MITSUGIRLYS BACK TO BELLY SUN CRUISE review and pictorial
Day 6: Costa Maya
Day 5 on the ship: Heading to Costa Maya Mexico
I thought I would add a map that they gave us of the Costa Maya port. I know that a common question on here is how to get out of the compound and where is the taxi station located. This will help show where to walk to if you are not catching the shuttle bus or on a private excursion.
If you need to actually walk down the street to the taxi stand outside of the compound, here's where you'll find it.
So today would be like any other day. I sat my alarm for 7am and I woke up at 6:55am before it went off. I really don't know what's gotten into me on this cruise.
We showered and headed upstairs for our normal breakfast at Moderno and it was yummy.
We heard them make the announcements that they were waiting on the port authority to clean us, then we never heard another announcement. I swear this is the first ship on NCL that I don't recall hearing very many announcements when it was time to go ashore.
So, about 8:15am, I figured we should be able to go ashore and headed down.
Like all ports, we had our wonderful pictures taken by the awesome, very professional, takes great pictures so you'll buy them NCL photographers and then headed on our way to the exit of the compound.
There she is in all her beauty. At least she looks pretty darn big from down here!
The people movers were already sprung into action and picking up passengers for the long haul to the port. Darnit, we just missed this one.
Looking over at Cha Cha beach and wondering if there would be anyone sneaking in today and becoming a part of the "hole in the wall" gang.
A glance over at the compound
I always wondered how they got these long people movers turned around without running the hoards of people over. This would answer my question...they detach it from one end, drive around to the other side and reattach and go.
These guys are always here for pictures each time we've been here. If my daughter would have been with us (my oldest-Kendra), I knew we would have been stopping again.
A few pictures along the way...even though I have a million of these shots already...I guess she might have grown a few inches in between each stop???
We made it outside the port and purchased our shuttle/bus tickets at the stand. Just like before $3 for adults and $2 for children. Only this time we would actually get to take the open aired trolley shuttle. We have never been on it before. Woo hoo. Exciting. (This means I would be able to get pictures along the way with no glass glare...only blur from moving. Hey only 1 bad thing is better than 2 right?). They had different "styles"
We were first on the shuttle and I picked the front seat. hee hee. I figured that would give me even a better chance a good pictures.
It was such a beautiful sunny day. I just absolutely love the colors of this port. Bright and colorful.
For those of you that have to walk to the taxi stand outside the port, I know I have explained the "route" and the "walkway" several times on these boards, but never really had pictures to accompany my descriptions. This time I managed to get pictures as we drove by.
The pedestrian sidewalk is actually located in the MIDDLE of the street. It's a pretty wide are that you walk down and has greenery and landscaped nicely. They also have areas to sit under a trellis if you want.
This is at the end of the road (see my map) and where you catch the taxis. They use to have the curb painted yellow where it begins, but I don't remember seeing that now. Also, I noticed that there wasn't a lot of taxis sitting there, but instead sitting closer. I wonder if people complained because of the walk?
Going around the corner.
Anyone notice the for sale sign? I think I might have to contact them. They have nurses in Costa Maya right???
So on to the fun part of the day. I'm going to stop and tell you a little about picking this place.
We have been to Costa Maya a few times before. The first time in 2011, we went to Maya Chan as suggested on these boards. It was a very lovely place, good hospitality, AWESOME food and a relaxing day. However, the ONLY thing I didn't like about it was the water. Everyone knows I love that crystal clear BLUE water. While I don't mind some sea grass, there's just too much here for my enjoyment.
Next trip, in 2012, I was determined to find SOME PLACE in Costa Maya that HAD to have that postcard picture perfect blue water. I located Almaplena and have directed people there from here since. It's exactly that! Heavenly looking and a great place to go. The only drawback is that it's a little further than Maya Chan, but still easy to get to (20 minutes from the port).
