Mexico – Scuba Diving and Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula

other post titles considered-

  • WIND.  Damn you wind!
  • Kim and Geoff tour taquerias of the Yucatan
  • Geoff get’s over his fear of being underground

One of our first Christmases together, I promised Kim SCUBA lessons.  Last summer we did some amazing snorkeling in Belize, and it got me really fired up to dive again.  When we found ourselves with a few weeks before Kim started her new job, our conversation turned to travel.  No surprise to those that know us well. Combine all these factors, and we started to look for places that we could go, where Kim could learn to dive in warm water.

I hopped on the computer, and started seeking cheap last minute airfare.  We talked about going back to Belize, but were both interested in seeing something new.   Cancun and the Yucatan peninsula became the goal.  I booked tickets, planned some hotels, and found a dive shop.   Kim took her online classes, and soon we were on a plane heading for Mexico.  Our plan was to spend just a few days in Cancun while Kim did her class and we did one day of fun diving, then we’d head inland for a few days, then to Tulum and Cozumel for more diving.  I’d been to Cozumel 15-16 years ago, but not since.


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The weather and wind had something else to say about our plans, but it was a fantastic trip.

We got to Cancun LATE saturday night, and caught a shared cab into town.  We were staying in the cheaper section, downtown, but our cab mates were staying in the hotel zone.  It was insane.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It looks like Vegas with a beach.  Absolutely crazy.  As we drove along, I tried to find a non-american looking restaurant and couldn’t.  there were malls and starbucks.  Truly looked more like Orange County crossed with Vegas, more than any other part of mexico I’ve seen. Crazy.

We slept well, and rose early for Kim’s first class.  A short pool session and we were supposed to go diving that afternoon.  Wind closed the port. Darn it.  We explored the area, walking on the beach and visiting some stores.  That evening we walked all over trying find a restaurant, but it was worth it.

Monday – The next day I enjoyed a great dive in the morning, a 60 foot dive on a reef with some crew members from MTV’s show “The Real World – Cancun”.  It was a great dive, and I was excited to share diving with Kim.   Unfortunately, by the time we came up, the wind had picked up and the boat returned to port before even our second dive.  Damn.

Kim and I took the afternoon and went to Isla Mujeres.  This is a small, less developed island just north of Cancun.  It was pretty, and we really enjoyed it.  We headed to the end of the island, and did some very nice snorkeling just from shore, followed by exploring the town.  We both like the island, much more our “speed” than Cancun.  We’ll go back there for sure.

Tuesday– This was supposed to be our last day in Cancun, but I was starting to think we were going to need to move stuff around.  The boat was going out early, and doing shallow dives, so Kim would have her first experience in the ocean.  On the boat ride out, it was clear she was pretty nervous.  She’s never jumped off a diving board, and isn’t a terribly strong swimmer.  She’s only had a short pool session to get used to the diving, and that was in 4 foot deep pool.  Who could blame her?  We’re hurtling out into the ocean, on a small boat in choppy seas.  She was scared, but brave.  I got in the water first, and waited on the bottom.  Watching, I could see that she was having trouble clearing her ears, and was scared.  The instructor held her hand, or I did, but in the end, the 1st 2 dives ended up just getting her comfortable in the water.  The second dive that morning was really pretty, and got Kim excited about diving, but we were now 2 days of diving away from her goal of getting Open Water certified. Clearly, our schedule would have to change.

We knew we weren’t diving weds, the boat was full, but booked diving for Thurs and Friday.  I changed our hotels, and we rented a car.  We only had an afternoon, so we drove to Puerto Muerelos, a small fishing town south of Cancun.  We enjoyed being away from the bustle, and just chilled walking around the beach and eating a yummy dinner.  Back to Cancun for bed.

Wednesday- We woke early, and drove to Vallalodid.  Vallodid is more what I picture a Mexican town looking like.  We had an amazing, super cheap, super yummy, and super big breakfast, and walked around town a bit.  We drove a few miles west, and found a Cenote.  These are caverns filled with water, and we paid a few dollars to be allowed inside.  It was pretty neat to swim in an underground cavern, and for most of the time we were in there by ourselves. Good Stuff.

From there we drove to Chichen Itza, a Mayan pyramid. It’s gorgeous, and famous, but that also translates to crazy crowded. We wandered there for quite some time, then headed out for dinner, returning for the evening light show. that was a little too Las Vegas for me. A late drive home, and we hoped to dive again in the morning.

