Diving Cozumel

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Cozumel, Mexico


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Country: Mexico  Area: Mexico

Water Temp: 24 - 31°C (75 - 88°F)

Visibility: 30 - 100m (98 - 328 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

Loggerhead Nesting - April to July
Green Turtle Nesting - June to Sept

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Mexico’s largest inhabited island has exceptional crystal clear water, towering, spectacular coral formations and exciting drift dives along spectacular reefs! All of which have earned Cozumel its reputation as one of the World’s premier diving destinations.

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Cozumel Island known to the Maya as “Island of the Swallows” is located at the top of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Renowned for scuba diving, Cozumel is a very popular tourist destination by divers but also non divers who visit to experience the tranquil, unspoilt beauty of the island.

The wall of reefs just offshore the west coast of Cozumel were originally discovered by Jacques Cousteau and the extraordinary crystal clear water, spectacular reef walls, caves, swimthroughs and abundance of marine life led him to declare the area as one of the most incredible diving destinations in the world. 

Cozumel Diving, Credit

Cozumel has a great selection of marine life with over 250 species of fish, and on most dives you can expect to see, turtles, groupers, moray eels, nurse sharks, seahorses, lots of colourful reef fish and if you are lucky you may be able to see an eagle ray in the winter months when they visit the north shore in large numbers, or if you are very, very lucky a reef shark. 

A unique creature that can only be found in the Cozumel’s waters and a small area of Belize is the Splendid Toadfish. This shy, strange looking creature is highly endangered and is severely under risk of extinction in the wild but some lucky very observant divers may be able to find one hiding until a rock or some coral.

Scuba diving in Cozumel, Credit


Cozumel has a sub tropical climate due to its year round high temperature. Its rainy season is from May to October, although most of these days are sunny and pleasant with short showers in the late afternoon and evening. However the wind can pick up in September and October which occasionally can lead to tropical storms and hurricanes, also there can also be high winds in November to February which will affect diving conditions. With great weather throughout the year the dive season is year round with only a very few days of diving that have to be cancelled due to weather.

The water temperature varies between 24C in the winter months of December, January and February and 30C in the summer months, peaking around August. Visibility is incredible year round with crystal clear water, generally averaging 30-40m but sometimes even stretching as far as 100m!

Marine Conservation

The Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park was created in 1996 and covers nearly 85% of the diving sights around the island. This park is subject to considerable research and conservation that seeks to protect biodiversity and educate locals and tourists about conservation and protection.  The park asks for a voluntary USD 2 donation from divers in support of conservation initiatives, in addition to the financing received from the federal government and various not-for-profits. International organizations including the Coral Reef Alliance  and the MesoAmerican Reef Tourism Initiative have been instrumental in establishing and coordinating conservation initiatives in the region.

Fish and Coral, Credit

The island is home to a thriving sea turtle population, with numerous projects aimed at protecting their habitat and prohibiting poaching. Volunteers are encouraged to become involved in turtle conservation, through either donations or active participation.

It is critical that all divers and snorkelers visit the reefs with a reputable and socially minded operator. The greatest stress on these reefs come from the thousands of daily independent and cruise ship visitors.

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Shore Diving

Diving Cozumel is mostly undertaken by boat, although there are a few shore dives. These tend to be more for beginners as they are quite shallow easy dives, but are also great night dives.

Turtle in Cozumel, Credit

Boat Diving

The more experienced divers can visit the deeper reef walls, which are done as drift dives. Most dive centres run 3-4 dives a day with the boat dives being paired up with a surface interval on a deserted beach between each dive before returning to the dive centre.

A diver in Cozumel, Credit

Some of the Cozumel’s recommended dive sites are the Palancar Reef, a reef wall leading down to a sandy slope packed full of marine life. However many times you dive this reef it never gets boring and can be dived by all levels.  An exciting dive is the site of Punta Sur with a deep wall with a complex system of colourful reef tunnels and caves packed full of life.

Only experienced divers should consider entering these tunnels and all should be guided as it’s easy to get disorientated or lost. For example one of the larger caves called “the devils throat” opens up into an underwater room with four passageways, which lead to more caves with more passageways leading away.  Another dive just for experienced divers is the Barracuda Reef, severe currents make this site hard work but it’s the best chance of large pelagic action where you may spot Great Barracuda, Sharks and Rays.

More fish, Cozumel, Credit

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How to Get There

Part of the island’s popularity, especially with Americans is due to the relatively short easy journey to get there, with many direct flights to Cozumel Airport from the US and Mexico.

The other option to reach the island is to fly to the nearby city of Cancun; this airport is bigger and therefore has a much larger and cheaper selection of flights. Once at Cancun you can catch a bus to Playa del Carmen and then a boat across to Cozumel.