Our next trip, I wanted to try something different (as I usually do) and started combing the boards for information. A lot of people were suggesting places along the Malecon..mainly Nohoch Kay. So, we decided to give it a try. I have to say it did not impress me AT ALL. We didn't really like the water...it was so shallow you couldn't swim or canoe. It had tons of sea grass, which gave off the brownish color to it. The service was ok, the food was ok, but we did not get the warm welcoming from the owner as others have stated on here did. There was also people trying to sell you items all day, which others had stated wouldn't happen. It just wasn't "our" thing. To me, it's just a bunch of little food places, lined up and down the beach, and not very "private" and it definitely doesn't give off the AI experience to me.
So here we are in 2014 and I'm ready to either go back to Almaplena...or find a different similar place. I knew this was going to be a HUGE task and knew that I would probably have to go pretty far out to locate it. I looked on TA and found a few places of interest. However, when I contacted people about them, they wasn't too positive about their experience or how to get there on your own.
I turned to my trusty google earth companion. I tell ya, I use this thing more and more each time. I am always researching and I have to see for myself what the surrounding areas look like before going. Google Earth allows you to get pretty close in and gives you a great idea of the area.
So what I did, I pulled up the Malecon. I determined what area of the Malecon (according to earth) looked as if it didn't have any seaweed directly in front of it. Then I pulled down onto the beach and "walked" up and down the beach looking at my surroundings...AND THERE IS WAS!!! At the end of the beach and over by the lighthouse...a beautiful PRIVATE looking soft sand beach with crystal blue water and very little seaweed and what looked like a generally nice and HUGE area/beach. I KNEW I HAD TO GO HERE!!!
The place was called Blue Bay. I started researching online, on TA and every place I could find something. I have to admit, there wasn't much out there. The website they had was really crappy, but I emailed them...no response. I contacted them using the web...no response. I posted on their site...no response. Ugh!!! Then some fine people on here told me to contact the people next door to there. Then I found out that Koox Hotels had acquired this place (which led me to believe they must have been having some financial difficulty and there were a few bad reviews coming in from a long time ago...about the rooms, not the beach).
When Koox contacted me back, they stated that they are no longer in affiliation with Blue Bay, but they would be happy if I spent the day with them (which is not what I was looking for).
I had given up hope and was sad. I had decided I was just going to have to book Almaplena again (or at that point I was reconsidering Maya Chan).
Then a few weeks prior to leaving for our cruise, I did another search. I don't know...something just told me to give it one more shot.
The place had changed their name to BLUE KAY and they had a new website!!! WOO HOO. I contacted them again and got an immediate response. YES! They offered day passes to cruisers and I knew I was going there now!!!
They gave me the following information:
Yes we offer a day pass that includes all day kayaks, bicycles and snorkel equipment for one person, plus our beach club installations, for $250 pesos.
If you need something else just ask me and I’ll response you asap.
I’ll wait for you in our paradise soon.
Thanks a lot for all.
So around $20 pp wasn't too bad for a place I knew I really wanted to check out. However, it wasn't an AI and I knew we would have to purchase food & drinks.
I inquired about those prices as well. This time it took 4 days without a response and me emailing them again asking if they received my email and they responded immediately that time.
Sorry for the late responds, we have chaises, chairs, palapas umbrellas, showers, bathrooms, hammocks, and 200 meters of beach front.
Yes, we accept US Dollars, and the exchange rate chafe but now we are taking the dollars at 12.50.
Soda 25 pesos, Beer 30 pesos , National Drinks, Cocktails and frozen drinks 50 Pesos and food fajitas, fish dishes from 100 - 150 pesos, the most expensive would be lobster at around 300 pesos ( 1 pesos per gram)
We would be happy to help with more information, please fell free to contact us at (phone number and facebook info).
Ok, so no problem. It all sound great and just what I was wanting. I was excited that they not only had a website now, but they had a facebook as well. Time for some serious stalking and running it through my head a few more times, deciding "this is it" and just going with my gut feeling and hoping for the best.
