Cozumel, Mexico

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Scuba Diving in Cozumel, Mexico

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Cozumel Diving HIghlights

Cozumel is a year-round scuba diving destination on 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 is one of Mexico's best dive destinations, boasting a great assortment of diving and marine life.

The Cozumel diving scene is also known for its assortment of well-run dive resorts, from budget to luxury. Boasting great nightlife and an endless list of things to do, Cozumel is a popular travel destination for scuba divers and non-divers alike. Whether you're traveling alone, with your partner, friends, or family members, there's something for everyone in Cozumel.

Looking for a family-friendly dive destination? Learn more about scuba diving Zanzibar, Tanzania, and Kenya.

That said, Cozumel might it might not be the best diving spot for divers who prefer quiet off-the-beaten-path locations. Cozumel could get really crowded during the high season which typically runs from November to April.

Looking for more options? Check out our Best Diving in the Caribbean article to find the perfect Caribbean dive vacation spot for you!  


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 

Cozumel Diving scuba diving cozumel


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. We all can't do a Galapagos liveaboard every year, but many people can afford an annual Cozumel trip. 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 underwater photo gear.   

See how is it to dive in Cozumel from this awesome video.

Cozumel underwater video showing beautiful coral reefs, swim-throughs, wreck diving, night diving, and various marine life species like turtles, nurse sharks, moray eels, lobsters, rays, splendid toadfish, and many more.


If you enjoy drift and wall diving but fancy somewhere further afield, check out our guide to Bunaken diving

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Marine Life & Photography Subjects

The vibrant and lively Cozumel diving scene is world-class. Home to over 500 fish species and a wide variety of corals, scuba divers could see turtles, groupers, green moray eels, nurse sharks, the endemic splendid toadfish, and lots of colorful tropical fish, on a typical Cozumel diving trip.

Divers will often see eagle rays in the distance during the winter months while the summer brings more blacktip and reef sharks. The southernmost deeper reefs feature massive coral heads covered with a 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 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.

With so many rays, turtles, colorful sponges and schooling fish, Cozumel is a great place for underwater video. Read our GoPro underwater guide, pick up a Paralenz or Olympus TG-6, or get a new underwater video camera and pick up a video light.

Want to know more about diving in Cozumel? Check out our Trip Recap from last February 2021.

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 7:30-8:30 am, 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 marine life cozumel



Cozumel's Best Dive Spots

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

  1. 1. Columbia Deep 
  2. 2. Palancar Reef
  3. 3. Chankanaab Reef
  4. 4. Barracuda Reef
  5. 5. C-53 Wreck


Columbia Deep – This dive site is famous for huge coral formations and pinnacles. Scuba divers often see turtles, rays, barracudas, jacks, and nurse sharks. You can also find caverns and tunnels that are covered with soft coral.

Palancar reef – Big structure with many tunnels and swim-throughs and easy diving. You can see numerous different coral species that are great for underwater photography. Between all these coral formations, you will see various Caribbean marine life.

Chankanaab Reef – Ideal dive spot for an amazing night dive that has an abundance of marine life. Divers can see crabs, lobsters, moray eels, snappers, stingrays, urchins, groupers and lionfish. Shallow depths and mild currents make it an easy dive available for all levels of divers.

Barracuda Reef – Northwest of the island, a deep hog back reef with strong currents, a great place to see pelagics. A favorite dive site for many scuba divers where besides seeing barracudas even hammerheads have been spotted. Also, great for seeing other reef sharks and eagle rays. It's more suitable for advanced divers.

C-53 – Though Cozumel is not known for wreck diving, this wreck of an old minesweeper, put down as an artificial reef is worth exploring. Divers can enter inside the wreck to see the engine room and old crew equipment. The healthy coral growth has brought with it different marine life and you can see octopus, moray eels, blennies and many more. 

cozumel diving 

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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.  

For another great land-based Caribbean destination, check out our guide to diving Aruba.

Looking for a liveaboard experience? Check out our article on the World of Liveaboard Diving.

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 is 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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Other Useful Information 

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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 (14)


January 2021 in Cozumel! The weather was a bit chilly so you need a light jacket for your surface intervals. Visibility was 100'+ and the dive sites have recovered from some "white death blight" from a year ago. We didn't see a single coral with any blight. Palancar reefs were the group favorite. We were in Cozumel in July 2020 and found the water warmer but mosquitos were very bad. Don't miss renting e-bikes and going down to the southern lighthouse and spend a rest day on that beach having a great lunch! Restaurants are all back up and running so we had wonderful food! Very nice in Cozumel right now without the cruise ship folks and the extreme pressure it puts on all aspects of the island. We have dove all around the Caribbean and just keep coming back to unbeatable Cozumel.

