By Pierce Hoover
There are dive resorts, and then there are resorts that offer diving. The difference? Dive resorts are typically smaller properties filled with fellow scuba enthusiasts. Good food, comfortable accommodations and access to activities other than scuba do matter, but they aren't the primary reason for a stay. In contrast, beach resorts tend to be larger, more lavish and filled with a mixed bag of vacationers. The pools and beach are focal points and their amenities usually include multiple dining options, spas , a range of land and water sports and activities, of which diving is just one.
Enjoy Paradise Above and Below the Water
So what would it look like if you combined the two? The Cozumel Palace. This landmark property is located right on the water just south of San Miguel, within walking distance of downtown attractions. On arrival, the feel is that of an upscale resort hotel, as you will enter a marble-floored lobby and catch an elevator to your ocean-view room. There are no outlying bungalows, and no winding paths to navigate between room and dinner or the pool deck. This might not sound like the sort of place that would welcome gear-toting divers, but there's more to the story. Tucked into a row of first-floor shops right off the lobby is the retail center for Aqua Safaris. And just out the door, past the pool deck and adjacent to the hotel pier, is the dive center. Your gear lives here, and the staff will help you load it when the dive boats show up. There are rinse tanks, storage lockers and support services. In short, everything you'd need from a dive center.
The Dive Center
Ditto for the on-water and in-water experiences. Aqua Safaris operates a fleet of spacious inboard boats that provide covered seating, bathrooms and other creature comforts lacking on the smaller panga-style launches common to many of Cozumel's smaller operators. Because of the hotel's mid-island location, rides to some of the southern sites are a bit longer, but it's usually a relaxing trip as you cruise the shoreline. And on the plus site, you are convenient to mid-island favorites such as Paradise Reef and the Felipe Xicotencatl wreck, which aren't typically visited by the south-end resorts. Aqua Safaris offers daily two-tank morning dives, afternoon single-tank dives, and night divers several times per week, based on demand. Divers are placed on boats according to interest and experience level, while larger groups traveling together may be provided their own boat. And yes, there is also shore diving available, with water access from stairs near the resort's pier.
Your Own Private Paradise
So far, we've hit all the basics for a good dive resort. The Cozumel Palace differences begin with your room. This isn't the newest hotel on the island, but it's one of the nicest. Ongoing upgrades and renovations have resulted in rooms that border on decadent. The bedding will lull you to sleep, and between the bedroom and sitting area is a Jacuzzi-style soak tub. And then there are the balcony views. It can be mesmerizing to just sit and watch boats pass by in the azure Caribbean water below, and come sunset, this is a great place to relax with a favorite libation. But so too is the terrace next to the pool deck.
Embrace the Luxury
This brings us to the other features that make the Cozumel Palace a favorite with lots of repeat visitors. It's the food. Like a number of the island's better all-inclusive properties, there are numerous dining options. There are buffet-style breakfast and lunch service at the Turquesa dining room. Then at night, this venue transitions to a casual-elegant atmosphere, serving an a la carte menu focusing on regional Italian cuisines. Next door, the chefs at Mo-Mo-No-Ha-Na deliver savory pan-Asian creations, and the Bugambilias restaurant showcases authentic Mexican cuisines. Out on the pool deck, the shaded ocean-view terrace of Flamingos is great for a snack or pizza throughout the day, and at night, the staff puts out an open-air barbecue or themed buffet that can be enjoyed in the sea air.
It may seem like I'm spending a lot of time talking about the menus, but I'm not alone. Ask most any guest familiar with Cozumel Palace why they give the resort high marks, and food will likely be one of the first things mentioned. Meals are truly a cut above the usual fare, and the service is equally stellar. In other words, leave diet plans at home and prepare to savor each meal. It's OK, you're on vacation.
Why choose Cozumel Palace for a dive trip?
Let's add it up: first-class diving services with one of the island's oldest and most respected operators; luxurious rooms that are convenient to the dive center; some of the best food on the island; a welcoming and attentive staff; a desirable close-to-downtown location = A good tally for a fun-filled dive vacation. Plus Caradonna can offer one more incentive! Through an arrangement with Aqua Safaris, hotel guests can apply a $1500 promotional resort credit to diving services. This creates an attractive rate for a stay-and-dive package that includes all the indulgences of a luxury beach hotel. To learn more and hear about current offers and specials, give us a call at 800-330-6611or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.