Isla Cozumel: A Mexican / Caribbean Island Paradise
By Gene Muchanski
Southeast Correspondent, Dive News Network
Isla Cozumel is a Mexican Island with a Caribbean flare. In a beautiful tropical setting, the island is alive with watersports activities yet enjoys a relaxed tempo of life. In this turquoise water, white sand beach, and lushly vegetated island you can choose to actively pursue your favorite watersport passions or do nothing at all. In her own way, Isla Cozumel caters to every visitor in a very unique and personal way.
The Island of Cozumel is one of the better known and more popular diving destinations in the world. A beautiful little island off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Isla Cozumel beckons to scuba divers and water sports enthusiasts from around the globe. Cozumel is accessible by major airlines landing at Cozumel’s own International Airport, cruise ships docking at one of its cruise terminals and by a short ferry boat ride across the channel from Playa del Carmen. Cozumel is a tiny island measuring 34 miles long from North to South and 8 miles wide from East to West.
Cozumel has become the popular diving destination it is today for many reasons. First and foremost, the island is home to the second largest coral reef system in the world. The water is warm and clear and thanks to a mild ocean current, the scuba diving is almost effortless. The reefs are alive and abundantly populated with numerous species of fish, and thanks to the Mexican Government, are protected in Chankanaab National Park. Even the locals are not allowed to fish in this beautiful marine preserve. That means the marine inhabitants and the beautiful sea fans and coral reefs will be there for our enjoyment for generations to come.
It’s easy to get to Cozumel. Scuba Divers normally choose to fly directly into Cozumel International Airport. The island is served by most major airlines including Aero Mexico, Air Tran, and United. Depending on the time of day and time of year, going through immigration is relatively painless. While some Resorts may pick you up at the airport, it’s not a problem if yours doesn’t. The main city of San Miguel is next to the airport and most of the dive resorts are on the main road on the other side of San Miguel. Shuttle vans are readily available for around $20 per person.
Cruise Ships are a popular way to visit Cozumel. There is a Cruise Ship Terminal in downtown San Miguel and another newer terminal a few miles south towards Chankanaab Marine Park. Cozumel is currently the leader of cruise ship arrivals around the world. It is estimated that between 2 and 3 million “Day Trippers” from the cruise ships visit the shops of Cozumel every year.
Another popular way to visit Isla Cozumel is by Ferry from Playa del Carmen. For years vacationers from Cancun and Playa del Carmen have taken the Ferry to Cozumel to visit this beautiful Island to enjoy the abundant watersports, shopping and restaurants. At $13 per crossing, the Ferry is popular with the locals and people who work on the Island.
Scuba Diving has been a popular attraction for over 40 years on the Island of Cozumel and it is estimated that over 300,000 people come to Cozumel every year for the watersports. That’s not counting the 2 ½ million people arriving by cruise ships! The first and most respected dedicated Dive Resort on the island is Scuba Club Cozumel. Founded in 1976, this 61 room, waterfront Dive Resort has its own Dive Boats, Dive Shop and Restaurant. Diving doesn’t get any easier than walking out of your room and onto the dive boat that’s waiting for you at the Resort’s own dock. Managing Partner Timothy Massimino has been at the helm of Scuba Club Cozumel for 34 years now, overseeing a staff of 100-120 employees, some who have been with the resort for 20-30 years.
Booking a trip for you and your dive buddy or a group of divers is as easy as finding a reliable Dive Travel Wholesaler like Scuba Travel Ventures or Roatan Charter. Working with a Dive Travel Specialist gives you a number of options in Airfare, Hotel Accommodations, Dive Operators and after dive attractions. Seasoned Dive Operator Dive Paradise has their own fleet of Dive Boats, Dive Guides and Dive Instructors as well as their own Boat Pier near downtown San Miguel. Independent Boat Operators like Sea Robin work with a number of Resort Hotels and arrangements can be made to pick you up at your own dock.
