Cozumel, Mexico

4.14583333333
(12 REVIEWS)
Cozumel scuba diving
Diving Cozumel
Best time to dive Cozumel

Scuba diving in cozumel, mexico

Cozumel is a year-round scuba diving destination in Mexico's Caribbean coast, known for its easy drift dives with stellar visibility, vibrantly colored sponges, and marine life like turtles, nurse sharks, and rays. It also has good nightlife and a mix between luxury and inexpensive all-inclusive dive resorts.

 

 

Where is cozumel? 

Located on a Caribbean island 10 miles (16k) just off the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, Cozumel sits opposite Playa Del Carmen and about an hour south of Cancun. View Location on Google Map 

 

Intro to Cozumel

The island itself is 28 miles long and 9 miles wide. The diving in Cozumel is comprised of 45+ sites on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which touches Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras and is the second largest barrier reef in the world (the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is larger).

Travel to Cozumel is easy and the resort/hotel options are bountiful for all budgets and travel styles. The popularity of Cozumel as a vacation and cruise ship destination means that there are rich nightlife and non-dive activities, creating a great atmosphere for those traveling with non-dive fun seekers, resort loungers and beach explorers.

The Marine Park of Cozumel has protected the southern area of the island for almost two decades, which boasts a variety of corals, sponges and fish species. The scuba diving in Cozumel will entertain beginner divers with shallow colorful sites and the more advanced with deeper drift dives along huge walls and swim-throughs. Water temperature is warm year-round. Underwater photographers are smart to bring both wide-angle and macro gear.  

 

Schooling fish 00:18, turtle 00:42, nurse shark 00:51, sting ray 01:08, free swimming eel 01:15, ray 01:51, moray eel 02:02, turtle 02:14, schooling fish 03:02, turtle 03:18, turtle 03:35  

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Diving Information 

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Marine Life & Photography Subjects

Cozumel is home to over 500 fish species and a wide variety of corals. On a typical trip, divers will see turtles, groupers, green moray eels, nurse sharks, the endemic splendid toadfish and lots of colorful tropical fish.

Divers will often see eagle rays in the distance during winter months while the summer brings more blacktip and reef sharks. The southernmost deeper reefs feature massive coral heads covered with vase, tube, rope, elephant ear and many other vibrantly colored sponges.

The coral heads create a network of fun channels, swim-throughs and wall drifts above steep drop-offs. The depth and rich color make a dive light very useful in viewing the rich colors and for peering into nooks and crannies looking for a splendid toadfish or dog-sized lobsters.

The shallower reefs further north boast much small fish and inverts. It's here that divers will often see hawksbill turtles, eagle rays and small schools of jacks, barracuda and other open water fish.

Look behind the coral heads and you might encounter nurse sharks, moray eels, lobsters and more. Afternoon and night boat dives are done on these shallower reefs as well.

Shore diving from resorts offers a chance macro subjects on artificial reefs and the sandy bottom. The current is minimal at these sites, providing ample opportunity to shoot anemone shrimp, juvenile drumfish, spotted moray eels, stingrays, trumpetfish and more.

Diving at dusk into the night will bring out more critters, including some curious squid. And while rarer, divers should always be on the lookout for seahorses.


Nurse shark 00:11, eagle ray 00:16, turtle 00:37, nurse shark 01:14, lobster 01:37, nurse shark 01:57, turtle 02:33, ray 03:12, sting ray 04:23, eagle ray 04:52, nurse shark 05:02, eagle ray 05:26, turtle 06:52


Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperature: Averages 25°C/77°F in the winter and 29°C/85°F in summer.
  • Visibility: Consistently 80-100 feet (24-30 meters
  • Depth Range: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

 

Typical Cozumel Dive

There are many dive operators in Cozumel - some independent and some attached to resorts. Diving is done from a variety of boats, from spacious 20-diver boats to fast twin-outboard pangas for 4-6 divers.

Two-tank morning dives are standard, picking up divers at resort docks anywhere between 7:30-8:30am, returning by 12 or 1 pm in time for lunch and an afternoon siesta. Single-tank afternoon dives, night dives, and resort beach dives are also available.