For $20 a person, plus adding up what we thought we might spend on drinks and food (we'd go lightly that day since it would cost), I figured it's still cheaper than an AI at around $65 or whatever they charge now depending on where you go.
So...that's how we ended up with this place...thank you GOOGLE EARTH!!! :D
So obviously I had walked the beach several times on google earth and I had also walked the streets. I knew the surroundings and where we needed to go. I just didn't know when or how we tell the driver, who happens to be in the truck ahead of us, when we needed to get out.
We came up on the lighthouse and I started seeing the signs that read "Blue Kay" along the road.
Then I noticed the driver pulling into Senior Frogs...which I knew was right next door. Whew, at least we wouldn't have to walk far.
Everyone started getting out of the people mover and a guy came running out of Senior Frogs to greet them and give them directions on the place. We kept walking. I was just waiting for them to say something to us, but they didn't. They did have a confused look on their face though.
Along the "back" way to Blue Kay, there were critters to greet us.
Once we arrived to Blue Kay, we went in a big hut that looked like a customer service/check in area.
I figured I would at least stop here to get directions for paying for the day pass. We were greeted by a lady at the deck and I inquired about the day pass. She told me that I would need to talk to the guy out at the beach hut by the canoe/bike rental and pointed us in the right direction out the other side of the building and told us to find "Nino".
We were walking across the malecon, headed toward the beach area...
We were stopped by the waiter (who didn't realize we were going to be staying there today) and he gave us a speech about how we could spend the day there, free of charge and enjoy their beautiful beach, palapas and food. He kept going on and on (like any other vendors in the ports) to try to get us to stay there. I wasn't listening very well at that point because I was still stuck on the "for free" part he said in the beginning of his speech.
I clarified...."free????" He said yes, just buy food and drinks (I think he might have said $20) and my reply was "well absolutely, we were planning on doing that anyhow" and I knew we would probably be spending more than that now!
He pointed toward the beach and palapas and told us to sit anywhere we wanted.
We found our spot. The perfect spot between the malecon and the beach.
I looked over at the pretty water and immediately snapped a picture with my ipad. I knew this was going to be a great day already and I couldn't wait to show it to the kids back home...who wouldn't be joining us until the following week...ha ha, your loss. I'll have a drink for you!
I was very impressed so far and couldn't wait to get a drink in my hand. It was morning, so I tried to keep my wits about me and ordered a soda while I continued to take in my beautiful surroundings.
Of course Sakari had dropped her things, took off her shorts, put on her goggles and ran for the water. (That girl would live in the ocean if she could. I think she's a mermaid).
"Get back here young lady, I need a picture first!"
About this time the lady from the front desk noticed us and started heading our way. Oh gosh, I just knew I was about to have "words" with her since she knew that we knew about paying for a day pass, but yet I had just been told the beach was free. I was determined to stand my ground on this one.
About the same time this "Nino" guy came over as well. She ask about us purchasing the day pass and I informed her that we were just told the beach was free as long as you buy food and drinks. She replied "yes, but not the canoes, bikes and snorkeling equipment, that's the day pass." Pshhh, who needs that? I wouldn't have used it anyhow and I have my own equipment. I'm saving $60!!! She said "So you no need day pass?" Nope! Then all was good.
Time to check out the beach a little. I walked out to where Sakari was already swimming. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!!!!!
The sand was powdery soft and awesome. The water was crystal blue and clear. I knew I had found that paradise.
I ran back to where my husband was sitting and told him I was going down the beach to explore...I'll be back. This is GORGEOUS.
There was our beautiful Sun waiting for us after we were done here.
Another good thing was there wasn't very many people here either. Plus, the place is really big and plenty of beach area along with palapas and chairs...plenty enough room for more had there been more people here.
After making it to the end of the beach area (well at least as far as I wanted to go that time around), I walked back along the grassy area/grounds to explore a little.
