Diving Cozumel

Destination Guide including marine life & dive sites

Article and photos by Jim Lyle




Known for drift diving and spectacular coral formations, the island of Cozumel, Mexico, is a favorite Caribbean destination for thousands of U.S. divers. Easy to get to from most gateway cities; relatively inexpensive; clean; safe; populated by friendly people who speak English with a Texas accent; crystal clear, warm water; and lots of fish – who could ask for more than diving Cozumel?


underwater sponge in cozumel

Cozumel Marine Life

On a typical dive trip you will see turtles, groupers, green moray eels, nurse sharks, and lots of colorful tropical fish. If you are lucky, you will see eagle rays or black-tip reef sharks.

sea turtle in cozumel
Sea turtle, quite common in Cozumel

Typical day while diving in Cozumel

Two-tank, morning boat dives are the norm while diving Cozumel. The first dive is deeper (70-80 fsw) somewhere along the famous, Punta Sur, Colombia, and Palancar Reefs. Cozumel drift dives are easy – drop in the water with your dive guide, descent to the reef, drift along in the current (no need to swim), ascend with your buddy with700 psi remaining in your tank for a three-minute safety stop, go to the surface and wait for the boat to pick you up! During a one-hour surface interval, the boats move north to the shallower reefs for the second dive at Paso del Cedral, Chankanaab, Punta Tunich, etc., returning to the hotel in time for lunch, a nap, an afternoon or night shore dive. Diver's Heaven.

caribbean seahorse in cozumel
Caribbean seahorse, Cozumel

Cozumel's Best Dive Sites

Columbia Deep – for huge coral formations.

Panancar reef – big structure with many tunnels and swim throughs

Chankanaab Reef – a very fishy place

Barracuda – northwest of the island, a deep hog back reef with strong currents, a great place to see pelagics; an advanced dive.

C-53 – wreck of an old mine sweeper, put down as an artificial reef.


wall diving in cozumel

Diver and sponge in Cozumel


Cozumel Underwater Photography Tips

The Mexican government has established a large National Marine Park extending along the southwest coast of the island. The presence of large groupers, dog-size lobsters, and large schools of fish, are indications the park is being protected from predatory fishing. The southernmost reefs are great for wide-angle photography – some of the coral heads are the size of apartment buildings and covered with colorful sponges. Further north, the shallower reefs are home to myriad numbers of smaller fish and inverts. Shore diving provides the opportunity to do some amazing macro photography of little critters on sandy bottoms and artificial reefs. Take all of your lenses with you!


Drift diving Cozumel

Diving is often drift diving in currents with a group. To maximize your photography opportunities, work on your buoyancy control. You can't fight the ocean, to stop, duck behind a coral head or sponge. If you lag behind the group, you will be in a better position to get that shot of the turtle the dive guide just pointed out.

indigo fish cozumel

Visibility, Water Temps, and When To Go

Visibility is fantastic all year long. Water temps range from the mid-seventies in the winter to mid-eighties in the summer months. Late summer and fall is hurricane season in the Caribbean, but the odds of a storm are extremely low; this is also the "low" season and rates are lowest. December to April is the high season and probably has the best diving conditions.

Winter winds from the north sometimes mean choppy surface conditions and occasionally close the port for diving. When is the best time to go to Cozumel? Whenever you can.


More Cozumel Underwater Photos


eagle ray, diving cozumel

Eagle rays are commonly seen while diving in Cozumel


caribbean nudibranch in cozumel

Caribbean nudibranch


large grouper seen while diving cozumel

Large grouper in Cozumel


sailfin blenny

Sailfin blenny


Want to see MORE Cozumel photos?  Click below for our latest photo essay:

Diving Cozumel: A Photo Essay


Diver Review – Scuba Club Cozumel


scuba club cozumel resort

Scuba Club Cozumel is a dive resort for divers. Located about a mile south of the Zócalo (central square) on the water, SCC is not your cookie-cutter Holiday Inn wannabe; each room is different, built in a Spanish style around courtyards filled with local plants and flowers. The rooms are all tiled, with air-conditioners, clock radios, and hair dryers. There are no phones or TVs in the rooms and I hope they never install them; on the other hand, they have free wireless access.


