Planning the Perfect Day Visiting and Diving Cozumel, Mexico

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Cozumel Diving Exceeded All Expectations:

One of the things Cozumel is best known for is its crystal-clear waters and beautiful barrier reefs.  It is a known go-to spot for divers from all over the world.  Because of this, I was excited to spend Christmas morning enjoying the world-famous Cozumel diving spots.

Scuba Life Dive Shop

Scuba Life was recommended to me by one of our fellow world cruise divers as a premier dive shop in Cozumel.  After diving with them, I have to agree.  I booked everything online, and they confirmed quickly and answered all questions before arriving.  Their service was excellent, as was their commitment to safety and satisfaction.  We were doing a two-tank dive leaving at 9 am, so there were no issues for us to get there in time after arriving by cruise ship.

The Neptune arrived in port at 7:00 am, and I disembarked with my dive gear by 7:45.  Bob, my husband, walked me down the long pier, over the duty-free shops, and down to the taxi stand right outside the port entrance.  Several taxis lined up, and I was told it was a 15-dollar fair to go down to the marina where Scuba Life was located.  I think that was a $5 rip-off, but it was Christmas, and they deserved a little extra for working on a holiday.  I arrived too early and had a nice conversation with two other divers from the Celebrity ship who were on a private dive with the same company.

Sealife Scuba - CozumelThe dive team was busy preparing tanks and setting up equipment on three boats.  As I waited, someone called my name.  It turns out one of the other divers on the Neptune had booked for that morning as well.  I had missed her email letting me know she would be there, so it was a pleasant surprise to have another shipmate diving with me.  Allison is a regular at this dive shop, and they treat each other like family.

Palancar Reef

We boarded and headed out right on time.  There were seven divers and a crew of four: the captain and three dive masters.  Allison and I were teamed up together with one of their dive masters.  She was also getting her nitrox training during the morning.  As we headed out, we were told our first dive location would be the Palancar Caves, part of the Palancar reef system.  After a bumpy 20-minute ride, we were getting our gear on over the dive site.  This would be a drift dive.  One of the other dive masters wore an elf costume over her dive gear.  We certainly would not miss herElfin helping us get ready to dive below the surface.

First Dive – Palancar Caves

I realized how unique this dive would be as we entered the water.  The water was crystal clear to the bottom.  We descended about 70 feet and approached large coral formations jutting up from the bottom.  As we swam around the structures covered with large, beautiful coral formations, the dive master took us through many “swim-throughs.” Some were large openings, and others were narrow and long, but they were all fun to navigate.  Although the coral was pretty healthy, there were some signs of bleaching resulting from our hot summer.  There were not a lot of fish seen around, Elf in the water at Palancar Caves Cozumelalthough we did see a few fish, as well as a baby loggerhead turtle, swimming down from the surface towards the reef.   We also passed the most giant lobster we had ever seen, just hanging out on the bottom out in the open on the sand.  He obviously knew it wasn’t lobster season.  The water was so clear we could see everything in great detail.

Our depth fluctuated between 83’ and 40’, averaging 56’. We swam up, down, and around the reef for a while.  I went through my air faster than Allison and the Dive Master and had to go up for my safety stop at around 47 minutes of diving.  The dive master surfaced his dive marker, and I went to 15 feet and held onto the cord so we would still stay together as a group.  The dive boat came and picked me up after a few minutes, and we waited for a few minutes for Allison and the dive master to surface.

I could not get my sealife camera working on the surface, so unfortunately, I did not get any personal underwater pictures.  The underwater images were taken by my dive buddy, Allison, who graciously shared them with me.

After the initial dive, we took a ride closer to one of the beach resorts, where one of the divers quickly did the navigational training for her Advanced certification.  The rest of us relaxed and enjoyed our surface time getting to know each other.  After this quick stop, we headed to our second dive stop.

Yucab Reef

Yucab Reef is a shallower reef with a white sandy bottom and flat reef structures, with a few swim-throughs.  It is located on the northwest side of Cozumel.  Immediately, I noticed two things:

1. The current was strong, and we flew quickly over the reef.

2. There was a LOT more marine life on this reef.

We saw so many fantastic fish of all sizes.  Some fish species included large tangs, angel fish, jacks, needlefish, barracuda, and colorful parrot fish. I even saw the top of a small octopus hiding in a small 4-inch hole.  For whatever reason, I was drifting faster than the others, so I attempted to swim into the current a bit to slow down.  The others finally caught up to me, and after 20 minutes, the current slowed down a bit.

