Boasting over 35 known dive sites, 70’+ visibility year round, and a warm and friendly atmosphere, it is no wonder that Cozumel ranks among the most astounding dive destinations in the world. With spectacular reefs and walls teeming with life, drift diving beyond compare, and the creation of a new artificial reef program, Cozumel is a must for any diver, novice to experienced.
Located off the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Cozumel was hit hard by two hurricanes last year and the largest, Hurricane Wilma, sat on top of the island for 72 hours. I was curious how this would affect the reef system, which is the second largest in the world, and I am glad to say that, while the devastation on land was quite extensive, the reefs maintained much of their integrity. The marine life is plentiful enough for you to have staggering colorful pictures to show to your jealous friends back home.
Nothing beats the experience of true drift diving in the waters over Palancar Reef. I flew effortlessly past turtles, coral, sharks and rays, while doing my best to imitate Aquaman. Inside the Palancar Caves, I saw a lobster almost as big as me but don’t think he ended in my boiling pot at the end of the night. Cozumel’s spectacular reefs are protected ensuring that Cozumel’s waters will be enjoyed for generations.
I was on hand for the sinking of two Mexican Navy vessels which served as the beginning of a program to create a revitalization of Cozumel’s famed reefs which were affected by Hurricane Wilma. Over the course of the next year, an additional three ships will be submerged, adding a total of five vessels as well as an airplane to Cozumel’s majestic underwater ecosystem.
“We are deeply committed to protecting Cozumel’s natural environment because it is one of the things that make the island so special. The reef program will not only help preserve the marine life of the island, but it will add more options and adventures for the more than 80,000 new and repeat divers that visit each year,” explained Raul Marrufo, Director of the Cozumel Tourism Promotion Board. “We are confident that these new additions will help ensure the reefs are around for many years to come and also heighten the island’s popularity among divers and other travelers as well.”
While Cozumel may be known for diving, it has many other attractions as well. The Atlantis Submarine will give you a chance to show your kids and non-diving friends what they are missing as it navigates in between the reefs at a maximum depth of 100 feet. The duty-free shopping in downtown Cozumel is great for those high-priced items. The Cozumel Country Club is an 18-hole course carved out of a wildlife habitat so don’t be surprised to see a reptile run off with your golf ball. Of course, if you’re like me, you want take the edge off of a stressful day of diving by drinking margaritas, siesta-ing, and dancing the night away at a disco. I was lucky enough to attend the opening of a spectacular night spot, Uno Punto Cinco (the amount of tequila in one shot). The patio was an actual pier where the moonlight danced across the seas to make a great place to romance or be romanced by that special someone.
If you are planning an exotic dive location, this is a great island to visit. The sun is almost always shining, the people are always smiling, and the water is always sparkling, giving you a vacation that you won’t soon forget.