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Cozumel Km 14 South Side

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Cozumel Diving Map

Cozumel Luxury Villas, Beachfront Condos, Vacation Rentals & Travel Guide

San Miguel De Cozumel Mexico 

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By Retreats Luxury Oceanfront Rentals

COZUMEL’S HAS THE 2ND LARGEST CORAL REEF IN THE WORLD

The Mesoamerican reef starts by Cozumel and extends south through the Caribbean. It’s the second largest barrio reef in the world. You can’t see the entire reef in one dive, but you can see 50’ high towering coral walls with complex canyons, and many swim through caves.

Coral reefs are built by invertebrate animals called Cnidaria. Related to jellyfish, but they secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard exoskeleton, which is what creates the reefs. They live in a complex symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, a single cell photosynthetic organism. These organisms provide the majority of the food to the corals, who in return build structure for them to find shelter and reach sunlight.

Coral reefs rely on warm, shallow seas and sufficient current to provide essential nutrients. In return, they provide food and shelter to nearly ¼ of the ocean’s biodiversity. No wonder Mexico created the Cozumel Reef National Marine Park to protect this resource. Part of your dive fees on Cozumel is for park entrance, which in turn protects this vital resource.

COZUMEL’S TOP DIVE SITES

The naming of Cozumel’s dive sites can be somewhat interpretive since they are almost all drift dives. Cozumel Scuba Life often plans their dive days where they start halfway down one reef and finish on another. This reduces the total pressure on the reef and allows their divers to see a wider variety of critters. For the sake of communication, I’ll look for a significant dive site or geographic marker to communicate the general dive profile of the area.

DIVING BARRACUDA / THE NORTH END

The north end of Cozumel is subject to heavy current and separation from the group means that the diver drifts past the island. Not for beginner divers, these sites feature large deep hog-back reefs and the opportunity for large pelagic sightings including the local reef’s namesake fish – barracuda. Dive sites include:

  • San Juan
    Skill Level: Advanced Depth: 60′ Formations: ★★✩✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    San Juan is a difficult site on the northern end of the island. It is often a second dive on a Barracuda trip.
  • Barracuda
    Skill Level: Expert Depth: 100′ Formations: ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★★
    Barracuda features large deep hog-back reefs and the opportunity for large pelagic sightings including the namesake fish – barracuda.

SHORE DIVING COZUMEL’S HOTEL ZONE

Hurricane Wilma pummeled Cozumel in 2005 causing significant damage to the shallow reefs and the famous airplane wreck in front of La Ceiba Hotel. Resorts have been putting in attractions like the Mayan Pyramid, so shore divers have something to see. Certain sites, like Paradise just south of the cruise ship pier, make for fantastic night dives.

DIVE DESCRIPTION FOR THE WESTERN WALLS AND REEFS

Cozumel’s west side offers a little of everything to divers. Just inside of Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, there is a line of reefs in 60′ of water which are perfect for a second dive or beginner diver. More advanced divers can check out the outer walls at 90′ or some areas where the fast current keeps down the crowds (I’m looking at you Punta Tunich). Several dive sites are close enough for shore diving or searching for unique critters like elegant toadfish. Best of all, the shallow water makes for crystal clear photography without having to color correct, as long as you are not too deep.

The onshore support for diving in the Marine Park is incredible. Cozumel’s medics created a rapid response system so they can be at a hotel dock within minutes of your captain radioing for help, most likely before the dive boat can make it in. With docks located less than a Km apart up and down this coast, help is never far away. Cozumel International Hospital even has a hyperbaric chamber. You never plan for failure, but it’s good to know that support is available if you need it.

