a sponge coral while scuba diving in cozumel

Disclaimer: I was a guest of ScubaTony for a full week of Cozumel scuba diving. As always, all opinions are my own.

Mask on, regulator in, roll back…

Descend down to towering reef formations and thriving wildlife.

Giant green moray eels popping out of their holes, nurse sharks and hawksbill turtles meandering along, and hundreds and hundreds of colorful fish swimming to and fro.

Cozumel scuba diving will spoil you for the rest of your life.

After first getting my PADI Open Water certification in Cozumel a year ago, I returned to Cozumel this January with the intention of spending as little time above water as possible. And I definitely succeeded.

If you’re thinking about taking a dive vacation in Cozumel, or simply testing the waters with a discovery dive, let me just say one thing: DO IT.

This post has everything you need to know about Cozumel scuba diving, from how to choose the best shop, to the best dive sites, and more! So let’s take a giant stride right in 😉

How to get to Cozumel

Getting to Cozumel honestly couldn’t be easier, with access by both air and sea.

Cozumel International Airport is located smack dab in the middle of the island, walking distance from the main town of San Miguel. While flights here can get a little bit expensive, it’s definitely the best way to go if you want to get straight to the island, and how I arrived this time around.

Alternatively, you can fly into Cancun International Airport. From there, take a bus to Playa del Carmen (approx. 1 hour), where you can grab the ferry to Cozumel. This is definitely the more budget friendly option.

If you’re coming from elsewhere in Mexico, then you’ll also want to take a bus to Playa del Carmen and then a ferry to Cozumel. You can find more details about traveling to Cozumel here.

How to choose a dive shop in Cozumel

the scubatony boat out on the open water

As a huge cruise ship port and popular dive location, Cozumel is absolutely teeming with dive shops. You won’t have any trouble finding one. But finding a good one? That can be a slightly harder challenge (though honestly, not by much).

Best Dive Shop in Cozumel: ScubaTony

On my last dive trip to Cozumel, I dove the entire week with ScubaTony, a small dive operation with a focus on small groups and exceptional service.

I completed my Advanced Open Water certification with them and felt so encouraged by my fun and knowledgable guide, Israel (read a full review of the course here). I also did 3 days of fun dives and a night dive with them, and truly just had the best time.

Their equipment is top-notch: new and well taken care of. Their divemasters are fun-loving and care a lot about your safety. Their boat captains are always ready with a smile and delicious fruit during your surface interval.

If you’re looking for a great Cozumel dive shop, then you definitely can’t go wrong with ScubaTony!

Top Cozumel Scuba Diving Sites

a map of all of the cozumel scuba diving sites

Cozumel is home to an absolute bounty of amazing dive sites. Normally, your divemaster and captain will choose sites for the day based on current conditions and everyone’s dive experience, but you can still make requests!

Although I haven’t dove every site there is to dive in Cozumel (just an excuse to come back, I guess), here are some of the more popular and best Cozumel scuba diving sites you’ll find!

Palancar Gardens

Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 30′-80′
  • Current: Moderate
  • Experience level: Novice-Intermediate
  • If you’re looking for a great wall dive for all levels with absolutely coral formations, then you really can’t go wrong with Palancar Gardens. I’ve dove Palancar Gardens 3 times now and have yet to get bored, so you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself.

    While the marine life here isn’t as lively as some of the other sites on Cozumel, you come to Plancar Gardens for the towering coral formations which make it seem like you’re on another planet.

    There’s a pretty decent current here, with plenty of swim-throughs if that’s your thing.

    Palancar Gardens is one of the most popular dive sites on Cozumel, though, so if you want to be alone try to go with a dive shop that leaves earlier than the others. ScubaTony, who I recommend, leave at 7:15am as opposed to the 8:30 start time of most other shops on the island.

    Palancar Caves

    Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 50′-90′
  • Current: Moderate
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Another dive site on the popular Palancar Reef is Palancar Caves. Like its sister site Palancar Gardens, it’s the towering coral formations that are the real draw here, though you’ll likely still see some marine life.

    The practically infinite tunnels and caves make this a great site to explore.

    Palancar Caves is classified as a deep dive (it’s where I did my deep dive for my advanced open water course), but is generally done as a multi-level dive, ending at about 25 feet.

