Cozumel is the Mexican Caribbean’s largest island, just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula opposite Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun, and is known as one of the best scuba diving locations in the world. In fact, Cozumel scuba diving should be very high in your scuba diving plans because it is ranked as the No. 1 destination by the PADI Travel Network.
Cozumel is part of the Great Maya Barrier Reef, which extends from Northern Yucatan to Honduras and is the second largest in the world. Cozumel scuba diving vacationers can enjoy the island’s portion of the reef, which is located off the southern leeward coast.
The best Cozumel scuba diving times are the spring and summer. The island enjoys a subtropical climate with a pretty constant temperature of 80°, which rises into the 90s during July and August. The rainy months are June to October when it can be hot and humid away from the sea breeze. Fortunately, rainfall doesn’t affect water visibility because there is very little run-off. Winters can see rainfall and lower temperatures, but Cozumel’s proximity to the mainland means it is less affected than other Caribbean islands. Water temperatures vary from upper 70s to low 80s.
The island has been a favorite destination for divers since Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s documentary in 1961 showed the world the delights of Cozumel’s fantastic marine life. Visibility in the water around Cozumel is rarely less than 100 feet and can be as far as 250 feet. As far as visibility goes, therefore, Cozumel scuba diving would have to hold the Caribbean’s, if not the world’s, top spot.
Cozumel scuba diving is so special because the island is surrounded by one of the most wonderful coral reef formations on the planet, with tunnels, caves, and pinnacles forming an underwater paradise. Amazing coral reefs are waiting for the Cozumel scuba diving enthusiast, and there is some spectacular wall diving where the drop-offs can plummet over 3,000 feet to the ocean floor. Needless to say, a large variety of exotic marine life thrives in the reefs of Cozumel.
The island is not large – just 28 miles long by 10 miles wide – therefore travelling from one dive site to another is a piece of cake. The climate is subtropical, and you can be assured that, on Cozumel, scuba diving is not the only attraction as it has been a well-established tourist destination for many years. Having said that, Cozumel is still a tranquil and relaxed place to visit if you find the right spots.
The Best Places for the Cozumel Scuba Diving Enthusiast
Most Cozumel scuba diving activity takes place on the reefs and shallow coral formationsthat extend from the southernmost tip of the island along the west coast up to just south of the main town of San Miguel, where most of Cozumel’s population lives.
The beaches along this stretch are all protected , and the coastline was designated an underwater national park in 1996 by the Mexican government. Since then, the island’s dive operators have worked with the government to protect the area. There are limits on the number of boats and scuba dive operators allowed on the reefs at any one time, which can only be a good thing because it means that future generations will be able to visit Cozumel scuba diving and enjoy the same fantastic sights as today’s divers so vocally relish.
There are two main coral reef systems surrounding Cozumel – the Colombia Reef and the Palancar Reef. These are great spots for some Cozumel scuba diving because they are easily reached, lying in less than 30 feet of water. Here you can see teeming marine life and vibrant colors that are so overwhelming to the senses that many people who come to Cozumel scuba diving describe these dives as the best of their lives.
You will also want to visit the gigantic Santa Rosa Wall for some wall diving, great marine life, outstanding coral, and colourful sponges; the San Francisco Reef for a less dramatic drop-off wall and equally amazing sea life; and the Yucab Reef for its stunning coral.
You should note that Cozumel scuba diving is actually drift diving, therefore the novice may find things a little disconcerting to start. You can’t knock this, because the fantastic reefs owe their splendor to the Giana Current that sweeps along them, carrying the nutrients they need to thrive.
It is something to note, though, because there is no predictable pattern to the currents. This means that groups visiting Cozumel scuba diving may find that they become separated as currents pull at different speeds at different depths. It is therefore crucial that an experienced local dive master is employed to keep your Cozumel scuba diving experience as safe and organized as possible. This person should know how the currents behave at the various dive locations around the island.
The Cozumel Scuba Diving Scene
As you might expect, the Cozumel scuba diving scene is a busy one, and you will have no trouble locating a dive shop or dive operator, of which there are more than fifty. Your dive card and dive log will be required for boat trips out, and a Cozumel scuba diving two-tank morning should run you around $60 to $85. Discounted afternoon dives are available for those who took the morning trips. Cheaper dive packages are available via the hotels, which cover two dives a day.
Accommodation ranges from small, cheap downtown hotels to diver hangouts to expensive hotels. On Cozumel, scuba diving isn’t the only pastime, as it has a lively party scene, especially when the cruise ship passengers swarm into town.
Overall, coming to Cozumel scuba diving has got to be a desire of anyone who loves being underwater. PADI certainly rates the place, voting it top scuba destination, and you only have to check out the diver reviews of those who have visited to know that this is one of the places to visit on your world scuba itinerary.