A small island located just off the coast from Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Cozumel is one of the best places in the Caribbean to scuba dive.
Not only is this region in Mexico popular for its clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches, it is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest barrier reef in the world.
And so while many divers dream of a scuba holiday in Australia, incredible diving is much closer than most think. And while many fly into Cancun, drive to Playa del Carmen and take the short ferry to Cozumel, it’s also possible to get a flight to Cozumel.
Unlike some dive spots with coral reefs around the world the world, the Mexican government has local support to protect the reefs and 85% of them are within the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park. As many locals work in hotels, resorts or dive companies that cater to divers the depend on a healthy ocean.
Here are some of the best dive spots in Cozumel:
One of the most popular places to dive in Cozumel, the Palancar Gardens are not only stunning but also suitable for divers of any level.
Palancar Gardens is located on the southwest of the island and is very popular with underwater photographers as the visibility is great. With a slight to moderate current, this dive spot does not have the most fish but it does have incredibly vibrant coral and close to the surface you can see angelfish, damselfish and even octopus.
More experienced divers may want to descend a bit farther to view the orange and purple sponges, and to check out the many crevices and caves with ocean life.
Santa Rosa Wall
This is a very popular dive spot in Cozumel, although many go first thing in the morning, it can be more pleasant in the afternoon when the crowds have gone and the light is strong.
With the potential for strong currents, this is an intermediate dive site in Cozumel. Divers need to descent 15 metres to see the coral where the currents tend to lessen and it’s common to find sea turtles here.
Experienced divers will want to explore the and caves and tunnels large enough to swim through to find eagle rays, barracuda and giant sponges. An underwater torch is recommended to appreciate the smaller, colourful fish and small creatures in the stony corals.
This dive spot is for advanced divers only as it is one of the deepest dives, the edge of the wall begins at 27 metres. The Maracaibo Wall is on the south of Cozumel close to the Punta Celerain Lighthouse and is exposed to extreme current, large swells and topside surf.
The best diving is at its deepest points of this spectacular dive wall. The remove location often has many spotted eagle rays, turtles and hammerhead schools.
Punta Sur Reef
Considered to be one of the most beautiful places to dive in Cozumel, but only recommended for advanced divers. Like the Maracaibo Wall, its southern location means there are strong midwater currents and topside surf.
In the southern park divers can explore the Cathedral chamber, which has incredible ocean life and it’s common to see spotted eagle rays, barracuda and giant sponges.
The northern section of Punta Sur contains Devil’s Throat, a spectacular cave formation that begins with a dark tunnel at 40 metres. Due to the depth and strong currents, the dive should only be undertaken by very experienced divers. Although you will not see many fish, you can enter one of the passageways of Devil’s Throat to travel to the Cathedral.
Another great reef for beginners, this reef is located in the Natural Park Chankanaab and reaches a depth of 12 metres. Quite similar to the nearly Paradise reef, intermediate and advanced divers also enjoy this dive site as it’s divided into two distinct sections as the reef runs north to south.
Crabs, spiny lobsters, scorpion fish and seahorses are often spotted in the northern region along with lots of small marine life in the coral crevices. Whereas the southern region has more spotted moray eels and toadfish. The southern region is also very popular for first-time night dives with lots of ocean life, including octopus.
Cover photo credits: Ayngelina Brogan