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Driving in Mexico is much different than in the USA. Traffic laws are not the same, and the locals drive with abandon. Should you be involved in an accident, rest assured that at least initially the tourist will be held at fault over the local, regardless of the circumstances. When renting a car in Mexico, look it over carefully. Be sure it has a spare tire, jack, and license plates (which are often stolen). Anything missing at the end of the car rental will be charged to you, even if it was not there in the first place. And by all means do take the insurance, or just play it safe and stick with taxis that are plentiful and inexpensive.
When exiting the San Jose Del Cabo Airport, travelers are faced with an interesting decision. To the south lies the sprawling tourist mecca of Cabo San Lucas. Super deluxe resorts hug the coastline of the brilliant blue Sea of Cortez, while high-rise condominium projects sprout beside the busy four-lane highway. But if, like me, your ideas of adventure range further a field, you may be tempted to turn in the other direction, north towards the tiny seaside enclaves of Cabo Pulmo, Buena Vista, and Los Barriles, known collectively as Baja California's "East Cape." Here you will find "the old Mexico," calm, quaint, and satisfying. Good hotels and a great scuba dive operation are ready to show you what scuba diving the Sea of Cortez is all about.
In addition to world-class boat diving, it is a lesser-known fact that there is some very good beach diving in Cozumel. Some of the dive operators, such as Aqua Safari and Dive House, offer complimentary shore tanks on all boat diving days. The best off shore diving in Cozumel will be found in those areas where the coastline is coral rock (iron shore) rather than sand. Nice dives can be made off the shore at Scuba Club Cozumel and Fiesta Americana Cozumel Dive Resort. Chankanab Lagoon Park is a great spot for guaranteed easy shore diving. But wherever you beach dive, be very aware of the current. Always begin your dive by swimming into the current, so that you will be able to return to your point of entry.
When thinking about Cozumel's travel and tourism, the reality is that, relative to the number of airline seats that serve the region, Cozumel has too many hotel rooms. The result of this imbalance weighs in favor of the tourist, for the hotels compete for patronage with low pricing. The least expensive hotels will be found in the downtown area of San Miguel. A downtown setting is low cost, and extremely convenient to shopping, restaurants and bars with the trade-off being more noise and commotion. The better, and in some cases more expensive, dive hotels are located south of town, along the ocean, and closer to the dive sites. Whether downtown or on the beach, Cozumel offers great lodging values relative to most other diving destinations.
For first-time visitors traveling to Mexico or other foreign countries, many are stricken with an intestinal virus that can cause considerable discomfort. To avoid getting "the touristas," be careful to drink only bottled beverages. Never drink tap water, not even to brush your teeth. Avoid ice unless you are assured it has been made from purified water. Avoid foods that have not been properly washed and cooked. Peeled fruits and cooked vegetables are great, but be wary of fresh veggies in raw salads, especially from food stalls or road side stands. However, quality restaurants that cater to tourists may be assumed to wash and prepare their foods with your health in mind.
Mexico welcomes tourism with open arms. While the culture and native Spanish language may seem different, and certainly interesting, everyone in the tourist industry speaks English and is happy to meet North Americans. Still, to make your Mexico holiday more fun, I suggest you learn at least a few basic words of Spanish. Hola (hello), gracias (thank you) and a big sonrisa (smile) will be greatly appreciated.
Cozumel averages a balmy year-round temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity and bright sunlight can increase the heat index. The months of May through October are considered rainy season, fast-moving afternoon thunderstorms that quickly drench the island are regular. Nights during the winter months can be on the cool side.
Scuba Diving Levels
Diving levels in Cozumel range from shore diving to as deep as you are certified to dive. All dives in Cozumel are drift dives.
Water temperatures vary from mid to high 70's Fahrenheit. in the winter to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. in the summer.
Visibility in the waters of Cozumel are 100 plus feet.
The current varies from reef to reef, and day to day.
The island of Cozumel is world-renowned for its scuba diving, offering limitless wall diving, excellent visibility, wonderful marine life, and plenty of excitement. Topside you will find great shopping, fun dining and a world of nightlife options, plus fascinating Mayan archaeological sites, deep sea fishing, wave runners, wind surfing, parasailing, and more.
Cozumel has over 16 abundant diving reefs and is known as the best dive spot in the Caribbean. You can see so many varieties of fish, from tiny to huge, colorful to camouflage…the list goes on and on! In the Caribbean, only in Cozumel, Mexico will you find such a tremendous combination of mammoth caves, tunnels, overhangs, pinnacles, and sheer dropoffs. This unique topography, along with superb marine life, makes this destination a must for scuba diving enthusiasts. The island offers a wide range of accommodations, delicious, inexpensive meals, topside Cozumel activities, colorful night life and stimulating cultural opportunities. Cozumel is still the Caribbean's best dollar value and now has resorts within a short 5 minute boat ride to the famed Palancar dropoffs.
Cozumel Scuba Diving Highlights: Cozumel has often been coined the best diving in the Caribbean, with its clear waters, exceptional drift diving, and wide variety of reef and marine life. It offers a little bit of everything, both underwater and above.
Cozumel Weather: July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures climbing into the 90s, while December and January bring the lowest temperature drops in the mid 70s.
