WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Today we are scuba diving in Cozumel – Mexico!
WHY ARE WE DIVING IN COZUMEL, MEXICO?
Cozumel is a Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, and the scuba diving there is beautiful. The corals are magnificent and plenty. We were extremely excited to see nurse sharks, and got lucky on couple of dives where we saw several on different occasions!
There are also giant green moray eels, who were not scared to be swimming around divers. Huge sting rays and barracudas are often seen on the reef and sandy areas. There is also a big chance of seeing eagle rays, turtles and other types of morays.
Other than the “big stuff” there is plenty of macro life, including many different shrimps and crabs, juvenile fish in the shallower water, and if you are extremely lucky, you can spot seahorses!
There are also dive sites with beautiful swim-throughs. The most important thing to know about diving on Cozumel is that most of the dives are drift dives, and currents can sometimes get very strong!
HOW DO WE GET TO COZUMEL?
Cozumel has it’s own international airport, but ticket prices are probably much higher than flying into Cancún, a popular Mexican city famed for its nightlife and ‘Spring Break.’
From Cancún it takes about an hour to get to Playa del Carmen with either bus, colectivo (a type of mini-bus), shuttle or taxi.
There are ferries from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. There are supposed to be two different companies running, but due to Covid, they only operate on separate days, leaving almost every hour. The queue to get to the ferry can get extremely long, especially before weekends and mornings so plan ahead! We were in the queue for 2 hours, standing 3 streets behind the dock.
WHICH DIVE SITES ARE MUST-SEE?
85% of the dive sites are protected within the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, so therefore all the dives are beautiful.
Here are some of the most visited ones:
Santa Rosa Wall
This dive site is more for intermediate level divers, as there can be strong currents here. The wall starts at 15 meters / 50 feet, and continues over the limit of recreational diving. It has swim-through tunnels, caves and large sponge corals. Sea turtles and eagle rays are often spotted here.
The wall is over 30 meters / 100 feet high with a stunning cave and tunnel system. Large barracudas, turtles and eagle rays are often seen hanging around here. The site has coral pillars, reaching 20 meters in height.
This is considered an easier dive site for people with less experience. The reef stretches almost 6 kilometers / 3.7 miles and home to thousands of different coral species. This is the area where we saw most of the nurse sharks and giant green moray eels.
You can explore this reef from the “inside-out” as it has many swim through carved into the coral reef. There are lots of soft corals and small school of fish.
This dive site starts at 20 m / 66 ft where the sandy bottom and coral ridges meet. It has a very strong current, so you must be comfortable with that. There are many grunts and snappers to be find here.
Accessibility is season dependent. There are extremely strong currents, only for advanced divers. This is where all the big stuff hang around, from hammerheads – if you are lucky – to black tip reef sharks and many eagle rays.
Ship Wreck C-53
Shipwreck for advanced divers. Possible to enter with plenty of light inside. Lots of fish, lobster, barracuda and groupers can be found here. Currents sometimes can get strong, so be careful not to shift off from the wreck.
TELL ME MORE
The currents can be strong, sometimes I saw my bubbles going below me…oops…wrong direction! For this reason, most of the dives are boat dives, but you can find a few spots for shore dives. It is possible to rent tanks from some dive operations if you are an experienced diver. We did that many times and had some beautiful 98 minutes dive, searching for macro life.
We were diving with a local dive master (now instructor) who started and owns Scuba Reef Divers. It is a small dive operation with a small boat. It is basically Pepe and his captain! They are very nice and friendly people who lived their entire life on the island.
During Covid, Pepe was sent away (like many other people in the diving industry on Cozumel) from a large dive shop he was previously working for 10 years, so we decided to support him and his family by booking our dives with him.
He is able to provide all diving gear, but we had our own with us. He was super flexible and basically worked around us. He took us to different dive spots every day, so we never visited the same site twice, unless we wanted to.
