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Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 12:42 PM   #1
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Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Presently planning a post holiday escape for self and DW to Mexico. We have enjoyed Mazatlan twice over the years, but have no knowledge of other areas of the country. Since the cruise post revealed a few snorkel enthusiasts, I will put it to y'all; where would you go in Mexico for a week of 'swim with 'de fishies'? Any other info on recommended spots (lodging, other activities) will be appreciated.

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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 01:52 PM   #2
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

I would recommend Cozumel, which is our favorite spot in Mexico for anything to do with water. The water will be clearer and slightly warmer than anything on the Pacific Coast, and almost the whole west side of the island is a marine park so the sea life is excellent.

It is actually best known as a dive site, but there is good snorkling as well. It has become much more crowded as it has become more popular, especially with the cruise ships stopping by, but that is easily avoided since the crowds are pretty much limited to town and even there to just the few blocks near the water. If you stay at a resort at the south end of the island, you will actually be fairly isolated and have to take a taxi into town if you need to be in a crowd.

If you actually like crowds, of course, you can also stay on the mainland. The whole coast from Cancun down to Playa del Carmen has been developed and the water there is also good, although not up to Cozumel.

You can fly directly to Cozumel, but we usually fly in and out of Cancun. More flights and cheaper flights there and there is excellent bus service for the relatively short trip to Playa del Carmen and the ferry to Cozumel.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 03:30 PM   #3
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anansi

You can fly directly to Cozumel, but we usually fly in and out of Cancun. More flights and cheaper flights there and there is excellent bus service for the relatively short trip to Playa del Carmen and the ferry to Cozumel.
I was looking into a trip to Cozumel over Christmas but gave up because I couldn't find good airfare (5 passengers). I never thought of Cancun. Is there any info online about the bus and ferry schedules? Can you catch a bus right at the airport?
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 04:02 PM   #4
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

As I said in the other thread, Chankanaab at Cozumel is good. However, if you go to Cozumel, I highly recommend that you scuba instead of snorkel. There is some great drift diving there. A natural current (about 4 knots) flows between the island of Cozumel and the mainland. So when you go diving, the boat takes you to one end of a reef and you dive down, then the current takes you along the reef without any effort on your part. It's an awesome experience which many people have likened to floating in space. If you decide to dive there, ask your divemaster to take you to Devil's Throat. You dive down to 140 feet and enter a lava tube, swimming up and around (single file), and come out at about 20 feet. Lots of animals and coral in the tube.

For other activities, there are some ruins on Cozumel, but they aren't very impressive. There is also a lighthouse on the point of the island.

If you go to the mainland, there is a nature park called Xcaret http://www.xcaret.com/ near Playa Del Carmen where you can swim in an underground river for about 1/2 mile. They also have a swim-with-the-dolphins attraction.

I highly recommend Chichen-Itza http://www.differentworld.com/mexico...ichen_itza.htm if you are into history. Great ruins there, including the great Mayan pyramid of Kulkukan and the Well of the Souls. You can actually climb to the top of the pyramid, but be careful, several people have been killed when they slipped and fell down the long staircase. Mel Gibson's Apocalypto movie is based on this culture.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 05:26 PM   #5
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Cozumel is one of the best scuba diving spots anywhere. You can snorkel, but really you'll miss out on a world class opportunity. As for staying on the island, I thought it was pretty much a pit. Nothing there, nothing to do, stinking open sewers and ots of flies.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 06:56 PM   #6
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by donheff
Is there any info online about the bus and ferry schedules? Can you catch a bus right at the airport?
Try google for 'Cancun to Playa del Carmen' and 'Playa del Carmen to Cozumel' and you will find several listings for the buses and ferries probably including the official ones, but the buses are frequent enough that I have never bothered to check a schedule.

You can get a bus ticket in the airport, then just exit the airport, turn right and there will be a bus at the end of the terminal. There is also a shuttle if you don't want to wait for the bus and you can always take a taxi. The bus is very nice and inexpensive although I forget the exact price. The shuttle was and probably still is $15 US per person (still not bad) and a taxi is negotiable but you can get one for $50 even with no negotiating skills.

