Scuba Diving Cozumel
Whether you’re a novice or advanced, first-timer or old-timer, Cozumel has diving that fits your style.
Cozumel is known in the scuba diving industry as one of the best scuba diving locations in the world.
Just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, adjacent to Playa del Carmen you will find the Caribbean island of Cozumel, Mexico. With its Mexican heart and Caribbean soul, Cozumel appeals to all sorts of travelers, from cruise ship passengers to extreme diving fanatics to history and nature buffs to those simply seeking relaxation.
While diving and snorkeling are the main draws, the pleasant town square is a nice place to spend the afternoon and it’s highly gratifying to explore the less-visited parts of the island on a rented scooter or convertible bug. The coastal road leads to small Maya ruins, a marine park and captivating scenery along the unforgettable windswept shore.
At the height of the Mayan civilization, woman, at least once during their lifetime, would make the 12-mile journey by boat from the mainland to worship “Ixchel”, the goddess of fertility. Today, at more than 40 sites around the island, archaeologists still uncover small dolls that were offered in sacrifice during the fertility ritual. The remains of Mayan temples and ceremonial centers still dot the island.
The town of San Miguel offers an extensive selection of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, bars and colorful shops selling unique souvenirs and traditional Mayan handicrafts. End your day of diving with a leisurely seaside stroll along the charming malecón (boardwalk) that is full of with sculptures and monuments.
Cozumel is 28 miles (45 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide. It is about 12 miles (20 km) directly off shore from the Playa del Carmen, and some 36 miles (60 km) south of Cancún.
SCUBA DIVING COZUMEL
Cozumel is known in the scuba diving industry as one of the best scuba diving locations in the world. Every dive is a scuba divers dream. Teaming with schools of fish and boasting amazing view, Cozumel offers the avid scuba diver a vast playground. Cozumel is an island destination for scuba divers and non scuba divers alike. Although it is a divers mecca, even after decades as a popular vacation resort, it remains a serene, quiet and undiscovered piece of paradise.
Most of the scuba diving on Cozumel is focused on the reefs and shallow coral formations that extend from the southern tip of the island to just south of San Miguel on the west coast. All of the Cozumel beaches are protected and extend from the ferry pier in downtown San Miguel to the southern tip of the island, many of which are protected as part of an underwater national park. Fishing is not allowed in this area.
There are two main coral reef systems surrounding Cozumel, Colombia and Palancar reefs. Easily accessible with plateaus beginning in less than 30 feet / 9 meters of water, Cozumel reefs boast abundant underwater sea life and brilliant colors, often referred to by many scuba divers as some of the best scuba diving of their lives. At Chankanaab Lagoon, one of the most visited sites on the island, divers and snorkelers can observe small coral and limestone formations at 6 to 30 feet / 2 to 9 meters.
COZUMEL HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Boat diving is the way in which you’ll reach the best sites. There’s a large selection of dive operators. Click here to see listings and reviews of Cozumel dive operators and related businesses.
Most of the scuba diving activity on Cozumel is focused from the southern tip of the island to just south of San Miguel on the west coast. There are a few dive sites north of San Miguel, but those sites are not often dived.
The various sites run from mild current and shallow near shore coral gardens, swifter current and coral pinnacles near the drop-off and vertical walls in deep water.
The type of diving done here is called “live boat or drift” where the divers enter the water and the boat trails behind them. The divemaster leads the group on a “go with the flow” drift dive and will deploy a surface float during the safety stop, to aid the boat captain in locating the group when it’s time to be picked up. Live boat or drift diving is easy.
The east side of the island (often called the “wild side”) offers shallower diving on “micro atolls,” elkhorn coral gardens and swim-through, all in 50 feet or less.
It is a longer boat ride to get to these sites via boat from San Miguel. An option is to contact an operation that specializes in doing dives on this side. They’ll pick you up at your hotel, drive you and your gear to the eastern shore, where you’ll board a dive boat on the beach for the short hop to the dive sites.
If you pick the right dive operator and can be flexible enough to wait for the right weather conditions, you can experience moderate currents and some truly undefined reefs that compare favorably to dive sites anywhere in the world. And, because you aren’t in the National Park, you can also spear fish.
From Playa Bonita, a five-minute ride will put you on top of rows and rows of virginal coral heads surrounded by a sandy bottom, sometimes separated by narrow channels. The tops of the coral in this particular area range from 60 to over 100 feet deep. Because the area is fished, you tend to see very few grouper and other popular eating fish, but are likely to encounter other smaller reef fish (including some interesting species like lizard, porcupine and pipe fish), lobster and the occasional shark.
DIVING SEASON: Year-round.
VISIBILITY: Cozumel is renowned for its clear, tropical waters. Average visibility around Cozumel is in the 100+foot range (30m) year-round
WATER TEMPERATURE: The water temperatures tend to be at their warmest during the summer months with a high of 85F (29C) and mid to high 70sF (25C) in the winter.
WEATHER: The climate in Cozumel is subtropical, so expect some rain during most of the year, plenty of tropical breezes and sunshine. The warm (rainy) season lasts from May to September with an average daily high temperature above 89°F (32C). The cold season lasts from December to March with an average daily high temperature below 83°F (28C). September through November are traditional hurricane months.
SKILL LEVELS: Dives for all diver skill levels are readily available. Many of the dives are drift dives with a moderate, predictable current. Most diving is done by boat, but shore diving is also available, including several sites that are ideal for beginning divers and snorkelers.
WHAT TO EXPECT TO SEE: Eagle rays, reef sharks and large numbers of all of the Caribbean reef fish and critters, including lobsters, crabs, angelfish, yellowtails, octopi, moray eels and toadfish plus scrawled filefish, turtles, groupers, giant parrotfish, french and queen Angelfish.
Notes: The hyperbaric chamber in San Miguel is staffed 24 hours a day.
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