Mexico-Cozumel:

Airports:  (Airport Code CZM):  Cozumel International Airport (CZM) is a small facility, providing flights to and from mainland Mexico, together with international destinations, of which a large proportion are US cities. An alternate method of getting to Cozumel is to fly into Cancun and take a short bus/ferry ride.  Cancún International Airport is located in Cancun, Quintana Roo, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Currency:  The Peso is the official currency of Mexico, although the US Dollar and other major currencies are widely accepted as well.

Climate: Cozumel has a semi-tropical climate. The hottest time of year is from mid-May until the end of August when temperatures can reach 34°C (110° F). September to the end of November is the rainy season with late afternoon downpours. Hurricane season officially starts in June, lasting to the end of November with the strongest winds in the autumn months. From December until the end of April the average temperature is between 22-32° C (71-89°F) with occasional cold spells that drop the temperature to a chilly 18° C (65° F). Cancun enjoys 253 sunny days per year. Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for Cancun: January-March, 68-86°F (20-30°C); April-June, 71-89°F (22-32°C); July-September, 75-91°F (24-33°C); October-December, 68-87°F (20-31°C).

Water Temperature:  One of the great things about Cozumel is that the ocean temperature is warm all year long.  At the end of summer and early fall the ocean temperature is at its warmest in the mid to high 80′s.

After the ocean temperature peaks in September, it gradually cools off through fall and into winter. The ocean temperature usually hits bottom in Cancun by late winter or early spring and usually gets down to around 75 degrees in late March and Early April. Then it begins to heat up again and the cycle repeats itself.

Language:  Spanish is the official language of Mexico, but English is widely spoken in the tourist areas.

Signature Dive Sites:   

Cozumel’s Top Dive Sites – Western Coast

 

  Barracuda Reef Depth: 45′ – 110′ Skill level: Expert Located on the north end of the island, this wall and reef area can be especially treacherous since the strong drift is typically north and there is no island beyond the end of this reef area ~ just open sea. Not uncommon to drift several miles on this dive so it is safest to dive only with small groups of experienced, drift/current divers and properly equipped dive operators. Because of the severity of conditions, the Port Captain monitors and restricts tourist diving in this area heavily. Rough conditions both topside and below at reef levels are not conducive to recreational divers on a regular basis. Even in good weather, the current runs 2 to 3 knots and down-currents along the wall are not uncommon. These ocean conditions attract large pelagics like reef sharks and eagle rays looking for converging currents.
   
   

  San Juan Reef Depth: 40′ – 80′ Skill level: Expert Located on the north end of the island, this reef area can be dangerous to dive if current is running fast. Because of the severity of conditions, the Port Captain monitors and restricts tourist diving in this area heavily. Rough conditions both topside and below at reef levels are not conducive to recreational divers on a regular basis. The coral here is beautiful and the big barrel sponges oddly shaped reflecting the continual swift current. Lots of reef fish to be seen on a drift dive if the current will allow gazing!
   
   

  Villa Blanca Shallows Depth: 15′ – 40′ Skill level: Novice This is a great beach dive (day or night) accessible in front of Villa Blanca Hotel. Tanks and even equipment are available for rent at any of the many dive shops located in this area. The best area to dive is to the south of the piers. The gentle sloping entry makes this a great dive for beginners and the sunlight of the shallows coupled with the abundant coral and reef fish also makes this an excellent photographer’s dive as well. Many of the elusive, spotted golden-tail eels call these coral heads home along with a green moray, squirrel fish and lots of sea fans.
   
   

  Villa Blanca Wall Depth: 50′ – 60′ Skill level: Intermediate Wall dives like this provide the best of both worlds: the chance to skim along the top of the wall and view both shallow water marine life and to possibly glimpse a large pelagic gliding by in the deeper waters along the wall. Not uncommon to see spotted eagle rays in this area.
   