There are two ferry lines between Playa and Cozumel, both large and fast with nothing to chose between them. Should be one going (with the other coming) every hour (less often on the weekends which I discovered the hard way). Ferry is about $10 US per person.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 07:14 PM   #7
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by ronin
Nothing there, nothing to do, stinking open sewers and ots of flies.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and I am sorry if that was your experience, but I have been to Cozumel many times and this isn't at all like my experience. Sounds like you are only describing the Plaza and a few blocks around it (which I still like).

If you like drinking and shopping and similar tourist stuff, that has become abundantly available near where the cruise ships dock in the last few years. Personally, that is what I go to get away from, so 'nothing to do' plus incredible diving and beautiful beaches is just fine. I don't recall flies every being an issue and the only open drain I can recall was the one through the main Plaza, but that wasn't a sewer and it has been covered for years now.

You can stay in town and still avoid the tourist areas and if you stay at one of the resorts south of town you will be completely removed from all that. And the main dive sites and best beaches are south of town anyway.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 08:49 PM   #8
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Your question reminded me of a memorable dive trip to Mexico to a place that was rather obscure at the time. I dont think tourists knew about it back then but out of curiosity I googled it and its known now - http://www.frvb.org/puentededios.htm
I was there quite some time ago and I recall it was a bit of hike getting into Puente de Dios from where the road (dirt road that is) ended. It was great but I wished instead of hauling tank, reg, bc, etc, Id instead brought snorkel gear, light provisions for a week, a sleep pad and bug net, and maybe a little easily portaged kayak. Id have been happy to hang out exploring the area for a week. On the way out we walked past signs nailed to trees warning us of a cholera outbreak in the area. Things are probably better now. Media Luna was OK; mostly what I remember is the big rattlesnake in the water where I surfaced at the end of my dive. Puente de Dios was worth a repeat visit.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 08:55 PM   #9
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

We have a timeshare in Cancun. It has been a great experience each visit. If you are a beginner diver, Xel-Ha is a great place just south of Cancun. If you are more experienced, some of the places mentioned around Cozumel should quench your thirst for aquatic adventure. Cancun has matured. There is something for every taste there now.

http://www.cancuntrips.net

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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 09:46 PM   #10
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by ronin
As for staying on the island, I thought it was pretty much a pit. Nothing there, nothing to do, stinking open sewers and ots of flies.
Depends on what you're looking for.

We spent a week with my family (wife and two teenage daughters at the time) on Cozumel in spring 2005. We really enjoyed it. Rented a house in the hotel zone north of town (San Miguel - only town on the island) and rented a car to get around (beat up old VW - probably could have done better with that). We're not big on hotels or all-inlcusvies - prefer our own space, dealing with local grocers, etc. There was a group of fortyish women in the house next door who were down from the midwest for a "girls week out" sort of thing. They seemed a fun bunch at least some of whom had been going there for years. I got the sense whhile there that there are a number of folks who love the place and go back all the time.

We snorkeled from shore at Chankanaab and couple of the "beach clubs" on the
sourtern end of the island. The beach clubs are small outdoor bar/restaurants/dive shops that let you set up camp for the day on their patio furniture, use their showers and bathrooms, etc., in exchange for buying your food and drinks from them. I thought the snorkeling was pretty good and easy to access on your own (but not packed with fish like Hanauma Bay on Oahu, for example, and no spectacular coral formations like I've only seen in National Geographic). Clear water - easy access from shore - some fish and some coral. We didn't dive, though dive operators and schools abound
and, as pointed by others, that seems to be Cozumel's claim to fame.

Parts of San Miguel are indeed run down, particularly as you move away from the front few blocks that cater to the
cruisers and other tourists. But we didn't encounter flies (perhaps that's a seasonal thing) or open sewers. It's not Disneyland, but the local conditions are local color. I never felt unsafe, enjoyed the place, and the people we dealt with were mostly very friendly and helpful if needed. Speaking some Spanish helps.

