Named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 destinations globally, Cozumel scuba diving lives up to its name. Add to the fantastic diving, the fabulous beaches, stunning scenery above land, and great nightlife, and the place is the perfect getaway for a diving holiday.
The diving season in Cozumel is long-running for around ten months of the year, with excellent dive sites to suit every level of diver. The water temperature varies between 78-82F/25-28C year-round making it ideal for diving in a light wetsuit or the hardier in just a rash vest.
Cozumel offers a wide range of marine life and coral, with over 60 species of coral, 500 species of fish, and a whopping 350 different species of seagrass, algae, mollusks, and marine mammals being documented in its waters. Whether you want to see nudibranchs or manta rays and bull sharks, there is something for everyone when taking a Cozumel scuba diving trip.
The ARM General Felipe Xicoténcatl C53 is one of the best know wrecks to be found in the waters around Cozumel. Originally a minesweeper that was built for the US Navy during WWII, it eventually made its way to the Mexican navy in 1962. The ship was finally retired after over 30 years of service with the Mexican navy in 1999 and was sunk in the waters off Cozumel in June 2000.
The C53 is 56m/184 long and lies upright on the seabed in 21m/70ft of water. The top of the wreck is around the 15m/50ft mark. The wreck is an area that is sheltered from strong current, which, when coupled with its shallow depth, makes it the ideal dive for every level of diver, including relatively inexperienced ones.
Diving the C53 is relatively straightforward; there are lots of openings for you to get in and out of the wreck, so penetrating and exploring the wreck is relatively easy. Swimming around the wreck not only allows you to experience a little piece of history but also to encounter some rich and varied marine life.
Inside the wreck, you will find sponges and corals growing on the wreckage, as well as green morays, blennies, and much more. Outside the wreck, you can find barracuda and groupers hanging around and a host of other small reef fish. If you like wreck diving, then visiting the C53 on your Cozumel scuba diving trip would not be a disappointment.
Columbia Reefs is a couple of different dive sites that, when put together, are an excellent dive destination for every diver and an ideal destination for a two-dive trip. The two sites at Columbia reefs are Columbia Wall and Columbia shallows.
Arguably the most famous of the three-dive site and the one that is only really suitable for experienced advanced divers. As the site’s name suggests, it’s a massive wall that ranges between 18m/60ft and 36m/118ft. You can find lots of tunnels and caverns to explore as well as some genuinely enormous, gigantic coral pillars that are over 20meters/66ft high (that is nearly the height of a 6-story building).
On the dive, there is lots to see. Aside from the stunning geography, the site is rich with marine life, including some bigger species, due to the unpredictable and strong currents in the area. You can regularly encounter turtles, groupers, large barracuda, and even nurse sharks, to name a few.
As its name suggests a nice easy, shallow dive ranging in depth between 8-14meter/26-50ft. Columbia Shallows is not a dive that is done often, which means that a lot of the marine life has been left in peace. While usually classed as a beginner dive due to its shallow depth and relatively easy conditions, there is still plenty to see here.
The corals are in excellent condition, and the marine life is rich. Encounters with lobsters, reefs, fish, and turtles are commonplace at the site. You may also catch up with a snoozing reef shark if you are lucky. Columbia shallows are virtually the ideal site if you are after a great snorkeling experience. With great marine life and a shallow reef, it is the perfect location to explore nature for a few hours.
Palancar Caves & Reef
Arguably one of the best dive destinations in Cozumel Palancar is actually 4 dive sites. The 4 sites have something to offer every type of diver, and with varying depth and conditions, every level of diver will find a great spot here. If you tell someone you are planning a Cozumel scuba diving trip and ask them which site you should not miss out on; the answer will almost always be Palancar!
By far one of the most geographically impressive dive sites in Cozumel. The site is only suitable for intermediate and experienced drivers with a depth ranging from 15-40m/50-120ft. The highlight of the dives is the enormous tunnels and caverns that sit on the edge of a sloping wall. Swimming through these is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
There is much more to Palancar caves than geography; the site is teaming with marine life, with plenty of snapper, grunts, and reef fish. Encounters with eagle rays, turtles, and sharks are also regularly encountered at Palancar caves.
Another spectacular dive with interesting topography Palancar Bricks makes a spectacular deep dive ranging in depth from 15-30m/50-90ft. The site is a white sandy slope with large coral formations and structures that rise up from the floor. The contrast of the white sand, the extravagant corals, and the deep blue water make for a spectacular dive site.
Diving conditions are generally not too challenging, and visibility is usually very good at the site. Add fantastic corals, rays, sharks, and turtles to the mix, and Palancar Bricks is a dream site for underwater photographers.
Palancar Garden is almost the perfect dive site; it is has something for everyone and is suitable for both advanced and experienced divers. The depth of the site varies from 9-36m/30-120ft, and it is a vast coral garden teeming with marine life, coral, critters, and more. Aside from the stunning reef, there are also some exciting swim-throughs and caverns to spice the dive up.
Marine life at Palancar gardens is varied with the usual jack and grunts and the more unusual splendid toadfish. As with many Cozumel scuba diving sites, you can also encounter nurse sharks, eagle rays, and turtles when you take the plunge at Palancar Gardens.
Cozumel Scuba Diving Deep Heaven Santa Rosa Wall
A spectacular dive; if you like deep wall dives, then do not miss out on the Santa Rosa Wall on your next Cozumel scuba diving trip. The site is only suitable for intermediate and advanced divers with a depth ranging from 14-40m/45-120ft.
The wall starts at a depth of 6m/20ft and quickly plunges into the abyss. On the wall, there is a lot of action going on. Corals are everywhere, with lots of caves, swim-throughs, overhangs, and more to explore.
As a rule, strong currents mean “big stuff,” and the situation is no different here. The reef is home to many reef fish, lobsters, barracuda, and more critters. At the same time, encounters with turtles, big grouper, sharks, eagle rays, and more are regular occurrences.
The highlight of the dive is the huge tunnel that cuts through the entire reef at a depth of 24m/80ft. The tunnel turns what would have been an incredible dive into a spectacular one and arguably the highlight of your next Cozumel scuba diving vacation!
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Our Top Dive Sites of the World guide is brought to you by Suunto. We recommend that you use a Suunto Dive Computer when scuba diving or freediving at one of these dive sites. Suunto is the world’s leading dive computer designer and manufacturer providing diving instruments for recreational, technical, and freediving. You can find out more at Suunto.com.