WESTERN COZUMEL DIVE SITES

  • Las Palmas
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 50′ Formations: ★★✩✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★
     Las Palmas is a good second tank dive in 50 ft of water. The current makes it a little more difficult than some other sites, but you will have ample opportunity to find sea life.
  • Chankanaab Bolones
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 60′ Formations: ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★
    Chakanaab Bolones is a flat reef just outside of Chananaab park. It is an easy dive that features abundant life. One of the interesting features of this dive is the fresh water coming out of the caves and entering the lagoon. Be careful not to enter the caves unless you are properly certified.
  • Chankanaab Shallow
    Skill Level: Beginner Depth: 35′ Formations:  ★★✩✩✩  Marine Life: ★★✩✩
    Chakanaab Shallows are filled with snorkelers during the day but makes an excellent night dive to see abundant marine life.
  • C-53 Felipe Xicontenanti
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 80′ Formations:  ★★★★✩  Marine Life: ★★✩✩✩
    A 184 ft minesweeper sunk as an artificial reef in 2000. Penetration holes are cut in the side for easy access for certified divers. The Atlantis submarine tour visits this wreck so you might see two vessels on the same tank.
  • Tormentos
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 50′ Formations: ★★✩✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★★
    Tormentos is a shallow reef that has some of the best marine life in Cozumel. The reef structure is smaller in the south and grows denser as you head north.
  • Yucab
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 50′ Formations: ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    Yucab is a patch reef with intervals of sandy bottom. It is a great place to see a variety of sea life on the reef and in the sand.
  • Punta Tunich
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 35′ Formations:  ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★
    Punta Tunich is an interesting combination of a shallow site with fast current. There is plenty of marine life to see as you rocket over the reef.
  • San Francisco
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 90′ Formations:  ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★✩✩
    A smallish site often overshadowed by classic Cozumel dives. If it were anywhere else in the world it might be a local favorite. It is a great site to go to when the current gets heavy, and you are looking to take it easy. Just beyond Playa Mia Beach Park.
  • Santa Rosa
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 90′ Formations: ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    This is a classic Cozumel Wall dive. The reef gets taller and denser as you glide northward until you exit off the north end of the reef over the abyss.
  • Paso del Cedral
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 60′ Formations: ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★★
    A beginner reef or second dive. The shallow water gives you long bottom times with great light for photography and abundant sea life.
  • La Francesa
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 60′ Formations:  ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★
    Named in homage to Jacques Cousteau, this is one of the most popular dive reefs because of the abundant sea life and vibrant colors.
  • Punta Dalila
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 50′ Formations:  ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    A shallow reef with gentle currents. It is a great place to spot sea turtles or nurse sharks.

DIVE DESCRIPTIONS FOR THE SOUTHERN REEFS

Cozumel Marine Park continues to the southern tip of the island. Here you find the massive coral cathedrals and swim through caves that made Cozumel a true dive destination. Famous reefs like Palancar, Columbia, and Punta Sur delight experienced divers with incredible structure. Some of the best snorkeling on the island can be found here too in the clear turquoise water of El Celio Lagoon.

DIVE SITES ON THE SOUTHERN REEFS

  • Palancar Horseshoe
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 90′ Formations: ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★✩✩
    Palancar Horseshoe gets its name from the horseshoe-shaped coral amphitheater at the start of the dive. The fabulous reef structure here is filled with channels and swim throughs.
  • Palancar Gardens
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 90′ Formations: ★★★★✩  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    Palancar Gardens is the farthest north portion of the Palancar Reef. Its still has decent structures and swim-throughs but, often times, it has good sealife too. It is a good first wall dive to introduce divers to Cozumel.
  • Palancar Caves
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 90′ Formations:  ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★✩
    Palancar Caves gets its name from the many tunnels and coral canyons at this site. Divers with good buoyancy skills will enjoy exploring the coral mazes through the exquisite structure.
  • Palancar Bricks
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 50′ Formations:  ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★✩✩
    Palancar Bricks gets its name from a load of bricks that was accidentally dropped there from a barge many years ago. It is the farthest south site on the Palancar Reef known for large coral pillars rising up from the sea floor.
  • Columbia Shallows
    Skill Level: Beginner Depth: 40′ Formations: ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    Columbia Shallows is a wonderful second tank dive for the southernmost dive sites. The clear, turquoise bay is teaming with sea life to view while you ditch nitrogen.
  • Columbia Deep
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 100′ Formations:  ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★★
    Columbia Deep is a classic Cozumel drift dive complete with a couple of swim through coral formations. Drop lower or look for shelter behind coral outcroppings to slow your rate of travel down the wall.
  • Punta Sur – Devil’s Throat
    Skill Level: Expert Depth: 130′ Formations:  ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★✩✩
    The Devil’s Throat is an iconic dive for expert divers. The throat opens at 80 ft down, taking you through a coral tunnel deep inside the magnificent pinnacles. You drop at a 45-degree angle until you reach the exit at 130 ft. Needless to say, you have to be spot on with buoyancy and breathing before you attempt this dive. Coral mazes abound on Punta Sur so you will have plenty to see while your air holds out.
  • Punta Sur – Cathedral
    Skill Level: Advanced Depth: 100′ Formations:  ★★★★★  Marine Life: ★★★✩✩
    The Cathedral formation is a large coral chamber with skylights opening to the ocean above. Other mazes and passages twist through the tall coral pinnacles making this one of the best coral structures on Cozumel.
  • Chun-Chaab
    Skill Level: Intermediate Depth: 80′ Formations: ★★★✩✩  Marine Life: ★★★★✩
    Chun-Chaab is unique amongst the southern reefs in that individual sections are separated by areas of sand. This gives the opportunity to see sand creatures, like southern rays and flounders, living between the reeflets. The reefs themselves are well formed and quite beautiful.
  • Maracaibo
    Skill Level: Expert Depth: 120′ Formations:  ★★★★✩  Marine Life: ★★★★
    This is the southernmost dive site on Cozumel. Proximity to the open ocean subjects divers to high seas and strong currents but offers the opportunity of large pelagic sightings. This site has beautiful structure including a large underwater arch with a base at 120.
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