Unfortunately, we saw no eagle rays, sharks, or giant turtles.  However, this was an enjoyable dive with lots to see, and we got over 60 minutes of dive time at our average depths.

After the second dive, we returned to the dock, just a short boat ride away.  The dive team made quick work of helping us all get our gear off the boat and washing our gear in fresh water.  I packed my dive bag, and we said our goodbyes after tipping the team and headed to the taxi stand. We were back on board the ship by around 2 pm.  Bob and I could have gone to shore for a quick walk around the harbor area, but we had been to Cozumel before and didn’t feel the need to explore more.  To me, Cozumel’s most prominent attraction was the diving.  However, many others headed out on the Viking excursions and reported that they had a great time and learned much about Mexican and Mayan cultures.  Maybe next time.

As always in cruises, we wish we had more time in Cozumel to dive more dive sites and explore some of the land-based attractions.  I think Danielle and I will head down for a long weekend trip after I finish the world cruise.  Thanks to the team at Scuba Life.  I highly recommend this dive shop if you plan to dive in Cozumel.

 

Christmas Dinner:

Christmas night aboard the ship was really special.  Bob had made reservations at Manfredi’s, one of Neptune’s specialty restaurants specializing in Italian Cuisine.  Dinner was excellent.  I ordered bruschetta salad, and Bob ordered prosciutto-topped pastries for appetizers.  For our main course, I had the Rib Eye Florentine, and Bob had fresh Red Snapper.  Both were delicious.  The service, wine, and atmosphere were all special, and we had a wonderful dinner.

Christmas Concert:

After dinner, we went into the ship’s theater to watch the Christmas concert.  It was standing room only, so we stood in the back as the entire entertainment team did a Christmas concert for us.  It was a wonderful way to end our Christmas on ship.  Thanks to the whole Viking team for working hard so we could have a great Christmas day aboard the ship.

 

Visiting Cozumel, Mexico, for a Day

When arriving by cruise ship, passengers have many excursion options offered by the cruise ships.  Often, these excursions are exclusive to the passengers on the ships and can not typically be experienced by the general public.  They provide safe transportation and local guides to offer the best experience for their passengers.  However,  excursions can get sold out quickly, leaving some passengers scrambling to determine how they want to spend their day.  Sometimes, passengers don’t want to participate in an organized excursion and look to discover the area independently.  If this is you, please enjoy the top 15 things to do in Cozumel.  Reach out to Viator to book tickets or tours individually.

When visiting Cozumel, Mexico, for a day, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Here are the top 15 things to do in Cozumel:

1. Visit Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park: Explore the beautiful beach, snorkel, or swim with dolphins.

2. Discover the San Gervasio Ruins: Learn about the ancient Mayan civilization and explore the archaeological site.

3. Take a tour of the Cozumel Pearl Farm: Learn about cultivating pearls and see the beautiful jewelry.

4. Explore the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park: Enjoy the stunning views, visit the lighthouse, and spot crocodiles in the lagoon.

5. Go snorkeling or scuba diving in the crystal-clear waters of Cozumel’s coral reefs.

6. Take a boat tour to El Cielo: Swim in the turquoise waters and see the starfish that give this place its name.

7. Visit the Cozumel Museum: Learn about the island’s history, culture, and marine life.

8. Enjoy a beach day at Paradise Beach: Relax on the white sand, swim in the clear waters, and try water sports.

9. Take a tequila tasting tour: Learn about the production process and taste different types of tequila.

10. Explore the Cozumel Marine Park: Snorkel or dive in this protected area to see colorful fish and coral.

11. Visit the Cozumel Butterfly and Botanical Gardens: Admire the beautiful butterflies and explore the lush gardens.

12. Take a submarine tour: Explore the underwater world without getting wet in a comfortable submarine.

13. Enjoy a beachfront meal at one of Cozumel’s many restaurants and try local dishes like ceviche or tacos.

14. Take a bike tour around the island: Enjoy the scenic views and explore Cozumel at your own pace.

15. Relax and unwind at Cozumel’s beautiful beaches, such as Playa Mia or Playa Palancar.

Remember to plan your day to make the most of your time in Cozumel. Enjoy your visit!

