I feel I must warn you that Cozumel can become addictive. It has beautiful Corals, Fish and the People are wonderful. The food is also great and we have discovered some fantastic places to eat on the island. From the southern USA there can also be some good deals on airfares. Another big plus is that there is virtually no crime o the island. The authorities understand that their living comes from tourism, and they do everything to ensure tourists will come back. The island is not "Pretty" – I’m not sure I’d come here without the diving.
Hurricane Emily really hit the island hard on July 18th 2006 – winds peaked a whopping 160MPH, then it stayed over the island for 30 hours, causing major damage on and off the land.
We were there in February 2007 and they had rebuilt most of the island by then. Some hotels on the southern end of the island were still closed for repairs and remodeling. We found a lot of the reefs were still covered in sand. My friends who have been recently tell me that things are getting back to normal. I really hope so. It was amazing to see changes even 120 feet deep – that was some storm!
Cozumel is best known for drift diving and great walls. There is usually a fair current in most places, going up to a roaring blast on sites like Barracuda on the north end. We have done Barracuda several times, its’ like riding a roller coaster that could wash you down to great depths if you are not prepared !!!
However most other site normally have a more moderate current. This still means you could be struggling to even stay still if swimming against the current. So you have to dive from a boat which follows you. Many dive sites are great for novices but you will still be drift diving from a boat. Great fun !!!
There are lots of dive operators on the island. We have used Sand Dollar, Dive Paradise, Blue XTsea, Deep Blue and Blue Magic – in that order. I’ll comment on these just to give you some idea of comparisons of different style of operations. These are based on my personal experiences and may not be representative of what you would find. I have only heard good things about Aldora divers, but never used them.
Our first time in Cozumel we stayed at the Reef Club and dived with Sand Dollar sports. The resort was fine. It was all-inclusive and had a buffet style cafeteria, or a proper restaurant (still part of all-inclusive, but reservations required). It’s not luxury, but we enjoyed it and would stay there again. We were brand new divers when we went there. Sand dollar sports have large boats with many divers on board. We now call them "Cattle Boats". They also have a fixed schedule (doing the same dive sites in the afternoon that they did in the morning & doing the same sites every Monday... etc.). The dives were 60 feet / 40 minutes. This was fine for us as new divers but we would not dive with them today – now we like a choice of dive sites and more bottom time.
In August 2003 we did an all-inclusive package at the Brisas Hotel - now called Hotel Cozumel and scuba diving with Dive Paradise. I had read about the Brisas having hard beds and smelly bathrooms on the internet. So I was a little worried about staying there. However we thought it was fine when we stayed there. Dive Paradise have a good package. They offer free one tank afternoon dives if you do a two-tank morning dive package. This means if your air consumption is not so good, you can get three 40 minute dives for the cost of two dives elsewhere. Again, this is a "Cattle boat", but I feel they are much better than sand Dollar, because the free afternoon dive really helps the "Air Hog" get some bottom time. They have diver’s choice for dive sites – no fixed schedule. However since they did not keep the same divers on the same boats, you can end up going to the same dive site more than once if you get out-voted. Lockers are available at the dock so you can rinse gear and leave it in the locker. Obviously we did not get to use all their Divemasters, but we thought "Memo" was great. He had lots of personality (funny guy) and really cared about the environment as well. I would use them again.
When we dived with BlueXTsea we had a divemaster who had a bit of an attitude. He abandoned four of our group in a swim-through at 100 foot deep. Needless to say, we won’t dive with them again. They did use small, fast boats, typically with 4-6 divers on board (We call them a "six-pack’).
In town we used to dive with Deep Blue and will take you anywhere you want to go, subject to a check-out dive with them. Their six-pack boats are very fast and the staff are excellent. Computers are required on all dives, so you can get much more bottom time than on the Cattle Boats. Indeed, you basically do your own dive within limits of your own computer and air consumption. We really liked their divemasters. Each evening we would go to the dive shop and discuss with them where we wanted to go the next day. For example, strong current dives such as Barracuda are normally done in the morning - if they have to search for you they want to do it in daylight. Shallower Nitrox dives would be planned for later. We have done four dives a day with them, starting with the 130ft "Devils Throat" and not breaking decompression limits.... well ?
When we went to Cozumel in 2009 (pictures HERE),
we discovered that our favorite Divemasters, Gabriel & Sandro,
had move from Deep Blue to Blue
Magic, so we gave them a try. Enough to say we dived with them again
in 2011. We met
another Divemaster with them called "Camel" who we really
liked. Another, called "Pumba", we didn't care for... oh
Places to stay
Our favorite place to stay is Casa Mexicana. This is a hotel in the middle of town, right on the seafront. We love it. Will stay here again. They include breakfast, but no other meals. This means we go to the local restaurants each day (what a shame). This is more expensive than an all-inclusive package, but is great fun. Great location for walking to the restaurants in town. Yeah !!!