A constant stream of divers has helped shape the economy and culture of Cozumel like no other island. Just ask any diver you meet, and you’ll find that most need two hands to count their visits.
Get on a small, fast boat that leaves early enough to be the first group of the day to dive Punta Sur. You’ll more than likely be rewarded with a chance encounter with a shy resident reef shark.
Take a walk around the bustling town of San Miguel — the island’s main hub of activity — and in every souvenir shop you’ll find dive T-shirts, jackets, jewelry, thongs, shot glasses and, well, pretty much anything you could ask for emblazoned with the bold red-and-white ensign of our dive fraternity. Not to mention, it’s hard to find resorts like the Scuba Club Cozumel elsewhere — a place built from the ground up as a pure dive resort.
So why do divers just keep coming back? It’s close to the United States, it’s reasonably priced and, above all, the diving is addictive. Constantly washed by a northerly 1- to 2-knot current, Cozumel’s reefs provide divers with ridiculously clear water and a free ride. Dive operators do what’s called “free boating,” which means they drop their group of divers in the water, let the current push them along and wherever they surface, the boat picks them up. You don’t really need to worry about navigating — just stick with the group. This kind of diving frees up your mind to enjoy all the sights, like Cozumel’s giant coral formations, or swim- throughs and plethora of marine life that includes turtles, morays, rays, sharks, angelfish, schools of snapper, grunts and the indigenous Cozumel toadfish. — Ethan Gordon
Travel Tip: Stay close to your dive guide. The currents can cause people to get separated from their group or even get mixed in with another group accidentally, which is kind of embarrassing when you surface.
When to Go: May and June produce warmer water temps, are before the hurricane season and are a good time to go to avoid the busiest Spring Break and Christmas holiday.
Getting There: Continental, Delta, U.S. Airways, American and more fly to Cozumel (CZM) through major U.S. cities.
Dive Conditions: Pretty much every boat dive in Cozumel is a drift dive, so be prepared for pretty strong currents. Water temps range from 74°F to 84°F, and visibility seems to have no limit, with 150 feet being common.