Average Cozumel Air Temperature:
Day: 80° F Night: 72° F
Cozumel Water Temperature:
77° - 82° F
The island of Cozumel is world-renowned for its scuba diving, offering limitless wall diving, excellent visibility, wonderful marine life, and plenty of excitement. Topside you will find great shopping, fun dining and a world of nightlife options, plus fascinating Mayan archaeological sites, deep-sea fishing, wave runners, wind surfing, para sailing, and more. A great variety of hotel options, from budget to luxury, make Cozumel an inviting place for scuba diving tours, topside tourism, or just relaxing in the sun. Perhaps that is why I am fortunate to have visited Cozumel more than 50 times.
Cozumel has a great population of moray eels and the local divemasters sometimes feed them fish scraps. While you should not fear these wonderful animals, don't make a habit of feeding the moray eels or waiving your fingers in their face either. Moray eels are notoriously near-sighted and may innocently mistake your hand for a food offering, an experience guaranteed to disappoint both of you.
One very important scuba diving safety procedure whether you are beach diving or boat diving is scuba diving with boat traffic. Before surfacing from a dive, look and carefully listen for boat engines, which can approach very rapidly, seemingly out of nowhere. When swimming on the surface, always be prepared to make an emergency diving descent should a boat approach. Above all, never attempt to swim back to your dive boat from underwater. Slowly ascend a few yards away from the boat, and approach it on the surface only when you are sure that a crew member has seen you and that the boat is stationary.
While many travelers will spend considerable research picking the right hotel for their needs, they often ignore the equally important issue of selecting the best dive operators in Cozumel. In Cozumel, there are more than 130 different dive operations. A few are well equipped, properly trained, and highly experienced. Many others have limited resources in the best of times and are ill equipped to deal with the situation should a problem develop. When your life is on the line, out at sea and in the hands of strangers, you may learn that the cheapest option is not necessarily the safest or most efficient. Seek out those dive operators in Cozumel that compete to offer the best quality and service, not just the lowest price.
Some of the best scuba diving in Cozumel include Santa Rosa, Maracaibo, Punta Sur (South Point), the Devils Throat, and Columbia Wall. Some of the great second (shallower) dives include Inner Columbia and the drift between Yucab and Tormentos. Keep in mind that most of Cozumel's best dive sites are part of a marine National Park. In addition to paying your $2.00 per day park fee, do your part to keep these beautiful reefs healthy and unsullied.
My all time favorite place to go scuba diving in Cozumel would have to be the "E-Ticket Ride" of Barracuda Reef in Cozumel. Unlike the rest of the well-known reefs, this dive site is north of town near the tip of the island. Because of the unusually strong currents, often pushing downward, Barracuda Reef is only for highly experienced divers. It should be attempted only with a knowledgeable guide, and while trailing a surface float, so that the dive boat and divers may remain together. Missing the boat here can mean floating for hours, days, or forever.
Drift diving is the norm in places, like Cozumel, where prevailing ocean currents can make it difficult, if not impossible, to swim back to an anchored dive boat at the end of a dive. Rather than swimming against a strong current, the secret to drift diving is to go with the flow, follow your guide, and enjoy the ride. If you wish to stop, just duck in behind a large coral head or outcropping on the reef. You will be pleased to find that the fish, when they need a rest, do the very same thing.
The island of Cozumel offers Mexico's most consistently fine scuba diving. Swept by constant currents of the Gulf Stream, Cozumel's reefs are deep verdant walls with plenty of marine life. Across the Yucatan Channel, the burgeoning region around Playa del Carmen offers interesting reef scuba diving offshore, and onshore some of the world's best cenote, cavern, and cave diving. Scuba diving the Sea of Cortez offers excellent dive trips. A dive trip to Baja will bring you everything from playful sea lions to immense manta rays and schools of hammerhead sharks.
Minors traveling to Mexico must have a birth certificate and or passport as proof of citizenship. Mexico is careful to avoid allowing children to be brought into the country illegally. If a minor is not traveling with both parents (or legal guardians), then there must be a notarized letter from the parent not traveling, giving specific permission for that child to enter Mexico. This is very important. If you do not have the appropriate documents in order, the child will be refused permission to enter Mexico.
Cozumel all-inclusive resorts are growing. These tend to be larger properties, serving many hundreds of guests. Meals are served buffet style, and group activities are arranged throughout the day. The dedicated diver hotels tend to be smaller, serving few guests hopefully with more personalized service. Rather than eating pre-paid meals all in one place, hotel guests have the option of enjoying Cozumel's many varied and interesting restaurants. The choice of hotels vs. all-inclusive resorts becomes one of preference, taste, and budget.
Most divers are familiar with Cozumel's huge coral formations, precipitous drop-offs, and great scuba diving. But mention the mainland of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and people associate it usually with one spot - Cancun, the place for baking in the sun and partying. The reality of course is that the Yucatan offers an immense variety of pleasures and adventures both above and below the sea. There are quaint Mexican villages lost in time, traditional markets with shoppers still in native dress, awe-inspiring Mayan historic sites spanning centuries of advanced culture, and a fascinating diversity of flora and fauna. There is also unique scuba diving ranging from freshwater Cenotes to endless offshore spur and groove reef formation swarming with fishes, and dotted with wrecks dating back to the "conquest" of the new world. Scuba diving Playa del Carmen is the gateway to this excellent touring.