   

  Paradise Shallows (Caleta) Depth: 20′ – 30′ Skill level: Novice An excellent beach dive both day and night and great for snorkeling as well. This area is just north of the Caleta and accessible from the same road that goes into Caleta. Just veer north and the road dead ends into the open beach area. Because of its proximity to Caleta many dive shops and freelancers use this as a staging area for certification dives so it is not uncommon for there to be a lot of people as well as equipment on the beach. Despite the traffic this area never disappoints and continues to develop prolific coral which supports and abundance of marine life including crabs, lobster and octopus. During the annual coral spawning nights, this area is where a lot of folks (scientists, divers, photographers) gather to observe it since it is easy to snorkel out and check progress before eventually donning dive equipment to observe the spawn.
   
   

  Paradise Reef Depth: 40′ – 50′ Skill level: Novice A series of three separate reefs running parallel to shore approximately 200 yards out. This is one of the few reef areas accessible to beach divers. All three sections have abundant marine life including octopi and the reclusive Splendid Toad Fish which lives only in Cozumel waters. Most popular spot for night dives.
   
   

  Las Palmas Shallows (Dzul Ha Beach) Depth: 20′ – 40′ Skill level: Novice to Intermediate Voted the#1 snorkel spot in the Caribbean by Skin Diver Magazine readers in 2002, this is one of Cozumel’s must see snorkel areas and it makes an excellent beach or boat dive both day and night. No dive shops are located in this area at present so plan to rent tanks elsewhere for beach dives. Typically boat dives in this area will commence along the Las Palmas wall and then move inward toward the shallows toward the end of the dive. There are patches of coral growth throughout the sandy bottom filled with entire families of lobster and crab, golden tail eels, spotted morays and puffer fish. Plenty of wrasse, flounder and sand rays lurk amongst the coral growth. Curious sargent majors are everywhere since so many snorkel groups pass through this area. Many large parrot fish traverse this area and spotted eagle rays can be seen feeding in the sand flats during the winter months. Be sure to check the direction of the current as it often varies from the norm closer into shore aand often runs a bit stronger than along the wall as well.
   
   

  Las Palmas Wall Depth: 50′ – 70′ Skill level: Novice to Intermediate Relatively calm currents prevail at this site popular for finding bat fish, seahorses, and Splendid Toads. Superb night dive for those comfortable with wall diving at night.
   
   

  Chankanaab Reef Depth: 30′ – 50′ Skill level: Novice to Intermediate A long continuous band of colorful coral reef filled with cracks and crevices and holes which attract all sorts of marine life looking for shelter. There are sand rays under the coral ledges, stonefish and scorpion fish as well as splendid toadfish and lots of trigger and tang fish. The incredible quantity of very large sized lobster and crab in this area as well as octopus which are all typically shy in daylight, makes this a superb choice for night dives.
   
   

  Chankanaab Balones Depth: 60′ – 70′ Skill level: Novice A large series of balloon-shaped coral heads teaming with all sorts of marine critters. The limestone shoreline of this are is very porous and often fresh water run off will diminish visibility especially after heavy rains. Still worth diving regularly due to abundance of crab and lobster. Excellent night dive.
   
   

  Chankanaab Caves Depth: 35′ Skill level: Novice An interesting dive found at the south end of Chankanaab Park. Excellent beach dive that can be reached either from Chankanaab Park itself or by entering south of the park towards Corona beach where there is no park entrance fee. Cold fresh water flows out of limestone caves called cenotes. Large Tarpan can be found swimming around in the entrance to the caves. Stay in the ambient light and do not venture far back. Interesting mixing of cold fresh water on the top layer with the warm salt water below.

  C-53 Wreck Xicotencatl Depth: 80′ Skill level: Novice to Intermediate Marked by a highly visible buoy, the vessel is 184 feet long & 33 feet wide, and consists of 4 decks. The sinking job by the Mexican Navy & wreck experts was quite remarkable in that it rests almost perfectly upright & flat with the bow facing SSE & stern NNW. According to my depth gauge, the superstructure starts at 26′, the main deck at 54′ & the bottom, which is secured to prevent movement in storms, is at 78′. The craft is intact as sunk with the exception of one rudder which is now about 25′ to the stern.
   