They had these big signs along the beach area, each was different. When we were at the end, I decided to have Sakari pose at one and take her picture. I was obviously in such awe of my surroundings, while patting myself on the back for finding such an awesome place that I totally didn't notice what was painted on this one that I happened to take with my child in the picture. LMAO!!! Oops.
Plenty of lush greenery everywhere.
They had nice sandy walkways leading to different areas.
Looking across the street at where people stay in cabins here. (I will explore that area later).
They had several weird things made out of...well, weird things. LOL
There was a open area in the middle too. I remember seeing some guys later in the day playing ball here.
The hut where they rent the bikes at. While I'm not interested in doing anything like this now...because I can't =Sakari, I would love to do it some time in the future when Sakari gets big enough to ride the bikes. She knows how to ride a bike, just not of this size. So some day it will be fun to go off exploring on the bikes down the malecon.
They had an area next to us with a lady who gave massages.
I made it back to the hubby and told him how beautiful the place was and then bask in the glory of me finding it making him agree that it was an awesome choice and I did an awesome job. (He always agrees no matter what lol).
Sakari ran back out to the water like if she was a fish out of water and couldn't wait to get back in before she lost consciousness.
At this time, the hubby already decided that to heck with the time, we're on vacation time and we were ready for the good drinks. We ordered some drinks and he decided why not have a "snack" as well and ordered some nachos. I headed out to the water with Sakari because she said there were fish everywhere.
There were some sorta huge rocks right by the shore...I mean RIGHT by there and you could basically lay on your belly with your face in the water to see part of them. We looked around that area and found tons of fish everywhere.
Some Sergeant Majors:
THEN I CAME UPON THIS....The sideways fish, flounder. It's the very first time I have seen one while snorkeling (I have seen them at the huge pay aquariums like Ripleys in Gatlinburg and other places, but never on my own).
He was sitting in the sand really still and of course, trying to blend in and hide with his eyeball sticking up and watching me get closer and closer.
I guess he caught word that this cruise I had picked up something I shouldn't have and I was getting too close for his comfort, so he decided to move to the other side of the rock...like we weren't going to follow him or anything. HA!
A few fish in some of the sea grass areas.
Sakari found a conch shell and had to show me and then quickly put it back.
We decided to head on out a little further (at least to the point that she was either able to touch or didn't have to swim far before touching the bottom again). For the most part, it's fairly shallow (as in an adult can stand up in most of the area) and we located this little guy, who was blending in pretty good. Can you see him? Can you see him??
He was just the cutest little thing. I love these little long horned cowfishes. The way their little fins flutter reminds me of a hummingbird. I use to have one of these in my salt water aquarium and I have loved them since then. Only this one was a lot bigger than the one I had in my tank of course.
Sakari kept finding what I called sea grapes, but I might be wrong. She swore they were fish eggs and continued with that story the rest of the day no matter what I told her.
Obviously by the crystal clear blue water, there's plenty of sand in the area too.
A rainbow wrasse
Several groups on surgeon fish were in the area.
Sakari discovered that she had a few friends following her around. They went everywhere she went and wouldn't leave her alone.
Everywhere she swam, they swam. Everywhere she stood, they were right there surrounding her feet starring at her. It was funny to watch and she was fascinated by them.
I know she secretly wishes she was a fish. Yep, they're still there Sakari. You can't out swim them.
We found a crab
And then he found us...puttem up, you messing with me? Go ahead, I double crab dare you...arms wide open and ready for us. Come at me bro!
We headed back in and daddy was waiting on us.
I drank the rest of my drink and ordered another round. The hubby had received his nachos and they looked and WAS yummy!!!!
One thing I noticed at this point, while eating, drinking and still walking around in circles taking pictures because I just can't stay still...there was a sign on our palapa that said service. I started messing with it and discovered that it turned. Hmmm, ok, so I guess that's how you let them know you need something. Ours had been stuck on "Service" since we got there. Maybe that's why we were getting so many drinks and food. LOL Worked for me!
