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Trip Report Cozumel- December 20-31, 2020

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Trailboss123

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For the first time in 6 years, we flew directly into Cozumel instead of flying into Cancun, shuttling to Playa del Carmen and doing the bag drag and ferry across to Cancun.

This was made possible due to the price drop in airfares as a result of the 2020 COVID pandemic. I do not like to do Red Eye’s, so instead opted for an easy 12:30pm flight out of Portland, OR on United to Houston on a Saturday and spent a comfortable night in the Airport Marriott Hotel. Got up and had breakfast and boarded the 10:20am flight to CZM and arrived 2 hours later (3 hours with the time change).

Immigration and customs went very smoothly. We were in first class and were among the first few people off of the plane and there were no other planes that had arrived just prior to us and we walked through Immigration in about 2 minutes. Our bags arrived about 7 minutes later. We cruised through customs and out the door and walked a few steps to the shuttle window to purchase our 2 tickets to get us to our hotel. We paid 50 pesos a piece, received our tickets and walked outside to a waiting van. The 12-passenger van ended up having the driver + 6 adult passengers and 2 young children. We left within a couple minutes and we were the first to be dropped off at our downtown hotel (Casa Mexicana). The only real change from past days in this whole process is the need to fill out a 1 page and brief COVID health questionnaire. You can fill it out online and print it out ahead of time (United Airlines sent us a link)- or you can get the forms on the plane and fill them out while filling out your customs and immigration forms.

We had intended to stay at Hotel Suites Colonial (sister hotel to Casa Mexicana). We like it because it has suites with kitchenette’s for doing some meal prep and it is less expensive than Casa Mexicana. However, after booking online, we were informed that they have temporarily closed Suites Colonial due to lack of occupancy across the 3 hotels in the chain and they had moved us to Casa Mexicana for the same price. In spite of the loss of a kitchenette, Casa Mexicana has some advantages. Bathroom has a shower/tub and not just shower (nice for soaking dive gear). Water pressure is better and it has a balcony for drying things and lounging. Also, no need to walk the 5 blocks for breakfast.

We got unpacked and then headed out to look for some food and see what was open and what wasn’t. We settled on a little hole in the wall place that we like and filled up on plates of rice, black beans, guacamole and a stack of corn tortillas for $3 US each. Did some walking and then back to the hotel to chill.

Due to COVID health concerns, the normally expansive and stellar buffet breakfast at Casa Mexicana has been replaced with a sit down and place an order process. Most, if not all that you would get from the buffet was available, you just ordered it and it came out pretty quickly and plated to your table. The whole process was quite smooth. For those staying here and diving with Aldora (7:30am meet time at their pier), you will want to place your order the night before so that it is ready for you to eat right at 7am. You will also want to get down and find a table about 6:50am, as they are in short supply and fill up fast at 7am. Currently, the breakfast is in the reception level adjacent to the pool and bar. They are remodeling/repairing the upstairs dining area.

We dive with Blue XT Sea and were down at the boat promptly at 8am to be greeted by old friends (Captain Edwin and DM Pedro Pablo) and were pleased to encounter some folks diving with us on the boat that we have enjoyed being with on past Blue XT Sea trips. Off we headed down south to Palancar Gardens for dive 1. The ride down was smooth and quick. We had 6 divers + Captain and DM. Water temp was 82. Visibility at the Gardens was a little milky, but a solid 65+ feet. After a nice surface interval, we went to Punta Tunich and visibility was 100+ and water super clear.

Day 2 we went to Palancar Horseshoe for a stellar 100 foot viz dive, followed by Tormentos.

Day 3 was Columbia Deep (gorgeous with a number of turtle sightings) and then over to Dalila Wall and The Mountains (one f my favorite dives and one I think is probably one of the fishiest dive sites with an abundance of trigger fish, angel fish, barracuda and most juvenile fish on the island). I got out for a 3rd dive in the afternoon with my friend Mark and DM Pedro Pablo. We went to one of our favorite sights that is often overlooked by others (Villablanca Wall). Almost as fishy as The Mountains- lots of juveniles and massive barrel sponges. Current was super-fast and we came up on the north side of the Trans Caribe ferry that shuttles cars back and forth to the mainland. Normally we pop up well south of there.

Day 4 (Christmas Eve) was to Santa Rosa wall (it never disappoints)- water was green and dark though. Maybe only 35-40 feet. Surface today was super calm and sunny. Looks like the calm before the storm. Winds are going to pick up overnight and chances are the diving will be closed tomorrow due to 20+ mph winds from the north. It doesn’t impact us, as we had planned to take Xmas day off anyway and Christi gives her staff that day off as a holiday. Saturday the 26th, the winds look to still be coming from the north, but dying considerably, so hopefully we can get out. Planning to do 2 morning and 2 afternoon dives on Saturday, so hopefully that happens. The rest of the trip looks like we will be OK.

