Chankanaab Reef is located exactly offshore from the Chankanaab National Park, but the reef, by the same name, is not part of the park. Even though this reef reaches the shore at the Park, the main and most beautiful part of the Chankanaab Reef may only be reached by boat. You can get to Chankanaab Reef from the downtown pier. It is approximately 25 min. by boat. This reef, with long coral formations, has a typical depth range of 30 to 45 feet. Parallel to this coral formation, but in deeper water, there is an area of the reef known as Bolones of Chankanaab these are big, ball like, coral heads growing in a depth of 50 to 70 feet. The current conditions in this area are commonly light. This is a good place to dive for novice divers. This reef is frequently dived as the second dive of the day. Photographers find this place very attractive because the shallow waters provide excellent lighting conditions and long bottom times. The many fish that live here are accustomed to the presence of divers and usually are very cooperative if you want them to pose in your picture. The fauna of this reef is made up principally of Spotted Drums, White Turtles, Toadfish, Moray Eels, Parrotfish, Eaglerays, Nurse Sharks, and Barracudas. The last ones are more commonly found at Chankanaab Reef than in any other reefs around Cozumel. On flora, really large Gorgonians look like small trees when their polyps are expanded. Big tubular sponges are also a common sight in this reef.
You will find this dive location beyond Palancar and before Punta Sur. It normally takes from 45 minutes to 1 hour to get there by boat from the downtown pier. The typical depth range is 60 feet (the minimum) to unlimited (over the wall). The currents in this reef are normally strong (perfect for a drift dive), so this diving location is recommended for experienced divers to advanced certification. Its main configuration are spectacular drop-offs, caves, and giant coral mountains, all of them covered with an incredible amount of Gorgonias and huge colorful sponges. Also, the many colorful fish and sea turtles are part of the typical view. Another area of Colombia, worthy of mention, are the Colombia Shallows where the current conditions are light and perfect for novice expertise or beginners. These shallows are located exactly inshore of Colombia Reef with a depth range of 20 to 40 feet, and as well as in the reef area, there are a variety of beautiful corals and fish to look at over the shallows.
Famous around the world, Palancar Reef is so popular because of the large and fascinating coral formations found there. Palancar Reef may only be reached by boat. It takes about 30 minutes to get there from the downtown pier on a fast boat. Palancar Reef has a typical depth range of 40 feet (the minimum) to an unlimited depth (the wall). The current conditions in Palancar Reef vary from moderate to strong. This reef is recommended for intermediate to advanced divers. There are many diving areas in Palancar Reef. Among them is La Herradura and The Horseshoe, which is very popular for its spectacular caves, walls, and gentle currents. Another popular part of this reef are Palancar Gardens, a very shallow area of the reef full of lively terraces where you may find huge gardens of sponges and Gorgonians along the tops of the coral. The Palancar Reef is so huge that you will need several months diving daily to get to know all of the reef, and so spectacular that you will never get bored. Because of the strong current conditions normally found at Palancar (except in the Horseshoe area), driftdiving is normally used. You should always be aware of your depth and bottom time. Always stay with your group and guides while diving.
Paraiso Reef is commonly reached by boat. It is in front of the Caleta Harbor. Divers usually divide this reef in two: Paraiso North and Paraiso South. Paraiso North has a typical depth range of 40 to 50 feet. Currents are usually light or moderate, but occasionally they change to strong. Paraiso North is for divers with a intermediate level of expertise and above. At Paraiso South, the depth range is usually between 35 to 45 feet. Here the currents are moderate. The expertise required to dive this reef is novice to intermediate level. In both, Paraiso North and South, there is a huge variety of marine life. You can find, for example, the Splendid Toadfish, an endemic specie of Cozumel, Stonefish, Eaglerays, Octopus, Crabs, Lobsters, different types of Parrotfish, Black Groupers, and White and Bluestriped Grunts. The reef is located in a flat bottom with a variety of shallow coral formations like the Green Cactus Coral, Ivory Tube and Ivory Bush corals, Elliptical and Blushing Star Corals, Scroll Coral, and Flower Coral among others. It is just as varied as it sounds! For this reason, it is a favorite spot for photographers. Paraiso Reef is an excellent place for beginners. Here they can get more experience in drift diving techniques. Also, since it is a fairly shallow spot and is very close to most of the hotels, Paraiso Reef is one of the favorites for night diving.
