Diving in Cozumel
One of the most notable features of Cozumel's underwater landscape is the health of the reefs themselves. The majority of Cozumel's dive sites lie within the 30,000 acre marine park, and enjoy a no-touch, no-take policy, But protection is only half the story. It is the steady flow of oceanic water washing over the reefs that promotes life and growth, while also supplying the excellent water clarity divers crave. Healthy reefs mean healthy fish populations, and these waters are home to more than 100 types of coral and 260-plus species of fish.
Another unique aspect of Cozumel's underwater landscape is the configuration of the coral structures. As the topography transitions from shallow reefs to high-relief coral heads, these don't take on the typical spur-and-groove configuration. Instead, the corals grow upwards and outwards in convoluted patterns that create maze-like networks of canyons, swim throughs and arches. The outer edges of these coral castles often present wall-like vertical faces, but these faces are often riddled with crevices, caverns and vertical chimneys. These structures shelter a variety of marine life, and Cozumel is one of the best places in the Caribbean to see larger grouper, which roam the reefs with no fear of meeting hook and line or speargun. A common first-dive profile might involve a game of follow-the-leader through clefts in the reef line to overlooks of blue water. Second dives might be a drift across a mid-depth coral ridge such as Cedar Pass, or an exploration of fish-laden coral gardens such as Dalila or the Palancar Horseshoe.
A number of waterfront hotels and other locations provide access for shore diving on sites within easy swimming distance of the shore. These include both reefs and several samll artificial reefs that hold a vareity of fish. All boat diving diving in Cozumel is drift diving. Standard practice is to stop the dive boat and drop divers far enough up current of the target site to allow divers ample time for a comfortable descent. An in-water dive master deploys a tethered surface marker, and the dive group is carried along the reef by the currents. As divers complete their underwater tour, they are picked up by the waiting boat. This process makes making navigation easy, and save for the flight-like sensation of the drift, there is no sense of water movement as divers exit, as both boat and body are moving with the flow.
One site where divers may want to hang out rather than drift away is the artificial reef known as the Felipe Xicoténcatl. The 184-foot former Mexican Navy minesweeper sits upright and intact on a white-sand bottom near Chankanaab Bay. The wreck has been placed to allow experienced divers to explore the interior on guided dives, with permanent lines for reference. Interior spaces hold large schools of glassy sweepers and large grouper. Because guides can bring no more than four divers into the wreck at a time, it’s advisable to reserve a tour well in advance. Night diving reveals another facet of Cozumel's reefs, as octopus, lobster, moray eels and a menagerie of crustaceans come out after dark. This is also a good time to hunt for one of the area's signature finds, the splendid toadfish. Just four to six inches in length, these homely reef dwellers are endemic to Cozumel, and can usually be found lurking in small holes where the reef meets the sand. At night, they emit croaking sounds in hopes of attracting a mate.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid, undamaged passport is required. No visa is required for stays less than 180 days. One page is required in your passport for entry stamp. Other required items include a return ticket and confirmation of hotel reservation. All persons leavaing Cozumel pay a departure tax of approximately $34 USD which should be included in your international ticket. Check the entry/exit requirements here.
Vaccinations are not required for entering Mexico, if you’re coming
from the United sates. Check with the Centers for Disease
Control on recommended vaccinations for travel www.cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
Though no longer the sleepy fishing village that divers first discovered in the 1960s, the island of Cozumel retains much of its small-town charm. Cruise ships come and go, but move beyond the waterfront souvenir shops and tourist-centric watering holes and you will discover a culture that combines memories of the Maya with traditions of old Mexico. Many local shops close for afternoon siesta and as the big ships sail off into the night, residents come out for paseos around the town square. Also in the mix is a vibrant and sophisticated arts and music scene. Cozumel has been called Mexico's equivalent of Key West, attracting creative types from across the country and beyond. This influx of talent also extends to the kitchen, adding creative cuisines to a dining scene that also includes a number of family-operated favorites that have been pleasing hungry divers for decades. Surface intervals are typically spent relaxing at beach clubs, with perhaps one day set a side for an island tour. A handful of bars and clubs stay open late, while ferries connect to the lively scene at Playa del Carmen, which lies just across the channel.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity is 110 volts, 60 cycles, same as in the U.S., so converters
are not necessary.
Cozumel has a modern, fully digital and reliable telecommunication system.
The long distance dialing code is 52, while the area code for Cozumel is 987.
Check with your cell provider for International plans and costs. Internet is available at many hotels, restaurants, bars and stores.
Most restaurants and bars in tourist locations use purified water. Outside of resorts, be cautious with ice in drinks or vegetables which may have been washed in tap water. Bottled water is available for purchase and is recommended for drinking and brushing your teeth.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language but English is widely spoken.
The Mexican peso is the official currency of Cozumel (MXN). Due to new regulations, merchants and businesses can no longer change U.S. Dollars for Pesos. That must be done at a currency exchange office. U.S. credit cards are widely accepted. Check the current exchange rate here.
Mexico spans four different time zones. February 1, 2015 the state of Quintana Roo which includes Cozumel, changed to Eastern Standard Time Zone (Zona Sureste). They do not observe daylight savings time, which puts them 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Cozumel is Mexico's largest island, sitting just 12 miles off the coast
of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is approximately 250 square miles. Cozumel is 43 miles south of Cancún and 12 miles southeast
of Playa del Carmen. Ferries take passengers between Playa del Carmen
on the mainland side to Cozumel island in about 1/2 an hour. Cozumel measures
28 miles long & 10 miles wide.
The population of Cozumel is estimated at 100,000.