   

  Tormentos Reef Depth: 50′ – 70′ Skill level: Intermediate Some of the fastest currents can be found here that often make for adventurous drift diving. A series of colorful coral heads separated by sand valleys and dunes pushed up by prevailing currents. Sand formations between the coral ribbons constantly change and provide a beautiful contrast to the lush coral. Home to very friendly and big green moray. Angelfish, groupers, grunts and snapper are common. Good second dive.
   
   

  Yucab Reef Depth: 45′ – 60′ Skill level: Novice Beautiful dense, low profile ribbon of corals and sponges that is full of life and color. Widest variety of reef fish can be found here in large quantities daily. Grouper and barracuda usually hang out with divers as they drift with the current.
   
   

  Yucab (Virgin) Wall Depth: 40′ – 130′ Skill level: Expert Strong currents typically prevent local divemasters from bringing in large groups of inexperienced divers. As a result, the sheer vertical wall has been left pristine and lush. Several dives are needed to fully absorb the site. Excellent multilevel computer dive.

  Punta Tunich Depth: 50′ – 130′ Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced Rock and roll in this swift current on a daily basis and just go along for the drift. From a sand bottom at 70 feet, a long ridge of coral rises from the sand dunes between 40 to 60 feet. Often turtles hide in the seagrass. Photo buffs will really work on this dive. Good option is to leave the camera on the boat and just enjoy the ride!
   
   

  Cordona Reef Depth: 20′ – 50′ Skill level: Novice An excellent shallow reef area for snorkeling and diving. This reef area is teeming with schools of colorful tropical reef fish, lots of juvenile fish and anemones. Colorful sponges and sea fans add to the beauty of this shallow dive. With typically mild currents and great visability this reef is good for beginners and photographers doing macro work.

  San Francisco Reef/Wall Depth: 35′ – 50′ Skill level: Intermediate Begins on the Southern end of Old San Francisco Beach. This half mile reef is broken into three sections, separated by about 60 yards of sand. This is one of the shallowest wall dives and is loaded with life. Skim along between 35 and 50 feet and enjoy the big grouper and playful green moray eels.
   
   

  Santa Rosa Shallows Depth: 20′ – 50′ Skill level: Intermediate Exploring these healthy patches of coral teeming with fish and sponges is an excellent way to end a deep wall dive or to do as shallow second dive. Drift over the pure white sandy bottom from area to area in a relatively mild current since the large formations along the wall provide some protection to the coral patches in the shallows. Sponges are abundant as well as a variety of hard corals, angel fish, box fish, snapper and lots of trigger fish populate this area. Very photogenic area with the light reflecting off of the sandy bottom.

  Santa Rosa Wall Depth: 50′ – 130′ Skill level: Intermediate One of Cozumel’s most popular deep dives simply because it never disappoints. The wall starts at 50 feet and drops straight into the deep! . Immense sponges, huge overhangs of stoney coral and lots of caves and swim through tunnels. Eagle rays and turtles are often spotted here as well as large grouper and turtles. Excellent multilevel computer dive.
   
   

  Paseo del Cedral Reef (Cedar Pass) Depth: 35′ – 60′ Skill level: Intermediate A series of ribbon reefs with expansive low profile caverns interspersed and used as swim throughs. Prior to enforcement of Marine Park “no feed” regulations, this was THE place to find green morays and spotted morays. There are still plenty of eels in the area but are more difficult to spot now unless accompanied by an experienced guide. One swim through often filled with glassy silver sides. Lots of snapper and grunts for excellent photos. Perfect second dive.
   
   

  Paseo del Cedral Wall Depth: 50′ – 90′ Skill level: Intermediate Usually a very swift current that allows you to “fly” along the wall so expect a good ride. Enjoy the view as you glide over the flat wall top gazing at both coral marine life and large critters passing by at depth over the wall. Lots of big barrel sponges formed sideways by prevailing currents.
   
