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My Research Notes from Planning Cozumel Trip

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drrich2

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Note: Preparing for trips to new destinations, I research them, ‘do my homework,’ as they say. I compile info. generously provided online by others, organize it and link to further discussion/educational sources on topics of debate or where the ‘right answer’ varies for different people. Ideally after my trip I ‘season’ it a bit with limited personal experience, then post hoping to help others get a jump start researching. My acquired secondhand info. and limited understanding may lead to errors or inadequate coverage of some topics, and I’m hopeful others can fill in the blanks and correct errors to make this report serve its intended purpose. Hope it helps somebody.

Cozumel Research Notes

-----Judging from the volume of trip reports, forum discussions, magazine articles and organized trip listings, Cozumel is one of the scuba tourism capitals of the Caribbean. From a U.S.-based perspective, Cozumel has strong brand recognition for warm water, excellent viz., varied reef topography, a good range of life with some fairly large animals (e.g.: black grouper, eagle rays), many dive sites, drift-diving, excellent topside restaurant options, a safe, friendly atmosphere and over-all budget-range total trip costs (unless you want upscale).

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Licensed via iStock by Getty Images. Credit: Rainer Lesniewski

-----Cozumel is a rather flat, limestone-based island ~ 30 miles long, ~ 10 miles wide, ~ 185 sq. miles total area, in the western Caribbean Sea ~ 12 miles from the coast of Mexico (across from Playa del Carmen), and 51 miles south of Cancun. The highest point is less than 50 feet above sea level. There are mangroves. The climate is tropical savanna bordering on tropical monsoon. As of 2010, the pop. was 77,236, most living in the west coast town of San Miguel (pronounced San Mih-Gell). The economy is based on tourism, including scuba, charter fishing and legions of cruise ship passengers. Source: condensed from Wikipedia’s Cozumel listing.

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Cozumel 2011

-----If international air travel is new to you, be mindful you’ll need a U.S. passport, preferably with at least 6 months before expiration at trip’s end. It’s illegal to bring over-the-counter products containing pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in Sudafed) into Mexico (some divers rely on it to ease equalization), and people have been arrested over this (whether small amounts for personal use, particularly if the pills are placed in a bottle labeled for a different medication, pose an unacceptable risk, or how much good a prescription will or won’t do you if caught, are matters to expansive for this summary). Information regarding bringing medications into Mexico. Mexican requirements may differ from U.S. re: loose batteries; pinning down how to manage this, when it changes and whether it’s enforced is a moving target – see Update me on the battery rules! (May 2018).

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Licensed via iStock by Getty Images. Credit: Rainer Lesniewski

-----From the U.S., you can fly directly to Cozumel, or to Cancun and catch a ferry (a process called the ‘bag drag’ that’s often cheaper but can be more hassle). Some threads discussing the bag drag – Bit the Bullet…First Bag Drag (Aug. 2017), Cancun to Cozumel Bag Drag (Jan. 2017; DjDiverDan linked us a video tour), Have a Flight Into Cancun but want to stay in Cozumel (June 2017), Bag Drag Question (Feb. 2017), Cozumel Trip Report, Late May – Early June 2017 (Post #71, Ironborn’s experience), How Much Time to Bag Drag back to Cancun (Dec. 2016), Late Evening/Early Morning Bag Drag (Oct. 2016). I liked Blue Steal’s explanation on time, cost and steps involved in a bag drag example (Post #3 – Heading back to Cozumel in Sept. or Oct….gasp!). In Southwest into Cancun (May 2018), Trailboss123 (Post #5) noted the option to use Playa Del Carmen Tours ((esp. for small groups) – he walks out of the terminal to a smiling face with his name on a placard and goes to a waiting private van), Dave Dillehay (Post #14) explained direct flights to Cancun may be better than connecting from hubs (e.g.: Atlanta, DFW or Houston) to Cozumel besides the cost difference; further discussion in the March 2018 thread Why the Cancun Bag Drag still makes sense (see Reefhound’s summary Post #51). For a simple, 2 ½ minute video intro. to the bag drag, check out Scuba Tony’s Oct. 2012 You Tube video. In the July 2018 Cancun to Cozumel, ggun (Post #2) broke it down into the major steps (Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, ferry to Cozumel, ferry dock to hotel, with the biggest variable the Cancun to Playa link as there are various ways to do it. Yle (Post #5) broke it down into detail.

