Cozumel is a Mexican island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea. The name derived from the Mayan Cuzamil which can be translated as island of swallows. Although it’s a rather underdeveloped island, Cozumel is packed with activities. In fact, the economy is based on tourism, catering those interested in scuba diving, snorkeling, and balnearios.
Cozumel enjoys great marine biodiversity which is why it’s known as the ideal place to practice diving. The system of reefs spans over twenty-two kilometers (14 miles), forming underwater gardens that are home to a rich variety of marine life.
The island is the place to be if you’re into drift diving. Plus, in this region, wreck divers will find one of the most popular wreck dive sites in Mexico - the C-53 minesweeper. Oh, and diving in Cozumel means you get to choose from over 45 dive sites that range in difficulty, meaning everyone can find the perfect spot for their level of experience.
Diver swimming close to a green moray eel. Photo by P.Lindgren
Cozumel is diveable all year-round, but December through April is considered the high season. Prices may be higher during these months, but Cozumel is a rather inexpensive island nonetheless.
The water temperature averages 85° F/ 29° C in the summer and 77° F/ 25° C in the winter.
Drift diving is a common type of dive in Cozumel because outside the area between the reefs, the currents can get strong. The currents can be unpredictable and change directions. Some days divers may experience a phenomenon called the washing machine, a sort of “tornado” that can turn one head over heels.
Visibility in Cozumel is great all year round, usually around 80-100 feet (24-30 meters).
The Cozumel reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef system on Earth. Divers from all over the world come to admire the plentitude of fish and the colorful corals surrounding the island. There’s one reef in Cozumel that stands out among all others.
Palancar is the popular reef among divers because of the giant coral growths that formed stunning caves, spirals, towers, and canyons. The area is teeming with life, including sharks, snappers, rays, triggerfish, jacks, and turtles. Palancar reef is divided into four sections based on coral formations and depth: Palancar Horseshoe, Palancar Gardens, Palancar Bricks, and Palancar Caves.
Turtle swimming the waters of Cozumel. Photo by Serge Melki
Cozumel’s healthy reefs abound in a variety of fascinating marine creatures. Divers can make an encounter with nurse sharks, green moray eels, groupers, barracudas, parrotfish, jacks, hawksbill turtles, and smaller animals like butterflyfish, shrimps, seahorses, and pipehorses, among others. Pipefish and pipehorses are actually some of the most photographed macro subjects in Cozumel.