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Cozumel Reefs: The Very Best Ones (Maps and Pictures Included)

Cozumel reefs - principal - arrecifes de cozumel

Are you a diver looking for quality information about Cozumel reefs? No one better than the most renowned and recognized dive operator on the island to provide it: Dressel Divers.

In fact, professional and amateur divers from all over the world voted for Dressel Divers Cozumel as the best diving center in Mexico, classifying it in sixth place in the worldwide ranking in the 2019 Travel Awards.

Ok, we know, some time has passed. Maybe the more than 25 years of scuba diving on the Cozumel coral reefs or the thousands and thousands of divers that we have shown the best reefs in Cozumel make us more reliable.

You can ask in the well-known Facebook group Cozumel for Divers or look for our reviews on Tripadvisor.

So, let us show you the best Cozumel Reefs.

The 8 Best Cozumel Reefs for Scuba Diver Enjoyment


Let’s be honest. There is not a bad reef in Cozumel.

So… which criteria determine the best reefs in Cozumel? Easy. The ones you are most interested in and those you are looking for more info on.

8 of the top 10 most searched Cozumel reefs on the internet are on the Dressel Divers dive schedule and are only a 10-15 minute by boat from our base.


1. Palancar Reef

This little piece of underwater heaven is southeast of the island and only 2 km/ 1 mi. from the coast.

More than 5 km long, Palancar is the reef of Cozumel that awakens more interest among divers, and there are several reasons for this.

The first is its giant coral formations, breathtaking for how beautiful, colorful, and large they can be.

The second is because there is not a single reef there are 4.

– Palancar Gardens 10 – 25m /30 – 80ft

– Palancar Caves 12 – 37m/40 – 120ft

– Palancar Bricks 15 – 27m/ 50 – 90ft

– Palancar Herradura 15 – 27m/ 50 – 90ft

At Palancar Reef you can practice drift diving, deep diving and snorkeling.

These reefs in Cozumel can be as high as a 30-story building. But full of inhabitants. Corals mingle with purple to orange sponges, fans, and gorgonians, making them home to hundreds of species of fish, turtles, and tropical mollusks.

With over 60 m / 200 ft visibility and a moderate current, underwater photography is a dream come true on this Cozumel reef.

If you want to know more about the Palancar reefs in Cozumel, we invite you to read Palancar Reef, a Paradise For Scuba Divers

cozumel reefs - palancar reef - arrecifes de cozumel

2. Santa Rosa Wall Cozumel

The Santa Rosa reef is divided into two parts for divers:

  • Santa Rosa Shallow 6 – 15m /20 – 50ft.

With a pure white sandy bottom, the Santa Rosa Shallow reef is perfect for underwater photographers, but also for night diving.

  • Santa Rosa Wall 15 – 40m / 50 – 130ft

We say 40m/130ft because this is the limit for recreational diving, but the truth is that the Santa Rosa reef wall goes down to 3000 ft/915m. It is therefore an ideal reef for multilevel diving.

At Dressel Divers, you can count on free Nitrox to dive to a depth range of 22-25m / 72-82ft. That’s where the action is. You will find damselfish, giant groupers and coney, honeycombed cowfish, and many others swimming among huge corals, giant sea fans, and the bright orange tube sponges that dot the wall.

Know more about Santa Rosa Wall in this article.

Cozumel reefs - Santa Rosa - arrecife de cozumel

3. Paradise Reef Cozumel

This reef is right before the San Miguel cruise ship dock. It probably has the best access of all the reefs in Cozumel.

On it, many divers take their first lessons. With a depth of 8 – 12m / 25 -40ft, it is the favorite for beginner divers.

Perhaps they love the many parrotfish, triggerfish, angelfish, and even the Cozumel splendid toadfish, which they can watch among the anemones and fans.

Or perhaps, it is because of the manta rays and seahorses awaiting them at the end of the dive in the seagrass.

Perhaps it is because of its moderate current that generally runs from north to south and allows for beautiful night dives.

cozumel reef - paradise reef - arrecifes de cozumel

4. Columbia Reef Cozumel

Located at Cozumel’s southern tip, it is a tremendously versatile reef. Columbia reef offers different diving opportunities adaptable to all levels.

Barrel sponges, fans, and large masses of coral dotted with anemones form a complex architecture of caves, arches, and coral needles on this Cozumel reef.

Ideal for divers, photographers and beginners is Columbia Shallow: 5 – 11m/ 15 – 35ft.

Here we do some stunning night dives from Dressel Divers.

Columbia Deep 15 – 27m/ 50 – 90ft, on the other hand, offers an impressive drop-off. It is ideal for more experienced divers to have a great time among the Cozumel caves and coral tunnels.

