The Cozumel reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef system on earth after the Great Barrier reef. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean and begins north of Yucatan, at Contoi island. From there it covers the entire coast of the southeast of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala down to the Bay of islands in Honduras. The Mesoamerican Reef is over 600 miles long and also called ‘Great Mayan Reef’. Thereby it consists of a system of atolls, reefs, lagoons and seagrass meadows.
Various national parks protect areas of the Great Mayan Reef. The Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park takes care of various projects around the Cozumel reef. Because the Cozumel reef surround almost the whole island, the government of Cozumel tries to protect it against possible threats. The reef of Cozumel stretches parallel to the island and can easily be reached by boat.
Cozumel is considered one of the best diving and snorkeling areas in the world. Already Jacques Cousteau discovered on his dives in the sixties the beauty of the coral reefs on Cozumel. Since then, thousands of water sports enthusiasts come every year to dive at the fabulous Cozumel reefs or discover the underwater world of Cozumel on a snorkeling tour.
Unique fish and colorful coral reef on Cozumel
Green turtle on Cozumel reefs
Divers and snorkelers from all over the world come to Cozumel to admire the abundance of fish and the colorful and intact corals on Cozumel. This is because on the beautiful Cozumel reef, live more than 500 different species of fish and 65 different sone corals. Some of them only occur in this part of the Caribbean. These include, for example, the blue and white striped splendid toadfish with its yellow fins.
At Cozumel Reef you will find four of only seven worldwide, existing species of sea turtles. These include the Green Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback Turtle. Especially during the season between May and September, female turtles come ashore from the Cozumel reefs and bury their eggs in the sand. Therefore, some beaches are particularly protected at this time. Other fascinating creatures such as eagle rays (December to February), nurse sharks, bull sharks (December and January), but also manta rays and whale sharks(June to September) live in the Mexican part of the second largest barrier reef.
The coral reefs of Cozumel in the south
Devil’s Throat on Cozumel
Devil’s Throat and Punta Sur with Cathedral (90 – 120 feet)
In the very south of Cozumel island is the famous Devil’s Throat and Punta Sur. The ‘Garganta del Diablo’ (Spanish for Devil’s Throat) is a dramatic tunnel that lies between 115 and 90 feet. Because of the depth and the caves this dive is only suitable for divers with very good buoyancy and controlled air consumption. Only experienced divers should go for this challenging dive.
Part of the southen Cozumel reef is also the ‘Cathedral’, a spectacular ‘room’, surrounded by corals. The name comes from the elongated windows in the corals which resemble a cathedral. Because of the depth, these two dives in the south cannot be combined. Therefore we will dive either Devil’s Throat or Punta Sur.
Colombia reef on Cozumel (50 – 100 feet)
Nurse shark on Cozumel Colombia reef
One of the most breathtaking reefs on Cozumel is Colombia. Here divers find caves, swimthroughs and a steep wall, all surrounded by completely healthy corals. Be careful when the currents are strong. Then you are better to stay inside the wall, which is also a spectacular dive.
Like almost every Cozumel reef, Colombia has a shallow part between 15 – 30 feet. This part of the Colombia reef on Cozumel is perfectly suitable for snorkelers. Also new divers are taken to the shallow part of the Colombia reef for training dives.
Palancar reef on Cozumel (30 – 90 feet)
Eagle Ray on Cozumel Palancar reef
The very famous, more than 1,5 miles long Palancar reef consists of various dive sites. Many 2 tank excursions start their first dive in the Palancar reef on Cozumel because the currents are less strong than further south. Well known are the dive sites; Palancar Bricks, Palancar Caves, Palancar Horseshoe, Palancar Gardens, Francesa and Dalila. All those Cozumel reefs are completely different. This demonstrates how large and diverse this area is. While Palancar Caves has beautiful caves and swimthroughs, Palancar Gardens and Francesa are magnificent tunnel systems under the reef.
The shallow part of the Palancar reef on Cozumel is just perfect for snorkeling. Discover abundant fishs, sometimes turtles or even a nurse shark, and during the season eagle rays can be seen from the surface.
Paso de Cedral and Santa Rosa reef on Cozumel (30 – 80 feet)
Nurse shark and moray eel on Cozumel Paso de Cedral
Like most of the reefs on Cozumel, Paso de Cedral has a wall and a little bit further towards the island is the actual reef. Both parts are completely stunning but totally different. Many divemasters combine both dive sites. Paso de Cedral is one of the most popular dive sites in Cozumel, and with good reason: The green turtles especially excite many divers. Close to the wall is one of the main turtle feeding area of the Cozumel reef. The turtles are usuallyaccompanied by angel fish that also feed from the loose coral pieces. The nurse shark and the green moray eal you see in the picture live right at the end of Paso de Cedral under an overhanging rock. With some luck both can be seen at the same time.
The Santa Rosa reef on Cozumel also has a wall and a shallow reef. One of the main attractions of the wall are fascinating cave formations in the steep slope. Santa Rosa reef is shallow and easy to dive. It is just perfect for beginner divers and snorkelers.
Yucab and Tormentos reefs on Cozumel (36 – 60 feet)
Sea horse on Yucab reef Cozumel
Like a highway full of corals the Tormentos reef follows Yucab. Both dive sites stretch for miles. If the currents are strong, divers can glide over the reefs without a single fin kick. On those days, both dive sites can easily combined into one single dive.
Various overhangs and holes are perfect lairs for creatures. Toadfish, lobsters and huge crabs hide here. Sometimes nurse sharks sleep under overhanging rocks. Divers with very good eyes can look for seahorses during their season in October and Novermber.
Paraiso und Chakanaab reef on Cozumel (30 – 45 feet)
Toad fish on Paradaise reef Cozumel
The Paraiso and Chankanaab reefs on Cozumel are two dive sites which are excellent for beginners. Only slight currents, colorful corals and a shallow reef make perfect conditions to discover living things. In various holes and shelters hide toad fish, lobsters and all kind of small animals. Swarms of triggerfish create a fascinating background for these Cozumel reefs.
Paraiso is especially popular for night dives. The Caribbean Reef Octopus is active at night time and can be seen.
Cozumel reefs in the north
Barracuda at Barracuda reef Cozumel
Barracuda reef on Cozumel (45 – 100 feet)
The northers dive sites of Cozumel are famous for their strong currents. The Barracuda reef on Cozumel has a steep wall and an inner reef. For the dive in the wall we take only very experienced divers. A little bit inside is the protected shallow reef. It is very suitable for beginners. Majestic corals create impressive scenery. During the winter season many eagle rays glide through the water.
The great barracuda lives in this dive site. Thus the name Barracuda reef. Here you will dive far away from other divers. Only few Cozumel dive shops go that far north.
Cantrell Wall reef on Cozumel (66 – 100 feet)
Eagle ray on Cozumel
Between November and April, we will meet schools of graceful eagle rays in Cantrell Wall. Because of the strong currents a certain level of experience in diving is required. It is a very impressive but demanding dive site.