Cozumel

4.14583333333
(12 REVIEWS)

 

Country: Mexico

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Cozumel in a Nutshell

Cozumel is a year-round dive destination known for easy drift diving 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 dive resorts.

 

Intro to 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. 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 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 many 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.

Searching beneath and behind the coral heads will reward divers with 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 1pm 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 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.


 

Best Dive Sites

  • Columbia Deep – For huge coral formations.
  • Panancar 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.  

 

Weather

Cozumel can be dived year-round, however, December - April is considered the high season. Tourists create the high season, so 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 - 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. 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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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Mexican Peso
  • Language: Spanish is the official language in Mexico but most people today learn English as a second language
  • 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
5
4
5
4

I've spent a week at a time diving with Aqua Safari in Cozumel for five years. Their dive guides and crew are very professional and make the trip fun everytime. Their boats are well maintained and have a the typical amount of room for divers. The dive guides know the reefs and where to best find the wildlife. They also know how to have fun. Once on a drift dive over a sand bed they introduced me to moon walking. That's taking your fins off, dumping your BC, and jumping along. The reefs in Cozumel are some of the best in the world. Huge coral formations and fish such as the splendid toadfish, which is found no where else in the world. The food in Cozumel is fantastic. Primo 's is one of my favorite restaurants on the island, which has a wonderful combination of Mexican seafood with an Italian flare. Cozumel is a great destination for a dive vacation. Being a tourist centric economy, all the locals are very friendly and the people you meet are really what can make a vacation memorable.

Visited on 09/2013 - Submitted on 01/25/2014
  • Reviewer
Northridge, CA
United States
5
5
5
5

My dive buddy is my wife and this trip was a great vacation, romantic destination, and dive trip. We went in 6/2012.

We stayed at Fiesta Americana which is further south on the beach than most dive resorts on the island. We were two miles south of downtown which was nice because we had no idea which days were cruise ship days. The resort is closed, however is a nice property and location so when it reopens under a different name it may viable. It was an all inclusive at the time we stayed.

Diving: We have been diving in St. Croix and Roatan in the Caribbean and this is reputed, and in our opinion the best diving in the Caribbean. The majority of the diving is drift diving, and the entire West and South West sides of the island are rocky which makes for varying topography offering reefs, walls, caves, and significant swim throughs, the most notorious being Devil's Throat. As far as marine life we saw everything you would expect to see in the Caribbean, from all the tropical fish, turtles, eels, barracuda, and even a lobster that was 20 pounds.

Dive operation: We dove with Dive House which had a location on property but had other locations on the island and at the time of this writing was still in business. They were nice boats, and the crews were amazingly helpful and hospitable, yet professional. Our favorite dive master was Orlando, with a close second of Victor. As the week went on we were paired with divers of similar abilities and desires, and felt like we could see or go wherever was desired or best suited for us,

Top side: Downtown area at night (after cruise ships are gone) was perfect. Safe, and romantic, with a plethora of shopping and dining choices. Cozumel being an island seems to have a safer feel than any other destination we have been to in Mexico. There are kids playing in the street after dark, and even in the non tourist areas we may have looked out of place but didn't feel that way. Our favorite restaurant was La Mission. The whole downtown area is lit up with little lights and restaurants that aren't packed after cruise ships depart which makes for great competition, thereby value, with a romantic and fun vibe. Lastly we met new diving friends that we still maintain a friendship and diving relationship with,

Want to dive in the Caribbean, Cozumel is hard to beat.

Visited on 06/2012 - Submitted on 02/02/2014
  • Reviewer
Culver City, CA
United States
5
4
5
4

Cozumel is a must. Diving is much better than 20 miles away in Cancun, or Play del Carmen; except if you want to do cenote cavern diving; but you can take the ferry to the mainland and do that there, making it a great day trip. Playa del Carmen diving does not compare with the diversity of the Cozumel marine park. The size of the many Queen Angel fish makes them a great photo opportunity. And I even took some of the best shorts of turtles feeding on sponges. The marina park gives sanctuary for crabs and lobsters to grow to their full size. I mean some of the crabs I saw there were huge!!! Wate rwas clean and warm (77) and visibility outstanding 80-100 ft. Plenty of fish from big to small. Saw a few spotted eagle rays, many turtles, lobster and crabs everywhere even in daylight. Cozumel has a wide variety of small hotels and larger all inclusive. Even though most of the all inclusive resorts are a star or so below the ones on Cozumel, they offer nice rooms, plenty of drinks and great staff and pleasant grounds. You will encounter more experienced divers in the hotels there than on the mainland. The people serving you in hotels and restaurants are hard working, friendly and hospitable. the island is laid back and a divers paradise. Some of the hotels are right in the town of San Miguel, where the airport and ferry terminal is located. There are of course many restaurants and bars close by to explore during the day and night. Some of the all inclusive resorts are about a 20 or 30 minute drive further south. There you are self contained at the resort and you will either take a cab or rent a car if you want to go back to San Miguel and do sightseeing and shopping. Other than that the island is mostly undeveloped. Circling the island by rental car is fun and offers you to see the Atlantic coast side, which has some nice wave action. The roads are as usual better than in Los Angeles.

Visited on 02/2013 - Submitted on 02/07/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Minneapolis, MN
United States
4
4
3
4

Cozumel is where many Americans go to dive. It is easy to get to, relatively inexpensive, and the diving is very good. Although I like Little Cayman and The Belizean atolls a bit better, it ranks right up there with the best diving in the Caribbean.

I have been here a half dozen times, so this review is a bit of an amalgam of several trips. The weather varies a lot from season to season. June and July are my favorite times to dive here when the water is very warm and seas are flat as glass. Hurricanes are an issue here in August (it seems to attract early ones) and we were there once in August a week or so after a medium sized one, so the threat is real. It is perfect in early summer. Was there in late fall and it was very rough and we were quite restricted in where we went. Spring break was good as well, kind of in between.

Our family has stayed in a condo or two in the north part of the island which was great and good value. If you have a couple of kids and want a mixed activity vacation, this worked great. Diving requires a bit of a drive, so you kind of need a car to commute. If you want an all in dive holiday, this is probably not so good. I have stayed at the Presidente which is right by the best dive sites. The boat picked us up right by the hotel peer and you are diving in 10 minutes. You also are south of the cruise ship parking lot.

There are a lot of options in dive operators as well. We have avoided the hotel operators ard selected those that cater to more serious divers. We stay away from those that focus on the cruise trade and fill in with divers when they can't fill up there scuba buses.

Visited on 07/2005 - Submitted on 02/25/2014

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