   

  Punta Dalila Depth: 25′ – 80′ Skill level: Intermediate A healthy reef strip populated by angel fish, squirrel fish and schools of grunts.. There are a lot of out croppings and overhangs of coral on the outer wall of this reef closest to the wall which are home to crabs and green moray eels. Good variety of corals and sponges along with the typically mild current makes this a good choice for photographers and it also makes a good second dive of the day.
   
   

  La Francesa Reef Depth: 40′ – 60′ Skill level: Intermediate This area is partly a strip of colorful coral as well as patches of coral with a good variets of multicolored sponges and gorgonians. An excellent second dive of the day and great for photography with its splendid toadfish, butterfly fish and resident grouper. All of this, coupled with the barracuda that often shadow divers here, can be enough to put some divers on sensory overload.
   
   

  Palancar Gardens (Shallows) Depth: 40′ – 70′ Skill level: Novice An excellent first dive for those not yet confident in their dive skills or perhaps some one who’s been a few years without diving. These coral formations are very colorful and have literally hundreds of species of coral jammed together with purple and orange sponges interspersed. Calm currents typically prevail allowing maximum photo opportunities. Lots of crevices with colorful reef fish and banded cleaner shrimp.
   
   

  Palancar Horseshoe Depth: 25′ – 125′ Skill level: Intermediate A series of tightly packed giant coral heads rise from 100 feet to within 20 feet of the surface. A spectacular view for camera lenses pointing up for profile type shots. One of Cozumel’s busiest deep dives since currents are usually slow running and visibility stays around 200 feet minimum.
   
   

  Palancar Caves Depth: 60′ – 90′ Skill level: Intermediate Another of Cozumel’s most popular deep dives because of its deep buttresses, tunnels, caves and big caverns that sit along the edge of a sloping wall. Currents are usually mild and marine life is abundant. Turtle, shark and eagle ray sightings are very common.
   
   

  Palancar Bricks Depth: 60′ – 90′ Skill level: Intermediate Another section of Cozumel’s most spectacular reef and an excellent deep dive. Large coral formations rise up from the brilliant white sandy bottom which easily slopes off into the blue abyss. Divers can wind in and around the large coral formations where marine life flourishes. But the stunning blue color of the abyss contrasted with the sandy bottom is what mesmerizes most divers visiting this area. Currents are usually mild and turtle, shark and eagle ray sightings are very common. Normally excellent visability makes this a photographer’s dream dive for those breathtaking “upward views”.
   
   

  Columbia Shallows Depth: 15′ – 35′ Skill level: Novice To go any deeper one needs a shovel. This is the perfect dive for photographers wanting maximum bottom time. This seemingly never ending sea garden is a popular second dive full of schooling snapper and grunts. Barracuda lurk around divers as they concentrate on the colorful reef fish that populate the site.
   
   

  Columbia Deep Depth: 60′ – 90′ Skill level: Intermediate Impressive drop off at 60 to 80 feet. Deep diving at its finest, at least as spectacular as any part of the Palancar. A series of gigantic coral pinnacles, most over 90 feet, marked with caves, tunnels and caverns. Large marine life such as eagle rays, turtles and large barracuda often seen.
   
   

  Punta Sur Depth: 90′ – 130′ Skill level: Advanced An excellent multilevel dive for experienced divers only. Due to its southern location and exposure to prevailing tradewinds, topside conditions can be rough. This coupled with fast running midwater currents that can cause one to miss the dive site entirely, makes this NOT a dive for those who cannot descend relatively problem free. This site has two distinct sections and the air usage capability of the divers will determine if you can see both in one dive. The most famous section, “Devil’s Throat,” starts inside a coral swim through. Divers descend into the opening of a dark narrow tunnel at 90 feet and takes you out into a sunlit opening at 130 feet on the wall overlooking the abyss. Eagle rays and sharks are occasionally spotted here. The other section of this site “The Cathedral,” is a large cave opening with giant sponges that form a cross in the ceiling of the cave where light passes through. Very impressive photo if divers refrain from kicking up the sand.
   