-----If you fly to/from Cozumel, check out Sue Sue’s detailed thread Arriving/Departing the Cozumel Airport – A Guided Tour (original post in 2011 but last updated Aug. 2016). She covers disembarking the plane via stairs to the tarmac, immigration and the importance of hanging onto your multiple immigration form receipt, navigating the baggage process, catching an airport shuttle van or car rental, the technical illegality of taxis picking people up immediately outside the airport (Posts #7 & 16) (but they can take people back to it) and more, in detail. DeborahDelamar’s post (#5) explains about the personal franchise (value of products you can bring in duty-free & leave via air).

-----You can save money by converting dollars to pesos (read more at the March 2016 thread Money while in Cozumel, being wary of ATM fraud, ATM fees and exchange fees), or stick to U.S. dollars for convenience. Christi’s sticky thread Cozumel FAQ’s – Weather, Water temp.s, Dive Operators, Taxis & More gives a fine overview. As of April 2, 2018, a peso is worth a bit over 5 cents (it used to be > 10 cents, so check – here’s a converter). When browsing prices, be mindful pesos, like dollars, use the $ sign. At one restaurant early Sept. 2018, the posted exchange rate was 17 peso/U.S. dollar.
 
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-----Transport on-island brings us to the monopolistic practices of the taxi union and alleged serious misbehavior of some members (see Jan. 2017 New Van Service; cut to post #3 by El Graduado). The older 2013 thread Taxi Mafia discusses practices. When leaving the airport, it can impact whether you can bypass the airport taxi van to catch a taxi at the traffic circle (Change in the Cozumel Bag Drag (Aug. 2016)), though ggunn noted the taxi union runs the shuttles! The Oct. 2012 thread Taxi Fare Increase is now official :( ran 188 posts! A safety concern repeated over time is that Cozumel is not a good place for newbie scooter drivers (Mopeds are dangerous to ALL May 2017, Another Moped Fatality Jan. 2017, Topside Activity Ideas Posts #9, 10, 11, 13). Car rental is an option but traffic and parking can be problematic and accidents costly; see First Timer Advice (Posts #3 & 4). A law passed paving the way for other transportation services such as UBER, and you can see the Taxi drivers’ response, discussed in the May 2018 thread Taxi Strike?

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-----Many Mexican vendors face the daunting task to market ‘me, too’ merchandise amidst high competition to overwhelmed off-put tourists with seconds to connect; like many cruise ports this leads to pushy sales pitches. Time-share hawkers can be an issue. Venturing farther from highly touristy areas may net you lower prices.
Can you eat the food and drink the water? There’s no one answer for everybody. Check out the thread on Dysentery, where the discussion of G.I. illnesses grew much broader. Aside from food- borne diseases people often fear (e.g.: amoebic dysentery, salmonella, hepatitis A), when traveling you face exposure to new germs (e.g.: bacteria & viruses) your immune system hasn’t had time to build resistance to, and travel stress (e.g.: stress, sleep disruption, dehydration) may weaken your resistance. Some take few precautions, some use Pepto-Bismol as a prophylactic and so on. Blue XT Sea Diving’s FAQ page says not even locals drink the tap water, but all ice on island in restaurants and hotels is purified, and water/ice you’re served on the island will be purified, so not a worry; some larger and nicer hotels have water filtration/purification systems.

 
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-----A note on crime and safety: to the novice U.S.-based traveler the name Mexico may conjure concerns about drug cartels, violence and being surrounded by people who don’t speak English. Cozumel is separate from the mainland, heavily dependent on tourism and a clean image, Americanized (e.g.: English widely spoken, the U.S. dollar widely accepted) and known for friendly people. Aside from universal travel precautions (stay sober, don’t flaunt jewelry and other high value items), be wary of ATM machine scams (read Jan. 2017 Best place for swapping? and Oct. 2016 Currency Exchange. In summary, use bank ATMs never ‘street’ ATMs; some use supermarket ATMs but Dillehay was hit >$1,000 at ATMs in Mega (Post #7)). You can find crime, but if you don’t look for it, it probably won’t look for you. Dave Dillehay started a Jan. 2017 thread, Not in Cozumel, that grew into a broader discussion of the crime scene there. For general coverage, see Jscheier’s Mar. 2017 thread Is Cozumel SAFE?

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But this street ATM looks so confidence inspiring...