 

An Overview of Cozumel, Mexico

 

It is helpful to learn about the culture and history when visiting Cozumel, Mexico.

Cozumel is a beautiful island off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life, making it a popular destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.

Visiting Cozumel, Mexico Cruise Harbor

History:

The Mayans originally inhabited the island, who considered it a sacred place dedicated to the goddess of fertility, Ixchel. The Mayans built temples and shrines on the island, some of which can still be visited today.

During the Spanish colonization, Cozumel became an important trading port and a stopover for Spanish ships traveling between Spain and the New World. The island was also a haven for pirates, who used it as a base for their operations in the Caribbean.

Cozumel Geography:

Cozumel is the largest island in Mexico and is located in the Caribbean Sea. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world, surrounds it. This makes Cozumel a paradise for divers and snorkelers, as they can explore the vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful fish, coral formations, and other marine species.

Cozumel Culture and Art:

The island has a mix of Mayan, Mexican, and Caribbean influences, seen in its cuisine, music, and art. Visitors can experience the local culture by trying traditional dishes, attending festivals and events, and exploring the local markets.

Notable Cozumel Attractions:

Cozumel includes the San Gervasio archaeological site, which offers a glimpse into the island’s Mayan past, and the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, where visitors can enjoy stunning views, explore nature trails, and spot crocodiles in their natural habitat.

Summary of Cozumel:

Cozumel, Mexico, offers a perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and cultural experiences, making it an ideal destination for those looking to explore and enjoy what the Caribbean offers.

Cozumel Excursions offered by Viking Neptune World Cruise while visiting Cozumel, Mexico

Catamaran Sail & Ocean Activities

Duration: 5.00 Hours

Enjoy a Leisurely Lunch on the Ocean — Meet your experinced captain and crew, board your vessel and sit back and relax as you set sail along the coast of Cozumel. As you admire the surrounding views, savor a tasty lunch on board, accompanied by chilled refreshments. After your meal, you can recline and soak up the sunshine or you can take a dip in the turquoise waters. Snorkeling equipment will be available on board so you can take the opportunity to get a glimpse of the colorful tropical fish and marine life beneath the sea’s surface. Perhaps try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding; your first mate will give you some tips on technique. After your time at sea, sail back to the pier and return to your ship.

Jungle ATV Adventure Duration: 3.00 Hours

Date: December 25, 2023 09:00 AM Available, 01:30 PM Available

Ride Off the Beaten Path and Swim in the Jade Garden Caverns – You will first travel by motor coach to a local ranch—your base camp—and hear a safety briefing. Then, enjoy an hour’s ride into the nearby forests—a lush setting few visitors to Cozumel ever see, perhaps spotting birds and butterflies along the way. Follow your lead guide down winding dirt roads to a small replica Mayan house that you can explore. At a chiclero base camp, learn about harvesting chicle, the basic ingredient of chewing gum, and hear the story of Wrigley’s—one of the world’s leading confectionary giants. Continue your thrilling ride, over the rugged terrain as your make your way back to base. Helmets, bandana, goggles and bottled water will be provided.

The Ruins of San Gervasio Duration: 2.50 Hours Price: Included

Date: December 25, 2023 09:00 AM Available, 10:00 AM Available, 11:00 AM Available, 12:00 PM Available, 01:00 PM Available, 02:00 PM Available

Visit a Sacred Pre-Colombian Mayan Religious Site — Located on the northeastern side of the island of Cozumel, San Gervasio is a Mayan site dedicated to Ix Chel, goddess of the moon and fertility. Mayan women would make the pilgrimage to this site and present offerings to the goddess. Take a tour of the remains of this expansive complex; today, the stone structures are missing their roofs and upper walls; and view Las Manitas (“Little Hands”), which was the residence of the Mayan ruler of Cozumel. On your way back to San Miguel, see the many coves and strands that make Cozumel a beach-lover’s paradise. Back in town, enjoy some free time to shop and explore at your leisure, or transfer directly to your ship.