Visited on 01/2021 - Submitted on 03/11/2021
  • Top Reviewer
Fountain Valley, CA
United States

I've traveled to Cozumel at least a dozen times. There are many direct flights from US gateways, making it very easy to get there. I have stayed in hotels, private rental villas, and one dive resort. San Miguel is the main town on the island where all the action takes place. It's filled with restaurants, bars, shops, and dive operations. There are dozens of dive operators to choose from. I stayed at a hotel within walking distance of town and found it very convenient to everything. I've also stayed many times on the southern end of the island. It is much quieter here, but I believe the best diving is in this area and has shorter boat rides than staying close to town. A rental car is recommended if staying here.

I also stayed at a dive resort due to a recommendation from friends. Divers usually come here for the drift diving along Cozumel's walls. Some of my favorite sites are Punta Sur, Maracaibo, Devil’s Throat, all three sections of Palancar Reef, and Santa Rosa Wall. Cozumel is still a place where you can frequently see large groupers. This is one of the most visited dive destinations in the Caribbean. Cruise ships also visit here and it can get very crowded if several are in port at the same time. I have come here with my non-diving family and friends, and they enjoyed their time very much. There is great snorkeling here, some Mayan ruins to visit, and great tourist shopping. I suggest that you bring home some Mexican vanilla. It is very good and is reasonably priced.

Bottom line: Cozumel has world-class diving, dozens of excellent restaurants and great tourist shopping. Its definitely family-friendly, and easy to get to. If you love drift and/or wall diving, Cozumel is for you.

Visited on 06/2017 - Submitted on 03/10/2020

Cozumel has some of the best diving in the Caribbean. Cozumel has excellent conditions, and abundant marine life. Cozumel has a variety of dive sites, but it is most well known for its stunning wall dives and leisurely drift dives. Marine life you can expect to see on most dives in Cozumel include nurse sharks, eagle rays, giant green morays, turtles, lobsters, and numerous colorful reef fish. There are so many excellent dive sites on the island, but in this review I will just cover a few of my favorites. Santa Rosa wall is a beautiful wall dive that is done as a drift dive. The top of the wall is right around 50 feet and it drops off into the abyss. Keep an eye out for the endemic splendid toad fish that hides in the coral crevices along the wall. Punta Dalila is a great dive site that was loaded with nurse sharks and eagle rays, it is also a shallower site at around 40-60 feet so it makes a great 2nd dive after a deep wall dive. The cathedral was an amazing dive because of it's incredible reef structures. Around these dramatic swim throughs and the cathedral cavern itself you will see lots of lobsters and green morays, as well as large groupers. While diving this site we were also visited by a lone reef shark. Right by the Cathedral is an excellent dive that is only for experienced divers called The Devil's Throat. The devils throat is a cave/tunnel that starts around 90 feet and continues down until it opens up at around 135 feet. Due to the depth and confined space, only very experienced divers should attempt this dive. Columbia shallows is a nice shallow site that is loaded with beautiful colorful reef fish and frequented by turtles. This site is always done as a second dive after a deep wall dive due to the fact it's only about 20-40 feet deep. This site is very popular as a second dive so it can get somewhat crowded at times. My favorite wall dive that I did on the island was Maracaibo. This was a deeper wall dive as the top of the wall is at around 80 feet. The wall itself is stunning and it drops straight down into the abyss. Currents were relatively strong and this dive is always a drift dive. Drifting along this beautiful wall while watching eagle rays glide by and nurse sharks prowl the edge of the wall made for one of the most memorable dives of my trip.

Topside Cozumel has amazing beaches, excellent restaurants, and lively bars. The main town of San Miguel can get crowded and busy when a cruise ship is docked there, which is pretty often. Cozumel is great for a cheap dive vacation, as getting there is cheap, hotels are cheap, and diving is cheap. With great diving in a beautiful location at great price, it's obvious why Cozumel is such a popular dive destination.

Visited on 10/2011 - Submitted on 09/13/2015

Cozumel has it all: world class diving, great cuisine, a bustling tourist trade, and may very well be the best bang for your buck going. With cheap airfare from LAX and affordable resorts, you can't beat the total outlay for a week of diving in the warm, clear Caribbean. Drift diving means you don't have to kick much, just enjoy the 100' visibility as you fly slowly over the reef on the Gulf Stream's conveyor belt. Or penetrate the C-53, a scuttled minesweeper sitting perfectly upright in 80 ft off water. Topside, the little town of San Miguel waits to tempt you with its touristy shopping area, great local food, and the largest Wal-Mart-like store I've ever seen in Mexico! You can purchase food, cosmetics, electronics, even a moped! Take the ferry 13 miles to Cancun for the wild night life and more diving, this time in fresh water Cenotes. Here the water is so clear that divers appear to float in air rather than water. By day four or five, you'll already be planning your return trip to this island oasis Ahh, Cozumel...the only downside is going home.

Visited on 04/2014 - Submitted on 09/04/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Larkspur, CO
United States

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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