San Miguel is a town on it's own in addition to the cruise port/tourist trade. Most residents are not wealthy by any means. Many are probably quite poor by north american standards. Young kids bag groceries after school for tips, but no beggars or pushy street vendors, etc. (except perhaps for the time share guys, but a simple "no gracias" keeps them at bay). Overall it is a pretty low key place but there are shops, bars and restarants that cater to the tourist crowd, and there are many small independent businesses in addtion to the more franchised places that target the cruisers. The ocean side of the island is almost completely undeveloped - a few beach club/restaurants, no protected beaches, but a surprising amount of litter washed up on the beaches over there as they are not maintained.

An informative website that includes a discussion forum run by a resident expat is at cozumelmycozumel.com
I found it helpful for getting recommendations on housing, car and other general planning information.

Cozumel was hit pretty hard by hurricane a year or so ago. Not sure how well they've put things back together since.

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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-10-2006, 10:27 PM   #11
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

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Originally Posted by sparkythewonderdog
Cozumel was hit pretty hard by hurricane a year or so ago. Not sure how well they've put things back together since.
Cozumel really got pounded. They have been hit by two storms recently and the last one was very big storm and it just parked over the island. We have pictures of the island immediately after the storm and the destruction was genuinely impressive.

Things are more or less back to normal now, however. The sea life was also hit hard which is probably why you saw fewer fish there than in Oahu. We were also there in 2005 and there was much less sea life than the year before. Hopefully it is recovering.

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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-11-2006, 04:35 PM   #12
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

A few years back, we spent our honeymoon in Cozumel. We stayed at Plaza las Glorias (now Hotel Cozumel Palace) (in town) specifically to get the local flavor of San Miguel, and we were not disappointed. We walked to restaurants and bars. The locals were very friendly - it does help to attempt some Spanish. The hotel had a swim-up bar!

It was a diver's paradise, although we did not dive, we snorkeled. The coral reefs were breathtaking. We took a guided snorkel tour. We were told that since a lot of divers came there, any restaurant that a diver developed "intestinal issues" at, their tourist trade would end. So, there are a lot of water filtration systems visible at restaurants.

When you want to dry out and take a historical trip, we flew directly to Chichen Itza (Mayan ruins in the Yucatan). The flight took about 30 minutes by plane, but, by bus the trip would take all day over treacherous moutain roads.

We would highly recommend the sopa de lima (chicken lime soup).

All in all, a perfect honeymoon, lots of time at the pool and snorkeling, along with a historical trip.

Dos cervezas, por favor!
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-12-2006, 10:07 AM   #13
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

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Originally Posted by Sparky
When you want to dry out and take a historical trip, we flew directly to Chichen Itza (Mayan ruins in the Yucatan). The flight took about 30 minutes by plane, but, by bus the trip would take all day over treacherous moutain roads.
LOL (I bolded the words I laughed at)
The road is quite ok (at least was in '99 and '02). It's a day trip from Cancun and I'm sure you can arrange ferry/bus combination from Cozume). No need to avoid it, and you might get a better glimpse of local life, especially if the bus makes a stop at the gas station for lunch and you'll see Mayan women preparing tortillas on the side of the road.
I wonder if they emphasized "treacherous road" as a way of gouging you into buying the plane ticket.

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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-12-2006, 11:18 AM   #14
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

I have a place in San Felipe BC MX, I've never been to the mainland of Mexico. We have some really good snorkeling south about 50 miles in Bahia Santa Maria (Gonzaga Bay) and also a little further south in Bay of Los Angeles. Viva Baja 8)
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-12-2006, 05:15 PM   #15
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparky
When you want to dry out and take a historical trip, we flew directly to Chichen Itza (Mayan ruins in the Yucatan). The flight took about 30 minutes by plane, but, by bus the trip would take all day over treacherous moutain roads.
Mountain roads? The Yucatan peninsula is about as flat as Florida. I don't think there is a mountain within 1000 miles and the roads are fine.

