Sasha Savinov By
Posted 10 Aug, 2020 | No comments
Posted in: Mexico

If you enjoy a bit of underwater exploration, you’ll want to add diving in Cozumel to your trip to Mexico. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at all things related to scuba diving in Cozumel.

The island of Cozumel is definitely one of the best places for scuba diving in Mexico. Here you can go diving in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef system. 

It’s part of a protected marine park with impressive walls of coral and more than 500 species of fish. You might see turtles, sharks, and eagle rays here in addition to all the tropical fish like the endemic splendid toadfish.

Even renowned explorer Jacques Cousteau declared the island of Cozumel to be a world-class diving destination when he visited back in 1961. Diving in Cozumel really is an incredible experience!

Diving is just one of the many incredible things to do in Cozumel, and if you’re travelling to Mexico, diving should definitely be on your list. 

scuba divers cozumel

Read on for a detailed guide to scuba diving on this stunning island in the Yucatan. We’ll cover the best time to visit, average costs, typical marine life, some of the best dive sites, and a whole lot more.

How to Get to Cozumel

Many visitors to Cozumel fly into Cancun International Airport. From there, you can make your way down to Playa del Carmen. Be sure to read our guide on how to get from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen as there are several options.

Cozumel is only a few miles offshore from Playa del Carmen and is easily reached by ferry. There are two different companies running ferries from two piers and there’s one every half hour. One-way tickets cost 200 pesos ($10.50) for adults and 160 ($8.50) for children.

Basing yourself on the island will allow you to spend more time in the water and less money on your dives than if staying in Playa. However, many people choose to base in Playa for a variety of reasons. There are more options for things to see and do, accommodation, dining, and nightlife, and it’s also easier to reach the cenotes in the area. 

You can also fly directly to Cozumel via the island’s international airport.

There are a few options for direct flights from the US and Canada year-round and several more in high season (December-March). Just remember that it’s recommended to wait at least 24 hours after diving to take a flight.

The island is also a very popular destination for cruise ships.

While you don’t get a lot of time there during a stop, it’s enough to enjoy some Cozumel scuba diving. Many dive shops are happy to accommodate cruise ship passengers. Just be sure to book this excursion in advance to avoid disappointment. 

When to Go Diving in Cozumel

The great news about diving in Cozumel is that it can be enjoyed year-round. There really isn’t a bad time to go scuba diving here! That being said, some times are definitely better than others.

The water is quite warm and pleasant all year, usually between 78 and 82ºF (25 and 28ºC). While the water is always nice, the temperatures on land can be downright stifling during the summer months.

July to October is also hurricane season here, so you should take that into consideration.

The risk is lower in the summer months but much higher in September and October. One benefit of traveling there during this time is that prices are lower and crowds are much smaller.

scuba diving cozumel mexico

The peak season for travel to Cozumel is between December and March. While this is a great time to be on the island weather-wise, it’s also expensive and crowded. Definitely be sure to book in advance at this time, especially between Christmas and New Year’s.

A sweet spot for scuba diving in Cozumel is between March and April, when crowds start to thin out but the rain has yet to arrive. The exception is Semana Santa (Holy Week) festival, which is a mini-peak season for locals. See our guide to the best time to visit Mexico.

Best Dive Sites in Cozumel

Cozumel has many dive sites to choose from. There are over 20 sites around the island for divers of all levels. You could easily plan your entire trip around diving on this amazing island.

Beginners will enjoy the shallow sites featuring colorful reefs, while more advanced divers can opt for some exciting drift diving with swim-throughs. Even non-divers can enjoy the beauty of the underwater world here by tagging along as a snorkeler. 

The dive sites here range in depth from 4.5 meters – 36 meters, however, the best ones max out at 25 meters. Divers with an Advanced Open Water certification are able to enjoy all of the best dive sites in Cozumel. 

Here are some of the best dive sites in Cozumel that you can’t miss:

1. Palancar

  • Depth: 9 meters – 36 meters (30-120 feet)
  • Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate
  • Current: Mild-Strong

This is considered to be the star of the diving scene in Cozumel. It’s actually divided into four sections — caves, bricks, horseshoe, and gardens. These different sites offer something for divers of all levels.

Between the four different sites, you can experience depths of between 9 meters – 36 meters (30 to 120 feet). There are plenty of amazing coral formations, colorful sponges, and lots of fascinating marine life. You may spot sea turtles, nurse sharks, angelfish, and more here.

2. Columbia Wall

  • Depth: 18 meters – 36 meters (60-120 feet)
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Current: Unpredictable

Huge coral pinnacles are a highlight here, some rising more than 60 feet (20 meters) from the bottom. You can enjoy some deep swim-throughs and wall diving here. Look out for grouper, turtles, and maybe even nurse sharks at this excellent dive site. 

nurse shark cozumel

3. Punta Sur Reef

  • Depth: 27 meters – 39 meters (90-130 feet)
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Current: Unpredictable 

This next one is for more advanced divers. It reaches down to depths of 130 feet (30 meters) and is split into two sections. The southern part has an amazing chamber called the Cathedral while the northern part features a cave formation known as the Devil’s Throat. 

4. Chankanaab Reef

  • Depth: 10 meters to 15 meters (35-50 feet)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Current: Mild

This is an excellent spot for some diving in Cozumel for beginners. It’s an easy, shallow dive that’s usually completed as a 2nd dive on a trip. All the cracks and crevices in the coral here mean lots of interesting marine life — lobster, spotted moray eels, crab, and even the endemic splendid toadfish. 

