Sorry for taking so long to post this. I've been non-stop since getting home. I guess that will teach me not to go away for 8 days instead of 7. Shame on me!
Went to Playa del Carmen for 8 days with my significant other (also known as the boss). Both of us are seasoned divers, were looking for diversity, and while diving was important, we were looking for more than just diving ...
I have dove the cenotes of PdC on many trips before, but never the ocean. This was the boss's first trip to PdC.
We dove 5 days and had 2 non-diving days.
If the airlines need a bailout, let them go under! The state of the airline industry is shameful. Got a good deal on 2 tickets (around $250 per person). However after taxes it cost an additional $118 - a total of $368. We get to PHX airport 3 hours early and get in line. Wasn't a long line about 45 minutes. We get to the checkin agent. Originally, we had secured our seats through Travelocity 6a and 6c. Someone had switched us to 6a and 6b. Neither of us wanted the middle. I asked to switch to an aisle. Ended up at 23c. I asked if there was anything closer, she said she could put me in 6c. Perfect I said. However, she added, it would cost me a additional $100. After I stopped laughing in her face, I stuck with 23c
We each had 2 bags. My first bag cost me $25 and second bag was $15. It was the same with the boss. $80 in luggage fees. My bag was 1 pound over so they wanted to charge me an additional $50. I moved things around and was fine. Regardless, it is the same weight - I don't know who they are fooling.
In flight: Drinks were $5, Soda's were $2, Bottled Water was $1, Coffee was $1. There was no free water on board. It was bottled or nothing. Snack box with the crappiest collection of snacks was $5 and a turkey sandwich was $7. The sandwich was sold out by the time they got to row 23.
The way home was the same, except they only charged for the 2nd bag - $15 each. I am not complaining about paying less (in fact, I am really complaining about being charged), but where is the consistency.
Besides the shameful panhandling by the flight attendants, the flights were uneventful.
Rental Car: Hertz
Again, booked through Travelocity. Got a smoking deal. Tiny little Dodge Atos which barely held the two of us and our luggage. Paid $163 for the week. Get to the airport and .... had to pay over $280 of taxes and insurance. I advised, I have great car insurance. Covers rentals in Mexico. Brought my insurance card (copy) with me. Brought coverage information with me. I hate paying rental car insurance. They refused to rent the car to me unless I took their insurance. I have been renting from Hertz for years and never had this problem. If I wanted the car, I had to pay. Will be challenging my Visa with this one. The car ran fine. Very small. Great on gas. Traveled over 600km on $20 USD worth of gas. Easy to park. We nicknamed the car el crappo diablo.
Hotel: Riu Yucatan
Booked through Travelocity. Got a great deal again. All-Inclusive. Beach was great. Rooms were a bit small but good. There are no ocean view rooms and our building was a bit far away from the pool and beach. Not a bad walk, but not close by any means. Beds were torture devices (we knew that before going). We had them send up a foam pad and it seemed to help ... a little. Staff was friendly and helpful. Food was OK. Main Buffet was good, but needed more diversity from one day to the next. Got boring and repititive after the third meal. Breakfast buffet was great. Lunch ... sucked. Asian Buffet was terrible. We didn't try the other two restaurants as we decided to go out to the local restaurants. Dive shop (Scuba Caribe) was a joke. I watched them from the beach and how they dealt with customers at the beach side dive shop. They were rude, gave misleading information, boat entries and exits were chaotic, they were throwing (yes throwing) equipment around, pricing was significantly higher than in-town dive shops and their boats were FILLED with people. When I say filled, I mean stuffed. One of the DMs tried to get me to go on an afternoon boat. I started asking questions, like how many people max on the boat, do you have nitrox, etc. and he literally walked away from me ... The boss didn't like that too much. I personally don't like all inclusives. While the hotel was nice, it wasn't for me. Playacar is a great location.
Non Diving Activities:
Tulum ruins were incredibly beautiful The beach was fantastic. Tulum is the only Mayan Ruins by the ocean. We drove el crappo diablo down to Tulum. We aren't tour bus type people. We paid $40 USD and got our entry tickets, train tickets (so we didn't have to walk the mile to the ruins) and a private guide (for just the two of us) to point out all the things everyone else was missing. The guide and train were worth every penny. After the tour, we walked down to the beach and hung out for a bit. Make sure you bring your towels, change of clothing, sun block, etc. While at the ruins in Tulum, our guide told us to take our next day trip to Coba. He said it was much better than Tulum and Chichen Itza. Tulum was about an hour south of PdC.