Because of the currents (running south to north), dive boats make live drops and follow divers as they drift along the reef before ascending right next to the boat. Some operations will drop a big group with several guides and some will space out small groups with one guide each. Guides always deploy an SMB before ascending to a safety stop.

Those diving several days will experience a great variety in dive sites.

Advanced divers will start with deeper (70-80ft) dives along the famous Punta Sur, Colombia and Palancar Reefs followed by a surface interval and second dive further north at shallower reefs like Paso Del Cedral, Tormentos, Chankanaab or several others.

The deeper reefs feature massive coral heads with a maze of swim-throughs and walls decorated with colorful sponges of all shapes and sizes. The dives will generally start in shallower water for a quick buoyancy check and then drop over the ledge into deeper water for the majority of the dive.

Towards the end, divers will work their way up the slope into the 30-40ft range before rising for a mid-water safety stop. The shallower reefs are colorful with more natural light as divers drift over exotic coral, sponges and marine life - perfect as a second dive.


 

COZUMEL's Best Dive Sites

The best scuba diving in Cozumel can be found both to the north and the south of the main strip of resorts on it's west coast. Here are some of are favorite Cozumel dive sites:

  • Columbia Deep – For huge coral formations.
  • Palancar reef – Big structure with many tunnels and swim-throughs
  • Chankanaab Reef – Aan amazing night dive that has an abundance of marine life.
  • Barracuda Reef – Northwest of the island, a deep hog back reef with strong currents, a great place to see pelagics; an advanced dive.
  • C-53 – Wreck of an old minesweeper, put down as an artificial reef.

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

Flying to Cozumel is easy thanks to many visiting tourists. Several airlines offer direct flights into Cozumel International Airport (CZM), and from there it's a quick shuttle or shared taxi ride to the dive resorts.

If taking the taxi, it's necessary to pay for the ride inside the airport before walking outside. There are two rates depending on whether the resort is close to town or further south (about $9 USD).

The other alternative is to fly into Cancun and then take a ferry down to Cozumel. This also presents the opportunity to visit Playa Del Carmen - a great option for those who would like to cover a bit more ground or dive the Cenotes.  

 

How to Dive Cozumel

Land-based diving is the norm in Cozumel, offering the balance between non-dive activities and excellent scuba diving. Most resorts work with an in-house dive operation but also allow other dive operations to pick guests up at their docks.  

 

Best time to dive Cozumel

Cozumel's diving season is year-round. However, the months of December to April is considered the high season. Due to the increasing number of tourists, the prices will be highest this time of year.

On the other hand, non-dive activities are in full swing. Water temps hover around 75-85F and winter winds occasionally create choppy surface conditions.

May to September is considered the rainy season but the water begins to warm up. Late summer and fall is the low season due to occasional hurricanes, but water temperatures are warmest - up to around 85F. We would consider May - July the best time to dive Cozumel, because it less crowded with good weather, warm water, and you are outside of hurricane season.

The typical currents can also be stronger during the transition between seasons, however, this also can bring more sharks and eagle rays.

 

Topside & Non-Diving Activities

Cozumel offers many activities for non-divers and divers who want to relax after diving in the morning. The nightlife is rich with a variety of entertainment to choose from. There are restaurants offering nice romantic dining, casual family dinners, late night clubs and everything in-between. There is shopping, parasailing, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and many more activities. The wide range of resorts allows divers to choose from exceptional spa facilities, hammocks to tuck away and read a book, tennis courts, and pools with swim-up bars. Those who are more adventurous can ride horses, take a tequila tasting tour, join eco jungle and lagoon tours or venture inland to explore ancient Mayan ruins.

