he underwater world is such an amazing place to discover and explore, with hundreds of different fish and plant species to study and observe or just gaze at in awe and amazement. Regardless if you’ve had a chance to really dive into this underwater wonderland yet or not, this is one location that isn’t too far from home that is perfect for those who are just picking up the new habit or have been a part of the fraternity for years.
Cozumel is very well known and extremely popular amongst divers, and has been all the way back to the days of famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
WHAT MAKES COZUMEL SO SPECIAL
Cozumel provides so much for visitors of all skill levels to enjoy. The crystal clear, warm blue waters is one factor that makes this place so special to dive. There is no question there is stunning and amazing diving all over the world, but for those of us who reside in the US and Canada however, it’s hard to beat the location and temperatures that exist for diving in Coz.
The next ingredient that works for Cozumel is that it’s home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, the ‘Meso American Barrier Reef‘. The reef ecosystem draws hundreds of various species of fish, along with sea turtles, lobster, rays, eels, octopus, and the list goes on! Starting at the top of the Yucatan Peninsula (near Isla Contoy), the reef stretches south alongside Belize, Guatemala, and all the way to Honduras–a distance of nearly 620 miles (1,000 KM).
Cozumel boasts another unique facet of reef diving–walls! These awesome, massive coral formations are largely due to the ocean currents around Cozumel, where sediment is swept along rather than allowed to settle. The benefit? Where faster water races, you can expect bigger wildlife such as green or loggerhead sea turtles, sharks, goliath grouper, and green moray eels.
The Caribbean island is well known for its drift-diving (referring to dives that require more buoyancy control than kicking because you just ride along with the current). For more experienced divers, the walls are what is truly amazing. According to divers, Cozumel is consistently high-ranking as one of the best wall diving destinations in the world, with the Santa Rosa wall being at the top of that list.
With a wide variety of diving, you will definitely not get bored of checking out the sights below the surface. Cozumel is a relatively small island, but you could easily fill an entire week with nothing but diving! The island boasts over 40 individual dive sights, for all skill and experience levels. There are wrecks, tunnels and flooded caverns reaching depths of over 200 feet (60m). It is a great place to up your skill level and try something new. You always have night dives available as well, which opens up an entirely different underwater world when the lights go out.
Along the sheltered western side of the island, there is also plenty of shore diving that can be had. Depending on where you are staying or which dive operator you’re diving with, the reef is so close to shore that it makes for some very relaxing and enjoyable shore dives with your buddies. (Of course, snorkeling is a good option here as well.) No boat ride necessary–just get your gear on and wade on in! When you get back, you can dry off and enjoy a delicious meal and a cold beer as the sun sets.
We would be missing something if we didn’t touch on the outstanding water conditions. In Cozumel you will consistently have over 100 feet of visibility, and if you’re fortunate and hit it right, you could get up to 200 feet visibility. That is incredible clarity; optimal for stunningly beautiful underwater photos.
Also, you won’t catch cold because the water is always a pleasant and warm temperature. It’s generally in the 80’s (°F) and will dip down into the 70’s for a couple months during the winter (20 – 27 °C). Many divers choose not to don a wet suit because the water is so perfect, and if they do it’s just a shorty that is a couple millimeters thick. Getting your SCUBA diving certification here, or just spending lots of time in the water is so much more pleasant due to comfortable water conditions year-round.
BEST COZUMEL DIVE SITES
You can’t really go wrong anywhere you choose to dive on Cozumel. The majority of the dive sites are scattered along the western coast of the island, where the coral growth is vibrant and beautiful. Some deeper dives can be found on the south end. (The eastern side of the island is exposed to open ocean and not conducive to diving or snorkeling, but there are a few dive sites.)
TIP: Guides will make sure to take you to a site that matches your level of expertise so that you fully enjoyable the experience. If you haven’t logged a dive in a while, you can expect a quick refresher course before you do your first dive.
This is a magnificent dive and probably the most well-known dive site on the island. It’s a good intro dive at novice level and is really fun to explore, with towering walls of coral and swim-throughs. It ranges from 30 – 80 ft depths and there’s a slight current. Watch for manta rays, lobsters, hermit crabs, hawksbill turtles, and barracuda.
Here is a beautiful drift dive with low-profile coral growth and plenty of fish. The current will coax you along, don’t fight it. Stunningly beautiful angelfish and parrotfish swam within inches of your mask. The visibility is typically fantastic; with rays of sunlight filtering down through the turquoise water to a depth of 50 – 60 feet.
There are extremely strong currents and confined spaces which will challenge even the experienced diver. You’ll love the spectacular cavern called ‘the Cathedral’ at about 110 feet, and there’s the notorious ‘Devil’s Throat’ which is a narrow swim-through that descends from 90 feet to about 130 feet.
TIP: This is a deep dive and for advanced divers only.
SANTA ROSA WALL
This is also a very popular site, and easily accessible from town. Its depth ranges from 50 to 120 feet, and is good for intermediate level divers. There are impressive coral walls, ledges and towers, and you get the sensation that you’re flying along a clifftop at times! This is a drift dive.
Looking for a great shore dive? This is it! It is a shallow dive, averaging 20 feet. You’ll see a submerged statue of Christ and the Virgin Mary, festooned with coral growth. Other reefs nearby (Chankanaab Shallow and Chankanaab Deep), start off around 50 feet, gradually descend to 70 feet and then slope down into an abyss, and are great night dive options.
This is a shallow spot for easy diving and snorkeling. The best part is the dock is right off the restaurant, so friends and family can enjoy a meal and gaze at the sunset over the water while others in the group check out the underwater sights. An easy and fun place for kids to swim around too.
Located off the exposed eastern coast of the island, this site is teeming with fish. It’s basically a series of mini atolls. The depth ranges from 15 to 30 feet. This is a fun dive if you’re in the mood for venturing to the wild side of the island!
THE SOCIAL DIVE SCENE
Scuba diving is something that easily becomes an addiction or even obsession to any that fall under its spell. On the island you’ll find lots of people that would rather spend more time sub-surface than above the water!
Diving is truly a big part of Cozumel’s unique culture. So many of the travelers to this little island are there for one main reason: to dive. There are over 20 different dive companies on the island, along with dive resorts (and even an all-inclusive diving resort). Travel packages that combine accommodations, food and transportation with diving are plentiful.
If you’re traveling solo, or perhaps you’re just the only diver in your group, you’ll quickly bump into new potential diving buddies. As you sit on the beach sipping your margarita or trek out on your dive boat to the next site, you’ll make friends in the diving community fast and furious on this treasure of an island.
Average air temperature: 80°F [27°C] July/August – High 80’s to low 90’s°F [32°C] December/January – Mid 70’s°F [24°C]
Winter Months: Cold fronts may create windy, cloudy and cooler weather. Afternoon thunderstorms are common, usually lasting for an hour.
Water temperatures range from 77°-82°F [25°-28°C] throughout the year.