Cozumel Chaos: When Seas Get Rough and Paste Gets Grounded

Puerto Morelos beach club

Well, it’s been a long while since I physically ran for a plane. I travel a lot, so I’ve learned it’s better to be three hours early than three minutes late. You get to the airport timely, relax in some lounge or people-watch from the bar. Less stress. Fewer complications. When my cousin texted me that she would be doing her scuba diving certification in Cozumel, México and asked if I wanted to come, I had no idea I what I was in for.

To the Caribbean!

I’m living in Mazatlán right now. It’s a lovely town on the Pacific Coast of México. Much cooler than most tropical places I have been to. In fact, I wear a jacket and sweatpants most of the time. It will get hot in the summer, but not now. There’s plenty of opportunity to swim in the ocean, but it’s cold. I’m excited to visit Cozumel with its hot-hot Caribbean sun. Plus, I used to live in Playa del Carmen and I have some wonderful friends there. I’m in!

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of Cozumel letters
You just have to get a shot in front of the town letters!

After meeting up with a friend of a friend who retired to Mazatlán, I got the name of a trusted taxi driver to take me to the airport. Taxi Unions frown upon ride-share companies taking their airport business and you don’t mess with the Taxi Union. He showed up early and got me to the airport plenty fast. My lounge research suggested that the only lounge I could use was before security, but I could not find it anywhere. Maybe it moved?

There was not a single person in line for passport control (I didn’t even pull down my mask!) and security was empty of all passengers. Am I at an airport? It all went so fast, I didn’t even have time to take off my multiple jackets, but they didn’t seem to mind. I look non-threatening enough. It was a wonderful surprise to find that lounge I was looking for on the way to find my gate. It was also a surprise to discover that the entire wing of the airport was completely empty. Echo inducing empty… creepy empty. Um…

Love me some lounge access

Turns out that my flight is the first flight of the day and I am here so early that no one else has turned up yet. Which is weird because my flight is at noon. Well, at least the lounge is open. They don’t have much food (just snacks) and no mimosas (how dare they!), but the wine is delightful, and the space is pleasant. It’s so early and empty that the two ladies at the front desk are just chilling while doing their hair and makeup. Humans are fascinating.

Palm trees
This is my view from my lounger at the beach club in Puerto Morelos. Paradise!

I decided to try to figure out what lounges I could use at my layover in Mexico City. While looking up flight history to determine what gate I would likely land at and which lounges would be nearby, I noticed that my particular flight had been canceled a few days ago. I wonder what happened a few days ago? Didn’t a door fly off some plane and that type of plane got grounded by the FAA? I wonder if México took the same precautions? Huh.

Mexico City airport was drastically different. Packed and bustling and massive. It took me a long time to find my gate and by then the lounge near there was full. I found a different lounge but, disappointingly, they only had chips and yogurt for this gluten-free human. The flight board showed numerous flights were getting delayed and canceled, which makes me nervous. However, I did have a wonderful time people-watching. Some lady tried to sneak in! She almost made it, too. I wonder how often that works for her?


With so much extra time, I leisurely wander back down to my designated waiting area. The people-watching is amazing; I see all these people running to catch planes. This one guy comes running up and the person at the desk yells at him to run to gate 77 and the guy takes off. Get there early, buddy. Who needs that kind of stress? I wait some more. They announce a flight for Guadalajara and most everyone around me gets up to head down the hall to a different gate.

Shark statue
How fun is this!?! Between the statues and the street art, Cozumel has surprised me.

That’s interesting. My flight should be boarding by now… I better go ask. Luckily, the crew behind the counter speaks English because I am at the wrong gate. Remember that guy running for gate 77 earlier? Yeah, that’s my gate too! Run!!! I grab my stuff and book it. The crew member is calling the gate and yelling down the hallway to let me through. Panic! What is happening!?! Thankfully, they let me on the plane but make me check my only luggage, claiming the flight is full.

Here’s the thing. The bus I’m planning on catching in Cancún leaves 30 minutes after my flight’s scheduled landing. If I miss that bus, I have to wait another hour for the next one. With carry-on only, I can make it as I know the airport. Now that I have to go and wait at baggage claim, I don’t think I will make it. And I’m pissed because there is plenty (and I mean plenty!) of space in the overhead bins, so there is no reason to make me check my bag.

Then we wait… and wait… and wait. What is going on? Why did they make me run? I’m stressed and upset for no reason! Looking at the safety guide, I also realize I am on that type of plane that just had the door fly off. I hope they don’t cancel this flight. More people keep trickling on, all out of breath and sweaty. I think that the whole gate change situation affected quite a few people. I am definitely not going to make my bus connection. Nothing I can do now. Sigh.

Octopus mural
See what I mean about the street art!?! There are some fantastic murals around here.

Run… again!

I finally relaxed and enjoyed the quick flight. They made up some time in the air and we landed almost on schedule. I casually wandered off the plane to baggage-claim, thinking I would have a good hour and ten minutes to wait for the next bus. Then my luggage popped out first! I can make that bus if I run!!! I see my bus. A quick glance at my watch confirmed I can make it (as long as the bus driver isn’t too punctual… thankfully, this isn’t Germany). And that I did with not a single minute to spare. Ha!

