macado's se asia adventure I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.


Missing my flight is always a good way to end a trip

I figured I could wake up at 9am and catch the 10am ferry to Playa Del Carmen.  Big mistake.  There was no 10am ferry only a 11am and 9am which I had already missed. Usually these ferries run every hour and I unfortunately incorrectly assumed they would still be running every hour. Sadly, the swine flu changed this. With little tourists the ferries were only running every 2 hours so I had no choice but to take the 11am.  I got to Playa Del Carmen around 11:40 just in time to catch the 12pm Ado bus to Cancun which takes about an hour.

I got to Cancun airport around 1:05pm and rushed to make it to the Delta terminal to catch my 1:45pm.  Sadly I knew my efforts were futile. I ended up missing the gate closing by about 10 minutes.

I know had two choices. Reschedule with Delta for the first flight tomorrow morning for a change fee of 175usd or find another airline home. I offered to take the latter and booked a one way flight from Cancun to Boston on American Airlines for 140USD. Cheaper than my change fee would have been on Delta but an extra 140 dollar added expense.  Oh well, it still makes my entire flight only around 215USD which is still a good deal. I am not really complaining.

That's pretty much it. Hope to return again to Cozumel either in June or July for another weekend trip. This trip to Cozumel was well overdue and only reminded me again how much I love Cozumel.

Bottom line
, please don't buy into the whole media frenzy about the swine flu. Go to Cozumel; You won't regret it. Local businesses are hurting right now and I would hate to see any place have to close. On the plus side, there is no better time to head to Cozumel. Airfare and hotels are cheaper than ever and most dive operators would love to see you.  With no cruise ships until June they say it is like stepping back in time to 1970s Cozumel before it became a major port of call for all the cruise ships.


Cozumel, Mexico – Swine flu free

I woke at 7AM and went to a little coffee place next door to my hotel called Coffee Bean. I asked coffee con hielo (coffee with ice). Not quite sure if my Spanish was right but they understood me fine.  The coffee only came to 20 pesos (about 1.5USD)  They also offer espressos and cappuccinos for good prices too. Increasingly enough there is also now a Starbucks on the island which was never here before. I didn't go in but you can bet the prices were not that cheap.

Got to the Aqua Safari pier and boarded the boat. Mostly the same people except for a guy named Greg from Missouri I believe.  Greg was in the restaurant business but retired early and says he comes to Cozumel almost every month. Must be a hard life.. Dove with him as a dive buddy. All and all a nice guy and good diver.

We dove Colombia Reef for the first dive at 85ft for 45 minutes and Punta Tunish for the 2nd dive at 44ft for 57 minutes Colombia Reef is always a favorite of mine since it has tons of swim-thrus.  Both dives were fantastic. I am in opinion that you can never have a bad dive in Cozumel.   On this dive a nice Italian girl (dont remember her name) that had gone local and worked as a video and photographer was filming us on both dives.  Unfortunately I didn't buy the video since I am trying to budget but she showed it to us later on in the afternoon and it came out fantastic.

I agreed to meet the two retired guys in Florida and John from Holland at Costa Brava for dinner.  The nice thing about divers is that they're all usually a friendly bunch and like to get to together to talk about diving.  Costa Brava did not disappoint an will be added my favorite restaurants list in Cozumel.

After dinner the two retired guys from Florida decided to head to bed while me and John decided to check out the local scene on the island.  I took him on a local tour from what I knew of the island. A new addition to the island is a superstore called Mega which can be best described as a Walmart super center on steroids.  Originally there were no large stores or supermarkets on the island. Prior to Mega most specialty item needed to be purchased in Playa Del Carmen or Cancun and then brought over on the ferry.  While I can't say if having Mega store changes the island feel. It is definitely a well received addition to the island with a selection better than most stores and supermarkets back home. While I am guessing Mega has brought many jobs to the island one has to wonder what will happen to all the little stores and markets on the island.
We ended up at Kelley's Sports Bar again where I was immediately recognized by the owner and bartender.  Had a few beers here and paid the bill. John had commented on the bill being cheap and also be ripped off at Fat Tuesdays yesterday.  Ended up venturing into the main square and stumbling upon a bar called Woody's owned by an American named Greg. The place was hopping with what seemed like a mixture of locals and tourists.  The bar also had a good music selection being supplied by satellite radio. There were also a bunch if girls here which is also a plus. Didn't stay out too late and ended up leaving around midnight. Surprisingly even with Woody's Bar being in the main square the beer was cheaper than Kelley's.  A great little hang out spot.


First full day in Cozumel

On the dive boat were 2 retired guys living in Florida named Courtney and Dave, a couple from DC, a guy named John from Holland on his first trip to Cozumel or Mexico for that matter. There was also a small family also diving but their names allude me; I believe they were from Colorado.