-----A Note On Tipping: Cozumel caters to (and is shaped by) largely U.S.A.-based tourism, and cultural customs incorporate the expectation of tipping in some segments of the service industry – including dive boats. Some dive tourists hail from regions where it is not customary. If you need guidance (or at least opinions!), check out the July 2015 How much to tip dive masters and boat crew in Cozumel?


-----Despite imperfections, it’s a testament to Cozumel’s popularity that the Aug. 2013 thread Worst of Cozumel noted nearly everyone posting to the forum was a cheerleader for it and asked the worst experience had or change you’d like to see? 400 Replies shows strong interest! To me the biggest drawback is the dark side of its great strength; the different choices on region, residence and dive op. bring ‘analysis paralysis.’


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-----A quick note for cruise ship visitors: I didn’t research this with you in mind. If you wish to book privately (not via the ship’s offered excursion), know TimeTraveler (Post #22) noted (Dive with) Allison said the only dive op.s allowed to pick up at cruise ship piers are those sponsored by the cruise ship companies. Cruisers’ port times are often incompatible with boat schedules, so dive op. choices are more limited.


-----For a broad-based view on Cozumel covering a variety of interests, check out Cozumel My Cozumel, a website devoted to educating people about diverse topics such as lodging, food, activities, living there and more.


Where to Stay

-----Where you stay in Cozumel mainly affects your diving in 2 ways; length of boat trips to southern dive sites, and whether you have convenient shore diving. It determines options for walking (vs. bicycle or taxi) to restaurants and stores (e.g.: groceries), ‘hustle and bustle’ vs. ‘laid back/rustic’ neighborhood, and whether you have a sandy beach and the entertainment amenities of a resort. All-inclusives simplify planning (food/beverage costs fixed and onsite) but may deny you the best quality dining (groceries & eating out are pretty cheap by Caribbean standards). If you hoped to take a shuttle from hotel to town (San Miguel), be aware shuttle services popular elsewhere don’t exist in Cozumel, allegedly due to the self-serving influence of the taxi union (Christi, Post #19). When comparing options, note whether taxes (e.g.: 3% hotel + 16% sales tax!) are included in price!


MapChick’s famous maps & travel guides – Cozumel’s Hotels.

OnTheWorldMap.com’s Cozumel Downtown and Hotel Zone Maps. (Note: Double-check your locations; the location #’s on that legend are for the Hotel Zone map).

-----North Section – discussed in Dave Dillehay’s thread Why Not the North Hotel Zone? He described it as very quiet and peaceful with a walking & bike path, no street hawkers, most hotels and condo.s with sandy beaches equivalent to places south and much better than any downtown. It’s a longer boat ride to dive sites down south (some like the scenic rides and fast boats help). DjDiverDan (Post #10) noted some dive op.s won’t pick you up at the hotel piers and taxis to Caleta Harbor to meet a boat can be expensive. MMM (Post #11) cited less traffic, fewer cruisers, fewer restaurants, less choice in dive op.s, long boat rides, no convenience stores and more. Some options include Villa Aldora (owned by Dillehay) and Coral Princess. Some dive op.s who pick up in that region are Aldora and Pepe Scuba. See more discussion in the Apr. 2018 Staying north of town…Advice on dive op, and June 2018 Any Dive OP’s that pick-up in the North Zone???


-----Downtown San Miguel – you sacrifice the better sandy beaches and have longer boat rides than southern resorts, yet are close (often walking distance) to supermarkets and restaurants (good yet affordable dining out is one of Cozumel’s strong points), with a variety of hotel options at varied price points (e.g.: Hotel Barracuda at the lower end for shore front, Cozumel Palace toward the high end). Some areas south of that region are near shore diving (e.g.: Hotel Cozumel, Scuba Club Cozumel).

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San Miguel's shore line is not all iron shore; you'll see some sandy area in use by the public, but it's not my idea of a 'beach get-away.'

-----Blue Angel Resort is a bit south (~ a mile south of Hotel Cozumel), a long walk or short taxi into town. Reefhound (Post #3) noted it’s ~ 3 miles and they rent bicycles. They have shore diving. Breakfast is included (except kids under 10-years old); other meals are not, but the onsite restaurant has been repeatedly praised.


-----Southern All-Inclusive Resorts – everything you need in one place, some with nice, sandy beaches and activities for tag-along non-divers on-grounds, plus shorter boat trips. There’s likely an on-grounds dive boat and after diving no grocery store to shop at or restaurant to hunt. Taxi rides to San Miguel are longer and more expensive, discouraging exploring the culinary variety of Cozumel. Grand Park Royal is closer to town than some.
 