The bus driver said I could pay for the ride in Playa del Carmen as I didn’t have time to buy tickets inside the airport and you can’t buy the tickets online past the scheduled departure time. Then I noticed a different transit employee turn away a couple who had not purchased tickets yet, saying that they had to buy tickets at the kiosk inside the airport. That’s interesting. I’ll just keep quiet. I don’t want to get kicked off the bus.

Once in Playa, the driver took my cash with no problem. It looked like I was giving him a large tip for helping me with my bag. I’m not sure that money made its way to the bus company, but I could be wrong. No worries. I made it and met my friends out on the craziness that is Quinta Ave. Think of the strip in Las Vegas. That’s about what Quinta is, but better because it’s pedestrian only.

Mrs. ItchyFeet in heart shaped palapa
For the Instas!

Enjoying friends

It is so nice of my Playa friends to let me stay at their place. We had a great time swapping stories and sharing meals. We all met up with some other friends at a beach bar for all-you-can-eat BBQ the next day. It was fun catching up and hearing about all the things that are going on in the area. One of my friends (who I also met up with while in Lisbon, Portugal), just bought a house here, which is very exciting. I got to go over and check it out that evening. It is lovely.

After the BBQ, we decide to head to the store to pick up a few items. Here’s the thing. It’s now 4:45pm on a Sunday and some new law in Playa says all liquor sales end at 5pm. There’s no way we could get to the store, through the store, and through the line before 5pm. The computer won’t allow liquor checkouts after 5pm, so it’s all or nothing. You should have seen the mad dashes happening in that major outlet! I jumped in line and grabbed my friend’s bottle of wine out from the rest of her groceries because I would make it through self-checkout before her. Made it with a bare minute to spare!

That night, I had a lovely time chatting with my old friends, catching up, and doing a bit of puzzling before bed. Unfortunately, back before we left the BBQ, I made the ridiculous mistake of heading back up to the buffet toward the end to get some delicious (but warm!) potato salad. It’s the hot-hot tropics and I should know better. I got pretty sick that night, but was totally fine the next day. I only had two drinks all day, so don’t go thinking it was the alcohol. You would think after all these years and all of my time working in the medical field, I would make better choices. It was some tasty potatoes though!

Mrs. ItchyFeet by leaning lighthouse
The leaning lighthouse of Puerto Morelos! My Aussie friends from Coco said this place was lovely, so I’m really glad my Playa friends took me here.

Sand castles!

Our friends had a couple of other friends visiting at the same time. Smartly ditching their spouses and children for a ladies’ trip away from the Canadian winter. We decided to all pile into a car and hit up a fancy beach club in Puerto Morelos the next day. What a lovely location! Shaded lounge chairs. Gorgeous calm warm Caribbean blue ocean. White baby-powder fine sand. Very attentive waitstaff bringing drinks and ceviche. Wonderful company. It was lovely! You pay to use the lounge chairs and showers, but almost all of that can go toward food and drink. I ended up paying $3 USD to stay at that beach club all day.

I lived in Playa del Carmen for six months and never made it up to Puerto Morelos. If you visit this area, I recommend it. It looks like a really cute town. It even has a small Malecón next to El Faro Inclinado, an iconic leaning lighthouse. A hurricane in 1967 hit this area and caused the lighthouse to lean. Failing to remove it, they decided to leave it as it stands today. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I got a bit of a sunburn while visiting Puerto Morelos. Sorry, my dermatologist! After all that, we all went home and my wonderful Playa friends cooked a lovely meal at their place. They’re so nice! And the food was fabulous!

The next morning, after an amazing breakfast at my favorite Venezuelan restaurant, I headed to catch a ferry to Cozumel (pronounced Coe-sue-mail in Spanish). So I get to the ticket booth and this vender is telling me that the boat is very full so I need to pay extra for the first-class tickets so I can skip the line and load first. Otherwise, if they close the line before I get onboard, I will have to wait two hours for their next ferry or pay for tickets for the other ferry, which leaves in an hour.

Playa del Carmen beach
I got the best view on the Ferry from PDC to Cozumel!


And I fell for it! Ridiculous. It wasn’t that much more money, and I got to load first, so I picked great seats with amazing views, but there were plenty of seats left over. No need to pay extra. Plus, those second-class ticket holders gave me the real stink-eye as I cut them in line to load early. Some even tried to block me! But I’m tiny and fierce, so I just pushed my way through. Who needs personal space!?!

After the relaxing boat ride, I met up with my cousin and her beau for drinks in central Cozumel (say it with me: Coe-sue-mail, you can do this!). They had finished all their scuba certification stuff and were happy to get to do all the fun stuff for the rest of the week. I don’t dive, but I’m hoping to get some snorkeling in. The hotel is right across the street from the place I went snorkeling the last time I was here. They have underwater statues and some cool coral restoration contraptions. Plus a crap ton of fish. But first… to the hot tub! Then their tour company invited me to join them for a big group dinner. How nice is that?

