a free table.

I choose something that translates to “divorced eggs” that consists of 2 fried eggs and ham, each with its own sauce on it, with beans on the side. Tasty, and a bit spicy as well. The fresh-squeezed orange juice is just as tasty.

In the restaurant, I am able to pick up a wireless internet signal and start uploading photos and checking email – the hotel website clearly states that there is internet access in the hotel, yet mysteriously no one knows anything about it at the hotel. Later in the day, I go to an internet café that has laptop stations and finish the job.

Diving is at noon again today. The same couple from Illinois and the same silent guy from San Francisco. Add 2 cruise ship employees – a girl from Scotland and a guy from Romania – and another American from Missouri. The dives are great again, although the currents are extremely strong in points – we are unable to stop or swim against them if necessary. Another turtle is seen, a porcupine fish calmly swims by, and a school of ocean triggerfish say hello. It’s a great place to dive. We visit the spot that I dove 7 years ago when I first visited Cozumel and I see what damage the hurricanes have done – the color that was once there is muted – covered in white sand and dead coral to turn a lot of the vista to grey.

A quick trip to Ernesto’s Fajita Factory for supper after the first 2 dives of the day and then we’re back in the water for a night dive with 2 couples from British Columbia. It’s nice to dive with others who usually don drysuitsfor local dives as all other divers we have encountered are the “only warm water” variety. The night dive is back to a spot visited yesterday, but now we get to see the night critters come out. Too many crabs to count, a few lobster and an octopus were seen by me, and there were reports of a second lobster and a splendid toadfish (damn!!!) seen by others.

Back to the hotel to once again view the Carnaval parade – this is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) so the parade is the largest yet and actually laps itself as it winds down one side of the main thoroughfare and back in the other direction. The music is very loud and the participants are very drunk, but tomorrow is the start of Lent, so they need to get it all out today.

The Week in Review - Part II

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Wednesday, February 21st

Today we are to dive in the morning, and finally have the afternoon free to explore the island. When we arrive at the dive shop, they inform us that we are going to dive on the mainland (Playa del Carmen) today. I inform them that I wish to dive Cozumel and Playa is not an option. They reshuffle everything and put us on a boat with 3 absolute newbie divers and a diver that was certified 25 years ago. They are all over 60 years of age.

Despite this setback, we do get to dive one of the “must do” locations – Santa Rosa Wall, which is a let-down in my eyes. Hurricanes must have ripped through there as there is a lot of damage and dead coral. The 2nd dive is La Francesca Reef, which is shallow but has lots to see, including grouper and a southern sting ray. Yippee!!!

Steph and I decide we will rent a car for a couple of days and head out to a local business to do so. We ride away in a VW bug convertible, which is very cute but does not drive too smoothly. Stephanie is driving as the car is a standard transmission so I get to see the sites.

We circle the island, first heading south and then coming back into the main town of St. Miguel. We have a free lunch at Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club, so we take advantage of that as well as the free horseback riding at the same place. Stephanie is on Yuri and I am given Sandoonie to ride. We ride for about 30 minutes – not long enough to hurt, but long enough that we were ready to get off the horses. On our ride, our guide points out a papaya tree and agave – the plant tequila is made from.

We continue our drive around the coast of Cozumel and see signs for a Turtle Egg Laying beach (not in season). A little further along the coast is a great stretch of beach that was obviously coral reef at one point. There are pieces of almost-fossilized brain coral laying on the ground, as the surf beats against the shore.

We finish off the drive finding where the ruins are so that we can head there tomorrow.

Thursday, February 22nd

Diving in the morning again and this time it’s the dive of the entire trip – Punta Sur!!! A challenging dive as it is deep and the currents can sometimes be very strong. We lucked out and there was very little current at this location. The coral formations were beautiful and we ran into a sea turtle who was under the impression that a photo shoot was going on – good thing, because there were 3 photographers on the dive!!!

