Tropical weather, warm water, crystal clear +100ft visibility, healthy colorful reef, giant corals, hundreds of different species of marine life and all you have to do is kick back and relax, letting the currents drift you along and enjoy the view. This is what diving in Cozumel is like.
Add to that the cheap airfare from North America and the super affordable prices for boat dives and gear rental, and you’ll get one of the best places in the world for a scuba diving vacation!
Cozumel is really a year-round scuba diving vacation location, with little difference across seasons and definitely enjoyable whenever you decide to visit.
Cozumel is Mexico’s largest Caribbean island, 30 mi long and 10 mi wide, with a population of about 120,000, situated along the eastern side of the Yucatan peninsula, only 30-40 minutes by ferry from the mainland (Playa Del Carmen).
Most of the dives in Cozumel are done by boat, with plenty of dive sites along the south western part of the island. When diving from your resort, the boat will usually pick you up from the resort’s dock, whereas if you dive through a shop downtown (San Miguel), you will be transported via taxi to the Marina, which is located slightly outside of town, to the South.
Getting to most dive sites by boat takes between 10-30 minutes. As you approach the site, the boat crew will help you gear up, and all you need to do is roll back or giant stride into a magical trouble-free underwater world.
Dive Sites in Cozumel
Dive sites in Cozumel range between walls, canyons and swimthrough’s, healthy reefs, deep and shallow dives, pinnacles, wrecks, drift dives and calm current dives. Without doubt, one of the most impressive reefs is Palancar Reef. It always makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland! Either everything is much larger that it should be, or I shrunk after eating a funky mushroom coral 🙂
It’s very common to spot giant Lobsters, hiding in their little crevice with 3 ft antennas pointing out, or moving from one hiding place to another. I always imagine them sitting on a coral and smoking their Hookah, just like the caterpillar in Alice’s adventures.
Palancar Reef is divided into 4 dive sites. My favorite it Palancar Gardens. I always find surprises at the end of the dive, across the shallow reef, which is home to giant Sting Rays and adorable Turtles.
Another dive site which I find impressive is Santa Rosa Wall. The top part of the wall is at about 50ft (16m) and it drops down to what feels like the bottom of the earth, or at least as far as I could ever see. In Santa Rosa you can spot huge Parrotfish, impressive Fan Corals, Orange Tube Sponges, Groupers, French and Queen Angelfish, the Splendid Toadfish, which is endemic to Cozumel and if you’re lucky, giant Green Moray Eels. This site usually has medium-strong currents.
Not far from Santa Rosa Wall, is Paso De Cedral. This site has pretty strong currents, which draws some larger animals, such as Nurse Sharks, Turtles and Eagle Rays which are very common and can usually be spotted. The site is divided to two parts – the wall and the shallow part (around 60ft / 18m). I personally prefer the shallow part! Besides the larger animals, you can also spot pretty large Groupers, schooling Grunts, Porkfish, Snappers and Parrotfish. The site features a few lively hills with plenty of life. One of them even has a small cave where a Moray Eel and a Nurse Shark live together in harmony. Who am I to judge? 😉
When going on a 2-tank dive from a boat, you will usually have a surface interval break on one of the beautiful beaches or small docks along the south-west side of the island. These areas are always much more serene, impressive and prettier than the ones in town.
On the boat you will usually get water, fruit and snacks. My favorite way to pass the time is to doze off in the warm sun on the dock or on the beach.
Underwater Photography in Cozumel
Thanks to the incredible marine life diversity, Cozumel is an excellent place for Underwater Photographers.
The majority of dives in Cozumel are drift dives, which are perfect for wide angle photography. Put your fisheye on, let the current drift you along and shoot away. This technique is great for capturing larger animals and corals, without trying to fight the current and wasting all your air. One of the secrets to get a really good shot while drift diving, is to find shelter from the current behind large coral formations along the way, where you will almost definitely find a large school of Blue-Striped Grunts or Creole Wrasse sharing your hiding place and posing for the camera.
Shore Diving in Cozumel
The other less common and fairly unknown type of diving in Cozumel, is shore dives. There are several sites which allow entry from shore, a couple of miles south from the city center. While these dive sites don’t offer the same amount of coral and marine life as boat dives, they offer a very mild current, and plenty of opportunities to get some incredible macro shots and fish portraits, which you would usually miss when doing a drift dive off a boat in a large group.
One of my favorite sites is right off of Tikila Beach. This small piece of beach offers a nice restaurant on the 2nd floor, and a comfortable area for gearing up below, while you prepare for your dive. This is the ultimate training ground for underwater photographers and allows the best conditions for really working on your skills and learning about your camera.
There are lockers for rent on the premises, so you can safely leave your valuables on shore, and very easy access to the water.
Scuba Diving Vacation in Cozumel
The island of Cozumel is truly a scuba diving paradise and one of the best places on the planet to enjoy the wonders of the underwater world! If you haven’t visited yet, don’t wait any longer! You’ll find yourself coming back year after year to enjoy swimming with whale sharks, scuba diving in Cenotes, and the other wonders of Cozumel.
Join us for a truly unique underwater video workshop in Cozumel. Get off the beaten track with personal UW photography guidance throughout your scuba diving vacation!