Life on the island is considerably quieter without the cruise ship tourism and much less dive tourism. A number of establishments have not survived the pandemic. Most restaurants are currently open with social distancing seating (which means fewer tables). Not an issue since there are fewer patrons. Your temperature gets taken when entering most (but not all) establishments. People are very mask conscious on the whole (both indoor and out). As for the boat, the only big difference is that we now take our mask and regulator back to our hotel to clean ourselves and return with each day. Of course, everyone is also masking up and sensitive to others.
 
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Trailboss123

Trailboss123

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Day 5 (Christmas Day) we slept in a bit and had a later start to the day and breakfast. We also rented a scooter and went over to the east coast to cruise around and enjoy the beaches.

We spent most of the day at Playa Morena, which I highly recommend. Winds were 25mph on the west side of the island and it was just gorgeous over on the east and SE side of the island all day. Playa Morena is free to enter (no Beach Club pricing). Just pay for whatever food and drink you want. Lots of covered and shaded areas with hammocks and tables and chairs. Wooden lounge chairs out in the sun (just request a foam cover to put on top). Plenty of food and drink options. Very relaxing day.

Came back and had dinner at one of our new favorite restaurants on the island (Bombay Delights). Excellent Indian food and currently the only Indian food option on the island after the closing of Bindiya. It was a nice break from Mexican fare and a good Xmas day option, since a lot of other places were closed for the day anyway. Bombay Delights is owned and operated by Indians from the Bombay area. It is located a block east of and behind Casa Mexicana. We can see it from our hotel balcony. Make a left coming out of the hotel, then an immediate left at the corner at Calle 7 Sur and down one block on the left.

Before I forget, if we stay at Casa Mexican again, personally, I would choose any of the 2nd through 5th floor rooms on the east side of the building with balconies facing east. We are in room 316. Basically, any of the rooms between 308 and 317. Same number sequence on the other floors. This side is quiet, you don’t get the sun warming up the room all afternoon and since the winds typically come from the east to west, you get nice breezes on the balcony. Just my personal preference.

For my own posterity sake, my wife and I eat predominantly whole food-plant based/vegan. One of our favorite places on the island has closed (Cali Café). A couple of other places we can recommend for people of similar diet are La Cuisine (make a left at the traffic light just south of Mega on Andres Quintana Roo and go down a long block and it is on the right). Amparo’s on Calle 2 Norte and 10 avenida has some nice vegan breakfast and lunch options. Burritos Gorditos does an excellent Veggie Burrito- we just have them hold the cheese (I’ve been going here since they opened). They are on 5th Avenida Norte between 2nd and 4th Calle’s just south of the very popular Zermatt Bakery and Crazy King Burrito. For some down home and local beans, rice, corn tortillas and guacamole and very inexpensive prices, we have found Fonda de Don Jose to fit the bill. Also, a great place for meat eaters. It is on the same street as the ferry pier from Playa del Carmen. Head east through the park and past the 500+ year old church and a block and a half later, it is on the left (Avenida Lic. Benito Juarez between 10th and 15th Avenidas).

Day 6 has been another no dive day. Winds from the north and NNW did not die down enough to open things back up. These are the dice you roll coming down this time of year. The winds are supposed to start dying down considerably around 6pm and through the night. Tomorrow has them still coming from the north and NNW, but at 2 mph- so we should be able to get out and we should be good for the remainder of our trip. Our last dive day is the 30th.

As for the reefs, they look much healthier than they did when we were here last December. I have really not seen the impact of the Stony Coral Tissue Disease that was rampant last year. That being said, I have not been to all of the reefs yet, but I have had a very good sampling over a good swath from deep south back up to downtown.

Just decided to dive tomorrow morning with Tres Pelicanos. Will be the first time with them. We were scheduled to only go out in the afternoon with Blue XT Sea (morning boat is full), but since I have missed some dives, going to take advantage and get out with 3 P’s in the AM and Blue XT Sea in the PM.
More to come later as the rest of the trip unfolds. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away.

Below are a few pics- I really haven’t taken many, to be honest.
 
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Trailboss123

Trailboss123

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Indian Food
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Playa Morena
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flyboy08

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Were leaving for Morales tomorrow, but sure would have enjoyed meeting you.

Headed to the Drag show tonight :wink:

Enjoy your stay.
 
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Trailboss123

Trailboss123

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Were leaving for Morales tomorrow, but sure would have enjoyed meeting you.

Headed to the Drag show tonight :wink:

Enjoy your stay.
Was a very last minute decision to come. Literally booked everything 4 days prior to leaving.
 
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