The second dive of the day took us back to Paradise Reef for the THIRD time!! Good god, enough is enough!!! Two seahorses were seen this time (the main reason for diving this reef) as well as grouper, a moray eel and a school of Horse-Eyed Jacks.

After diving was over, we got in the VW convertible and headed off to the ruins. After the gate attendant explained that it was a $10 entry fee, a 15 minute drive to the parking lot and then a 1 hour hike into the ruins, I wimped out. It was 30°C, very humid, and I just wasn’t going to be walking 2 hours in the burning sun. So then we sidetracked to the Tequila Museum – good choice!!!

For the same $10 we each got 2 margaritas and a sample of each type of tequila the company made, as well as a talk on the history of tequila, how it is made and what actually makes tequila “legal” as not all tequila-type drinks are legally tequila!!

After that tasty trip, we spent a couple of hours at Playa Morenas, a beach on the eastern shore – where there is a lot of surf. There were people with boogie boards trying to surf the waves with not much success, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves anyway.

Friday, February 23rd

One last day of diving – and this time it’s with others who are also leaving tomorrow. The divemaster is playing videographeras well and we do two great dives on Colombia Deep and Colombia Shallow. We realize at the end of these dives that we have been blessed with seeing at least one turtle each day, 2 nurse sharks, 3 sea horses, and general excellent reefs.

Steph decides to head to the beach for a little while after diving, and I take a taxi back to the hotel to clean up, catch up on email, and do some shopping. Steph and I meet in time for supper and head to a well-mentioned seafood restaurant outside of the downtown area. We order the seafood platter for two. The food is OK, but I find that one of the two shrimp items is a bit rubbery and I’m not crazy about the tomato sauces on 2 of the 3 fish filet options. But the pina colada was AWESOME!!!

The Week in Review - Part III

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kiminhalifax on December 23, 2007

Saturday, February 24th

Time to pack up and hit the road. Steph grabs a cab out to the dive shop to pick up the video of yesterday’s dives while I load all the luggage into a cab and go to the ferry terminal. The taxi driver hails a porter who loads all the luggage onto his cart and takes it to the luggage check for the ferry. This is much smoother than our trip to Cozumel– figures that we are just beginning to understand the system when it’s time to leave!!!

We travel into Cancun for Saturday afternoon and evening and decide to hit the beach again. The public beaches are not very nice compared to those at the resorts as they are not raked or cleaned on a regular basis and are covered with seaweed and screaming children. After 20 minutes a child has landed on top of me. Luckily (?) I feel my skin burning already and decide to make a run for it. Back to the hotel to shower and web-check-in for tomorrow’s flight. Ooops…. Cancun is not one of the “selected international cities” which can use web-check-in.

Off to a local market for some last minute shopping. Stephanie and I both agree that we spent very little money for the first 5 days of the trip and now feel it flowing away from us quite quickly. Souvenirs of the trip for ourselves, friends, and family are ringing up – but still at much lower prices that what we expected.

We had decided to have supper at a restaurant recommended to us by someone from the hotel. However, the menu doesn’t look too great, so we wander into a little place just down the road for $3 margaritas, shrimp tacos, chiles rellenos, and fish fingers – YUM!!! I also had a salad with an excellent citrus dressing on it – all for the incredible price of $8!!!

Sunday, February 25th

The time has come to head to the airport – luckily we’re flying Executive class so we don’t have to wait in the HUGE lineup to check in. We are able to spend our time in the Executive lounge for Star Alliance airlines and wander through Duty Free for that last minute tequila to take home.

The flight is uneventful – 20 minutes early in fact!! The weather in Halifax is -1°C – desperately chilly to our tropically-acclimated bodies, but still much warmer than what we left only one week earlier. After we pick up luggage and make our way through customs, I go to pick up the Jeep, which has a dead battery!! I flag down a Fly Jazz employee who is willing to be a few minutes late for work in order to give me a boost.

I dropped Stephanie off at her house and continued on to Moncton, arriving at 8:45pm.

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