Advanced Scuba Divers
8th trip to Coz, hopes to make it home someday
We love Cozumel, so much so that it is hard to budget any travel money for us to go anywhere else. We hope to live there one day, at least part time. We are advanced divers, but for us the people of the island make it the destination of choice. We also stay away from the all inclusive, because we love the restaurants on the island, and love the town. Thanks to the cozumelmycozumel.com website, as the recommendations and chat rooms got us off to a good start so long ago.
Took the leg from MIA – PHL…great for us coming from Philadelphia, but the plane to CZM was only about 60% full, and the return on Sunday was had only 30 people onboard. Flight attendant said the Sunday flight there was full…we hope this flight continues, but it seems that occupancy is very low.
Coz continues the archaic practice of using shuttles for multiple folks from the airport, instead of individuals being allowed to grab a taxi from the airport. This time we had to wait for 30 minutes for the last two seats to be filled, the longest we’ve yet had to wait, and this is annoying part of arriving at CZM. We think a 30 minute wait, though, is probably out of the ordinary.
Taxis continue to be reliable, but our impression is the rates went up when cruise ships were in port. One particular bad experience where we unexpectedly got overcharged almost 50%...hint: Agree on a price before you get in the cab. All taxi drivers were friendly.
We stayed at Casa Mexicana, flight and room booked through Travelocity. We had a non-water view room for 8 nights, with flights, which cost $1725 for both of us. We like CM because it’s super-clean, in town, and provides a gourmet breakfast with both Mexican and American choices to get us off diving quickly in the am. A/C was nice and chilly, pillow-top mattress was comfy.
We’ve been diving for nine years, which gives us a good perspective on how diving is developing post hurricane Wilma. Our experience is the diving gets better every year, with this year the diving being utterly spectacular. I can remember post-Wilma to be excited by one lobster on a dive…now they are everywhere, as are turtles and nurse sharks. Saw an Octopus munching on a conch, and saw a lot of crab too. We dove with “Dive Paradise”, which is a big enough operator that can be flexible with specific needs; we take the fast boats to get us down to the reefs quick from town. DP gives us free lockers at Barracuda hotel to store our dive gear, so we don’t have to lug it back and forth to the hotel. Nice rinse tank at Barracuda, and the dock is right there for pickup as well. Note to divers: you can do “Devil’s Throat”, and see the majesty of the pinnacle coral formations at Columbia Deep, but if you want to see the animals stay above 60 ft. Delilah, Columbia Shallows, and Francesca were all teeming with life of all sorts. Dive Masters Julio and Emilio were outstanding. And here’s another point: If you dive with dive masters, and don’t leave a tip, you suck. These dive masters deserve to earn a living, and when I see them stiffed it is the only thing that makes me angry on the island. If you stiff a dive crew, I’m embarrassed for you and when I see you at the bar later on you’ll hear from me.
We love the restaurants, and plan where we will go closely to make the most of our time. One piece of advice: Go to these restaurants with pesos, not U.S. dollars. We get our pesos from the ATM when we get there, figuring out how much we will budget for restaurants. ATM exchange rates for us were 12.79 – 13. Most restaurants have a poor exchange rate (11 or below), and some of the local loncherias will have more difficulty. Please note we love Mexican and Seafood, so we concentrate on that. I’m sure Guido’s is great, but we haven’t had a desire for Italian while visiting Coz yet.
Here’s what worked for us and what didn’t:
What worked for us:
1. Los Palmas Cocina Economica (Lunch Only) (Av 25/Calle 3)
(NOT to be confused with the restaurant PALMERAS, on the plaza by the ferry terminal, which I would NOT recommend.)
Without a doubt, the most delicious yet inexpensive food we found on the island, with an impressive selection of dishes, a short walking distance from the main plaza. We originally found this place after a poor experience at a neighboring Cocina recommended on this website, Las Flamitas. While the food was good at Flamitas, the service was “uncomfortable” and we got taken hard on their exchange. A divemaster recommended Los Palmas to us, and it’s now one of our favorites. Incredibly friendly, we gringos made to feel part of the family. Since almost no English is spoken, they took the time to give us complimentary samples of their specials, a very nice gesture. All meals come with soup, bean dip, chips and salsa, and flavored water Our first meal: 2 orders of grilled fish (grouper) in butter, all for 130 pesos ($11 US) People, that’s $5.50/person for a fresh fish dinner as delicious as you will find. An open kitchen allows you to see all the delicious preperations.
