Mexico 2009 Day 4 - March 30

We got up on time and took our usual 1.5 hours to shower, have a mini-breakfast (packaged croissants, juice and Nescafe) and get ready to go out. We stopped at Halocline Dive Shop - they said their morning cenote snorkel was booked up, but they could do an afternoon cenote or ocean snorkel. The other dive shops we'd seen, Kay-Ops and Cenote Dive Center, were both closed, so we stopped into Empanada Joe's for breakfast. Jer had a delicious one with corn, mozzarella and red peppers, while Jess had a yummy black bean and cheese one. We also split a good apple-cinnamon one and an even better mango one. Jer had black tea (hard to find here) and Jess had chai (even harder to find)!

We walked to Cenote Dive Center but declined to leave immediately with them. Instead, we walked back to our hotel to book a kayaking tour in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere for the next day, then went back to Halocline Dive Shop to book an afternoon reef snorkel. The proprietor recommended an 11 am reef snorkel with Mexi-Divers, so we got a taxi to Tulum beach. We arrived at 9:30 am and walked along the beach, enjoying the views and checking out the various beach hotels. We confirmed that El Tabano, the top-rated restaurant in Tulum, was open for lunch, then walked back toward Mexi-Divers. We stopped into a convenience store/souvenir shop so Jer could buy a hat, then changed into our swimwear and checked in and paid for our snorkel trip. We met our captain, Antonio, and headed out to his small boat, which was pulled up on the beach.

We boarded the Mexi-Divers boat, where we were joined by our guide, Cesar, and two more passengers, Jason and Summer. Antonio took us out past the Tulum ruins, and we got a postcard-perfect view of el Castillo overlooking the turquoise Caribbean. Then we headed out to the reef and put on our gear. Jess got scared jumping out of the boat and had a little trouble at the start of the snorkel tour, but Cesar got her settled down and she started to enjoy herself. We saw lots of pretty fish, including angelfish, parrotfish, tangs, jellyfish, sea urchins, sea anemones and barracuda. At one point, a school of tiny fish came out of the reef like a cloud. There were also many corals (fan coral, brain coral) and sea sponges. Jason and Summer said they saw a sea turtle, but we missed it. We drift-snorkeled along the reef for an hour -- it was much more tiring than the stationary snorkeling we'd done in the Bahamas. We were ready to go by the time it was time to head back to shore.

Once back on dry land, we got changed and walked along the beach road until we reached El Tabano again. Our Spanish waitress also spoke English and French, so she was able to assist us in deciphering the tougher items on the blackboard menu. We shared three dishes: a cold papaya and tomato soup, which was unusual but delicious; a fabulous salad of avocado, tomato, green olives and onions; and a ceviche of grouper, mango, tomato, onion, hot pepper and lime juice. Everything was delicious, and sitting under a palapa in a garden was wonderful after the morning's exertions.

When we were finally ready to leave El Tabano, we caught a taxi to Gran Cenote. Since we had our own snorkels, once we paid the entrance fee all we had to do was change and head down to the water. Cenotes are sinkholes where fresh water has come through the limestone, and many of them are connected by underground streams. Gran Cenote has a series of submerged and partially-submerged caverns, with stalactites and stalagmites in many of them, as well as small fish (we saw yellow ones, silvery ones and reddish-brown ones) and even a few bats. (Some of the fish tried to nibble on Jer, much to his amusement - he felt like the world's tiniest person was scraping its teeth on him.) There were also pretty brightly-colored birds. Jer went farther into the caves than Jess did, and he saw some awesome rock formations (but there wasn't really enough light to photograph them). Jess enjoyed swimming through a short cave to a shallow area where we could see the roots of trees dipping down to the water. After a couple hours at Gran Cenote, we were pretty tired, so we changed back into our clothes and flagged down a taxi for the ride back to town.

Back at our hotel, we put salve on our sunburns and rested a bit before dinner; Jer looked at pictures while Jess updated this journal. Finally, hunger roused us and we headed out to find Taqueria Diaz, a taco place that Kate and Lior raved about during out tour of the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve. Our map showed two locations, but the first was a bust (though it did take us into a relatively non-touristy neighborhood where mothers and children stared as we walked by). The second spot marked on the map was the correct one, happily, so we took our seats and ordered. Jer had a tongue taco, which was pretty good and very tender. We shared two orders of tacos: one of regular pork and the other of adobo-spiced pork with cheese - the latter was the best. All-in-all, Taqueria Diaz was good but not as fabulous as we'd hoped.

On our way back from dinner, we stopped to buy a few postcards, then to get ice cream from an Italian-style gelato shop. After sampling several favors, Jer got cajeta (goat-milk caramel) and Jess got limon (lime), both in fresh sugar cones. Wow! Though they couldn't have been more different, both were amazing.

Back in our room at Posada 06, Jer looked at pictures while Jess read a book until it was time for bed.