I decided after this many drinks, I needed to find the restroom and headed over toward the main restaurant building area.
Across the malecon I go...
They had a cute little covered restaurante here and some swings at the bar area. Cute.
Going into the restroom, Sakari decided she wants a door just like this some day and then ask me if we'd be able to collect enough shells for it. I told her she better get busy and find more because she was off to a slow start.
They had a locker area right outside the restrooms and between the restrooms and the dining area. I would later be told they were $2 to rent. Not bad.
When I came out of the restaurant, I decided to do a little more exploring while I was waiting on my food to come (I had ordered after tasting the hubbys yummy nachos).
I headed back toward the entrance building where I first came in.
One more glance over at the palapas where the hubby was. I imagined he'd wonder for a little bit why it was taking me so long to return, but then again, he knows me so well and knows that no matter where I go (even to the restroom) I take my camera. And if I have my camera, I'm more than likely wondering off somewhere for some more pictures. It's just a given with me.
Yes, they do have FREE wifi here. It worked pretty good and could be used even down at the beach. Did I mention is was FA-REEEE!!!
When I arrived back to the palapa, the hubby must have got his belly full.
My yummy drink had arrived and so had my yummy food as well.
Now, I DON'T like tomatos. I don't like them so much that I normally won't order things like spaghetti at restaurants, instead I'll have alfredo. When I eat pizza, you can could it with the sauce on it and I'm fine, but I will pull back the cheese and toppings and "scrape" the sauce off. However, I could eat the tomoto and onion salsa all day long if I could. Oh my gosh it's just SO GOOD.
Here's the menus. I do have to tell you that a majority of the staff here either only speak Spanish or a limited amount of English that it's sometimes hard to communicate with them. Nino did not speak any English and when he tried to talk to us when we first got there, I immediately said "no hablo espanol" when he started talking to us. For some reason, he acted like he didn't understand that either and just kept talking in spanish (I know a few choice words and phrases) and could tell he was asking me questions that I couldn't answer. That's when he handed us off to what would become our waiter, who did speak pretty good english...Roberto. He was a terrific host, server...and I would find out later, the head chef as well.
Anyhow, why am I telling you this? Because the menus are in Spanish as well. Thank you taco bell for at least teaching me what some of these things are and how you spell them so that I could pick them out on a spanish menu. (I might add that after so many visits to Mexico over the years, I absolutely refuse to eat at Taco B(h)ell anymore. I want real Mexican!
They also serve breakfast too!
I finished my plate (and probably even licked the plate clean when I didn't think others were watching), downed the rest of my drink, told the hubby I was going "drunk snorkeling" (then he got that worried look on his face, but I was only kidding) and pointed all the way out at the rocks and said "that's where I'm headed!!! Keep an eye on your daughter and hopefully I'll return"
Since I really didn't know what was out there or how deep it was, I really didn't want to struggle with Sakari tagging along (as much as I hate to snorkel alone). I don't mind if both of us going out that she's with us because we tag team watching her and helping her out when needed. But just me...it's too much unless I know I can stand in the water. She's never happy about this, but some friends come along in the water and off she went to play.
I figured I would "just for the heck of it" start by laying on my belly again and scooting around the rocks by the shore...to my surprise, I found a pretty LARGE pipefish, or at least that's what he looked like, but a very large version of anything I had seen before. Like huge. Like really really huge. The biggest one I have seen while snorkeling huge.
I really hate when you take pictures and from the pictures it can't really show you how big something is and to me, they usually look pretty small in the pictures.
But look at the rock...which was more like a huge bolder (hopefully I'll have pictures of it somewhere later in the review looking at it from above the water) then look at the size of him. He was really long.
Then I started to head out over the grassy area.
I found all these shells in the same area. I thought that was weird that they were all grouped together.