Cozumel reefs - Columbia - arrecifes de cozumel

5. Chankanaab Reef

Chankanaab (Little Sea for the Mayans) is a sandy reef with a moderate current that forms a natural lagoon. It is like an aquarium but made by nature.

Again, we find a reef with three parts:

  • Chankanaab Shallow 10 – 27m / 30 – 50ft.

Ideal for the less experienced divers, here you can see the splendid Cozumel toadfish, besides scorpion fish, surgeonfish, triggerfish, rockfish, and snappers.

  • Chankanaab Balones 18 – 21m / 60 – 70 ft.

Balones are spherical coral head clusters on top of the large 10m / 33 ft. high boulders.

  • Chankanaab Caves 10m – 35ft.

At this point, the freshwater layers from the cenote system meet the seawater without mixing, which causes the halocline. The diver can enjoy it and explore the mouths of the caves.

reefs in cozumel - Chankanaab Reef - arrecifes en cozumel

6. Punta Francesa

As we said in the article Punta Francesa Reef, Interesting Facts for Scuba Divers, Punta Francesa Reef, also known as La Francesa, is between Palancar Reef and Santa Rosa.

This Cozumel’s reef is a relatively shallow dive suitable for any diver.

– Depth:  12 -20m / 40 – 66ft

– Average Visibility: Beyond 66 ft/ 20 m

– Conditions: Moderate south to north current over most of this location.

The strong point of this Cozumel Reef is its garden of sponges and gorgonians, in addition to the tiny specimens that inhabit them. In other words: it is ideal for macro photography.

It does not mean that there are no bigger fish. Diving on this reef, you will see butterfly fish, schools of grunts and snappers, queen angelfish, and drums.

Reefs in Cozumel - Punta Francesa - arrecifes en cozumel

7. Villa Blanca Reef Cozumel

Villa Blanca is one of the few reefs in Cozumel where you can do shore diving.

With a depth between 12- 37m /40 – 120ft, it is possible to do multilevel diving, so it is suitable for all recreational levels.

However, being so close to the coast and the cruise ships that dock in Cozumel, we should be alerted. If the current changes, it can put the diver in danger.

On this Cozumel reef, you can see well-nourished schools of fish and eagle rays among others.

Reefs of Cozumel - Villa Blanca - cozumel y sus arrecifes

8. Yucab Reef Cozumel

It is one of the longest reefs in Cozumel. It is approximately 1000 m/ 3280ft long and 20 m/ 65ft wide and concentrates a profuse amount of life: nudibranchs, barracudas, turtles, hundreds of different species of fish, and all kinds of corals. These can form structures up to 6 meters high.

It is an easy dive suitable for all levels 15-18 m / 50-60 ft deep.

The diver is carried through coral mounds by a gentle to moderate current running from north to south.

The diver often hesitates between paying attention to the hundreds of species on the reef, the sea grass, where seahorses and balloon fish live, or looking into the blue where eagle rays, Caribbean barracudas, and nurse sharks pass by.

Cozumel reef - Yucab - arrecife en cozumel

Reef Conservation

Cozumel has 5 protected areas for nature conservation, 3 areas are focused on reef conservation. These are:

– Cozumel Reefs National Park. It protects the most visited reefs of Cozumel. It is very important, taking into account that 80% of the diving and snorkeling activities in Cozumel take place inside the National Park.

Among its activities are reef formation monitoring and educational programs for environmental awareness.

Find out more by reading the article Cozumel Marine Park History

  • The Cozumel Island Flora and Fauna Protection Area, with almost 38,000 ha, includes reefs and seagrasses. Wetlands, lagoons and islands are also included. This area is in the north of the island.
  • Chankanaab Natural Park. 4 ha. included the Chankanaab lagoon. We mentioned it above.


Cozumel Reef Guide and Tips

The water temperature in Cozumel varies between 26ºC and 31ºC. The optimal wetsuit is 1.2 inch / 3mm.

You can dive Cozumel’s reefs all year round, and the air temperature ranges from 18-32ºC / 65-90ºF, with May and June having the highest relative humidity percentage.

Underwater visibility ranges from 12m/ 40ft in winter to 60m/190ft in summer.

Gloves cannot be used in the Cozumel National Park. They are forbidden as a deterrent to touching animals and reefs.

Avoid touching corals, reefs, animals, and other marine life (plant or animal). Don’t touch wrecks either.

Never feed fish.

Improve your buoyancy and kicking skills to avoid stirring up sand or harming corals. Dive at least 3 feet above the reef. Likewise, your diving devices and consoles should be secured to your BCD and never hit the reef.

Drift diving is usual in Cozumel. Never rest holding on to corals.

Use only biodegradable non-oily sunblock.

Cozumel Reef Maps

Map of reefs in Cozumel - mapa de arrecifes de Cozumel