    Paso del Cedral

    colorful fish at paso del cedral
    Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 50′-60′
  • Current: Moderate
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Cozumel is famous for two things: amazing coral formations and a plethora of marine life. While Palancar will give you amazing coral formations, Paso del Cedral will give you that plethora of marine life. It’s another one of the most popular dive sites on Cozumel, and if you’re only diving for one day there’s a good chance you’ll be diving these two sites.

    The coral formations at Paso del Cedral are much smaller and lower to the ground, but the ledges and sponges are fantastic spots to catch sight of schools of fish and turtles. Keep an eye out in the little holes for the splendid toadfish.

    Also pretty common at Paso del Cedral are nurse sharks and giant green moray eels, both of which will take your breath away!

    La Francesca

    Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 30′-60′
  • Current: Moderate
  • Experience level: Novice-Intermediate
  • Right next to Paso del Cedral, it’s not too uncommon to drift over into La Francesca, another amazing dive site for marine life. If you’re spending multiple days in Cozumel scuba diving, I definitely recommend making a request to dive here!

    There’s a chance to see pretty much all of the wildlife that Cozumel is famous for at La Francesca, including angelfish, moray eels, nurse sharks, turtles, and more!

    San Clemente

    Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 20′-30′
  • Current: Moderate
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • If you’re looking for a nice, shallow dive with tons of marine life, then you truly can’t go wrong with San Clemente.

    I did my underwater naturalist dive as a part of my SSI advanced adventurer course here and we were able to find so many little tiny creatures-so fun!

    San Clemente is also a fantastic spot for a night dive. On my night dive here we saw an octopus, a squid, and at least 5 f-ing GIANT king crabs. It was a dive that totally blew my mind.

    Punta Tunich

    a nurse shark resting on a sandy bottom underneath a coral cave
    Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 50′-120′
  • Current: Moderate
  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Ever wanted to look off the edge of a wall and see down to the bottom of the ocean? That’s what you’ll find at Punta Tunich.

    Thankfully, you’ll be diving along the top of the wall, where all of the marine life is. On my dive here we saw multiple sharks and giant morays, as well as plenty of fish and other cool things. Turtles are also very common here!

    There’s not too much slope to Punta Tunich, so you’ll be deep the whole way through.

    Felipe Xiotencatl C-53 – Wreck diving in Cozumel

    a scuba diver diving in front of a shipwreck
    Quick Facts:
  • Depth: 50′-70′
  • Experience level: Intermediate-Advanced
  • You don’t generally think of wrecks when you think of Cozumel scuba diving, but there actually is one and it’s a pretty great one at that!

    Sunk in the year 2000 so that divers in Cozumel would have a wreck to dive, the Felipe Xiotencatl C-53 is a great spot to dive if you’re getting a little sick of coral and marine life (yeah right!). A 184′ long Mexican Navy minesweeper, you can swim around the wreck as well as through it length-wise and width-wise. Be sure to keep an eye out for the school of shiny fish that live in the wreck!

    There’s also a pretty fun photo opportunity where you stick your face into one of the portholes 🙂

    addie in full scuba gear peeking through the porthole of a shipwreck - cozumel scuba diving

    Scuba Diving Courses in Cozumel

    If you’re looking for a great place to get scuba certified, or to continue your scuba certifications, Cozumel is a great place to go!

    With a plethora of dive schools and dive sites for all levels, Cozumel is a learner’s paradise.

    Discover Scuba Diving

    If you’ve never dove before and aren’t ready to jump straight into a full course, then a one day discover scuba diving course might be for you.

    On a discover dive, you’ll learn about the equipment and key skills, then take your first breaths under water and explore a little bit.

    It’s an easy way to get hooked, so many dive schools allow the option to have your discover dive count towards your Open Water Course if you end up deciding to do the full certification afterwards.

    Open Water Course

    The Open Water Course is the basic certification. After a fair amount of theory, you’ll learn about the equipment and then take your first breaths under water in confined water.

    Finally, you’ll finish off the course with 4 open water dives! In Cozumel, you’ll usually do 2 shore dives on one day and 2 boat dives the next. Popular sites for the open water course are Palancar Gardens and Paso del Cedral.

    I did my Open Water Course in Cozumel with 2Tank Dive Hostel a little over a year ago. Their equipment was a little worse for wear, and their instructors seemed to have a little bit less patience than others I’ve experienced since then, but that’s being really picky. They’re still a 5 star PADI dive center and are a great budget option (you get a free night in their dorm room for every day you dive with them).

    If you’re feeling extra nervous, though, then going with a smaller dive shop with a focus on instruction can be a good idea. I highly recommend ScubaTony, who I did my Advanced course with this year.