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-----Most Cozumel scuba tourists mainly drift dive southern dive sites in the marine reserve. Some (e.g.: those staying at places with onsite diving) may supplement with a little shore diving. Some join Aldora’s northern trips. The marine park region runs along the coast south of downtown and along the southern tip of the island; all dives therein must be led by a Divemaster or Instructor with marine park credentials, and prohibit visitors to wear gloves, knives or spears.

-----I believe most opt for a 2-tank morning dive; some add a 1 or 2-tank afternoon dive (some require enough customers to make it cost-effective). Those staying at or near shore sites (e.g.: Aldora Villas, Hotel Cozumel, Scuba Club Cozumel, Blue Angel Resort) may do some shore dives but few range up and down the coast hitting multiple sites (i.e.: this isn’t Bonaire). Boat diving is the main draw, shore diving a sideshow. It’s drift diving, and every diver should have an SMB in case lost adrift.

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-----The feasibility of 4 boat dives/day was discussed (UNCFNP’s thread Posts # 18, 19, 22, 29, 32, 33, 36, 44, 50, 53); in summary, depending on where you stay and who you dive with it can be done, but Cozumel doesn’t lend itself to that pace so it’ll tax you (for 4-5 dives/day, consider Bonaire, CocoView Resort or a live-aboard). Afternoon trips may not go out without a minimum number of divers; discuss with your dive op. in advance for a best guess about the odds. Richard’s Note: I stayed at Casa Mexicana 8-days, 9-1-18 to 9-9-18, did 6 days 2-tanks/morning & 2-tanks/afternoon and 1 day 2-tanks morning trip (26 dives); sometimes there were just 2 of us afternoons (low season), and Tres Pelicanos required 2 booked in advance or 3 last minute to go out on afternoon 2-tank trips. It ran me down by day’s end; breakfast at 7 a.m., 5 – 10 min. walk to dive shop arriving 7:40 a.m., ride to marina, 2 dives, 1 – 1 ½ hour at the Money Bar for lunch between trips, 2 dives, back at Hotel around 6 p.m., give or take an hour. Very sleepy by 8 p.m.


-----Boat diving in the marine reserve, where you’re required to follow a guide, is known for excellent high viz. and varied topography, but often deeper than 60’ and drift diving makes prolonged photo setups or observation harder. Nitrox is popular but usually extra cost. Not seen as a sharky destination. Cozumel is far enough north for seasonal water temp. fluctuations, but I got a low of 76 degrees on 2 dives Jan. 20th, 2011. It’s in the hurricane belt; Wilma did a lot of damage in 2005. Richard’s Note: I didn’t find the diving to average as deep as I expected.

-----Shore Diving – Often discussed as an add-on to boat diving, but not the equal of Bonaire or Curacao. This 2017 thread Cozumel Shore Diving? discussed options in detail; Reefhound (Post #7) gave a nice synopsis of sites by Hotel Barracuda, Blue Angel Resort, Villa Blanca and Casa del Mar/Bar Tikila, and RobinT (Post #5) posted a video tour of Scuba Club Cozumel’s shore site, combining a chalk board diagram with dive footage. Dave Dillehay described the shore diving by Aldora Villas (4 destroyed docks; easy entry/exit via stairs – Post #27). In a later thread Reefhound (Post #2) listed oceanfront hotels with decent shore dives as Villa Aldora, Hotel Barracuda, Hotel Cozumel, Scuba Club Cozumel, Blue Angel, Villa Blanca, El Cid and Casa del Mar.


-----Since most mainstream sites are off the west coast (particularly the southern half), you may get shorter boat rides from southern A.I.-based dive op.s. The west coast is the leeward side, the east coast the windward side. Dive op.s vary in where they spend surface intervals (e.g.: drifting on a boat or visiting a beach club) – as discussed in the 2018 thread Palancar Pier Access.


-----Cozumel has a mix of mainstream (Palancar Garden, Palancar Caves, Santa Rosa) vs. advanced sites (Barracuda, Devil’s Throat). Cozumel is not a wreck diving destination; they have the wreck of the C-53, but forum comments weren’t flattering (discussed in 2016 thread Wreck C-53, and other threads - Posts #42 & 47, & Posts # 8, 20 & 23).


-----Aldora Divers offers east coast (windward side) dive trips, an alternative when bad weather stops diving off the west coast. They also offer a ‘Polar Express’ service diving the north-west area, and Aldora Adventures – well north of the island tip, out in the open ocean (their page describing these offerings).