Punta Sur Reef:
At the southern end of the island is one of the deepest dives sites frequented by dive operators. Punta Sur Reef will show you the incredible beauty of a dropoff wall and some spectacular caverns. You can reach Punta Sur Reef from downtown in one to one and a half hours by boat. The shallow part of this reef is 60 ft. The most spectacular part of this reef is located between 80 ft. and 120 ft. Because of its depth and the currents that normally prevail in the area, this dive is reserved for experienced to advanced divers. Good buoyancy control and never loosing sight of your buddy are important for diving this reef. The typical reef at Punta Sur is formed by huge coral buildings that have their basements at depths of more than 130 ft., that's beyond the recreational diving depth limits. All these coral buildings have an incredible amount of caverns that penetrate them in all directions. This is the reef of the famous caverns of The Cathedral and The Devil Throat. At the edge of this dropoff, you will find coral building formations, between them deep sandy spots give you the feeling of flying when you are diving across them from one coral formation to the next. In this dive location you may see large marine life, such as Nurse Sharks, White Tip Sharks, and Hammer Head Sharks during the winter season. Sea Turtles and big Spotted Eagle Rays are often seen in Punta Sur Reef. Diving Punta Sur Reef will leave you unforgettable memories.
San Francisco Reef:
This reef is located exactly offshore from San Francisco Beach. You can reach San Francisco Reef only by boat and it takes about 20 minutes to get there from the downtown pier. This reef has a typical depth range of 20 to 60 feet unless you dive close to the wall that has an unlimited depth. The current conditions in this reef vary from moderate to strong, so the expertise recommended is intermediate or advanced diver. You may make a very enjoyable drift dive on San Francisco Reef's wall. This is because the edge of the drop off here is shallower than other walls around Cozumel, so it allows extra time diving on the bottom. At this reef you may have friendly encounters with nurse sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, crabs, lobsters, and big schools of yellow grunts. You are more likely to see Stingrays during the winter season. The nocturnal fish, such as lobsters and crabs, hide in the crevices and are easy to see during the day. In the area of flora, you will be able to see at this reef a variety of different anemones from Cozumel. One of the most well known at this reef is the Tentacle-Faced Anemone.
Santa Rosa Reef:
Santa Rosa Wall is the most famous vertical drop off in Cozumel. The clear blue water in this reef guarantees an unforgettable dive. It takes approximately 35 to 50 minutes to get to this reef by boat from the down town pier. This reef has a depth range of a minimum50 feet to unlimited depth over the wall. It is primarily recommended for experienced or advanced divers because most of the time there are strong currents around the area, although they change in times to moderate. Drift diving in this case is always the choice. The typical marine life that you can find in this reef are:Spotted Eagle Rays, Nurse Sharks, Black Groupers, Spiny Lobsters, Spotted Drumfish, Splendid Toadfish and a complete variety of colorful tropical fish. The coral formations in this area are usually interspersed in such a way that it looks like they were fighting for the same spot with their rare shapes and colorful beauty, sometimes even forming caves or tunnels which are almost the main characteristic of Santa Rosa reef. Some examples of these formations are: giant plate corals (Porites), sea fans, and sponges among others.
Tormentos Reef is located just south of Chankanaab Reef. The reef is about 25 min. to 35 min. from downtown by boat. Its depth goes from 35 ft. to 70 ft. The intensity of the currents is normally between medium to strong, so diving in this reef is recommended for experienced divers. The white sands that surrounds the reef along its both sides, reflect the light enhancing the color of the corals making this reef very appealing to the view. It is also one of the best reefs for underwater photography. Diving along this reef you will experience one of the best effortless drift dives that you may have in Cozumel. The crevices and backside of the corals allow you to hide from the current and stop drifting without fighting against the current. This way you may stop to observe the abundant micro-marine life with complete detail.