Thursday
I went diving in the morning, and got two tanks in.  It was gorgeous, and I’m fired up about diving again. I really enjoyed my two dives, and can’t wait to do more with Kim. She finally got to dive again that afternoon, and did spectacular. She was brave, did many skills, and swam around by herself. Absolutely perfect, and I was beaming with pride. She even enjoyed it! We looked forward to more the next day, so she could hopefully complete her Open Water Certification.

We had a good time that evening, just relaxing and eating.

Friday
We rose to the sounds of wind, but optimistically rode the bus to the shop. Nope, no diving today. Damn. Went and rented a car again, and got a late morning start heading south. Our destination was Tulum, another Mayan site most well known for it’s amazing seaside perch. As we drove, I kept seeing signs to “Rio Secreto” and by the time we got there, it had worked and I pulled in. Just a few cars in the lot, and we asked what it was about. It’s a cavern, with water and flowing water. The price was a bit high, so we negotiated and debated, and eventually decided to go.

Totally worth it, and a highlight of the trip. The cenote/cave was incredible. It was just us and our guide in the cave. You walked much of it, but had to swim some sections. They had a B.S. excuse for why cameras were not allowed, but it worked and I bought the outrageous expensive photos. Just a really cool, really neat experience with a good guide.

From there we drove to Tulum. Not much to say, but it was pretty, and we liked the town of Tulum and plan to go back and stay there sometime. We had a great dinner sitting on the beach, with the most incredible shrimp dish I think I’ve ever had.

Another late drive home to Cancun, hoping to dive Sat.

Saturday Alas, it was not to be. No diving today. Wind. We still had our trusty rental, so we headed west Vallodid for another amazing breakfast, and then to Ek Balum, another Mayan site. It’s not as big as chichen Itza, but gorgeous, and no crowds. Perhaps 2 dozen people were there at the same time as us. Really cool. We climbed the pyramid for some amazing views. That area is FLAT.

We’d planned on going to Copan next, but i spotted Rio Lagonitas in the guidebook, and was intrigued by the wild flamingos. So we drove an hour north, to the Gulf of Mexico. The town was cute, and really sleepy. We didn’t see any other tourists at all. We hired a boat for a reasonable rate, and heading into the biological reserve. It’s mostly a mangrove forest, with brackish water, and was gorgeous. We saw an amazing variety of birds, and crocodiles! Our guide was cool, and seemed to enjoy showing us stuff. After an hour or so, we saw our first flocks of flamingos. They are funny looking birds, especially in flight. Hundreds of flamingos around. Very, very cool.

On the way back, we stopped for a swim in some super salinated water, where you could float impossible high, and covered ourselves in “Mayan mud”. A swim in ocean to rinse, and we were back in town a few hours later. Awesome, awesome trip, and one of the highlights of this vacation. In town, we feasted on a big plate of crab claws, and then another late drive back to cancun. Where we ate more tacos. I love tacos.

Sunday This was our last chance, but unfortunately, the ports were closed again. Although Kim didn’t get her Open Water certification, she got certified as a Scuba Diver, and I’m both excited and proud. She wants to do more, and wants to repeat/complete the Open Water course. I’m all in favor of that.

We decided to head back to Isla Mujeres. I was a bit tired of driving. We had a great day on the island. We did some snorkeling, and visited a turtle farm/rehabilitation facility, and hung out on the beach. We’re not really “hang out on the beach” types. We both prefer to be doing something, but after a jammed full week, it was pretty nice. We had another big dinner of crabs, and it was back to the mainland.

Monday was an early morning. We had to catch an early flight home. We had a long (9 hour) layover in houston, and were really happy when my father and step-mom (Malcolm and Deborah) were able to meet us. We went to a museum, had a great lunch, tea, and just hung out. A very pleasant day, over too soon, and we were soon on the plane back to California.

(Most of the Underwater photos were taken snorkeling, not diving. My camera is only waterproof to 33 feet, so i was limited. Next time I’ll have a housing for it! )

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2 Comments

  1. Hey! Beautiful pics! Sounds like you had a great trip! I am going to the same place in about 1 1/2 months! Can’t wait!

  2. Hi there- those goofy flamingos! your pics are awesome:) glad you guys got to travel before all the big changes….

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