As we prefer morning dives we only went diving at the morning around 8am, but he also offers afternoon dives. They are double tank dives. His briefings are quite short, focusing on how to enter the water, what is the boat number if we are lost, what can we expect to see, maximum depth and safety stop. If you have additional questions don’t be shy to ask.
If you are not comfortable with strong currents just let him know, he will take you to dive sites according to your experience. The dives are no shorter than 60 minutes if you can last that long with your air consumption!
Dive sites are all around the island, but according to the time of the year they can’t be visited all the time. Because of this reason we were mostly diving the west side of the island, where there were no winds and swell. The dive sites there are anywhere between 5 to 45 minutes boat ride away.
DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?
The water temperature was very warm in June-July, 28°C / 82.4°F so a skin suit is enough most of the time.
If you are planning to visit in the dry/winter season, they recommend to have a 3-5mm wetsuit as the water temperature will drop by then. Even though there are strong currents, reef hooks are prohibited for the safety of the reef.
Check out our Wetsuit Temperature Guide!
WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?
There are plenty of dive sites to choose from for different levels of certification.
You can dive beautiful reefs with weaker currents as a beginner Open Water diver. Or you can enjoy the crazy rides if you have more experience and feel comfortable with speedy drift dives. Just don’t forget that if you drop something (a GoPro, camera…etc) it is gone forever!
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?
The coldest the water gets is about 26°C / 78.8°F (February), while the warmest can be almost 30°C / 78.8°F (September).
Visibility is insanely crazy, when we were diving it was easily 30+ meters almost every day. It can drop a little in rainy season after a big storm, but it improves very quickly due to the water movement.
We had very bad weather lasting for 5 days, but as soon as the rain stopped we still had a 20+ meter viz.
The best season to dive is May-September when the water is warm, there are less tourists, and prices may be a bit lower.
High season is in winter, when Europe and USA residents are trying to escape snowy winter.
HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?
The average cost of a diving is 40 USD/tank. However package deals are available.
As we were diving a lot during our 4 weeks of holiday on Cozumel, we paid 30 USD/tank. Normally the price will include equipment, however if you have your own, they don’t offer discount.
Because of Covid there were also currently no discounts available for pros.
Renting a tank for shore dives can be 5-10 USD.
WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?
There are lots of different budget accomodation available on the island, from all inclusive resorts to smaller apartments/hotels.
Prices range from 30 USD/night to really expensive five star resorts. There are also AirBnBs available.
We stayed in an AirBnB, a bit further from the beach (we also rented a scooter for our stay) and paid 500 USD for the month. It was an incredible apartment with swimming pool, roof terrace, smart tv, wifi, hot shower, air-conditioning, fully equipped kitchen. It was simply just amazing! (Casa Roma).
DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I really enjoyed diving in Cozumel. The coral reef is very colorful and there was marine life that I hadn’t seen before. For example, have you ever heard of a toadfish?
One of the highlights for me was the amazing visibility within the beautiful turquoise water, and the chance of seeing nurse sharks.
WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?
I imagine there is usually very good nightlife on Cozumel, but during Covid there is a 11pm curfew. There are plenty of restaurants and beachfront bars are open until then.
The island is not too big, it is possible to drive around it in about 1.5 hours. However you don’t want to do that as you will skip many awesome things to do.
Our favorite was Punta Sur, the southern point of Cozumel and part of the Parque Punta Sur, a 247-acre ecological park that covers the reefs, beaches, lagoons, and low forest of the surrounding area.
It has a beautiful beach, where we snorkeled and saw eagle rays and turtles. It also has a mangrove, where you can take a boat ride and spot some of the huge crocodiles living in the area! There is a mangrove viewpoint and a light house, both of them offering breathtaking sights.
When we were not diving we were snorkeling! While snorkeling we saw eagle rays almost daily, moray eels at every site and even reef squid.
It was nesting season for sea turtles and we were super lucky to see one laying her eggs on the wild side of the island. There are huge crabs and raccoons in the mangroves, and hummingbirds are frequently everywhere. Cozumel is a kind of paradise for animal lovers.