Caught in Cozumel, Mexico – Diving, Shabbat Dinner & My Dream Boat

Cozumel, Mexico is the perfect combination of literally everything you’d want in a place (except maybe missing some mountains). They have the cutest little romantic restaurants in the central district, incredible painted murals peeling in the salty air all over town, perfect turquoise waters, amazing reefs with caves to dive through, under-water creatures galore, snorkeling right offshore, quaint but hopping island bar and club-scene, calming coastal breezes, tropical rainstorms, and untouched jungles full of crocodiles and red raccoons. It’s no wonder I only planned to stay three days and have currently been here for eleven. “It’s a traaaaaaaaaap” in the best of ways.

I checked into a backpacker hostel for my first four nights on Cozumel Island. Rolling out of my top-bunk, I hoped to stay a few more nights, but quickly found the hostel was completely booked. I packed my purple backpack in a panic. Shlepping my belongings through thick humidity and mid-day heat, I scurried to several other hostels, only to find they were full. I stumbled upon a charming family-run Mexican hotel and booked my own bachelorette pad for $30 per night. Plumeria and Jasmine blooms wafted through my windows, only half a block from the sea and town’s center. The hotel is for sale—what a DREAM it would be to open an island-style hostel hosting pop-up events, yoga retreats, subtitled movie-nights, and music festivals. Now, I must manifest 400k for the down payment—let me know if you’re interested!

Since Cozumel is considered one of the best places on Earth for diving and I haven’t been since my Open Water certification in 2019, I reckoned “por que no” while I’m in this part of the world? My Spanish “maestro” (teacher) at the hostel recommended I go with a local guy, so I booked a trip. The man kept beating around the bush asking him for proof of his PADI instructor license. At Tikila Bar, the launch-point, he mentioned he had it for 30 years, but didn’t want to pay for licensure anymore. He brought an English-speaking friend along to assist with my scuba-refresher course. Accidentally locking my dive-gear in his car before setting off with another group of travelers, we had to unroll his pants to try to find his keys. We discovered a strange contraption rolled within… is there such a device that men shove into their pants to make their dick and balls look bigger? He had that… YIKES.

He told me I’d be fined an extra $25 if I peed in my wetsuit, and the fins they brought for me were way too big, so they had me wear the thick socks he tugged directly off his feet inside them. Honestly, it was quite a sketch experience, and I wouldn’t book anywhere besides a dive school from now on. Luckily, launching from the same place were some serious-looking divers. I thought to myself, “I need to book with them,” but they had departed before I finished my refresher-dive. I didn’t know the name of their school, but on my walk home, I recognized some people I saw in a scuba-shop. When traveling, I like to take advantage of coincidences like this, so I stopped in and booked a “fun dive” for the next day. Turns out, the dive school is run by Israelis (my people). They handed me jacket #3 – which was the result of an enneagram personality-test I had taken the day before. Another perfect synchronicity?

A wild-looking mountain-man with thick wavy hair, tanned skin, and a stature of 6’6” quickly caught my attention, and I watched his eyes turn to hearts as I walked in as well. Sure enough, when I arrived for my 2-dive scuba session, the admin took me to him saying, “Alena, this will be your instructor for the day.” DEAR LORD, swooned in my wetsuit. Of course, my dive-instructor had to be the hottest man I’ve ever seen. I had a hard time focusing on the three turtles, two nurse sharks, three green moray eels, and four Eagle Rays I saw during the dives because I couldn’t take my eyes off him LOL. Also scoring points, he urged me, “Please pee in your wetsuit!” After a day spent together diving, chatting, and flirting by ourselves below deck, he asked for my digits, took me to dinner and bought me flowers—Future husband, ALERT! There have been few times in my life where I’ve thought, “Holy shit—I can’t believe I’m hanging with this insanely beautiful man right now!” This was one of them.

For Shabbat dinner, he invited me to attend with him and his friends. Everything was in Hebrew, including conversations, but I couldn’t stop smiling because I was with the most attractive man for the most fun-filled and hilarious religious event I’ve ever been a part of. Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen host many Israeli expats and travelers, so 150 people showed up for this Shabbat dinner. Over four-hours, we shared an epic 7-course all-kosher family-style meal. As the rabbi spoke, people chanted songs, took copious tequila shots, pounded tables, passed around babies, broke plates, and feasted abundantly. I was grinning from ear to ear, giggling at the absolute ruckus of a gathering it was. One guy even had a post-dinner tequila nap on the couch. Who knew a dinner-crew could TURN UP so hard?! I felt so lucky to join in the songs, spirit, and lifestyle of my heritage in a totally different place in the world, next to the hottest scuba-instructor lad I’ve laid eyes on.

L’chaim – to this life.


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