Whichever method chosen the journey is pretty easy for such a beautiful diving destination.

Cozumel, Credit

Car ferries also leave from Calica daily, which is a few kilometers south of Playa del Carmen. That said – rental cars are strictly prohibited on the ferries (and are quite a hassle). Cars and scooters are easily rented on Cozumel.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Cozumel has an unending and ever-expanding variety of restaurants that are generally locally owned ventures.

Visitors have the option of eating at the beach-front tourist-centred restaurants, or heading back into the local neighbourhoods for a more authentic experience.

Amidst the seafood and American-inspired food, some truly inventive chefs has established themselves in the region and offer fantastic meals. Favourites include Kinta and Kondesa, both in San Miguel and offering modern interpretations of traditional Mexican dishes.

Out for a drink, Credit

 The nightlife in Cozumel is quiet, with most bars closing by midnight. That said, the late afternoon in Cozumel is dominated by salsa bands and dancing over rounds of mojitos, wrapping up at an hour that enables you to jump on an early dive the next day.

Between 8 – 10pm, it is worth heading down to the main square (“zócalo”) where you will be able to catch both traditional mariachi and Caribean-infused bands.

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Other Activities

Whilst not underwater there are plenty of other great activities on the island to experience.

A visit to the Cozumel Mayan ruins, a local market or a trip to the Celarain Light-house and Wildlife Reserve to witness spectacular views are all features of the island worth taking time out from diving to experience.

All these factors as well as the island being relatively inexpensive is now why Cozumel is now a hugely popular holiday destination.

Snorkeling at Dzul Ha in Cozumel, Mexico, Credit

Cozumel is most easily explored by renting a scooter or a vehicle to drive around the island. Driving from San Miguel to the island’s eastern shores is a beautiful daylong road trip that leads you to quiet beaches and great waves, with a handful of restaurants along the shore. The ocean is not particularly safe for swimming, but is very popular with surfers and kite surfers. It is possible to visit numerous other beaches and protetected parks as you circle the island.

Paradise Beach and Playa Palancar are among favourites for lounging and snorkeling.

Otherwise, if looking for some history, the island has numerous Mayan ruins open for tourists. The largest ruins are in San Gervasio, while others can be found in the small town of El Cedral and Punta Sur Park.

Visitors can also take a course at the Museo de Cozumel on Mayan history and culture, giving additional insight while on the archeological tours.

Nude Beach, Credit

If traveling with a family or non-divers, there are plenty of other ocean activities available. A glass bottom boat tour allows passengers to witness the beauty of the reefs without entering the water, while catamaran tours will sail you out to excellent reefs for snorkeling. By far the most unique activity in Cozumel is the newly created mini-submarine tour, where you explore the ocean floor on an underwater scooter while wearing a bubble helmet for oxygen.

This futuristic 1.5 hour tour has received great reviews and requires only onsite training by your guide.

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If choosing to rent a car or scooter in Cozumel, do so with caution.

The majority of accidents in the city unfortunately occur on the roads due to irresponsible driving. In the event of an problem, there are excellent English-speaking medical services on the island which will accept international health insurance.

Crime on the island is very low, especially relative to Mexican national averages. The tourist and general police work vigilantly to ensure safety and security on the streets, however petty theft does occur and you will need to take care of all valuables. 

Sunset at Cozumel, Credit

Cozumel is bombarded by cruise ships daily, which can be overwhelming for those spending a few nights on the island.

Opting for smaller dive operations and timing your activities on either side of the cruise ships (early morning/evening) will allow you to dodge the crowds that unload in the city daily.

Renting a car and driving out of town will also bring a bit of privacy.

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Rating 9/10

Cozumel dive trip, with Pro Dive Mexico

After a trip to the London dive show, me and my dive buddy decided to book a holiday to Cozumel Mexico with an additional 4 days in Playa del Carmen. Cozumel does not disappoint, amazing coral formations, with moderate to strong currents, giving some spectacular drift diving. The protection offered by the national park "Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park", means there is an abundance of marine life that flashes past the eyes as you go with the current. The big coral formations on many of the dives, gives shelter from the current giving you time to explore or just regroup. Many of the big coral formations being built of limestone allow for spectacular swim through, good buoyancy control and fining action essential. June was a good time for turtles, with loggerhead and hawksbill turtles being seen on nearly every dive.

Anyone been diving in Cozumel recently (today is 12/21/15)?


I am in Playa del Carmen and considering a dive this week, however its quite windy and choppy here so I'm concerned about the visibility.

Has anyone been diving in the past few days, and if so, can you share what the conditions were like?

Thanks in advance!