-----Cenotes are a special case. The nearby mainland Yucatan Peninsula is a famous destination for diving cenotes – natural sinkholes due to collapse of limestone bedrock exposing groundwater. Some offer cavern or cave diving, and professionally guided dives even without cavern or cave diving cert.s. You could take a ferry over to the mainland and try it (as bshort4 did – Trip Report—Dive with Cristina, CenoteXperience, Suncape) or expand your vacation to spend time there. Also from the mainland you might try whale shark snorkeling. Consider In Cozumel now…worth a day trip to do whale shark swim or cenote dive? Bamafan (Post # 12) noted Cozumel has cenotes (18 noted in this article), though Aerolito is the only one open to the public, and Jade cenote has a ‘very strong sulfur smell’ and isn’t clear but has a cave which requires a permit to dive.


-----Who might reconsider: Those wanting a lot of shallow diving (e.g.: for kids; consider Key Largo), reliable shark (consider Bahamas, Turks & Caicos), big shark (consider Jupiter, FL; off-shore wrecks of North Carolina) or marine mammal encounters (consider California), mainly shore diving (consider Bonaire, Curacao or Grand Cayman), those mainly interested in wreck diving or who dislike drift diving. Drift diving may not allow much time to set up shots, but some get good macro - check out jlyle’s July/Aug. 2017 ‘Year of the Slugs’ report (great shots of a wide array of animals).
 
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Dive Op.s

-----The competition must be intense, judging from the number of dive op.s cited for excellence. Seasoned Cozumel divers of Scuba Board hold no consensus on who’s best, though some are repeatedly praised so I’ll profile a few. Op.s vary in a number of ways; smaller, more ‘boutique’ style vs. higher volume, number of boats, location, availability of large steel tanks, whether the boat has an overhead shade cover or spends surface intervals on the water vs. at a beach club, etc…

-----Tres Pelicanos. Despite being a younger op. than some competitors, ‘the 3P’s’ has fast risen to a strong reputation (in recent times one of the most often endorsed) on the forum for excellence in diving, customer service and package value. You can book fine budget-friendly hotel-included package deals with them. Their 2 fast dive boats have overhead shade covers. Transport between dive shop and marina provided, and some pickups done. They keep and rinse your gear (including wetsuits, excluding cameras and dive computers) and set it up on (and change out) tanks. Scuba Board has multiple ‘high praise’ trip reports about them. I chose Tres Pelicanos and had a fine time getting in 26 dives (trip report).


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-----Blue XT~Sea Diving. Consistently praised for outstanding service in forum reports; we appreciate owner Christi Courtney’s participation on Scuba Board freely providing info. on a range of Cozumel-related topics. MostlyIrish gave a glowing review in the May 2017 First Coz. Trip Review (Post #1), as did Trailboss123 in the April 2017 Dive Report Cozumel and Blue XT~Sea. As of 8-24-18, their website stated complimentary downtown pick-up is reserved for those who booked their hotel through Blue XT~Sea Diving; a $5/diver/day surcharge applies to those requesting it who didn’t book a downtown hotel package through them.


-----Aldora. Big tanks, long dives, highly reputable on forum, owner active on Scuba Board and often addresses concerns. They can provide windward coast diving, and as of 8-18-18 said “When nobody else can take you diving, Aldora takes you to dive sites NO OTHER COMPANY TAKES YOU TO.” They offer northern trips, maybe sleeping sharks. Dive Dillehay (Post # 57, April 2017) said Aldora’s expectation (historically confirmed) was for an average diver to get 1 hour 10 minutes/tank; less the 1st day maybe when new, unknown divers are in the mix. He also said they guarantee night dives twice/week (Wed. & Sat.; otherwise require 4 – Post # 77) even if there’s only one diver(Post #66)! Aldora assigns divers by skill level to small groups on different boats; at the end the whole group ascends together (a policy based on safety concerns, explained by Dave Dillehay Post # 57). They spend the surface interval at a beach bar. They’ll hold and rinse your gear when you dive multiple days, but not wetsuits.


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-----Living Underwater. A one boat operation mentioned less often than some but with consistently strong positive reviews. Known for their 120-cf low pressure steel tanks. Like some other op.s they keep your gear for you, but are reportedly unusual in that they also take your wetsuit. One boat so small group only. Discussed (& praised) in kixy1’s Dec. 2017 Quick report – diving with Living Underwater. I did 2 dives with them in 2011; good times!


