Scuba Cozumel. You could call it a rite of passage for divers. It's on just about every divers must do list. And deservedly so because Cozumel diving has some of the best diving in the Caribbean with lots of great dive sites to choose from.
Cozumel is particularly known for its drift diving. There's nothing like the feeling of flying along a wall while you're not moving a muscle. Now we're talking fun!
Not to mention the margaritas. Only after diving, of course.
Cozumel is Mexico's largest island and is 28 miles long and 12 miles wide.
There is only one town, San Miguel, on the island. San Miguel (population of 77,236 per 2010 census) is on the west side of the island, which is the developed side.
The water here is calm as this side of the island faces the mainland. This is where all the snorkeling, water-skiing, etc. takes place. It is also where you will scuba in Cozumel.
The east side of the island is like another world with almost no people and, usually, crashing waves. Swimming can be dangerous so be cautious here. No scuba in Cozumel here.
The isolated beaches on this side, however, are great for sunbathing. You can find some great rustic beach bars to quench your thirst as you make your way from the west side to the east side.
In between coasts, the interior is overgrown and scrubby. A few small Mayan ruins can be explored. Don't expect a Chichen Itza, though (or anything remotely close).
Cozumel is located about 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. It is across from Playa del Carmen and about 35 miles south of Cancun, one of the party capitals of the world.
Alternatively, you can fly into Cancun then travel to Playa del Carmen (about a 45 minute ride). From there you can take a 25 minute ferry over to Cozumel.
Whichever way you go, it's worth it to scuba in Cozumel. It makes our list of the best places to scuba dive. Scuba diving - Cozumel Mexico - we'll be doing it again soon!
There are quite a few hotels and other types of accommodations to choose from when you go to scuba Cozumel. Whether you want a small villa, condo, apartment or an all inclusive resort, you'll be able to find it.
So if you are on a budget or price is no matter (lucky you!), you should find some Cozumel lodging that is right for you.
Cozumel Hotels We Stayed In
The first time we went to Cozumel, we stayed at the Fiesta Americana Cozumel Dive Resort.
We had friends that stayed there and they recommended it to us. We liked the resort and the dive operation was good.
Since this hotel in Cozumel is located somewhat out of town, the boat rides were alot shorter to the dive sites than some of the Cozumel hotels closer to town (of course, the taxi ride into town was longer and more expensive).
The man-made beach is across the road but it is no big deal - to me anyway. It is not a major road and there is little traffic.
My sister stayed there a few years after us and she also had good things to say about the Fiesta Americana.
The next time we went, we stayed in town at the Plaza Las Glorias. This has since changed hands, been renovated and is now the Cozumel Palace.
I liked staying in town though and it was an easy walk to everything. The drawback, of course, were the boat rides. It took quite awhile and the boats we were on were slow, slow, slow!
If you to opt to get a hotel in Cozumel in town, ask how long it will take to get to the dive site. You definitely want a faster boat then we had.
Our next stay was at the Hotel Cozumeleno Beach Resort.
This is one of several Cozumel all inclusive resorts. We stayed here since we were with a large group and it makes life alot easier if you don't have to worry about who is buying the next drink!
We had a nice time here but don't expect 5 star luxury (you do get what you pay for).
The drawback if you are diving is the distance from the dive sites. We ended up taking a van to the boat so we wouldn't spend all day on the dive boat. If I were doing a dedicated dive trip, I would probably pick a hotel closer to the sites.
On our next trip to Coz, we stayed at the Occidental Grand Hotel in Cozumel.
We ended up staying at this hotel in Cozumel since my sister had a good deal. It is another all inclusive resort. I would say it is nicer and more higher end than the El Cozumeleno.
It is also one of the smaller all inclusives and doesn't have that crowded, activity pushing feel that you can find at some all inclusive resorts.
And the best part was its' proximity to the dive sites. You would literally get on the boat and you were there in a few minutes for some of the sites.
Doesn't get much better than that.
On our last trip to Cozumel we were essentially backpacking around Mexico and of course we had to stop at Cozumel for a while. We ended up staying at a hotel in town that was a couple blocks off the main square (away from the water).
It was a decent hotel and had a pool to cool off in. We dove with an operator in town and had some great dives. I liked the experience of staying right in town and a bit off the "tourist track". Which is usually what we do when we do our backpacking trips. Of course, for the life of me I can't remember the name of the hotel. Sorry!
So that's our experience with Cozumel resorts and hotels.
If none of these appeal to you, you have other options. And a great option nowadays is renting an apartment or room through a site such as Airbnb. We have used Airbnb extensively through our travels and can't speak highly enough about it.