But Sparky is absolutely right that Chichen Itza is worth visiting. It is one of the great archeological sites in the world. The flight is expensive, but if money is no object certainly the most convenient way to go. It is an all day trip even from Cancun by bus (but a nice bus) and harder to get to from Cozumel.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-12-2006, 05:49 PM   #16
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Hmmm lets see...

Cancun's road to Chichen Itza (aka Chicken Pizza) used to be a rambling rutty part dirt road that traveled through a variety of tiny little mexican villages. Frequent stops by the ancient school bus led to tasty snacks like homemade coconut ice cream and many hand made items that could be purchased for half a song. It took all day to get there and back.

On my last visit, the road had been replaced with a four lane straight as an arrow highway and air conditioned superbusses were the mode of transport. You stop at a "rest area" and have a nice rubber chicken lunch that'll have you reminiscing about the airplane food and get to look over the same Mexicrap thats hawked by the guys in town.

I liked the old way better.

Cancun does have some snorkeling although in general you're on a bus to get to it, some of it has been "manufactured" by heavy equipment, and some of it is fairly cheesy. I think one outfit has created a lagoon area, walled it off, and you can swim with dolphins, although I dont think they're indigenous to the area. The snorkeling spots i've been too were nice but unmemorable. What was a sleepy little fishing village when I first visited about 20 years ago now has high rise buildings, shopping malls, disco's, every store and fast food joint on the planet, and you're hammered with timeshares/tee shirts/hats/etc. The only thing I enjoyed about my last trip about 7-8 years ago was a cool little restaurant where you got a bucket, picked fresh fish from an iced 'salad bar' to put in your bucket, then gave it to the cook and told him how you wanted each thing prepared. A short while later a huge sizzling platter came out to your table with all your choices prepared exactly to your liking. Fun.

Twenty years ago cozumel was a ratty smelly fly infested craphole with some of the best diving and snorkeling I've ever experienced, and i've experienced plenty. The above mentioned drift diving is fantastic. Non practitioners can be taken on shallow dives with some short schooling and lots of liability waivers, and you can be fully PADI certified in three days and then enjoy the rest of your vacation under water. Many of the hotels have snorkeling right off shore, dive shops right in the hotel, and its a very short boatride to the reefs that are within sight of the shore. One snorkel outfit I enjoyed a lot had some little floating rafts with a 20-25' breathing tube that let you semi-dive in the shallow areas with no special skills.

As of my last visit, its no longer ratty, smelly or fly infested, its got some nice hotels, not too built up, plenty of good cheap food, nice beaches and lots to do for a week or two. I havent been there since the recent storms, but it sounds like thats not a problem anymore.

Having been up and down both coasts of mexico, my vote is for cozumel for the best snorkeling and diving, cancun is okay for touristy light duty snorkeling. Nothing I ever saw on the western coast was worth the trouble.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-12-2006, 07:22 PM   #17
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

We also went to Tulum by bus - where the drivers play a game of chicken - one lane road where the buses drive as fast as possible and wait for the other guy to blink and pull off. We're still here to talk about it...
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-12-2006, 07:24 PM   #18
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by This space for rent
Hmmm lets see...

Cancun's road to Chichen Itza (aka Chicken Pizza)
or "chicken itchy".
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 12-15-2006, 04:27 PM   #19
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

I would strongly vote for Cozumel.
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico
Old 01-31-2007, 10:51 AM   #20
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Re: Best snorkel spot in Mexico

Frankly, I avoid the tourist areas at all costs. Don't misunderstand me, I 've done many of them over the years, but the time share sharks and scammers have gotten pretty bad. I go to Manzanillo. Very high local employment and lower tourism ( and I hope it stays that way ) makes this a prosperous and VERY safe location on he Pacific.

I love it.
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