Then I ran across my favorite little guy again. Still hanging out in the same area.
I came up out of the water for a moment to glance over at the beautiful Sun, still waiting in port and jealous that I was having such a wonderful day without her.
I looked back to see how far I was from the shore.
Hmm, not bad, I could still touch the bottom so let's continue.
I ran across this lobster. He thought I didn't see him.
Then things started to get a little more interesting.
Starting to see a lot of coral.
I was actually getting pretty amazed at the coral out here.
Wow, I never imagined that all this was out there.
See it out there hiding?
It had friends...lots of friends...and I'm sure a mommy some where around the area. I headed out of there really quick.
There are rocks that stick up out of the water where this snorkeling area is. I popped up out of the water and seen this:
This is how far you are from shore:
When you get to the rocky part, this is what you see. I guess there's absolutely no way you are getting over those rocks. It was like a wall of sea urchins and almost kinda dreary looking and scary. Even if they wasn't here, you would have to stand up out of the water and walk over because it was just that shallow.
I have no idea what the heck this is or what kind of coral it is. It looked like a shiny big blob of poo. Do you see the little pencil sea urchin on the left side of it? I missed it while I was snorkeling but now see it in the picture.
A huge Caribbean Blue Tang.
Some blue tangs, surgeon fish and a pair of banded butterfly fish were in the area.
A Juvenille Beaugregory
A whole bunch of grunts
Four eyed butterfly fish
Parrot fish. It was weird to see them picking at the sea grass. They are normally chewing on coral and they have huge teeth and if you are real quiet, you can hear them chomping on the coral and crunching it up.
More banded butterfly fish.
Finally I was done. I think I covered most of the area, or at least the area by the rocks that I wanted to cover.
I headed back to shore and snapped a few more pictures after coming out of the water.
One thing that dawned on me this time around during the cruise and after getting home and looking at my pictures... I know a lot of people comment on how brillant the colors can be in some pictures. I am constantly changing settings on the camera and taking multiple pictures of the same things...just to make sure that I get enough pictures (remember I said I took 3500 pictures this cruise=yikes). So I know there are some settings that I switch to a lot like the landscape settings, which seems to give a lot of color. Then there's the beach setting that tones down the light a little. Sunset can give you some crazy color even in the day light and it all depends on your shot. There's also a magic setting that will pop the colors, soft focus, and a dramatic hdr setting.
Well, I do notice that some are a lot more vibrant than others and this is what I discovered this time around. When I'm snorkeling, I have the camera set to the water snorkeling/underwater mode. Every so often I come up out of the water and snap a few pictures and then return to the water. Also after coming out of the water I sometimes forget to turn my settings back to _______ whatever settings for the land shots. THIS is what's giving it the bright and bold colors like these photos above and below!!! It really deepens the blues and greens.
Shower area along the beach to rinse off with.
I know most cameras (at least my Canon D10's) if you left the underwater setting on outside, it gave off this god awful orange colored picture. It was the absolute worse and it could ruin your day if you forgot to turn it off and took pictures like that the rest of the day. Boy what a disappointment. So after awhile of that, you learned really quick to switch back and forth between settings.
However, this camera does not do that. I actually like the way a lot of them come out. Maybe I should just start shooting all of my landscape pictures in this mode. hehe
Anyhow, just wanted to share that with you guys that might shoot with the Olympus Tough cameras. If so, let me know if you have had any luck with this.
Back to the camp and reassured the hubby that I survived and that he had missed an awesome snorkeling adventure.
I really didn't expect all the coral and everything to be so great out there. But, I thought it was pretty darn cool considering I was in Costa Maya.
Time to order some more drinks. hehe
Sakari coming up to tell me about all the shells she found so far (which still isn't enough to make shells doors)
Oops, sometimes I forget to wipe off my lens as well.
And that didn't last long...
I decided it was potty time again...these drinks are running out as fast as they are poured in.