The Cozumel reef system is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef system in the world. The reef system spans almost 175 miles (280 km) of ocean between the Gulf of Mexico and Honduras. Cozumel's spectacular reef formations, effortless drift diving and exceptionally clear waters make this island one of the world's most popular diving destinations.
In 1996 the Mexican government declared the reefs of Cozumel a National Marine Park. Even though almost the entire island of is surrounded by coral reefs, the park includes shoreline and reefs starting just south of the International Pier and continues down and around Punta Sur and up just a small portion of the east side of the island . As a result there are currently limits on the number of boats and scuba diving operators allowed on the reefs. Each diver must pay a $2.50 per day park entrance fee which goes towards enforcing the rules.
“Take Only Pictures and Leave Only Bubbles” ~Author Unknown
As our guest you can help us to preserve the reef and marine wildlife:
Corals are fragile
Control your buoyancy - Kicking, touching, dragging your gear causes damage to healthy coral. Photographers in particular, take pictures without causing damage. If you use gloves, do not grab the coral. If you carry a knife, keep it in the sheath unless there is an emergency.
Marine organisms are protected by law
Fishing, feeding the fauna and taking souvenirs is against the law. Refrain from extracting or annoying the marine flora and fauna.
Use biodegradable sun block products. Report fuel, oil, sewage and garbage spills to the National Park office.
- Barracuda Reef – 60 to 100 feet. EXPERT-III ONLY. Rough seas and fast, shifting currents up to 10 knots common, very raw and wild. Large marine life not uncommon, including black tip, hammerheads, tiger sharks and of course, barracuda! If you miss the pick-up after a dive, it’s a long way to Cuba.
- Cantarel Reef – 35-Abyss EXPERT Seldom visited and is also known as the Eagle Ray Reef or Sandbank. Full of sponges and soft coral and sits amidst a large sand bank. On the reef you will find nurse sharks, eagle rays, sea turtles and other large species.
- Chun Chancaab – 80 to Abyss EXPERT Strong current, look for scattered coral, a variety of sponges and sea fans, on the sand bottom. Also watch for schools of large fish.
- Chancanaab Reef – 35 to 55 feet. NOVICE. Easy currents, tarpon, crabs, small reef fish and nurse sharks have been spotted here.
- Colombia Reef and Wall – 20 to 120+ feet. NOVICE to EXPERT. Variable currents. This area has diving for all skill levels. The shallower sections are great for novices or as a second dive. Expect easier currents and a wide variety of marine life, including lobsters, eels and many of the smaller reef fish. The deeper sections contain stronger currents and some of Cozumel’s best wall diving, with spectacular mountains, valleys and pinnacles, numerous swim throughs and lots of turtles, large groupers, morays and spotted eagle rays.
- La Francesa – 40 to 65 feet NOVICE Sandy area noted for a variety of tropical fish and many invertebrates. A natural fish nursery with numerous and varied corals along with colorful sponges. You also might see the occasional nurse shark sleeping under a ledge.
- Maracaibo Reef – 70 to 200 feet. EXPERT. Rough seas and moderate to strong currents common. This area has some fine swim throughs and world class deep wall diving where you can see black coral, orange sponges, large gorgonians and sea fans. Big animal sightings are not uncommon, with the occasional black tip, loggerhead, and spotted eagle ray making an appearance.
- Palancar Reef - The Palancar area is made up of a popular collection of dive sites covering many square miles of reef with depths ranging from 15’ to Abyss. This playground is home to dives for all skill levels.
- Palancar Caves – 40 to 90 feet. INTERMEDIATE. Easy to fast current, sloping wall dive with lots of swim throughs, deep gorges and large coral formations. Plenty of gorgonians and sponges as well as a good chance of seeing large rays, turtles and morays.
- Palancar Gardens – 40 to 70 feet. NOVICE. Easy currents, terraced walls, caverns, colors and impressive coral formations are home to a variety of marine life.
- Palancar Wall – Best done at 90 to 120 feet EXPERT. Variable currents, vertical wall, gorgonians, black coral and an incredible variety of fish. Keep your eye to the deep and you may see giant spotted eagle rays and sharks.
- Paradise Reef – 30 to 50 feet. NOVICE. Easy currents, actually three separate reefs. You may see splendid toad fish, sea fans and brain coral.
- Paso Del Cedral – 30 to 60 feet NOVICE. Moderate to fast current, Patchy reefs interspersed with sand and popular swim throughs. Small corals, large groupers, eels scorpion fish and jacks.
- Punta Sur – 90 to 130 feet. EXPERT. Variable currents. If you mention Punta Sur to anyone who’s been there, and the Devil’s Throat invariably finds its way into the conversation. The entrance to this tunnel is at 90 feet. The exit, at 125 feet, is through a cavern known as the Cathedral, where a cross shaped sponge (prior to Hurricane Wilma) can be seen, today you will see a wooden cross in its place. This swim through is a major draw, but this dive location offers much more. Other Punta Sur attractions are the huge pinnacles, vast caverns, and occasional eagle ray and shark sightings.
- Punta Tunich – 50 to 130 feet INTERMEDIATE Often swift current. From a sand bottom at 70 feet, a long ridge of coral rises from the sand dunes between 40 to 60 feet. You can find friendly groupers while drifting along this vibrant colorful reef.
- San Francisco Wall – 30 to 70 feet. INTERMEDIATE. Fast current. Nice reef, and a perfect place for your first wall dive. Great coral and sponges, plus barracuda, nurse sharks, turtles and rays.
- San Juan Reefs – 70 to 110 feet EXPERT Seldom visited due to rough conditions and currents of 3-10 knots even in good weather.
- Santa Rosa Wall – 50 feet to Abyss. INTERMEDIATE. Moderate to strong current, impressive tunnels, spectacular swim throughs and huge sponges. Grouper, moray eels, lobster, turtles, possible large marine life, including the possibility of giant eagle rays, hammerhead sharks.
- Tormentos Reef – 45 to 75 feet. INTERMEDIATE. Moderate to fast currents, lots of sea fans, interesting sponges and coral formations, interspersed with sandy sections. You may see grouper, snapper, clown fish and lobster.
- Yucab Reef – 25 to 60 feet. NOVICE. Moderate to fast currents. Lots of colorful large corals and swim throughs; You may see trunkfish, as well as grunts, angelfish and barracuda.
- Villa Blanca Wall – 50 to 100 feet. INTERMEDIATE. Fast currents, sloping, ledged wall with swim throughs, expect to see black grouper, eels, flounder, grunts, gorgonians and a variety of sponges.
Please click here for a printable version of all the reefs.