Now, I know you are not supposed to snorkel by yourself, but there are an abundance of people around watching the ocean. I figure, if I get into trouble, someone will come save me. This is México, after all. The people here have this really wonderful sense of community and help strangers out a lot. However, after getting all my gear together and walking down to the dock, I realize that the ocean is really rough today. The waves are slamming dramatically into the concrete steps. Nope. Not today.

Scuba diving dock
This is the scuba diving and snorkeling dock just across the street from my hotel. There is really great snorkeling on the right side and the people-watching from under the palapas is fantastic.

Must snorkel at least once

No snorkeling today, but I found a wonderful lounger to people-watch and read. This is paradise. After a bit, I decide to walk to Chedraui (fancy grocery/department store) as one of my liquids bottles broke during the trip here. So it’s off and on raining a bit and the humidity is like a million percent. My leather and cork sandals have swollen and changed shape on me. By the time I get back, I have blisters all over my feet. Ouch!

It was wonderful to catch up with my cousin and her partner to hear all about the scuba diving. Massive sea turtles! Sharks! All the fishes! They promised they would snorkel with me, but those seas were pretty rough. We stuck to the swimming pool and hot tub. Cozumel is a major cruise ship port, so we got a kick out of watching those massive things coming and going. There must be like seven of those suckers out there right now!

The next day, determined to snorkel, I head down to the water. Nope. It’s worse than yesterday. Well, I have a good book, so no worries. My blistered feet want to stay and read all day long, but I really want to see one of those cruise ship terminals. Luckily, I brought water shoes so I just wore those instead of my warped sandals. I found cenotes! With baby turtles! So many freshwater turtles!

Cenote with turtles
So many baby turtles! I was very surprised to find this cenote near my hotel.

I will snorkel!

Finally, the next day, it was calm enough to snorkel. I saw a ton of fish. Without fins, I didn’t go out too far, but I still had a good time. After, these ladies stopped me to ask about the snorkeling. I told them all about the place I went to last time I was here and they were so excited. They ran upstairs to get their gear and headed over. After, we had a great time chatting about everything they saw. I love making new friends! I should have gone out snorkeling with them!

So much fun stuff happened, including another wonderful group dinner complete with a Mariachi band and fire cocktail making, coffee shop adventures, swim-up pool bar happy hour, sunsets in the hot tub, boat-people-watching, so much. However, this is getting to be a long blog and I have two more fun stories to tell.

The first story has to do with the ferry back to Playa del Carmen. It was really stormy, and the ride takes about 45 minutes. I got a bit concerned when the crew started passing out small blue plastic bags. What the crap are those for!?! I soon found out once that big boat got out into the open Caribbean waters. The front of the ferry would lift up and then come crashing down with a powerful stomach dropping lurch on one massive wave after another. It was fun at first, like a roller coaster ride, with everyone exclaiming dramatically.

Cozumel lighthouse
I do love me a gorgeous lighthouse! I get that from my pops.

I’m going to be sick!

But the more the boat rolled from side to side and up and down, the more people asked for those small blue bags. Puke bags! It was very smart of me to pick a spot by the window and to never let my eyes drift from the horizon. Otherwise, I would have been vomiting with the rest of them. And there was a lot. I almost got sick just from the sounds. Crazy ride but we made it!

The last story I have for your reading pleasure concerns airport security. Me and airport security somewhat frequently butt heads, and I am never the winner. After one of my Playa friends picked me up at the ferry terminal in the rain, we hung out for a bit, then headed into my old neighborhood for dinner. That neighborhood holds my absolutely most favorite veggie market… with locally made achiote paste. The best!

I took a kilogram of the stuff with me to The Dominican Republic the last time I left here. I’m determined to do it again as I can’t find good achiote paste anywhere but the Yucatán. Only problem is that this time I don’t have any checked luggage. Should be fine though because this stuff is brick hard. It’s even shaped like a brick and probably weighs the same. It only becomes a paste once you add water.

You can’t take that on the plane

Airport security knew exactly what it was on the scan. They pulled my bag and asked if I had achiote paste in there. Of course I do! What else would that brick-shaped object be? Unfortunately, they have a no-kilogram-of-paste in carry-on policy that I really should have known about. The worst part is that they threw it in the trash. Tragic. All that delicious achiote! So sad. It only cost a couple of dollars, but that’s not the point. I’m still upset about it!

Sunset in Mazatlán
I had a good time on the East Coast but West Coast best coast… at least for sunsets!

Got back home to Mazatlán with no other issues. I was relieved to discover that the taxi drivers from the airport have set posted rates, so I didn’t have to barter with anyone. Negotiating with taxi drivers is an art. You have to be willing to walk away if the price isn’t agreeable. There was a lot of walking away in Cozumel, but a fun sense of satisfaction when the next driver agreed to the price. I did not just get off a cruise ship. I know what the ride should cost. However, it’s a lot easier when there is a posted sign that states airport to Centro costs 480 pesos. Done. It’s an adventure!

Recommended Posts

1 Comment

  1. OMG warm potato salad?
    I would have fallen for that one.
    It’s fun hearing about your adventures. Barb and I should get out more.

Comments are closed.