If you are an active outdoorsperson, but do not have a scuba certification, snorkelling is a little light on activity, but a safe way to get a little exercise.
We thoroughly enjoyed our snorkelling portion of our afternoon excursion to Cozumel. It also gave us enough time in the afternoon to grab some lunch!
Equipment: The snorkelling equipment is included in your fee, which is $55USD plus tips and photos.
We booked a week long SCUBA trip with Red Sail and they were an awesome company. We owned our own gear, so only needed air and tanks, but their boats were spotless and their DM's were knowledgeable, friendly and professional.
Travelguy used to own a sailboat, so whenever we go away, he likes to refresh his seafaring skills. Small boats like this are available at most resorts, and are usually included with your package. You are generally allowed an hour each day. They should ask you some sailing questions, or have you take it out with one of the staff for 15 minutes or so first, so they can make sure you know what you're doing. This is a good thing, as if you get into trouble, it's a long sail over to the Yucatan Peninsula! (Ever read the book 'Adrift'?)
On our ride back to the cruise ship, the crew of our Fury Catamaran was here to host an impromptu aerobics class. Here, the class was performing a wonderful ritual known to North America as the "YMCA" routine!
Cozumel has many beautiful beaches all around the island. Many beaches offer water sports equipment available for rent.
Beaches closer to San Miguel are San Juan Beach (5-10 min. drive north), and Playa San Francisco and Playa Mia (20 min. south). They all have changing facilities, snacks, and shaded areas. If these more popular beaches aren't what you were looking for, there are plenty of more secluded beaches, but not all are completely safe for swimming.
Cozumel is one of the world's premier destinations for snorkeling and diving. The reefs attract people from all over the world and are rated by many 2nd to only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. There are reefs and dive areas all around the western coast of the island.
The reef made famous by Jacques Cousteau is the Palancar Reef. Another popular reef is located at Chankanaab National Park (open daily 8am-5pm, admission charged).
There are plenty of other reefs to choose from, and it is not hard to find a company that offers snorkeling or diving.
Cozumel began to awake from its rural-Mexico slumber only after Jacques-Yves Couteau visited its reefs in 1961. Word spread, and the dive industry drove the initial development of the tourist infrastructure that Cozumel now supports. These days there are somewhere in the vicinity of 50 dive operators doing business on the small island, and there seems to be enough business to go around.
In choosing a dive operator, it was important to me to avoid the ones that cram large numbers of divers on a big boat. Smaller, owner-operated establishments not only tend to provide more personalized service, but also use small, fast boats known in dive lingo as "six packs" because they carry only six divers plus crew. They are able to take divers to the more distant dive sites and don't hurry you out of the water as soon as the first diver gets low on air.
The only difficulty with the six packs is that at low tide they sit quite a ways below the jetty (no floating platforms here!). This old lady had quite a time trying to hoist herself a meter or more from the gunwale up onto the jetty with the boat bouncing on wavelets! Take a look at the photo to see what I'm talking about.
As far as the diving goes, the topography is amazing. I especially liked Punta Sur (the blue ribbon goes to Devil's Throat where you emerge from a vertical tunnel into the reef wall at 135 ft/42 m--an advanced dive), Columbia Reef with its eagle rays (adv/intermed), and Santa Rosa Wall (intermed). What makes some Cozumel dives relatively challenging is the strong current that flows through the channel between the island and the mainland.
Equipment: You can rent whatever you need, but it's a good idea to bring your own regulator, mask, and fins, if you can stuff them into your luggage.
Most dive sites are not really suited for snorkeling as the water is too deep, and the beaches the dive boats stop at for surface intervals are too sandy for satisfying snorkeling. So I offer these options for those non-divers among you, or for a day you just don't want to be bothered to be at the pier at 7 a.m. These are both good places to snorkel and hang out for the day.
Chankanaab is a national park and charges $10 per person entrance. But there's a lot to do there, if you have people with you who get bored with snorkeling or lying on a beach. There's a freshwater lagoon in the park where the underground river comes up to the surface (called a "cenote"). You can even "swim" with captive dolphins and sea lions (though I can hardly look at the poor creatures, I feel so sorry for them). Apparently it was once possible to snorkel in the lagoon, but I never checked for sure.
Dzul Ha does not charge an entrance fee, and there's also no beach to speak of, so it's just the snorkeling and the beauty of the place. Lots of tour boats with loads of snorkelers visit the area, so it's not likely to be just you and the fish.
The photos I have on the travelogue pages were underwater pictures taken while diving with Papa Hog (Mike).
I am handicapped by the fact that I don't have the notes for this trip, so I don't know what we paid for things, but I had a package from Aqua Dreams which included diving and hotel. Currently an open water certification course is $350.00, takes 3-4 days and includes all equipment in the price.
I picked Papa Hog because I wanted Bob to take a scuba course and get certified and I thought that Margaret (Mike's wife) would be a good teacher. Unfortunately, she was back in Canada at the time we were there.
Equipment: You can rent about everything you need. I had my own console, mask and flippers.
Plunge into the waters off the coast of Cozumel and drift down through the clear waters without any effort. Drift diving is the norm here and I just love it. Diving normally tires me out very quickly, but drift diving is so much easier. Basically the current just carries you along and you watch the scenery go by. Your boat will follow your bubbles and pick you up once you've ascended to the surface.
It can be a little nerve wracking at times to realize that you sometimes are diving over a 3000 ft channel, that's a heck of a ways down. But some of the walls because of this dropoff are spectacular. The coral and sealife at the various reefs are just amazing. I had my first sighting of a shark while diving here, also my one and only time of seeing a seahorse in the wild.
I dove with Aqua Safari my 2nd trip to Cozumel. They have fairly large boats and while the staff were great they packed too many people on one of the dives. I prefer a small group when diving. Their prices are fairly good however, compared to some of the prices offered at resorts. Shop around to get the best deal.
Equipment: Either bring your own gear or rent from the numerous dive operators found on Cozumel.