Highlights of Cozumel Duration: 3.00 Hours Price: Included

Date: December 25, 2023 09:30 AM Available, 10:30 AM Available, 11:30 AM Available

Downtown Sights and a Traditional Mayan Dance Show — Meet your guide at the pier and embark on a scenic drive by motor coach to San Miguel to view the Monument of Two Cultures. It was erected to commemorate the two survivors of the Spanish crew who were shipwrecked off the Yucatán Peninsula in 1511. Listen as your guide regales you with the tale of Gonzalo Guerrero, who remained here. In the main square, see the San Miguel church and view the clock tower. After stopping to enjoy a refreshing popsicle, continue to El Barriecito, where you will take your seats to enjoy a traditional Mayan dance performance. Be captivated by the music and colorful costumes as you watch this beautiful art form that celebrates their powerful connection to the natural world and a rich cultural history. Afterward, return to your awaiting ship.

Salsa & Salsa

Date: December 25, 2023 10:00 AM Available

Duration: 4.50 Hours

Cozumel’s Culinary and Musical Delights — Two dancing chefs will instruct you on how to make a variety of delicious fresh salsas, as well as an authentic margarita and a frozen strawberry version. You will have the chance to sample an assortment of beverages, including lime and strawberry margaritas and Jamaican hibiscus herbal tea while you snack on your culinary creations of tasty cheese quesadillas, crispy taquitos, and freshly made corn chips. Then, once you have mastered your cooking skills, your dancing chef will have you moving and swinging to the uplifting sounds of salsa music. After class, you will have free time to relax at the beachfront resort, admiring its stunning sea views, as well as enjoying access to the beach and swimming pool, before returning to your ship.

Reef Explorer Semi-Sub Duration: 1.75 Hours

Date: December 25, 2023 10:00 AM Available, 11:30 AM Available

Live Below the Surface of Colorful Barrier Reef — From the pier, meet your experienced crew and board the Ocean View Explorer. Then set out for a 11⁄2-hour tour over a section of the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. Stretching out across more than 13 miles, the gorgeous coral here is home to a diverse array of marine life, including colorful tropical fish, sharks, rays and turtles. As you cruise, you will have the opportunity to admire your surroundings from atop your semi-submersible—taking photographs of Cozumel’s skyline and the shoreline—or stepping down into the underwater viewing room to marvel at unobstructed vistas of this submarine world from 4 feet below the surface. At the end of your journey, you will return to the pier and your awaiting ship.

Jungle & Beach by ATV Duration: 4.50 Hours

Date: December 25, 2023 10:30 AM Available, 12:00 PM Available

Learn About Mayan Life and Experience a Tropical Paradise — You will meet your guide for a full briefing before donning
your safety equipment and heading off on your 250cc ATV. Following your guide, you will see a replica Mayan house and stop at a chiclero base camp, where gatherers of chicle, the basic ingredient of chewing gum, would live and work. During your journey, keep your eyes peeled for colorful tropical birds and wildlife, and admire the beautiful flora. After your nature trail, board the motor coach and head for relaxation. At our designated beach area, relax on our complimentary beach chairs, enjoy refreshments and a delicious lunch followed by free time to enjoy the water sports or simply relax. You will have the option to either return to your ship, or enjoy the beach for longer and make your own way back.

A Taste of Mexico Duration: 3.00 Hours

Date: December 25, 2023 10:30 AM Available, 12:00 PM Available

Sample Chocolate and Learn the Ancient Art of Tequila Production — Embark on a scenic drive to the Mayan Cacao Company, where you will meet your expert guide and begin your tasting adventure. Enjoy an engaging and entertaining experience as you discover the importance of chocolate in Mayan culture and cuisine. A far cry from today’s sweet treat, the Mayans enjoyed their chocolate as a bitter, unsweetened beverage, with chili. Browse the boutique and savor the company’s artisanal chocolate, then continue your journey to Barriecito. Upon arrival, you will also hear how tequila has been produced from pre-Colombian times, through the colonial period, right up to the present day. Enjoy a taste as you get to know your reposado from your blanco, accompanied by savory nibbles of chips and guacamole. Afterward, you will return to your ship.

Barefoot Fish Cookout Date: December 25, 2023 11:00 AM Available, 12:30 PM Available

Duration: 4.00 Hours

Traditional Meso-American Cuisine at the Beach — Tikinxic, or “dry fish,” is a classic meal in the Yucatán region; the fish is prepared whole and marinated with tasty achiote paste and sour oranges, then wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked beneath a wood fire. Following a short transfer to the Barracuda Beach Club, located on the northwestern shore of Cozumel, head to the white-sand beach and meet your instructor, who will lead you in a hands-on demonstration on how to make tikinxic. After your fish is grilled to perfection, sit and enjoy the delicious results, accompanied by refreshing margaritas. Following your meal, you will have free time to relax at the club, perhaps taking a dip in the pool or just admiring views of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, before returning to your ship.