We dove Palancar Bricks the first dive at 81ft for 45 minutes and San Francisco Wall for the 2nd dive at 63ft for an hour exactly according to my dive computer. Both were fantastic dives with great visibility and lots of swim-thrus and about 4 turtles.

Unfortunately there were not enough people that wanted to do an afternoon or night dive so I couldn't partake.   The dive master was Mariano whom I have dove with 3 times before.  He is awesome and always knows how to find and point out the smallest things that one might not notice.  His buoyancy is also incredible. He dives with barely any weight. I highly recommend Aqua Safari and Mariano as a dm if you're ever in Cozumel.

Later in the night I ate at La Choza again since it's close and you can't beat perfection. I was feeling like my adventurous self so I decided to take a walk about 5 streets back from the waterfront and  I stumbled upon a nice Irish themed place  called Kelley's Sports Bar and Grill owned by an American and struck up a conversation with the local bartender name Sergio. The longer I am here my limited Spanish abilities seem to improve. I told him I wanted to go to a local bar so he offered to take me to a local cantina once he closed Kelley's since there was no business tonight. The beer at Kelley's is cheap (I think 20 pesos/1.5USD) and they have about 5 flatscreen TVs to watch sporting events.

Off I went on the back of his scooter to god knows where inland on the island.  I was taken on a little night tour of the island before heading to the bar. Unfortunately it was Sunday night so there weren't many locals out however the Sol and tequila were flowing like water and the bar had a nice little jukebox with a good selection of rock.  Curiously - why is it that Mexicans love Metallica and Nickelback? I can never figure it out but have noticed about three times.

Anyway I didn't stay out late because I needed to dive at 8AM.  For 6 beers my bill was extremely cheap. I think each Sol was around 20 pesos. (1.5USD) fairly certain I may not have been charged for some them too. We left around 1am and headed to a local taco/torta place but the name also alludes me. I'm guessing it may not even have had a name.  Some of the best tacos I've ever had for around 50 pesos (Little less than 4USD) Cheap.

Oh yeah.. I'm still swine flu free.


Bus to Playa Del Carmen and Off to Cozumel

Once I got to the ADO bus terminal I purchased a bus ticket for 90 pesos (approximately 6.8USD).  The ADO buses are extremely comfortable and air conditioned and I would highly suggest them over a taxi or shuttle which could end up costing you 30-50USD which is a ripoff.  They leave every hour to Play Del Carmen in the ADO bus terminal in downtown Cancun City Centre.  You can take the R-1 public bus in Cancun for 6 pesos to get there.

Once in Playa Del Carmen you are bombarded with endless requests for taxis or invitations into the shops. As was the case in Cancun, the number of tourists was small compared to how busy Playa usually is. Just walk right by the shop peddlers and head to the ferry pier to get to Cozumel.   The ferries leave every hour and take approximately 45 minutes to get to Cozumel.  I believe the price is 110 pesos (around 9USD).

The ferry pier in Playa Del Carmen was the first big sign of the swine flu having been in Mexico.  All the ferry attendants and police were wearing hospital masks and you have to fill out a quick medical survey before boarding the ferry. The goal is to keep swine flu out of Cozumel but you have to wonder if anything they're doing is actually helping since symptoms wont usually manifest themselves until 3-5 days later.  Once again your temperature is also taken before boarding.  Other than that, it was business as usual.

I checked into Suites Bahia which is a great budget hotel in downtown San Miguel in Cozumel.  This is the third time I have stayed here.  The rooms usually end up costing around 45USD/night. That includes 2 queen beds, a kitchenette, air conditioner and TV.

The location of Suites Bahia could not be better and the rooms are very no-frills and clean.  Another added bonus is that the hotel also offers free wireless and a guest computer in the lobby. They also offer a great morning breakfast and free coffee.

Once I was checked in, I immediately walked the 2 blocks to the Aqua Safari dive shop to get my equipment sorted out for tomorrows diving.   Aqua Safari has been in Cozumel since 1966 and is owned by a couple named Bill and Donna. Donna  immediately recognized me before and was happy to see my business again.

She explained to me that they have also been hit hard by the swine flu. Normally Aqua Safari has 3 full boats going out each day and will sometimes rent 1 or 2 books to handle additional customers if they're full.  Unfortunately they have only really had one boat going out each day.

I spent Saturday evening walking around the island to see what had changed.  The last time I was on the island was before hurricane Wilma.  There are tons of new restaurants and stores where old ones used to stand.   More on this later...

I ended up eating dinner at La Choza one of my previous favorite restaurants also recommended by Donna. the original La Choza restaurant had a thatched roof and was hit by lightening and burned down however they moved next to a new location and more importantly without a thatched roof that can catch fire.  I was one of the three groups in the restaurant.  As usual, the food was great. Highly recommended if you go to Cozumel.