A couple of days later, we drove to Coba. Coba is IMPRESSIVE. Again, we paid about $40 and got a private guide, entrance to the ruins and a cab ride (via bicycle) to the main temple. The ball courts are incredible, you can walk inside the ruins. The tour was very educational. The walk to the main temple, which is the highest point in the Mayan empire is about 1.2 miles. The walk wouldn't have been bad. However, once we got to the ruins and hiked (straight) up and down that beast, we were happy to have the bike ride home. To get to Coba from PdC, you go through Tulum and it is about 45 minutes west.
I highly recommend Coba to anyone interested (even remotely) in Mayan history. And, take the tours! You can negotiate tour price in Coba - not so sure about Tulum.
We spent a fair amount of time on fifth avenue. Lots of little shops that want to steal your money ... I mean sell you something. Albeit, once you have been in one shop, you have pretty much seen everyone's inventory. If there is a cruise ship in town, prices go up 40%. 5th Ave is impressive and exciting. Lots of bars, restaurants, stores, jewelry shops, massage parlors and more. All in one block. Then you reach the next block and it starts all over again. I am not a big shopper, but the boss had a good time. 5th ave is a pedestrian mall and goes on for about 2 miles. Commerce at its finest. Have a great time ... shop in Pesos. Negotiate.
Diving Cozumel: Deep Blue
We took the ferry over to Cozumel one day and dove with Deep Blue. Shop was good. Marco was a good guide. Did two drift dives at Palancar Caves and a wall dive where the name escapes me. It was your typical Cozumel diving with a decent dive operator. The shop is a few blocks off the beaten path. Their dock is right near the ferry. We arranged for Nitrox beforehand and it was waiting for us. No complaints, would definitely use them again. At the same time, nothing stuck out as outstanding and above and beyond. Nice Web site.
Diving Playa del Carmen: GeoFish Dive Center
Dove with these guys the rest of the week. I had emailed Morgan and Max extensively (maybe exhaustively) prior to our visit. We wanted Nitrox for our ocean dives, DIN valves for all dives, Pony Bottle rentals for the week. Everything was waiting for us. They have a Diver Conceirge service that fulfills every need. They will (if you allow them) set up your equipment, carry your equipment, clean your equipment, hang it up in the shop so you don't have to carry it to your hotel. The service is some of the best I have ever seen in my 25 years of dive travel. They were friendly, personable and passionate about diving. We went out one night with them to dinner and they have a fun little dive social every week and their shop is the closest shop on 10th street to the beach. You could throw a stone and hit their boat. The boat crew was attentive and fun to be around. Gerrardo was our guide for the week in the ocean as well as the cenotes. He is a very experienced instructor who knows everyone and everything going on with the dive business in the Yucatan. Impressive with lots of humility. A great combination. I didn't use their rental gear, but I noticed it was in great condition (TUSA and PINNACLE mostly). Shop was clean and impressive with an indoor shower to get that salt off of you.
On Mondays Geofish dives the Mama Vina. A nice little wreck in 90ish feet of water. A little bit of current. Great penetration opportunities. I personally got 20 minutes of great video.
On Tuesday we dove the Cenotes. Had a great time. Dove Chikin Ha. Close to Playa and our guide (Gerrardo) knew this Cenote so well, he could dive it blindfolded. I think that made the boss really comfortable. They were very safety conscious.
On Thursday we dove just east Chunzumbul with the sole purpose of finding Bull Sharks. We had heard reports that fisherman had been seeing them out there. Not even five minutes into the dive, we found them. Also found a nice southern stingray.
On Friday, we dove Moche deep and had a couple of great dives.
The reefs in Playa are in great shape. There is a ton of sea life. While I wouldn't say it is just as good as Cozumel, it comes close. And the diversity of being able to dive the Cenotes easily is great. As for the town, I love Playa far more than Cozumel. There is so much to do. There just isn't enough time to do it. I am sure this comment will have a lot of people tell me Cozumel is better. Scubaboard is full of opinions.
I highly recommend GeoFish and certainly recommend Deep Blue.
I look forward to diving Playa del Carmen again soon (Feb/March I think)