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Living Underwater's boat, 2016
 
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-----Diving with Martin. Oft-praised on Scuba Board as a good but budget-friendly option with free gear rental! ReefHound reviewed Sept. 2017.

-----Blue Angel’s onsite op. At least 3 departure time options for 2-tank trips (8 a.m., 10 a.m. & 1 p.m.; there’s an 11 p.m. dive/snorkel combo. trip). Regular night dive Thursday; can do any day with a 3-person minimum (night are single tank). There are 2-tank twilight dive trips (2nd tank’s a night dive).


-----Dive Paradise. Link the thread talking about cheap Hotel Coz. package buyers having trouble upgrading to the faster boats. A large, multi-boat op. that can handle big groups, like Scuba Board Invasions. Main office is between Hotel Barracuda and the Naval Base. They are the onsite provider for Hotel Cozumel, and have package deals with several hotels. Over the years I’ve seen reviews indicating they had slow and fast boats, the latter option could entail an upcharge, and years ago one diver who booked a package deal (Hotel Cozumel and Dive Paradise) reported difficulty ‘upgrading’ to fast boats once there (I couldn’t find the original thread). If you want faster boats, contact them for current info. before you book a package.


-----Dive Palancar. Located at the Sunscape Sabor Hotel & Secrets Aura Hotel.


-----Scuba with Allison. A one boat op. that can take up to 8 divers. I saw few reviews over time on Scuba Board but always strongly positive.


-----Dressel Divers. They advertise free nitrox. Located at Iberostar Cozumel Hotel (a southern all-inclusive resort). On Scuba Board I saw mention of 20% off package pricing with advanced booking, so ask! In the July 2018 thread Staying at Iberostar – Want to dive Columbia Reef & Santa Rosa Wall, it was said to be a high-volume operator (albeit broken up into smaller groups!); there was discussion vs. smaller, ‘boutique-style’ op.s that may cater to more advanced divers. Alternatives were also discussed in Dressel Cozumel Alternative.


-----Scuba Club Cozumel. A well-known in-town budget-but-reputable all-inclusive dive resort with a shore dive site. A popular group trip option and they do a lot of repeat business. Offers a simple package deal trip at a predictable cost.


-----Pro Dive Mexico. The onsite op. at Allegro Cozumel and Occidental Cozumel, both southern A.I.s. Their approach to new (to them) divers wishing to start diving right off the morning after arrival (likely a deep dive) led to lengthy discussion; their rep. Markus Fleischmann explained their stance in Post #25. Forum discussion (Occidental Cozumel) mentioned free nitrox, short boat rides (from O.C.) and fair ease of getting in 4 dives/day (Post #11). Based out of the Occidental, Hatul criticized (Posts #120 & #125) their inconvenient trip time (1/2 hour after breakfast), depth limits and site choices.


-----I see others praised on Scuba Board; Scuba Tony, Salty Endeavors, etc…


-----A note on big tanks – as of this writing, a small number of Cozumel dive op.s offer 120 cf steel scuba tanks; Aldora (high-pressure tanks), Living Underwater (low-pressure tanks) and Liquid Blue. Check out MMM’s 2014 thread Steel Tank ops – a comparison between Living Underwater and Aldora. Consider nitrox, given the repetitive long, often deep dives. These tanks offer longer dive times, but there are some caveats.


-----Some competitors offer 100-cf tanks. Less than a 120, but better than the industry standard 80-cf AL tank. Larger tanks offer more bottom time for a fixed number of dives, but you might prefer more (albeit shorter) dives hitting more different sites. Some divers don’t want to dive over an hour. Consider if longer deep dives mean adding the cost of nitrox so NDL doesn’t cut dives short. But if you’re doing 2 boat dives/day regardless, and 70 – 90 minutes isn’t too long, big tanks are the bomb.
 

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Wiki-Cozumel! I like it...well done!
 
