Cozumel Dive Operators

From the smallest glass bottom boat with room for just four divers to converted barges that regularly take 20 or more per trip, you can find all shapes and sizes of vessels and dive operators in Cozumel. And since they’re all taking you to the same reef, matching your desires up to the right dive operator can make or break your trip. Like with much in life, the trick to getting the best dive experience in Cozumel is not only knowing what you want but in how well you communicate your desires.

For the sake of this discussion, we’ve gone into more detail regarding the standard program for one company: Dive Paradise. That’s largely because over the years, we have a lot of experience in going out with them and can write from personal experience. We don’t dive exclusively with them but in general, we like diving with Dive Paradise and are comfortable in recommending them to other divers. But it is our strong opinion that Dive Paradise is not the only good dive shop in Cozumel. It is a good dive shop in Cozumel that we have a lot of experience with.

When reading the discussion about the mechanics of diving with Dive Paradise, keep in mind that most operators in Cozumel offer similar packages and If you are traveling in a group of four to six divers of similar skills, most are willing to try to accommodate any reasonable request.

In reality, it is our opinion that the specific dive master that you go out with is a whole lot more important that the dive operator.

The list of dive shops in the discussion section below does not include every operation in Cozumel. But it does cover many of the better-known operators and a few very good smaller operations that you may not be familiar with.

Dive Paradise is one of the largest dive companies in Cozumel and offers a wide variety of packages. You may have seen Dive Paradise magazine ads promoting three-tank boat dives. For this you get a two-tank dive, including tanks and weights, departing the pier at the Barracuda Hotel around 8:30 am, soft drinks and a boxed snack on a large slow boat with no more than 16 divers and two dive masters. The boat returns to the dock around 2:00 pm and then heads back out around 3:30 pm for a third dive of 60 feet or less. Not everyone on your morning trip will go for the third dive and you may pick up divers from other boats. The two-tank slow boat dives go for $69 so if you’re looking for a bargain, $15 for the third dive is hard to beat.

The slow boats are fine if you want a nice leisurely sun filled day. If you’re a part of a large group that wants to dive and socialize together, it’s a great choice. But be warned that you will tend to spend more time on top of the water than in it. And if you are alone or in a small group, you will find that the more divers on a boat the more likely that some are going to be novices or (even worse) just plain jerks that might limit or compromise your experience.

If you want to get to the reef quickly and dive in a smaller group, opt for the “fast” boat trips. They will cost $6 more for morning fast boats but you will find yourself with a shorter boat ride and in a group of four to seven divers. Since Dive Paradise allows (with some limitations) the divers on board each boat to select dive sites, a group of four divers on a fast boat can usually dictate the reefs they want to see. The fast boats also allow easier access to some of the more interesting distant dive sites that prove difficult to reach on the slow boats.

Even though they are serving a large number of divers, a proficient diver looking for a unique experience can find happiness at Dive Paradise. On your first visit to the dive shop, tell the desk clerk that you are interested in EDP (Experienced Diver Program) computer dives. You will still need to have a dive master affirm your skills the first day. But once done, Dive Paradise will try to match you up with other experienced divers and allow you to go to advanced dive sites like Punta Sur and amybe even Maracaibo, base bottom times on your computer and generally give you the freedom and flexibility you’re probably looking for. EDP dives will cost $10 more than a standard fast boat.

The price of the packages that Dive Paradise sells through magazine ads or tour operators almost always are based on the slow boats. If you want the fast boat trips it will cost you slightly more than the advertised price. If you reserve fast boats as a part of a package before you come down, make sure you get this confirmed in writing and take the confirmation with you to the dive shop on your first visit. If you find you’ve reserved slow boats and would prefer the fast, you can upgrade your package at the dive shop. It will cost a little more but if it’s what you want, the small extra cost is worth it. Even if you haven’t pre-booked a dive package, you should be able to negotiate a discount of 10-15% if you’re willing to book 3 or more dives when you arrive at the shop.

Night dives are available most evenings at $38 for a single tank on a slow boat, usually to Paradise or Chankanaab.

Snorkelers or non-divers over age 12 can accompany any two-tank dive for $30. A full range of dive course instruction including resort course, full certification, checkout dives and advanced specialty courses are offered at Dive Paradise.

By and large, the staff members at Dive Paradise are genuinely nice people who are not out to take advantage of tourist. If there is some confusion on your reservation or something doesn’t go just like you wanted it to, keep this in mind and you will probably find them most accommodating to any reasonable request. Dive Paradise is on Rafael Melgar near the Naval station and the Rock ‘N Java restaurant. The local telephone number is 87 21007 and the Fax is 87 21061.

There are hundreds of dive operations in Cozumel. There is no attempt to make the following list complete but it does offer some information including web site links where available on a few. You’ll probably be able to guess which ones this writer ends up going out with when he dives in Cozumel.

Ventura Nay of Buena Ventura Diving is an outstanding dive master who seems to have a knack for finding large critters. He also seems to be able to find good sites that are close to more frequented spots but just far enough away to avoid the crowds. Ventura is now splitting his time between Cozumel and San Francisco (US) so he may or may not be available to lead a trip when you are on the island but it’s a good operation.  Phone at 87 26014 or Fax 87 21774.