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Mexican Peso (MXN)
  • Language: Spanish is the official language in Mexico but most people today learn English as a second language, especially in popular tourist spots like Cozumel.
  • Main Airport Code: CZM
  • Time Zone: UTC-5
  • Electricity: 127 V 60 Hz

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Reviews (12)

  • Reviewer
Marina Del Rey, CA
United States
5
4
4
4

Cozumel is a highly-regarded dive destination for a reason. The diving is great, the value is fantastic, the travel time from the U.S. is short and there are hotels/resorts to fit every budget and style of travel. I've stayed at several resorts in Cozumel and the accommodations/food will (obviously) vary depending on trip budget. You can choose a resort with the bare essentials in the room and basic buffet dining, an exquisite room with multiple elegant dining restaurants or every combination in between. You can plan your trip depending on whether you'd like to party at a pool after morning dives, relax with a book on a quiet hammock or dive from morning into the night.

The diving is primarily drift diving, with the first dive at a deeper reef and the second at a shallower reef. With proper research you'll have attentive and safe guides who will point out marine life like eagle rays, turtles, nurse sharks, lobsters and even the endemic splendid toadfish. I can't wait to go back.

Visited on - Submitted on 01/08/2014
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Cozumel is one of my favorite dive locations. When I visited, I did 12 dives- each different from the next. From lush coral to diving caves to high speed drift dives there is a type of site for everyone to enjoy. Night dives bring out a variety of octopus, lobster, giant crab, small jelly fish, eels and the ever-so-beautiful bioluminescence. My experiences with dive masters proved that they are highly skilled at finding and identifying even the smallest marine life-baby lobster and seahorses in particular. My favorite dive site was a more advanced drift dive called Barracuda. The lush marine life and coral is awe-inspiring...Careful if you need to slow down for a moment during your drift dives to only stop and gently stabilize on sponges with the permission of your dive masters, as to ensure that there is no damage done to the reef or other marine life.
Top-side activities are fun, though my travel-mates and I spent most of our time in the water, so I do not have too much guidance in this area. Many of the resorts have pools (and pool-side bars), and indoor bars with activities such as pool, billiards and music. In town there are a variety of restaurants, shops and while there we caught a drum circle with dancing and festivities.
Overall, if you are an avid diver and would like a destination where you can explore a variety of incredible dive locations and you aren't very particular about your top-side activities, Cozumel is a great destination.

Visited on 07/2012 - Submitted on 03/02/2014
3
4
5
2

My favorite things about Cozumel are the affordability and ease of getting there. From the United States, it's a quick single-connection or even direct flight and that means all in 1/2 a day, you can leave your house, hop a flight, and be IN THE WATER by 1PM: depending how far you have to travel. It won't cost you an arm and a leg, either! :)

There are at least a dozen reputable dive operators to choose from on this small island - probably more. Dive & Stay packages are quite popular, and can run anywhere form $350 to $1500 (USD) depending on the duration, location, and resort options selected. I personally took an eight day trip that included 7 days lodging, two meals per day, and five two tank boat dives with unlimited shore diving for about $800 USD...the eighth day I went solely on the local economy for about $60 USD. I'd rate the five, two-tank dive days about an average expectation for a dive trip in Cozumel but you can be as frugal or as liberal as you like. For the REALLY budget-conscious diver, there are a handful of cheap hotels in San Miguel that can be had for under $40USD per night if you want to try booking dives a-la-carte for less than what the resorts charge on their packages. There's a MEGA (grocery store) on the southern edge of the city for all of your grocery needs, or you can dine at one of many restaurants near the town square and along the main coastal passage way. I, personally, chose to mix my trip up and found it to be a little less money, but more stressful to do the a-la-carte-thing. However, if you want a REAL feel for the local atmosphere, I'd say that's how to do it.

The diving is good to great, with rather consistent visibility from 80' to 100'+, and water temps in the low to mid 80's (Farhenheit). However, that great visibility comes at a cost in current. Strong gulf-stream currents sweep past the island at all times of the year, so drift diving is the norm. (Also, the most enjoyable given the conditions) Many of the reefs offer some releif from the flow, but not much and you can plan on drifting at least a little from wherever you put in. The structure consists of some patch reef, spur-and-groove, and wall formations. (The walls being my personal favorite) Marine life will not disappoint! While there I saw zillions of little macro critters all the way up to nurse sharks, turtles, and spotted eagle rays. Very cool to see a mix of big and small animals. Oh, and did I mention the brilliant cobalt and turquoise appearance of the water that just SCREAMS dive paradise? :)

The currency is the Mexican peso, but US dollars are widely accepted. I found street prices to be somewhat less negotiable on Cozumel, as opposed to other hot tourism areas like Cabo San Lucas and Cancun. Dive prices were not negotiable at all with many of the dive operators I spoke to. (Y yo hablo espanol, compadres!) Oh well - The rates are still quite fair and you'll enjoy your time underwater in Cozumel.