A major factor to consider in planning a dive trip is the amount of equipment support you can get when you are miles away from home and your local dive store. Cozumel has a number of dive stores scattered around the island but when it comes to repairs and hard to find spare parts, Cozumel Scuba Repair is the best place to go. Founded by former NAVY SEAL Larry Cleghorn, Cozumel Scuba Repair has personnel that are qualified as repair technicians for most of the major equipment manufacturers in the world. Knowing you can find that little 50 cent O-ring which saves your diving vacation goes a long way in making Cozumel next year’s dive destination of choice.
The Island of Cozumel takes its diving very seriously. For your diving safety and enjoyment there is a Hyperbaric Chamber and Medical Center downtown by the waterfront. The Chamber is staffed by full-time Medical Professionals, including UHMS Certified Physicians trained to assist all Scuba Diving Injuries. The Chamber is a Member of the SSS Recompression Chamber Network and part of the Divers Emergency Assistance Network.
If you’re into making six dives a day while on vacation, then Cozumel is a good choice for you. If your idea of a good vacation is waking up at 7 a.m., having a delightful breakfast, then packing your gear and going on the boat for a two tank dive, followed by lunch and a nap, then Cozumel is definitely your kind of place. And the day doesn’t end there. There is plenty of sightseeing to do on the island and many wonderful places to catch up on your Caribbean Dining experiences. Your taste buds can experience everything from Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville to the Fogo Do Brasil Steak House and an after-dinner cigar at Mini Havana.
A good rule of thumb is not to make any scuba dives 24 hours before flying home. That last day on the island can be well-spent by renting a car and doing a little sight-seeing. A favorite place to visit is Hacienda Antigua, Tequila Factory & Store for a little Tequila tasting. It’s a short drive on Benito Juarez from downtown San Miguel, and being able to bring home a bottle of “Crema al Tequila” to pour on top of your ice cream will make you the talk of the town back home.
So when you are making out your “Bucket List” for places you’d like to dive before you die, Cozumel should be at the top of your list. Because after you’ve been there once, you’re going to want to go back again and again. So let’s recap the reasons why you are going to want to Dive Cozumel; It’s a beautiful Island; Cozumel has a temperate climate year round; The water is warm and clear, with gentle ocean currents; The marine life is abundant and protected. The diving is easy from a boat yet accessible from shore. The diving conditions appeal to all levels of diver experience and the grand majority of diving is between 30 and 100 feet. There is an active Hyperbaric Chamber and Medical Clinic on the Island. Cozumel itself is easy to get to; There are plenty of Resorts, Dive Operators and Dive Stores; There are plenty of Restaurants and Bars; Taxis are inexpensive. There is no reason to drink & drive. The Peso / Dollar exchange rate is around 13 to 1, making Cozumel a great value for your money. Most of the people you deal with in Cozumel speak English in addition to being happy, friendly and courteous. And most importantly, Cozumel is a safe place to vacation
Tourism is the bread and butter of many countries around the world. Political Leaders know how to roll out the red carpet for tourists if and when they want to. The Political Leaders of Cozumel always want to.
Here is a quote from the Mayor of Cozumel, Lic. Fredy Efren Marrufo Martin: “Dear Friends: Welcome to Cozumel Island, our Heaven on Earth. An excellent tourist destination of the Mexican Caribbean, where you will enjoy its famous hospitality, and great services. As Mayor, I welcome and encourage you to enjoy the natural beauties of Cozumel. This paradise belongs to everyone.”
This is what Mayor Martin said to the people of Cozumel: “Dear People of Cozumel: Cozumel is currently the leader of cruise ship arrivals around the world. The best way to present ourselves to the tourists that visit us is by our politeness, hospitality and the excellent services we provide. Cozumel is our home, I encourage that we work together to keep making our paradise an Island of peace and tranquility that we all can enjoy.”
Put Isla Cozumel on your “Bucket List.” You’ll be glad you did.