Cozumel Diving, Mexico

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(14 REVIEWS)
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Cozumel Diving, 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 Diving

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 Diving

There are many dive operators in Cozumel - some independent and some attached to resorts. Cozumel 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.

Water clarity is great - you would think solubility rules don't apply here! Visibility almost rivals what you would see scuba diving in Hawaii.

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 

 

How much does it cost to dive in Cozumel?

Again, since Cozumel has an abundance of dive resorts and liveaboard options, prices can range dramatically. It all comes down to the level of comfort you're looking for, the dive package you choose and whether or not you're traveling with friends or family who don't dive. We can put together a no-obligation custom quote for you, so please get in touch for more details. 

 

Does Cozumel have shore diving?

Yes, absolutely. Many dive resorts in Cozumel offer shore diving in addition to boat diving. Shore diving gives divers a chance to explore Cozumel's shallow artificial reefs, which are great for seeing some of the smaller marine life in the area. Diving these shallow reefs is generally more manageable thanks to the minimal current and often sandy bottom.

 

Is Cozumel good for beginner divers?

Cozumel offers a wide range of diving conditions to suit all levels; it is also a great place to start or progress with your training. The high concentration of dive resorts and dive centers on the island to support the thriving scuba diving industry means that operations there are used to accommodating divers of all levels. 

 
 
 

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.

If you want to plan your holiday between July and December, we recommend looking into going  the to other coast of Mexico. Check out what diving at Sea of Cortez has to offer. 

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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Where to Stay in Cozumel for Diving

You're spoilt for choice when choosing where to stay in Cozumel; there are so many great resorts to suit all budgets. From budget backpacker to luxury traveler, Cozumel is scuba diving heaven. The best way to find the resort that is right for you is to get in touch with our team here at Bluewater Travel; we've partnered with the best dive resorts in Cozumel to offer guests unforgettable trips. 

You get a low-price guarantee and a dedicated expert travel agent who will help you choose where to stay in Cozumel for diving when you book through us. All of our agents have local knowledge and are experienced divers themselves; they know what people are looking for in a diving vacation. And the best part is you'll never pay more for booking through us, but you do get all of the additional benefits of having a personal travel concierge! Email us at info@bluewaterdivetravel.com, call 310-915-6677 or use the message box in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. 

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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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Got Questions? Ready to Book?

Call us today at +1-310-915-6677 or email us info@bluewaterdivetravel.com

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Reviews (14)

  • 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
  • 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
5
4
4
4

Destination review for Cozumel:

• Overall there was great visibility on all sites. The reef was healthy on most sites. Incredible visibility on all sites. like 100+ feet. The current wasn’t too bad either. There was drift diving at many sites. Here is a list of some of my favorite dive sites:

o Columbia reef: Saw a ton of turtles, parrot fish, puffer fish, eagle rays, torpedo rays, and wide variety of fish in the beginning. Saw a nurse shark here towards the end of this dive. The coral and reef is amazing and colorful! The reef was huge- almost looked like a mountain underwater.

o Palancar reefs, gardens: saw some Morey eels here, ton of turtles, seahorse. Went through some beautiful swim throughs.

o Punta Sur: Saw multiple eagle rays as soon as we descended. These are the most beautiful and graceful creatures in the ocean. The coral was good too. But could not compete with the initial sitings of eagle rays :)

o Santa Rosa Wall: This was Mostly a drift dive. Again amazingly beautiful coral. We actually saw a group of 7 small sharks towards the end ( dont know what kind). But they were about 3 feet long. Saw a couple of turtles. Also saw a couple of sea horses later on !

Night diving: I was not a big fan of night diving here. There was very little life; at least compared to night diving in Catalina (Ca), there was pretty much nothing. But that may have to do with time of the year.

What to do when you are not diving or at night:

Shows: Downtown Cozumel has a number of street shows that are put up in the evening ( I believe they are sponsored by the government). We saw the one with the fire eater, and were very impressed.

Shopping: There are a ton of little shops around here. Feel free to bargain. The shopkeeper are pretty open to haggling, and I got stuff for half the price they had mentioned

Visited on 12/2013 - Submitted on 02/27/2014
5
5
4
3

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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