The place is clean and they give you plenty of towels, twice a day! SCC is semi-all-inclusive; drinks and tips are not included. Their packages are very economical and include room, meals, daily two-tank boat dives, and unlimited shore diving. If you are looking for some laidback diving, this is the place. An afternoon wreck dive, two-tank twilight boat dive, and night boat dives can be added. The on-site dive operation is a PADI five star operation. They run on English time - not island time; 8:30 means 8:30! Tanks are Al-80s; they do have a few steel 95s for rent; and nitrox is available for a fee.

large octopus in cozumel

The boats are roomy, reasonably fast, shaded, have heads, and are equipped with radios, oxygen and emergency kits. The food is very good, with a breakfast buffet, lunch specials/menu, and a choice of three dinner entrees. They also offer meals for vegetarian or special diets. I can't say enough nice things about the staff, most of who have been at SCC for many, many years; they are friendly, helpful and gracious. Many of the guests return to SCC year after year.


[note: Boat diving, you will be with a group and the dive guide. Shore diving, you can go solo. There are no scuba police at SCC.]

For more information, visit Scuba Club Cozumel

Lots more information and pictures here: http://chemistry.csudh.edu/faculty/jim/Jim'sWeb_Page.htm


About the author

Jim Lyle is a retired chemistry professor who spends his time either riding his bicycle or diving. He is currently shooting an Olympus E-330 in an Ikelite housing with dual Ikelite DS-125 strobes.


Further Reading




the best dive Cozumel!!!!

the best dive Cozumel!!!!

Saw 3 spotted eagle rays, a 6

Saw 3 spotted eagle rays, a 6 foot blacktip reef shark and a turtle on one coral head a couple of days ago. The day after saw a pod of 10 dolphins on an afternoon dive at Columbia Bricks.... This trip has been incredible. Went diving with Scuba Club Cozumel, Dive Paradise, Mestizo and Aquaworld. My favorite is Scuba Club Cozumel...

Just came back from Cozumel

Just came back from Cozumel used Peppy scuba fastest boat in Cozumel nite dive
Was the best dive of the week. Lots of big and small critters

Am going to Cozumel. Thanks

Am going to Cozumel. Thanks for the info. Very helpful

We saw a huge school of

We saw a huge school of dolphins today diving San Francisco! Our guide said he has only seen them 3 times and he's guided here for 16 years. I feel truly blessed to have had such an experience.

I am here now reading all the

I am here now reading all the great information in this site sitting by the pool. We come here at least once a year with groups of frinds and students. Has to be some of the best diving for the price. Thanks for all the info on this site for taking better photos I plan on putting them to use in two hours when the morning boats go out.

Marcus Bahr
Otter's Adventure's

My husband and I have been to

My husband and I have been to Cozumel many times. We usually dive with Del Mar Aquatics; Mario and Fernando are the best at finding what ever you want to see. Even when diving with a big group it's not hard to hang back and take as many photos as you wish. They generally split up large groups according to experience and specific goals, such as photography. If you go to Cozumel be sure and do at least one night dive at Paradise Reef. Fantastic crabs, lobster and octopus. Always a great time!

Annette St. Clair

My husband and I dove in

My husband and I dove in Cozumel for the first time January 2010. I couple of tips for UW photographers. We went with the dive operator with the fastest boats, which was great. My problem with Cozumel was how hard it was when the current is fast and several divers in our group wanted to "drift fast". I found out from the director of the dive operation that I should have requested our own Divemaster. We would have paid more but Cozumel is so inexpensive that it would have been worth it. Then we could have gone slower to take photos and not felt "pressured" to drift with the group.

Donna, Thanks for that


Thanks for that information, I'm looking into taking a trip to Cozumel and would not have thought of that.