Atlantis XII Submarine Experience Duration: 2.50 Hours

Date: December 25, 2023 11:30 AM Available

Cozumel’s Fascinating Underwater World — Board your submarine, a battery-powered, eco-friendly vessel. Take a seat next to one of its 26 side portholes, which will allow you unencumbered views of this fascinating marine environment. At the dive site, your vessel will gently descend to depths of up to 100 feet. Along the way, you will have an opportunity to marvel at the beautiful Chankanaab reef, as well as glimpse over the Wall, a sheer vertical drop that plummets 2,000 feet to the dark depths below. Keep watch for the many colorful exotic fish, sea turtles and manta rays that inhabit the waters around the reef and gain insight into life here from your knowledgeable crew. You will also enjoy views of the popular dive wreck of the Felipe Xicotencatl before ending your memorable journey back on the surface.

Discover Scuba Duration: 2.50 Hours

Date: December 25, 2023 12:00 PM Available

An Underwater World Waiting to Be Explored — Marvel at the underwater world as you float beside vibrant reef fish, friendly turtles and brightly colored coral. Cozumel is a scuba diver’s paradise, with warm, crystal clear turquoise waters, colorful sponges and diverse marine life. It is no wonder that Cozumel is consistently rated as one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations. Perfect for beginners, this PADI-licensed training session will teach you some basic dive procedures and safety signals in waist-deep water. After, you will progress to the open waters for your first-ever underwater experience. This course will take you to a depth of up to 25 feet. All instructors hold PADI certificates and are fully qualified. After your dive, enjoy relaxation time on the beach or head back to the reef for some snorkeling.

 

Our friends at Digitalnomadanddog.com have provided a great summary of safety concerns while visiting Cozumel, Mexico

The most common crimes reported on the island are petty theft, such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, and theft from parked cars. To avoid falling victim to these crimes, it is essential to take basic precautions.

Here are some travel tips to stay safe while visiting Cozumel, Mexico:

  • Use common sense: Be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone in isolated areas or unfamiliar neighborhoods.
  • Keep valuables secure: Keep your valuables, including your passport, cash, and credit cards, in a safe place, such as a hotel safe.
  • Stay in well-lit areas: If you are out at night, stick to well-lit areas and stay in groups.
  • Avoid drugs: Drug offenses carry severe penalties in Mexico, and visitors should avoid getting involved with drugs or drug-related activities.
  • Use licensed taxis: Use licensed taxis with official markings and avoid unmarked vehicles.

Is the water safe to drink?

The answer is yes and no.  

​The safety of food and water in Cozumel is an important consideration for island travelers. Here’s what you need to know to ensure a safe and healthy trip.

​The tap water in Cozumel is unsafe to drink, as it is not properly treated to remove harmful bacteria and other contaminants. However, all hotels and restaurants on the island provide purified water, which is safe for drinking and cooking. Restaurants and bars also use purified water to make ice, so go ahead and enjoy that margarita.

In addition, it’s advisable to use bottled water for brushing teeth and washing fruits and vegetables. I use a product called Microdyne to clean my fruit and vegetables. it’s also important to use it on produce that you peel like avocados and pineapple to avoid dragging bacteria from the surface into the fruit.

There are many excellent restaurants in Cozumel.  Check the reviews of any restaurant before going in.  Restaurants and hotels have filtered water that is used for cooking and serving and can be consumed safely.  Bob and I have visited many areas in Mexico and have never experienced stomach issues due to food preparation.  Don’t miss out on the fantastic food available throughout all of Cozumel.

Convert Pesos to American dollars and back – see the conversion calculator on the right side of this page.

While previously visiting Cozumel, Mexico, we found that credit cards are accepted almost anywhere to purchase goods, food, and services.  American dollars, as well as Pesos, are welcomed and appreciated for tips.  If you plan on buying goods from small beach vendors, it is good to have pesos on hand.  You can exchange money or withdraw local cash at any ATM machine.

As always, secure your money and wallets carefully.  Although have never had an issue with pickpockets in Mexico, they are out there, so take all the normal precautions.  Secure your money in secure pockets or bags.  Don’t wear expensive jewelry or watches while out and about, and stay in well-lit areas at night.