5. C-53 Shipwreck

  • Depth: 50-80 feet
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Current: Moderate

If you fancy a bit of wreck diving in Cozumel, this is the dive site for you. It rests almost perfectly upright on the ocean floor and is always full of marine life. You’ll likely see groupers and moray eels on a dive here. 

Cost of Diving in Cozumel

When scuba diving in Cozumel, 2-tank morning dives are the standard. You can hop on a 2-tank fun dive trip for about $80-85 if staying on the island or a bit more if staying in nearby Playa del Carmen.

It’s possible to find single-tank dives, but these are rare during the day. Most dive shops in Cozumel offer a single-tank night dive trip for around $60-65. These usually only run between October and February. 

You can also sign up for special 2-tank twilight dives during certain times of the year for around $100. These typically don’t run in the winter months. It’s best to ask the dive shop that you sign up with if they have such a trip available when you’ll be on the island. 

It’s typical for dive shops here to offer the basics (mask, snorkel and fins) for free but charge extra for gear rental. You can get a full set of gear for $20-25 a day or get a discount if diving for multiple days. Most shops offer Nitrox tanks for an additional $8-10.

Want to capture your experience diving in Cozumel? Many shops rent out GoPros for around $40 if you don’t have your own. Some even offer videography services so you can let them do the work of documenting the dive so you can just enjoy it.

parrot fish cozumel mexico

If you’re not yet certified to dive, Cozumel is a great place to check that off your list. You can do a Discover Scuba course for as low as $80 from the beach or $140-150 from a boat. 

You can complete your Open Water training in Cozumel for $430-450 or $340-380 if you choose the e-learning option. Many shops also offer Advanced Open Water for just under $400 and Rescue Diver courses for $380-410. 

With so many amazing dive sites to choose from, it’s worth it to sign up for several days of diving. Sticking with the same shop for the duration of your trip will definitely get you a good discount on the diving and rental gear.

For example, some shops offer 5 days of diving for $80/day as opposed to their normal rate of $90. That’s $50 more that you’ll have for fish tacos and margaritas on the beach when you get back from diving!

Many dive shops can also arrange stay & dive packages with hotels and resorts. This is a great way to save some money and take care of your accommodation and diving in one fell swoop.

Cozumel Dive Shops

For a small island, there are several choices of dive shops in Cozumel. You can sign up for day-trips, night dives, and PADI courses at most dive shops on the island.

Since diving is such a big part of life on the island, there are several dive shops here on Cozumel. That being said, they definitely range in quality. This is true for dive shops in Mexico and any other country where diving is popular. 

Most of the dive shops in Cozumel are located on the west coast of the island. Some have an actual shop while others don’t and just take reservations online. Overall, the dive centers here offer great value and quality.

Here are some of the best:

Scuba Life Cozumel

This 5-star PADI dive center makes safety and comfort their top priorities. They’re all about hassle-free diving here and take care of everything so you can just enjoy your trip.

Scuba Tony

  • Address: N/A
  • Reviews: 5.0 (109 reviews)
  • Web: Visit Site

Tony has been running his dive shop on the island for over 15 years and has earned the reputation of being one of the best. He and his team have near-perfect reviews all across the web, so they’re doing something right! They don’t actually have a shop and just handle reservations online. 

Maple Leaf Scuba

If you prefer small groups, this is a great dive shop to go with. They limit groups to six per divemaster and sometimes bring two along if the group isn’t so experienced. They can also help you arrange an underwater proposal. How cool is that?!

visit cozumel on a day trip from playa del carmen

Hyperbaric Chambers in Cozumel

Diving is a safe sport, but things can and do go wrong.

Thankfully, there are hyperbaric chambers on the island in case of an emergency. The Cozumel Hyperbaric Chamber and Clinic is a part of the Cozumel International Hospital and is the place to go if you have a diving-related emergency.

They have a staff of full-time professionals here ready to help you deal with issues like Decompression Sickness (DCS) and Arterial Gas Embolism (AGE). They use a multi-place decompression chamber that allows the technician to go in our out without interrupting treatment.

These kinds of treatments certainly aren’t cheap, so it’s important to make sure you have the right type of insurance when diving in Cozumel (or anywhere, for that matter).

The DAN (Divers Alert Network) comes highly recommended. Click here to learn more about their policies.

Ready to Go Diving in Cozumel?

If you’re an avid scuba diver, Cozumel should definitely be high on your list. This stunning island in the Yucatan is hands down one of the top diving destinations in North America. 

With over 20 unique sites for divers of all levels and an abundance of marine life, Cozumel really is an amazing place to visit for scuba divers.

Best of all, after a big day of diving, you can kick back in your chair on some of the best beaches in Mexico and enjoy some tasty cuisine with a cold cerveza or margarita!

Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock, a website for sourcing royalty-free videos and images online. Learn more here

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Sasha Savinov

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Sasha is a regular contributor to Goats On The Road where he shares his advice as a full-time traveler and digital nomad. In particular, Sasha is an expert in travelling the United States, Mexico and Thailand. He’s also an online English teacher and a video producer. In fact, he studied video production at Michigan State University. He and his wife Rachel share their adventures on their website, Grateful Gypsies.

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