We’d heard that both the diving and snorkeling were outstanding off the coast of Cozumel, and — too burnt out to do much pre-planning — we elected to book a stay at an all-inclusive resort.
We were not disappointed in our choice of location!
We got a discount coupon at the on-site Spa for our troubles, having elected to forgo a free, all-expenses paid vacation, 25 years worth of priceless memories and a host of other time - limited bonuses.
Sunday afternoon found me getting a much - needed pedicure and practising my admittedly limited Spanish at the resort spa while Tats retreated to the private jacuzzi and sauna. Then we went to grab a bite to eat from the plentiful (and happily still open) lunch buffet before taking a walk in the beach, where we got stuck in the downpour of a massive storm!
Tulum and Cenotes
Despite staying on Cozumel, which is an island, we did want to explore at least some of the better known ruins on the mainland. So on Monday morning we took a taxi to the ferry docks, where the two main ferry companies vyed for our business to carry us across the water to Playa del Carmen. (They offered essentially the same service at more or less identical prices, but the seats on the blue and yellow Ultramar looked marginally more comfortable, so we went with them.)
We visited four different cenotes and swam in two of them, including one dark cavern that she illuminated for us with a headlamp so that we could see that we were surrounded by stalactites! We ate fresh mangoes and tried mamey (sapote) for the first time; it's a fruit that belongs to the avocado family.
Beach Day and Books
Since we'd not yet really explored the grounds of the resort where we were staying, we spent most of Tuesday doing just that.
The Occidental Cozumel comprises a collection of 3-story villas, each with a dozen or so suites. The paths that cover the property and lead up to each building are surrounded by mangroves, and as such, it is not unusual to find oneself face to face with a small coati or a large iguana; both roam freely around the property, the first in search of leftover human food and the latter in search of the perfect spot for a sunbath (the adults only pool seems to be a favourite).
With full time jobs, teenage twins and too many projects demanding our attention at home, rare indeed is our uninterrupted reading time. So we really enjoyed parking ourselves at the beach for a few hours and getting lost in British Columbia and the Gobi Desert respectively.
I'm fortunate to have a job that sometimes allows me to leverage technology to telecommute, and since Wednesdays are usually a "work from home" day for me, and since I had a number of meetings to attend and emails to write that couldn’t wait, and since I am always on the lookout for ways to stretch my meagre allotment of vacation days, I decided that this Wednesday would be like every other. Well, except that the temperature was a wee bit warmer than that where I usually work!!
For $12USD, an allegedly reliable Internet connection could be had in ones hotel room. So, while Tats headed off for a day of Scuba diving on Wednesday, I settled in for a full 8 hours of meetings and work-related tasks online.
I spent a good part of the morning working from our tiny balcony overlooking the mangrove. A little bird joined me. Perched on the balcony railing, she seemed to say, "don't worry, I'll keep you company until your workday is done!" It helped considerably.
The ability to work off site sometimes is a flexibility I cherish, but truth be told, I’m not sure I’d do that again in this sort of context. Live and learn.
Bar Hopping in Cozumel
I’m not much of a drinker, and in general, the bar scene doesn't really appeal to me. But I'd read about a "must-visit", ocean-side, off-the-grid bar about a half hour (by car) from our hotel, so on Thursday we rented a jeep and decided to do some exploring on the other side of the island.
After lunch, we ambled along the various paths and exploring around the bar. We even found a geocache!
Intrigued by the promise of seaside hammocks, we decided we had to go check it out for ourselves!
Punta Morena turned out everything they promised and more! We ended up spending several hours lounging by the ocean there, and were pleased to find this spacious beach club and bar was not too overrun by tourists. The place offered fish pedicures (We did not partake), relaxed seating directly in the pool, a plentiful menu and as promised, a wide array of seaside hammocks. We enjoyed a quiet early evening reading our books, enjoying more drinks, and (for me) a dip in the ocean.
One More Seaside Bar
As we were not sure whether the lights on our old jalopy worked, we thought we had better head back to our hotel for sunset, so we eventually pride ourselves out of the hammocks and made our way back to the jeep and managed to reverse out of the parking lot and onto the main road without stalling.
As of happened, the lights did work, and so we heeded the call of one last oceanfront tiki bar, This one aptly named “The Liquor Box”!
A Snorkeler’s Heaven
Friday it was back to the spa for both of us; a nice Jacuzzi was followed up for me with a massage while Tats studied (as a newer first officer with her current airline, she keeps a strict study regime to stay on top of everything she needs and wants to learn about flying and aircraft systems).
Following that, we embarked on a snorkel tour that picked us up from the pier at our resort and took us to three amazing nearby snorkeling destinations: El Cielo (to see starfish!), Columbia (where we saw sea turtles), and Palancar, where Tats had gone to dive earlier in the week. After that experience, I could see why so many people choose Cozumel as their dive/snorkel destination!
Without the kids’ schedules to consider, we were able to fly back any time. For us, this resulted in a late Sat night departure, which meant we had basically the whole glorious day to enjoy a few last rays of sunshine and one more dip in the ocean.
After procuring a pair of beach chairs, we decided to walk along the beach to the resort next door and do some snorkeling along the shoreline. We saw a starfish, two stingrays, an eel and many small fish. I think the stingray, with its camouflage backside and fluttery edges, was my favourite.
Then it was time to pick up our luggage from the little room where it was waiting for us.
I had to pry Tats away from the hotel lobby and push her into the shuttle along with a few fellow Torontonians who were also heading back to the cold and snow with us that night. She was NOT ready to return home yet (and truth be told, neither was I!)
The Cozumel sunsets had already become a distant memory, with only a bottle of tequila and a pound of Mexican coffee which we had brought back as gifts for friends, as proof that we’d been spent a week in that warm, sunny climate!