COZUMEL CLAS­SICS

This Mex­i­can is­land is all about rip­ping drifts and healthy corals that lie just off­shore in this in­cred­i­ble stretch of the Me­soamer­i­can Reef

Scuba Diving - - Travel - BY TERRY WARD

1 PALANCAR REEF

If there’s one slice of Cozumel you can’t miss, it’s the mas­sive Palancar reef sys­tem on the south­west side of the is­land. Caves, canyons, sharks, tur­tles and rays are just the tip of the won­ders that await at this stretch of sites that in­cludes Palancar Horse­shoe, Palancar Deep and more. You could dive here your en­tire va­ca­tion and never get bored.

2 FELIPE XICOTÉNCATL

Pur­pose-sunk in 1999 as an ar­ti­fi­cial reef off Chankanaab Na­tional Park, this World War II U.S. Navy mine sweeper is home to plenty of fish and fun swimthroughs. Up­right in roughly 80 feet of wa­ter, the wreck is cov­ered with sponges and co­ral, and shim­mers with glassy sweep­ers — and the 184-foot-long ship is po­si­tioned in an area to pro­tect divers from the rip­ping cur­rents for which Coz is fa­mous.

3 GUIDO’S

Va­ca­tion­ing city slick­ers and savvy divers alike rave about the true Ital­ianstyle piz­zas and Gulf of Mex­ico seafood at this at­mo­spheric Ital­ian restau­rant in down­town San Miguel.

4 YUCAB

Night dives at this shal­low reef might treat you to the psy­che­delic site of the Caribbean reef squid, a per­ma­nent but elu­sive res­i­dent of Cozumel. Washed by cur­rents, Yucab’s healthy corals are a great bet for spot­ting it­sy­bitsy nudi­branchs and the fa­vorite find: Cozumel’s won­drous en­demic splen­did toad fish.

5 NIGHT­TIME KAYAK­ING

For in­cred­i­ble stargaz­ing ac­com­pa­nied by fas­ci­nat­ing tales of Maya lore from knowl­edge­able guides, set out on a night­time kayak ex­cur­sion on Cozumel’s tran­quil west coast that’s timed for a view of the sun­set.

6 SANTA ROSA WALL

Diving feels more like fl ying at this fab­u­lous drift-dive site loaded with tu­ni­cates and enor­mous sponges that can very nearly block out the sun. Cu­ri­ous grouper, queen an­gelfish, nurse sharks and more vie for your at­ten­tion, with caves and tun­nels to ex­plore as well.

7 FREE­DOM IN PAR­ADISE

Feel the reg­gae vibes at this Bob Mar­ley-themed wa­ter­ing hole with ham­mocks on the beach on Cozumel’s rugged south­ern­most end.

8 PASO DEL CEDRAL

Pho­tog­ra­phers love this site for the om­nipresent schools of grunts and pork­fish that con­gre­gate near the ledges. Fin through swim-throughs and un­der co­ral over­hangs to look for huge par­rot­fish, tur­tles and gi­ant mo­ray eels lurk­ing in the reef’s nooks and cran­nies.

9 SKYREEF

Great sun­sets and killer mar­gar­i­tas await at this laid-back lit­tle bar that fronts a top-notch snor­kel­ing reef on the is­land’s west coast.

10 PUNTA SUR

Found on the south­ern­most end of the is­land, this epic dive starts with a plung­ing wall that drops to around 90 feet and is swept by cur­rent. It rains fish along the wall, but the high­light of­ten comes over the sur­round­ing sand, where pa­trolling ea­gle rays and tur­tles are reg­u­larly spot­ted.

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