Playa Del Carmen and Isla Cozumel
Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
7Trip End Jan 04, 2009
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Where I stayed
The next day, after breakfast under a palapa (shade made of palm tree) in the courtyard of our quaint hotel, we caught the 9am ferry to Isla Cozumel, about half an hour east of Playa Del Carmen.
We had planned to go snorkelling, but after talking to a Canadian diver the night before at dinner, decided to take an introductory dive with one of the many diving outfits on the island. Our instructor, Edgar, luckily spoke English fluently so we had a short lesson on the basics. At first we were thinking that it might be dodgy to go out without the proper training and were questioning the wisdom of our decision, although the outfit was PADI certified and we were taken to a shallow part of the reef. Worst-case we could have just swum up to the surface without any problems. We saw heaps of amazing, brightly-coloured fish, two golden eels, and a gigantic spotted eel. We were probably underwater for about an hour which was good for our first dive - and now we are all inspired to get our PADI certificates when we return home.
Afterwards we were quite hungry so we had a cheap but yummy lunch of fajitas and nachos in a little bar in the main town, San Miguel, and spotted our first iguana on the high cement wall opposite. It was very lazy!
San Miguel had some lovely architecture but was quite geared to the tourists that disembark from the cruise ships so we decided to get a scooter for a few hours and drive around the southern part of the island. The western shore was frustrating as there was minimal public beach access - it was occupied with resorts or little bars that expected you to buy drinks or food to swim at the beach.
Rounding the tip of the island, Punta Sur, the beaches became more accessible, mostly due the warnings that the waves can be rough on that side. The beaches stretched right up that side of the island and reminded us a bit of home.
On the way back to San Marino, we stopped at a petrol station and filled up for around 12 pesos - less than CAD$1! However, the attendant tried to take around 20 pesos as a tip and gave me the incorrect change. At that stage I didn't realise how little it was worth and I was peeved at him for assuming we were stupid tourists he could rip off. So I called him on it, in front of a bunch of locals which was a bit disconcerting. He acted vague but gave me the extra 20 pesos he owed me. It was lucky I knew my Spanish numbers! We returned the scooter and hopped on the ferry back to Playa Del Carmen.
After a shower and change, we headed out on the town again, this time walking further north along Quinta Avenida, the main restaurant and shopping street. We found a place to sit outside at a fairly casual restaurant and ordered some burritos. While we were waiting for our order, the staff brought us some tortilla chips and assorted dips to try. I was a bit wary of some of them and tried small tastes, but I put a decent amount of the green one on a tortilla chip, thinking it was some variation of guacamole. It wasn't! My mouth started burning something shocking - I had to get Nath to borrow the salt from a nearby table for me to put some on my hand and lick it (it's supposed to stop the burning somehow but didn't seem to work that well). I had ordered a local beer to try and in trying to stop the burning, drank it so fast my head spun! My mouth didn't recover for over five minutes of burning, and even after that it wasn't quite right. We had a laugh about it in the end - the couple whose salt we borrowed said they had done exactly the same thing a few minutes earlier!
We found a bar on the beach that a friend had recommended and enjoyed some quiet margheritas, but left when they started playing loud techno music. It just ruined the atmosphere and by that stage our big day had caught up with us!
The next morning after an early swim at the beach, we picked up our rental car and headed south out of Playa Del Carmen to Puerto Aventuras.