   

  Chun Chancab Reef Depth: 50′ – 100′ Skill level: Advanced Often overlooked in favor of the surrounding well known sites on the southern tip of the island, this area has an excellent variety of sponges and sea fans in the flats which gently slope down to an eventual wall. The top of the wall here runs around 100 ft. Drifting along the wall, it is not uncommon to spot larger pelagics which seem to love the unpredictable currents that converge in this area.

  Maracaibo Shallows Depth: 70′ – 90′ Skill level: Advanced Even though this is a deep area it is referred to as “the shallows” since it is the flat sandy area inland from the wall. This is a superb area to drift over after doing the wall dive in order to clear your computer. As divers multi level through this area, turtle sightings are common. Often during nesting season, as many a 3 different species of turtle can be spotted: hawksbill which do not nest in Cozumel but migrate through and then green and loggerheads which do nest here from May through September. Big barracuda and jacks are typically all around for those with a keen eye.
   
   

  Maracaibo Wall Depth: 90′ – 160′ Skill level: Expert This is one of the southernmost dive sites on the island for recreational divers and is very exposed to current and topside surf due to it’s location. Because this southern end of the island drops off gradually, Maracaibo is really a wall dive but a very deep one. As a multilevel computer dive focused at best from 100 – 120 feet, it can be awesome. It can also be a dud for those with excessive “expectations.” It is simply: a deep, wall dive with the top of the wall beginning around 100 feet … hence limited bottom time unless multileveled. However, due to its more remote location, it’s not uncommon to see schools of hammerheads or shoals of eagle rays as divers drift in the midwaters high above the ocean floor. This is not a dive for those needing to be “up close and personal” with the wall. Usually the midwater drift is where the action lies.
   
   
       

 

Cozumel’s Top Dive Sites – Eastern Coast

In the past, divers familiar with Cozumel have been restricted to exploring the west coast dive sites for several reasons. The Cozumel of the past did not have a fleet of dive vessels that could safely negotiate and manage diving the wilder areas around the island. Predictable top side conditions and currents coupled with the miles of beautiful reefs offered by the west side has kept thousands of divers content for decades. This will continue of course but the growth of the island has brought new businesses with larger diving vessels better equipped for all sorts of sea conditions. The growth in tourism and water activities has also meant some crowding in the reef areas along the west coast so it is no wonder that more and more dive operators and divers are venturing over to the east side to see what it has to offer. This listing of dive sites is far from complete and the names tend to reflect easily visible landmarks along the shoreline. As more and more exploration continues over the years to come, hopefully this list of sites will grow. There are miles and miles of pristine walls to dive where shark and other pelagic cruise, remnants of old Spanish wrecks with cannons and anchors and ballast strewn about as reminders of how unfriendly this lee shore can be for those not careful. Please take note of these safety precautions ~

Typical topside conditions on the east side include strong wind and large cresting swells so egress and ingress of the dive boat will be difficult and usually requires divers execute both fully geared up.

Divers should be prepared to swim to the dive boat through surf and have multiple surface signaling devices.

Divers will be diving in inaccessible places where emergency services are not readily available and significant delays might be experienced in medical emergencies.

if east side conditions are too severe, divers may have to wait for another day. Roughly 35 – 40% of all days will not be safe for east side diving and most of those days, this will not be determined until the morning develops. This is simply a fact of east side diving and divers must be willing to accept the decisions of dive shops with regard to safety.

For all of these reasons divers exploring the east side must be in excellent physical condition and have had considerable training so do not be surprised if dive shops require certain certification levels and/or request divers to prove their skills before diving that area. In general, the east side offers shallow dives just off the shoreline and then deeper dives over a section of reef much farther out from shore. It is not recommended that any dives be done on the east side without a dive boat. Shore diving is possible of course but inherently dangerous because of the swift current that moves away from the island as it heads north.