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-----But is a 100-cf tank really a 100-cf tank? Often, no. The industry standard 80-cf AL tank holds around 77.4 – 77.6-cf (see Calculating SCUBA Cylinder Capacity – Dive Gear Express) at rated fill pressure (3,000 PSI). A common issue in scuba is tank pressure lowers with temp. over time after filling, leading to below-rated pressure (and less gas). A dive op. may charge more for 100-cf AL tanks, so what are the pro.s & con.s for the money? This was discussed in Dressel Cozumel Alternative. Tres Pelicanos offers optional 100-cf tanks; Stuartv (Post #16) dove with them (April 2018) and noted it was $10 extra/tank, their proper fill pressure is 3,300 PSI but of his 8 tanks actual fill pressures were 2,750 – 2,900 PSI (but Snoweman, Post # 22, thought the lowest fill he got on a 100-cf was about 3,200 PSI; Christi with Blue XT~Sea Diving (Post #23) said Meridiano fills those tanks and it’s very difficult if not impossible to get them filled > 3,000 PSI), which he said meant getting 83 – 88-cf rather than 100-cf. He said at 3,000 PSI you only get 91-cf (Post #26). Caruso (Post #17) opined it’s an unnecessarily heavier and bulkier tank (note: in St. Croix I subjectively felt my ease of trim was better with a 100-cf tank vs. 80-cf; YMMV). Stuartv (Post #18) said he was told most shops get their fills at a central location that only fills to 3,000 PSI. I believe the main scuba tank filler on Cozumel is Meridiano (Meridiano 87). Out of 26 nitrox 100-cf AL tank dives I dove Sept. 2018 with Tres Pelicanos, per my Oceanic VT3 dive computer, start pressures ran from 2,892 to 3,184 PSI.

-----Aldora does their own fills (they offer 120-cf HP steel tanks). Living Underwater’s 120-cf steel tanks are low pressure (LP) with a rated pressure 2,400 PSI, and MMM (Post #34) said she’d never had an underfill and owner Jeremy checks all tank pressures before loading on the boat.
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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Some Places to Stay

-----Decide what region (e.g.: north, downtown, down south) you want to stay at, whether on-site shore diving is needed, whether a long boat ride is ‘scenic’ or a time-consuming (motion sickness, anyone?) bore, and whether the culinary excellence of dining out ala carte is more important than the convenience of eating on-grounds. A.I. plans may factor in alcohol costs; whether you drink a lot, a little or none impacts value. Do you enjoy resort amenities and offsite tours, or mainly eat/sleep/dive? Splurge or go cheap? Most of these are listed ordered north-to-south.

-----The Melia Golf All-inclusive Resort – a northern zone white sand beach-front all-inclusive resort. Dberry (Post #88) noted the pools, activities & evening shows, etc…would’ve been ideal for a family with kids; the drive to Caleta harbor took ~ 15 – 17 minutes. 18-Hole golf course nearby. They’ve got activities for kids. Trip Advisor Page.


-----Coral Princess Golf & Dive Resort – a northern zone ocean-front hotel well-regarded when mentioned on the forum. Manmade sandy ‘beachy’ section, but doesn’t taper down into the water. Trip Advisor Page. Pepe Scuba has an onsite dive shop.


-----Aldora Villas – a northern zone beachfront property offering a range of budget-friendly accommodations (rooms & suites) and free bicycle use. Some have full kitchens, others fridge, microwave, coffee maker and utensils. They include broadband internet, cable t.v., A.C. and free IP phones for calling the U.S. & Canada. Often praised in reviews. If you’re diving with Aldora Divers and don’t mind long boat rides (on fast boats) or bicycling to downtown for restaurants, a good choice. Shore diving and snorkeling. H2ODoc reviewed it (Jan. 2018).


-----Suites Bahia – an in-town budget hotel across the road from the waterfront. Cheaper than Casa Mexicana and includes access to the breakfast buffet at Casa Mexicana, about 2 blocks away (not a long walk). A fellow diver who stayed there a few times told me it was basic, and had no complaints about it, but considered Casa Mexicana worth the small premium. Trip Advisor Page.


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-----Suites Colonial – another in-town budget hotel, not on the water (~ a block back), also cheaper than Casa Mexicana yet includes access to C.M.’s breakfast buffet (~ 3 blocks away), has no balconies, pool or onsite restaurant. Well-reviewed by Trailboss123 (Jan. 2018) (next report down is by his dive buddy), who noted it’s a block from the waterfront, 2 blocks from the main plaza, 3 from the Playa del Carmen ferry and surrounded by great restaurants. Trip Advisor Page. Further from C.M. than Suites Bahia is.


