Jacques Cousteau, four species of sea turtles, 500 species of fish, the second largest barrier reef in the world, the variety of corals and sponges, and the year-round underwater visibility have made this island one of the most popular dive spots in the world.
Usually, the first step in diving here is choosing a dive operator. Because of Cozumel’s diving fame, the list of operators is extensive, so choosing one is difficult. Two dive outfits stand out from the rest: Aqua Safari and Aquatic Sports. The first is reportedly the oldest shop on the island, and it was opened in 1966. What is legend at this point claims that it was co-founded by Ramon Zapata, Sr., who was made famous by Cousteau when he arrived to the island in the 1960s and dove with Zapata. (Of course, the documentaries that Cousteau which came out of this meeting are responsible for the initial waves of diving tourism to the island.) Beyond fame and age, Aqua Safari is noteworthy because of its personable, responsible, humorous, and above all, knowledgeable (of diving and the island’s history) crew. The second operator is a smaller outfit owned by Sergio Sandoval, who’s diving expertise and knowledge of underwater photography also sets him apart from the long list of competitors.
Whoever you choose to dive with, expect to pay around $75 U.S. for a two-tank dive, and know that because of the island’s strong currents, drift dives are most common here. Also know that there is a hyperbaric chamber, Hiperbarica de Cozumel on 6th Street North, and Buceo Medico Mexicano is on 5th Street South.
A dive site you should not miss is Punta Sur, where expert divers can explore Devil’s Throat. Along this reef you are likely to swim with turtles and eagle rays. Experts should also be sure to explore Santa Rosa, Wall. Here, the strong currents will lead you to caves, giant sea fans, tube sponges, coral mounds, and swimming with midnight parrotfish.
Beginners also have a variety of amazing sites to choose from. Paraiso and Chankanaab Reef are both spots that offer shallow dives with light currents. The former is known for its brain, gorgonian and star corals, the somewhat rare, Cozumel splendid toadfish, crabs, octopus, and moray eels. The latter is loaded with corals, fans, and marine creatures such as mollusks, duster worms, and scorpion fish.
Whether you’ve been diving here since the 1960s or are just starting to discover the magical worlds beneath the ocean’s surface, Cozumel’s underwater paradise will not easily be erased from your memory.