2. Casa Denis (Lunch/Dinner) (Plaza)
Our favorite restaurant; oldest on the island, started in 1945. We have been coming here so long we are now personal friends with one of the waiters, and both the owner and all the staff know us by name. Truth be told, you can find better prices on the island. But the service, atmosphere, and location near the plaza continue to make this our favorite. The best restaurant on the plaza by far, some of whom are downright awful and overpriced. Casa Denis must like us, as they continue to refill our Margarita glasses for fun. Try the Mayan Chicken!
3. Camillos (Lunch/Dinner) (AV 5/Calle 2)
Incredible fish, shrimp tacos, shrimp ceviche and in my opinion the best guacamole we’ve had on the island. We ordered 3 cokes and 6 tacos and one order of guacamole for 231 pesos
4. El Foco (Dinner) (AV 5/Calle 3)
A favorite of ours from last trip, we were sad to see the original restaurant closed, but in fact found out it moved to AV 5/Calle 3. Get the “Alligator” taco. 2 tacos orders, 2 cokes, 1 water for 280 pesos. Tasty but not quite as economical. If you are looking for fish or shrimp tacos I’d recommend heading to Camillos.
5. Los Seras (Dinner) (AV 30/Calle 4)
We were sorry we missed Chilango’s this trip, but we did make it to Los Seras. Long line for pizza, must be very popular for that with locals. We had two delicious tacos each, beef and chicken, although we found out later that pork is their specialty. (we are kind of newbies in regard to what’s good at a taqueria). 4 tacos/ 2 waters for 102 pesos.
What did not work for us:
1. Casa Mission (AV 55/Calle 10 Sur)
Nice ambiance, average food. What Gringo tourista doesn’t want to dine at a gorgeous hacienda with pretty trees and plants and classic Mexican architecture? Very little selection on the menu, and food average at best. We had the Ceasar Salad, broiled chicken and Beef Tampiquena. $650 pesos or $53. Don’t feel bad if you want to go, but for me there are too many other better options on the island. Did get to hear our “Cozumel Song” though, sung but an outstanding trio of musicians.
2. Sonora Grill: Closed, building for rent. Doesn’t look like its coming back.
3. La Choza (AV 10/Calle 3 Sur) Food only ok, and moderately pricy. 4 cokes (weather was hot folks!), 1 water, chicken fajitas, Negro poblano chicken, Flan, lime sherbert, 470 pesos. We end up here every year on Sunday as they seem to be the only place open, and we are hungry after our morning dive.
Places we wanted to try and missed:
July and August is brutally hot in the afternoon. We typically find ourselves walking the town in the afternoon, but we found ourselves doing the “Siesta” and taking long afternoon naps to escape the heat.
I fell in love with Cozumel in the plaza on Sunday nights, seeing the children of American divers play with local Mexican children, seeing both young and old couples dance, to witness the culture of community and family. Do not miss the plaza on Sunday night. Consider purchasing local Moms’ homemade food for sale on the plaza, to include tortas, tamales, and homemade desserts…consider that, instead of restaurants, for a change on Sunday night as you sit and watch the band play and people dance.
I am a Fire Battalion Chief in a major northeastern US city, and Laurie and I were honored with a nice visit to Cozumel’s only fire station. The firefighters were friendly, welcoming and funny, and gave me a great tour. For any who are firefighters, I recommend you stop by and pay a visit. I purchased a very cool fire t-shirt which they sell to raise money. I was stunned at how minimal their staffing and equipment is considering the size of the island and population of San Miguel.
I hope this report helps visitors enjoy their stay on the island, and we’d look forward to hearing from you on if you agree or disagree, or if this has been any help to you.
Bob and Laurie