-----Casa Mexicana - an in-town value hotel across the road from the waterfront, with an ocean view (a main road separates it from the water) and often-praised buffet breakfast (7 a.m. – 11 a.m.). Also said to have a good central location, a few blocks from the ferry. Trip Advisor Page. UNCFNP’s early 2018 review. I stayed 8 days (and I go for cheap) and liked it; clean, nice-sized rooms with firm, comfortable beds, decent closet and drawer space, a table, mini-fridge (no microwave) and safe, nice balcony with 2 plastic chairs (overhead wasn’t continuous; rain can get to gear you’ve got drying). Hot water really hot. Had a new towel animal daily. About 5 minute walk from Tres Pelicano’s dive shop, maybe 15 from the Mega supermarket.


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-----Hotel Barracuda – an in-town oceanfront budget option known for basic rooms and a bar that can get noisy by day. Not a sandy beach; has stairs down to the water. Across the road from the Mega super market. Has a pier where dive op.s can pick you up. Waynel’s June 2017 report led to informative discussion. Trip Advisor Page.


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-----Cozumel Palace – a downtown upper-tier A.I. resort. Often includes a ‘resort credit’ (can be used for varied things (e.g.: diving, spa & beauty treatments, golf, romantic dinners, various tours such as Mayan ruins or dolphin swims), so factor that into your ‘value for money’ calculation. Trip Advisor Page.
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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-----Scuba Club Cozumel – A popular budget all-inclusive ‘dive resort’ (as opposed to an all-inclusive resort that happens to have a dive op. on grounds). A popular destination for group trips, and a good option if you seek A.I.-simplicity on a budget. It has on-site shore diving. Trip Advisor Page.

-----Hotel Cozumel & Resort – a near-town budget option across the road from the sea, with on-site shore diving. Their onsite dive op. is Dive Paradise, but you can use others (for a discussion of options, see the Oct. 2017 thread List the Dive Ops). Trip Advisor Page. Reefhound (Post #9) described it as ‘a bit of a walk to town if it’s hot, but doable.’ The Hotel Cozumel/Dive Paradise combo. can handle very large groups, and has been used for Scuba Board Invasion trips.


-----Blue Angel Resort - South of town (Reefhound noted ~ 3 miles; they rent bicycles (Post #3)). Has a reputable onsite restaurant but lacks walking distance access to lots of great off-site options, though cab rides are short. Has an onsite dive op. but some use outside op.s (ReefHound discussed a bit). Has a shore dive site. Trip Advisor Page.


-----Casa del Mar (Hotel & Dive Resort) – A budget option 2 ½ miles south of downtown. Not oceanfront but near it. There’s an A.I. option. DJDiverDan (Post #8) recommended upgrade to a Superior Room, noting Standard Rooms are all at the back, smaller and overlook the parking lot. Their webpage offers dive packages with a choice of op. – Cozumel Marine World, Dive House or Dive Paradise (thread discussing). In a reply to a 7-26-17 Trip Advisor review, a staff wrote dive packages are available to sell just with the Superior room category, so I suggest clarify if you choose another. Trip Advisor Page.


-----Grand Park Royal – a southern A.I. closer to town than some (per Brules Post #4, Jun. 2016, a cab ride was $8). They’ve got a kid’s club for ages 5 – 12. Some onsite restaurants only serve guests over age 12. Trip Advisor Page. Per Cozumel Christmas Trip Grand Park Royal (July 2017), they’ve got an annoying daily restaurant sign-up period; tms4ui noted there are restaurants within walking distance and good (for a hotel) snorkeling (Post #2); nodakdive noted next door is the lower scale Casa del Mar with an A.I. option (Post #3, 4, 5 – explains some trade-offs).


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Park Royal in 2011

-----Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa. One of the more northern southern all-inclusive resorts. Judging from a photo at BookIt.com, there’s a strip of ‘beach’ contained behind a wall, but a large band of iron shore meets the ocean. Another BookIt! Photo shows an area where sandy beach does meet the water. (Trip Advisor Page).


-----Fiesta Americana - An all-inclusive. Trip Advisor Page. Shawn C (Post #32, June 2018) noted they didn’t allow checking his daughter into the kids’ club to go diving, and tried to charge a lot for babysitting; he opined the grounds at Occidental to be “far, far superior.” He noted cab fare to town was around $7. In a July 2018 thread (Post #4), on the other hand, he noted spacious rooms, large, very clean balconies, plentiful beach towels, food quite good for an A.I., pool ‘a little tired,’ no beach but with ironshore better snorkeling, a 5-minute walk to Money Bar (live music and good food) and about a $10 cab ride into town. Pelagicsal (Post #3, July 2018) said it underwent huge renovation a couple of years prior.
 
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