We are also hosts with Airbnb so we have extensive experience with the site. If you want to give it a try or just look around their site, you can get a $40 travel credit when you open a new account. And in Cozumel you can probably even find a room for $40! If you do travel with them, we will get a $20 travel credit - so thanks if you do!
In my opinion, the high season has the best weather to scuba in Cozumel (of course). During the high season, December to March, air temperatures are around 85 degrees during the day and 70 degrees at night. The summer season gets hotter with daytime highs of around 95 and nighttime temperatures of 80 degrees. The summer can get hot and humid, though, as this is also the rainy season.
The rainy season generally starts in June and goes through October. Even though it is the rainy season, you could still get lucky and get some days without rain. Chances are you will get some type of rain though.
We've traveled to Cozumel during the rainy season and it wasn't too bad. We generally had a couple of rainfalls during the day, but not bad enough to ruin the day. It all depends on the luck of the draw, I guess.
Hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June 1 through November 30. Cozumel's most active hurricane months historically have been September and October. But people go scuba diving Cozumel Mexico all year long. It's just your risk tolerance.
Water temperatures around Cozumel varies between mid 70's to mid 80's.
In the winter months (December to February), it is around 75 to 78 degrees. It warms up in the Spring (beginning in March) to the high 70's, typically between 78 and 80 degrees.
Summer months are warm with water temperatures in the 82-85 degree range. If you scuba in Cozumel during the summer, it might feel like you are in a bathtub!
My husband and I don't tend to get cold easily so many times we will just wear a skin when we scuba in Cozumel. However, if we are doing a week of multiple dives, I will usually wear a 3mm shorty. It's all personal though.
Most people on the boats we've been on have worn 3mm scuba diving wetsuits. Whatever makes you comfortable is the right choice.
The reefs are not located far from shore. However, depending on where you stay when you scuba in Cozumel, your boat ride can differ significantly.
If you stay in San Miguel and want to dive off the southern part of the island (where, among others, the world famous Palancar reef is located), make sure your dive operator has a fast boat. During one of our trips we stayed at Plaza Las Glorias, right on the edge of town (the hotel has since changed hands and is now part of the Palace Resorts chain).
Talk about a slow boat to China. It took us 1-1 1/2 hours to get to some dive sites. That gets old. Quickly. Even if it is to scuba Cozumel.
It doesn't have to be this way if you opt to stay in town. We had boats zipping by us all day. So just make sure you're on the boat that is zipping, not watching when you go scuba diving Cozumel Mexico. (You can find our boat scuba diving tips here.)
We both enjoy the diving in Cozumel immensely. There are alot of great dive sites to choose from. Including some of the best wall diving and drift diving anywhere.
Underwater you'll find interesting formations, some great swim-throughs, a large variety of marine life and good visibility, all of which make for a fun diving experience. Currents can range from mild to ride-'em-cowboy fast.
While some of the dive sites are more advanced, we had a couple friends do their open water certification dives with no problems.
However, if you aren't that comfortable in the water and/or with your diving skills, you might want to wait a bit before you scuba in Cozumel. Or alternatively, make sure your diver operator knows your skill level and see if the dive sites that day are appropriate for you.
We have more information on Cozumel dive sites here.
OK, I hate to admit it, but to me, Cozumel has lost some of its charm since the new cruise ship pier was built.
Shopping and partying in an antiseptic mall that looks like it could be in Anywhere USA doesn't hold alot of appeal. Neither does fighting through crowds of just dislodged cruise ship passengers. Just my 2 cents.
Or maybe I'm just holding a grudge since they built the pier at the spot for a popular night dive in Cozumel.
Once the crowds leave, though, you do get to experience some of the charm and character that made Cozumel so popular in the first place.
One of our favorite things to do on the island is rent a jeep. Be forewarned, though, most of the jeeps are in pretty tough condition. A couple of them we rented had rags as a gas cap. Just so you know.
But it's fun! A road runs around most of the perimeter of the island. There is not alot of development outside of town. You'll find some great beach bars as you drive along. Perfectly placed to break up the trip and have a cold one while you enjoy the views. Two of our favorite pit stops are Coconuts and Mezcalitos.
You can also stop and snorkel along the way and visit the light house at the tip of the island. If you give the caretaker a couple of dollars, you can climb up for some great views.
All in all, scuba in Cozumel is a great experience. The wonderful diving more than makes up for the cruise crowds.
So go, jump in and start flying!
Drift diver by Wally McChippus. Pier picture by Captured Soul Photography. Thanks!
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