    Advanced Open Water Course

    The next step in any scuba diving journey is to get your advanced open water certification. This will allow you to go deeper, and helps you to become a more confident diver in general.

    The advanced open water course is super chill–you just have to complete 5 adventure dives over the course of 2-3 days, so it’s actually really fun!

    I did my SSI advanced open water course while in Cozumel scuba diving this year with ScubaTony, and I highly recommend them for the course!

    Continuing Education Courses

    If you’re looking for continuing education courses like Nitrox or Deep Diver, you’ll be able to easily find them in Cozumel.

    ScubaTony offers the Nitrox course, or you can find other shops that specialize in other courses all over the island.

    Barefoot Dive Center offers the PADI Underwater Photographer specialty course and more. Dressel Divers offers Deep Diver, Drift Diver, and AWARE Coral Reef Conservation courses – all great options for Cozumel scuba diving.

    If you have a specific course in mind, you can type it into the PADI dive shop locator to find shops on Cozumel that offer it!

    Where to Stay When Scuba Diving in Cozumel

    When you’re scuba diving in Cozumel, you won’t be doing much else other than eating and sleeping–so where you choose to sleep is pretty freaking important! Here are a few spots I recommend especially for divers.

    2Tank Dive Hostel – $ – a no-frills dive-focused hostel on the main strip of San Miguel. Free night in their dorm for each day you dive with them. I stayed here the first time I went to Cozumel and it was fine.

    Beds Friends Hostel – $ – a really lovely little hostel with an amazing garden, a small pool, and a freaking delicious cafe! It’s a little bit out from the centre of town as well, which in cruise-ship center Cozumel is super nice.

    Casa Frida – $$ – A super charming, newly renovated bed and breakfast just a few blocks from the ocean

    Kinta Kan Boutique Hotel – $$ – Modern, affordable boutique hotel with a pool surrounded by hammocks

    Amaranto Bed and Breakfast – $$ – Colorful and quirky bungalows. They also offer scuba diving services!

    Hotel B Unique – $$$ – A luxurious boutique hotel experience right by the ocean (you can apparently snorkel right from the hotel), but not an all-inclusive, so you’ll actually be forced to go out and try some of the delicious food Cozumel has to offer (oh no!)

    Presidente InterContinental Cozumel – $$$$ – For the ultimate luxury all-inclusive experience, with an on-site dive shop or dock for pick-ups if you choose to go with a different shop, this is definitely the place to go. It looks sooooo lush!!

    What to Pack For Cozumel Scuba Diving

    Not sure what to pack for your Cozumel scuba diving trip? Honestly, you don’t need much. But here are a few things you don’t want to forget!

    Reef-safe sunscreen – Most of Cozumel’s dive sites are within a national marine park, which means if you don’t want to get burned you HAVE to use reef-safe sunscreen. Plus, as a diver it should be your first priority to protect the reefs you’re diving on 🙂

    Reef-safe leave-in conditioner – If you have long hair, then you know the pain of dive hair. A reef-safe leave-in conditioner like the one from Stream2Sea will perform miracles.

    Plenty of swimsuits – Whether you’re spending most of your time diving or on the beach, I recommend bringing at least 2 swimsuits so you’ll always have a dry one to change into.

    Your dive gear – If you own any of your own dive gear, then you’ll obviously want to pack that as well. At the moment I only travel with a prescription mask (so I can actually see), dive computer, and underwater housing, but am planning to add more gear as iI go along.

    An underwater camera – Cozumel’s reefs are straight up BEAUTIFUL, and you definitely don’t want to be caught without an underwater camera in hand. If you’re not looking for too much, then a GoPro with a dive housing & red filter will do perfectly. I travel with my Sony Alpha A6300 & SeaFrogs underwater dive housing, with which I took all of the photos in this post!

    I hope you enjoy your time in Cozumel scuba diving!!

    Pin it for later

    Are you planning on taking a trip to Cozumel Mexico? Whether you're there for days on the beach or only a day on a cruise, you can't miss the amazing Cozumel scuba diving. It's by far the best out of all the things to do in Cozumel! Click through to read the COMPLETE guide to scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico! #scubadive #mexico #travel


    Addie Gray is a recent college grad and a passionate solo female traveler. Having traveled to more than 20 countries, she now shares her knowledge on budget travel, solo female travel, and travel photography.

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