6 Best Cozumel Diving Sites for Beginners and Advanced Divers

Cozumel diving sites are widely regarded as some of the best in the world. With dozens of excellent diving locations along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System just off Cozumel’s shores, plus incredible shipwrecks and other diving sites, Cozumel attracts divers from around the world. Whether you are a novice diver or an experienced professional, Cozumel has dive sites for you. Here are some of the best Cozumel diving sites.

Beginner and Intermediate Reefs

Palancar Reef

Best Cozumel Diving Sites: Marine Life at Palancar Reef
Best Cozumel Diving Sites: Marine Life at Palancar Reef

An extensive coral reef located on the southwest side of Cozumel in the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Palancar Reef is an excellent spot for scuba diving. The reef is one of the first dive sites that many tours will take novice divers to, to give them their first introduction to real diving. Divers can explore the arches of coral and deep crevices, and see hundreds of species of tropical fish and other marine life, like turtles and rays.

The sea around the reef is calm, and the waters are crystal clear, providing great visibility and the perfect environment for photo ops. Stretching over three and a half miles in length, there are plenty of great areas to dive up and down this reef, and many experienced divers consider it their favorite dive site in Cozumel, and return to Palancar year after year.

Dive depths at Palancar Reef range from 30 feet to 120 feet. The most popular places to dive at the reef include:

Palancar Gardens: The shallowest part of the reef, located on the north end. Palancar Gardens is 30-80 feet below the surface, and is usually done as a first dive, to introduce divers to the reef. This part of the reef is home to tall coral formations and sponges. Sea turtles can often be seen swimming around the reef.

Palancar Deep: The most popular section of the reef, and one of the most popular dive sites in all of Cozumel, Palancar Deep sits 80-120 feet below the surface. This section of the reef is home to a wide variety of tropical fish, including barracudas and white tipped sharks, and other marine life, like turtles.

Santa Rosa Reef: Beautiful section of reef with colorful coral and plenty of tropical fish.

Paradise Reef

Best Cozumel Diving Sites: Coral at Paradise Reef
Best Cozumel Diving Sites: Coral at Paradise Reef

Paradise Reef is one of the best Cozumel diving sites for beginner divers. Located 20-50 feet beneath the surface and 200 yards from shore, Paradise Reef is accessible both by boat, or for more experienced divers, by swimming out from the beach. Be careful if you decide to swim it, as the currents on the way back are stronger than those going there, so you may be in for a tough swim back to shore.

Paradise Reef lives up to its name, with beautiful coral and hundreds of species of tropical fish, it is truly a diver’s paradise. The reef is divided into two main sections:

The North Reef: This is the shallower section of the reef, sitting about 20 feet beneath the surface. The north section of the reef is perfect for novice divers.

The South Reef: The southern section of Paradise Reef reef is deeper, about 50 feet beneath the surface at its deepest. This part of the reef is better for intermediate and experienced divers.

Both sections of the reef are lush and stunning, and it is possible to feed the fish that inhabit the reef under the guidance of a diving instructor. 

Chankanaab Reef

Chankanaab Reef is a shallow water reef located 30-40 feet beneath the surface, on the southern end of Cozumel. With mild currents, easy accessibility, and incredible sites, this reef is great for beginners. The visibility on Chankanaab Reef is not as good as on some other sites in Cozumel, but there is still plenty to see once you get close to the reef.

Fish and other marine life are plentiful on this reef, with crabs, spiny lobsters, eels, snappers, sea horses, urchins, and even the invasive lionfish making frequent appearances. 

Experienced Reefs


The southernmost of the Cozumel diving sites, Maracaibo is a reef wall 90-170 feet below the surface. Maracaibo is a site for experienced divers, as the ocean swells when you enter the water and the depth of the reef can be very challenging for novice or intermediate divers. For those with the proper experience, however, the dive is incredible. The crystal clear waters allow divers to see the colorful coral and tropical fish with perfect visibility. The reef is frequented by white tipped sharks, which are actually an extremely common site for divers, and are not considered dangerous to humans. 

Other marine life common to the area includes sponges, lobsters, turtles, and gorgonias. The reef is one of the least-crowded in Cozumel, and the coral and vibrant marine life are living proof that fewer crowds mean a healthier ecosystem. The unspoiled reefs of Maracaibo are the most breathtaking in all of Cozumel, and well worth the trip for those experienced enough to make it.

Barracuda Reef

Located on the north side of Cozumel, Barracuda Reef is a 70-100 foot deep reef with strong currents, which makes it suitable only for experienced divers. Barracuda Reef is one of the very few dive sites on the north side of the island, and, as the name implies, is home to a plethora of barracudas, as well as other marine wildlife, including nurse sharks, eagle rays, and sea turtles. 

Getting to Barracuda Reef involves a 15 to 20 minute boat ride, followed by a dive through strong and unpredictable currents. As the northernmost reef in Cozumel, Barracuda Reef has no shelter from the Caribbean currents like the southern reefs do, and divers can be pulled miles off course if they are not careful. Once you reach the reef, you will be amazed at the pristine coral and vibrant aquatic life. Getting to the reef is so challenging that tour groups rarely go there, and the reef is therefore the most unspoiled in Cozumel.

For experienced divers, Barracuda Reef is an incredible site that is well worth the effort to get to. However, the dangers of this reef cannot be overstated, and numerous divers have lost their lives diving here. Be sure to take every precaution, go with a group of other experienced divers, and do not take this dive lightly if you plan on attempting it.

Punta Sur Reef

Best Cozumel Diving Sites: Fish at Punta Sur
Best Cozumel Diving Sites: Fish at Punta Sur

Punta Sur Reef is one of the most famous of all Cozumel diving sites. Sitting 60-110 feet below the surface, with unpredictable currents, the reef can be dangerous for inexperienced divers. For advanced divers, however, diving to the reef is an amazing experience. The reef is divided into two sections, the northern area is known as Devil’s Throat (La Garganta del Diablo), and the southern area, which contains an incredible site known as the Cathedral.

The North Reef: A narrow tunnel in the north section of the reef has garnered the name Devil’s Throat, and a reputation for being one of the most beautiful dive sites in Cozumel. The narrow tunnel stretches dozens of feet in length and is lined with red sponges. Towards the end, the tunnel narrows to little more than 5 feet wide, and continues for 15 feet in almost pitch black, before opening up again at the end.

The South Reef: On the southern part of the reef, there is a cave that leads through a small tunnel, opening up to a large chamber called the Cathedral, where light shines through an opening in the top. It is one of Cozumel’s most incredible diving sites.

See Also:

Tulum vs Cozumel: Best Vacation Destination 2021

Leave a Reply