Along with Dive Paradise Aqua Safari is one of the larger operations in Cozumel. After years of being located at the Cozumel Palace (formally known as the Plaza Las Glorias hotel) the main office of Aqua Safari is now on Ave. Melgar between Calle 5 & 7.  They run 4 very nice boats with group sizes of 10 or more and recently has added a smaller fast boat. This operator is very safety conscious to the point that some more advanced divers may feel slightly restricted. Telephone 87 23362 or 87 20101.

If you’ve been diving in Cozumel before you may have seen the large Aquaworld dive boats with an equally large number of divers onboard.  Many of these divers are day trippers who have arranged a day of Cozumel diving with the Aquaworld office in Cancun.  Aquaworld is now the on-premises dive operator at the Cozumel Palace.

We used to enjoy going out with Cinpatica Charters. Owner/dive master Felipe Quinones was the first person to take us over to the “other side” for diving. However, we have heard rumors that Cinpatica may not be offering dives at this time. If you want to try though, the telephone number used to be: 87 21817.

Ricardo Madrigal of Careyitos Advanced Divers is one of the legendary dive masters on the island. Los Careyitos specializes in advanced, multi-level computer diving and is a good choice for divers wanting to go to the deeper and more challenging dive sites. When you dive with Careyitos, it is assumed that you are an experienced, self-sufficient diver.  Careyitos has a nice boat that is suitable for reaching any dive site. Telephone 87 21578.

One of the smaller dive shops is Black Shark Dive Shop. Prices will tend to be a little cheaper than at some of the larger operators. Black Shark is on Ave 5 between A.R. Salas and Calle 3. Telephone 87 20396.

Papa Hogs Scuba Emporium of Cozumel is owned and operated by Mike and Margaret Gerus, originally from Ontario, Canada. It is located on the beach in front of Villa Blanca Hotel.

Antoinio and Chellie Castellanos of Eagle Ray Divers offer a wide range of options on dive and snorkel trips. We’ve been out with them on occasion and find Eagle Ray to be a very reliable dive operator and very willing to accommodate any reasonable request. Telephone: 87 25735.

Scuba Shack and Blue Bubble Divers now share the same ownership and have merged into one company..  This is a friendly operation primarily using fast boats and known to be very safety conscious. For a slightly higher fee than their typical resort dives, Blue Bubble offers trips to San Juan, Barracuda, Maraciabo and Islote.  For a group of 6, they will also arrange a dive on the “other side” of the Island.   The old downtown Blue Bubble Divers office is now closed.  You can find the Scuba Shack office on the beach across from the Village Tankah, a small hotel owned by the same company, where they offer dive/hotel combo deals.  It is located at KM 3.5 south of town.  Phone: -872-4240 & 872-4187

Juan Leca of Dive House has a reputation of being one of the most ecologically sensitive operators on the island with a keen knowledge of the reefs. However, we have noticed that when the Dive House boats pass by, they seem to carry lots of tanks (and people to use them). Dive House has two locations on the island, one in the main plaza of town and the other at the Fiesta Americana Cozumel Reef Hotel. Phone 87 21953, Fax 87 23068.

Del Mar Aquatics has locations in both the Casa del Mar Hotel and on the La Ceiba Hotel beach. This is a decent operation but one that doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Telephone 87 21900, 87 20812 or 87 21833.

Aldora Divers has a very good reputation based on good service, nice boats and being one of the few dive shops in town that uses 120cf high capacity steel tanks. Prices here are among the highest in Cozumel but many of Aldora’s clients will tell you the extra service is worth it.  Aldora is also another option for those wanting to try diving on the ocean side of the island. Telephone 87 23397.

Although the terrific dive master Martin Aguilar passed away a couple years ago, his dive shop Dive With Martin continues on in his spirit.  This is one of the few shops in town that includes rental gear (not including wet suit) in the price of the dive.  The shop is located at the International Pier, about 2½ miles south of the town. Dive With Martin will take experienced divers to some of the more advanced dive sites. Telephone 87 22610, Fax 87 22736

In an on again/off again saga, we’re sorry to report that Paul Padilla has once again closed Paul’s Personal Dive Service. This time, we think it’s for good. For those who know Paul, he and wife Kit have moved to a small fishing village near Progresso on the Gulf.  If you hear differently, let us know as we would love to dive with him again.

In Cozumel, the first operator making regular cavern dives was Chuck Jones at Discover Cozumel Dive Shop 872-2339 who takes divers to Aruelito Cave. At last report, there was roughly 7,000 feet of line and some speculation that the system leads eventually to Chankanaab. Yucatech Expeditions offers cenoté, cave and cavern diving for certified divers on both Cozumel and the mainland.  Call 872-5659.

If you ask around, you will likely hear both good and bad comments about Cavern or Cenoté Diving on the Yucatan mainland. As you drive up and down Highway 307 in either direction from Playa del Carmen, you will see signs for various cenotés. A diver without special cave certification can arrange for the equivalent of a cavern resort course or take the 14-dive week long cavern certification course with Mike Madden’s Cedam Dive Center in Akumal.