  El Islote Depth: 80′ – 150′ Skill level: Expert Accessed by boats who venture toward the southern tip of the island and then turn eastward, this deep dive will show a different view of Cozumel. As is typical of the east side diving, in this area the ocean bottom is covered with long ribbons of coral growth that start in the shallows and continue on into the deep. Incredible quantities of staghorn coral in these bands. It is difficult to dive ”the reef” as it goes deep relatively quickly. Best bet is to check it out up close for a little bit then multi-level up into a nice mid-water dive of 60 – 80 ft. With the water clarity offered this becomes a dive with an exceptional “big picture” view. Turtle, shark and eagle rays always lurking about.
   
 
 

  Playa Bosh El Mirador Punta Chiqueros Chen Rio Punta Morena Depth: 20′ – 50′ Skill level: Advanced These shallow dives along sections of reef offer a lot of coral variety and marine life. Since this is the wild side, not many sponges or sea fans can survive in these areas but what can be seen is healthy coral and fish that really thrive in these more turbid ocean conditions. Look closely to find many juvenile fish in these shallow reef areas as well as green moray eels and nurse sharks. Visability is good and allows for good photography especially in the early morning hours. In some cases these areas can be snorkeled but again it cannot be emphasized enough that a dive boat should always be present due to the strong outward drift prevalent on this side of the island.
   

 
 
 
  Hanan Reef Los Atolones Punta Molas Depth: 30′ – 100′ Skill level: Advanced These reefs are usually accessed by a journey northward around Isla de Pasion and eastward. Excellent variety of coral growth and sponges up here are home to butterfly fish, horse eye jack, schools of grunts and spotted moral eels.

  Wreck Dive – C-53 Xicotencatl Depth: 80 feet max. Skill Level: Novice to Intermediate

Excerpted from a dive review written by “Doc Vikingo” The Felipe Xicotencatl, or C-53, was built in Florida in 1944, donated to Mexico by the US in 1962 & retired from service in 1999, having variously served as a minesweeper, anti-drug patrol boat, search and rescue ship, troop transport & Mexican Naval Academy cadet training craft. The Xicotencatl was sunk on June 6, 2000 just outside of Balones de Chankanaab, on a sandy plain between Tormentos & Chankanaab. As such, don’t expect to dive anything other than the wreck–the immediate environs are strictly featureless sand flats. All dive ops make regular trips. It could be done as a shore dive from Chankanaab Park under the proper conditions, hitting the Balones de Chankanaab on the way out, but would be a very healthy swim with scant to see in transit. No special certification is needed for this dive, although it most definitely is an overhead environment & the inexperienced diver should understand what this means & be comfortable with it. Marked by a highly visible buoy, the vessel is 184 feet long & 33 feet wide, and consists of 4 decks. The sinking job by the Mexican Navy & wreck experts was quite remarkable in that it rests almost perfectly upright & flat with the bow facing SSE & stern NNW. According to my depth gauge, the superstructure starts at 26′, the main deck at 54′ & the bottom, which is secured to prevent movement in storms, is at 78′. The craft is intact as sunk with the exception of one rudder which is now about 25′ to the stern. While the wreck is not especially tight inside if you follow the marked route, it is snug at points & of course buoyancy control throughout is a must. There are large plates removed from the sides at regular intervals, which usually provides ample light & a ready escape route. Do be aware, however, that the edges of removed areas are sharp in spots, and there are opportunities to snag/impale yourself on main deck & superstructure features, so best not to go bolting about. Some hydroids & small anemones are taking hold, another reason to watch what you are contacting. The primary route through the boat is marked with penetration line & the occasional tag, and these are easy to follow. There are possible side trips, but I’d suggest you skip them unless wreck experienced. Do take a light if possible. A good approach is to drop in behind the stern & take in the two massive screws, then raise to the aft most hold & enter through the main deck. The entry is a bit snug, so make sure you don’t have a case of the “danglies.” Simply follow the line to the fore, which later reverses and takes you back to the aft for exit. There is no need to hurry the dive, as any normal diver will have plenty of bottom time for a leisurely tour of the innards, which include holds & cabins, and exterior.

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