Topside, the city of San Miguel sort of ebbs and flows with the cruise liner schedules. Boat comes to port: Town bustles. Boat leaves port: Town goes to sleep. I was surprised to find popular tourist clubs (Sr. Frogs, Margaritaville) empty or even closed after 5 or 6 PM on some days. That said, get out and explore like a local - Just be careful of solicitors: They're around and sometimes may try to sell you some things that can get you into trouble, depending which street you walk down. (I'd stick to the square and main roads if I wasn't with somebody local who could vouch for my interests) The square is a nice area to kick back and enjoy a little food and if you're lucky: Live entertainment via fire dancers, bands, mariachi, or other street performers. Cold beers can be had for $2-$3USD, or about 20-30 pesos.

Getting to and from the airport is relatively easy by taxi, and many resorts offer shuttle service. Also, there's a ferry that runs at least twice daily to/from Playa del Carmen if you feel like checking out what it has to offer (Mayan ruins, and Cenote dives are accessible from Playa). It takes about 45 minutes and will cost you from $10-$20USD each way.

I've already stated that flights to Cozumel are easy to come by from the US. Now, being the popular cruise stopover that it is, if you find yourself landing for a brief stay in Cozumel via cruise itinerary - It's probably an outstanding value as a port of call that offers great diving. :)

Enjoy!

Visited on 01/2012 - Submitted on 03/03/2014
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4
4

We went to Cozumel for the first time last year, in June, which is the off season and a good time to go since prices are lower and the island is not as swamped with tourists. The diving was fantastic, with tremendous fish schools, interesting corals, and good conditions. This was one of the first tropical trips for me with my DSLR underwater camera setup, and while I did get some great shots, the typical "drift" diving in the area made for some tricky and sometimes altogether impossible macro shooting. Sometimes the current was simply too strong and you moving too fast to search for anything interesting, let alone stop and compose a shot. We typically did 2 dives a day, then a shore dive by ourselves - just renting tanks in front of our hotel - Villa Blanca - and entering from the pier right there. It was good to have that shore dive to work on technique by myself, without worrying about keeping up with a group. Rays and turtles, schools of silversides, needle fish and barracuda were seen right next to shore. A night dive was a highlight, and so nice that we actually switched a day dive the next day to do a second night dive. We saw tons of octopus, and the bio luminescent plankton was really amazing. Weather top side was a little blah - 80's, party sunny, and a little rainy, but it didn't effect the diving. All in all, a great destination for a tropical dive fix without the larger price tag of flights and accommodations at more remote pacific locations.

Visited on 06/2013 - Submitted on 07/30/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Larkspur, CO
United States
5
5
4
3

I've dived Cozumel several times, and each time the visibility never ceases to amaze. It may be the best in the world. The dive sites are much-visited, but quite spectacular. Virtually all diving is drift diving, so you have to be comfortable with that. The marine life is quite good for the Caribbean. Up north of town is a wall dive called Cantarel for more advanced divers (85' and strong current) where you can see squadrons of eagle rays up close in Jan/Feb. If you're vigilant, you may get to see a splendid toadfish, which are endemic solely to Cozumel. Go with an operator who has fast boats, so you can get to the best dive sites south of the town before the rest of the boats show up. The town of San Miguel on Cozumel has many good restaurants, virtually all within walking distance of the town square. If you're there on a Sunday night, don't miss the festivities on the square--live band, dancing, all kinds of vendors and artists.

Visited on 07/2014 - Submitted on 07/30/2014

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