Rating 10/10

Cozumel: Aldora Divers

Cozumel18 Nov 2014 - 30 Nov 2014 with Aldora Divers

Aldora Divers use high pressure steel tanks with larger volume capacity: 120s and 100s, which give customers longer dives and an extra margin of safety, and the opportunity to wear a little less weight. I enjoyed having an average of seventy minutes per dive and depths occasionally visiting down to 130 feet.

They also have steel 80s.

Watch this video:


Diving groups are small and experience levels are matched for each boat so you don't get stuck with divers from the wrong end of the scale. This is extremely advantageous as you're never restricted to dive sites or bottom times inappropriate for you. If you are a new diver you can rest assured that they will take good care of you and take you to sites and depths that keep you safe and in your comfort zone.

One morning the North wind had begun to blow and all the dive operations were forced cancel their dives for the day. Aldora was set up to get us in the water, diving something new and interesting. They keep boats on the other side of the island and have previously explored some of the relatively unknown reefs, and have even found some very old canons that lie intact just off the coast.

Boat diving happens each morning and afternoon with night dives normally scheduled for Wednesday and Saturday unless a group of four or more has special requests.

They'll pick you up at designated spots depending on where you stay. Villa guests are picked up in front of the Villa which is very convenient.

Bottled water is handed out regularly and coats are provided on the boat if you are feeling chilly. With dives that average seventy minutes, two to four times a day, it pays to keep warm when you get back in the boat.

Aldora has several small boats that are comfortable for six divers and guide, and a large boat which can handle larger groups. The twin engine setup on the dive boats is a safety feature that many of the other dive ops' boats do not have.

aqua aldora2 pool

Martim Silva

Always something cool about seeing old canons - such a visceral part of history.

Rating 8/10

Cozumel Mexico

Cozumel11 Jun 2014 - 25 Jun 2014

Although this island is visible from the mainland, the diving here is very different and much better than Playa del Carmen and thereabouts . It is rightly considered one of the best diving locations in the world. There are dozens of dive sites on the leeward side of the island and apparently over 100 dive operators which means this is also one of the cheapest places to dive in the world (Roatan in Honduras is probably the cheapest place). It is mainly drift diving here along the legendary wall and very good it is too. Clear warm water (28 degrees) of that's your thing - it's certainly mine. However the best dive we did by far was Palanca Caves. This is a collection of huge corals and dramatic swim-throughs down to a depth of >30 metres. Google images and videos are worth a look. We dived with Scuba Gamma, a very friendly French owned operation who have a six man boat so none of the big groups you sometimes see there. They will pick you up and take you to the dock. Recommended. You can fly direct to Cancun from the UK and then a taxi or bus followed by a ferry or to Cozumel via the US. High season is December to May. June was fine though but quiet.

Gifford Pelletier

Good advice. Never been but it is an option for the end of the year.

diving goggles 1208672 m

Camelia Kemenes

Im planning my next holiday and would like to visit Mexico. I wont have much time so would you recommend Cozumel over Playa del Carmen? Or could i do both in 10 days?


Paul Foster

You can certainly do both in ten days Camelia. The ferries between the two run regularly (every hour I think) and it is a journey time of less than an hour. For ocean diving, Cozumel is by far the better option, but if you are interested in doing some cenotes diving then you should do that from Playa (or Tulum). Cozumel is quiet whereas Playa has a big restaurant and bar scene, so it's a choice depending on what you want out of your holiday.

Rating 10/10

AlexScuba Cozumel

Cozumel23 Jul 2012 - 4 Aug 2012 with Alex Scuba

My whole family (extended) took a week in Cozumel and I added on a few extra days (to be sure I got in some good diving). We had two who got certified and two who did "discover scuba" trips. Everyone to the person said that this was the best trip ever! The family time was great, but the dive experience made for a thrilling vacation! Since I am a divemaster, I watched with care as my husband and son were put through their paces. I LOVE this Master Instructor (Alex Oliver) and would recommend him to anyone. The relatives who did the discover dives enjoyed the dives so much that they will come back to get certified here. AlexScuba lets you stay down for a full hour. (assuming you aren't an air hog!) He lets you dive your profile, while keeping safety in mind. I would say that he runs a "relax feeling" dive boat (at least for the divers) but I can tell that he is always working hard to make sure that everyone is having a great time. All in all, some of the best diving anywhere, with one of the best dive boats I've been on. I recommend.

P2 P3 P4 M2 Cozumeljpg2
Rating 10/10

Nice change from the cold waters

Cozumel4 Apr 2012 - 11 Apr 2012

The dive was great for many reasons during my vacation. I seen all types of fish including an eagle ray. The ealge ray was moving in the water like it was sailing in the wind. After diving for about ten minutes, I saw tow moray eels playing or fighting in the water.

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