Scuba Diving In Cozumel For Beginners – A Complete Guide

Interested in Scuba diving in Cozumel?

Are you travelling to Cozumel and want to try out diving? Great choice!

Diving in Cozumel for beginners is great since the water is generally warm, clear, and calm. There are plenty of dive schools to choose from, all of which will have different perks.

Best time of year for diving in Cozumel for beginners

In the months of May to September, the water will be the warmest, and the dive sites will be the quietest. But, diving in the Caribbean Sea is always pleasant, so it does not matter if you decide to go a different time of year! Even if you are a beginner, diving is amazing all year round.

dive students in the sea in Cozumel

Which course you should take

Should you do a course?

If you’re not sure if diving is something you’d enjoy, doing an introductory course first is probably a good idea. Many dive schools offer these introductions and can add the training you get to the course if you decide to do one.

If you’ve done a dive before, and have decided to start your certification, the PADI Scuba Diver or PADI Open Water courses are for you.

What is PADI?

PADI means Professional Association of Diving Instructors and is the largest diver organisation. PADI maintains high standards for dive training. They’re committed to conserving the ocean and integrating this into their courses.

When someone is PADI certified, you know they’re well-trained and they know what they’re doing.

PADI Introduction course

During this course, you will learn how to use the equipment, and basic hand signals and skills. You will then go into relatively shallow waters but still see amazing reefs and beautiful wildlife. You might even find a turtle! If you decide you want to get officially certified after this amazing experience, great!

Most dive schools will take off the training you’ve had from the official course, as long as you’ve done the introduction with them. Getting an official certification has great perks, which you will read below.

Difference between PADI Scuba Diver and PADI Open Water

There are 2 different courses for diving for beginners in Cozumel. The PADI Scuba Diver, and Open Water. While the Scuba Diver course won’t get you officially certified, it might still be a good option for some people. Although it has some downsides, the Scuba Diver course is great if you’re limited on time or if you only plan on diving with PADI-certified instructors.

With the Scuba Diver course, you’ll only be allowed to dive to 12 meters (40 ft), and with an official PADI Instructor. You won’t be able to rent any gear without an instructor, and can’t book any boat dives.

With the PADI Open Water, however, you’ll be certified and allowed to do a number of things:

  • Get air fills
  • Rent diving gear
  • Dive WITHOUT an official instructor, but with a buddy that has the certification
  • Dive to 18 meters (60ft)
  • Book boat dives

You can upgrade from Scuba Diver to Open Water at any point. The certifications are for life, although it is advised to do a refresher course if you haven’t dived in a while.

The Scuba Diver course is about half of the Open Water certification, so if you want to get certified, you won’t have to do the full course.

a scuba dive school boat being prepped before a dive in Cozumel

How to pick a dive school

We picked a dive school mainly by gut feeling. We walked into a few different dive schools to talk to the employees and get general information about their courses. You will find some schools will do 3-day PADI Open Water courses, and some will do them in 4 days.

You will have to do some theoretical training and an exam before you can get certified. Some schools offer in-school training, but most will give you a login to e-learning and e-learning videos.

Doing online learning was definitely our preference since we could just do it in the afternoons and evenings. The full e-learning can take up to 10 hours, but you don’t have to finish it all before the start of your in-water training.

Ask your dive school how far you need to get, and just do the rest after your first day of diving!

Where to do the skill training

Another thing to consider is where they will teach you the basic skills. The dive schools will either teach you basic skills in a pool or in the sea. Both of these ways have different pros and cons.

Learning the skills in the sea

Starting off in the sea will give you an immediate feel of the water. You will know how it feels to float on the waves with your gear, and how it is to breathe under the surface of the sea. You will experience the waves and the underwater surge they create. And, you will be trained on how to perform the necessary skills in a real-life situation.

After all, you’ll want to dive in the sea when you’re certified. Don’t worry, you will learn all these skills in shallow water. This is generally the best way to start diving in Cozumel, for beginners. I would recommend finding a dive school that starts your training in the sea.

Learning the skills in a pool

When starting off in a pool, you will still learn how to perform all these skills. However, you won’t have to deal with waves and surges. You will learn all you need to know, but some of these skills will have to be repeated in the open water in order to get certified.

So, you will have to do some of these twice. Staring in a pool is a little easier, but it will take slightly longer and you’ll still need to learn how to deal with the ocean’s features.

This is the best way to start diving in Cozumel for beginners if you’re still a little bit intimidated by the idea of the sea. Or if you’re not fully sure you want to be a diver yet. In this case, I advise you to do an introduction dive first.

The dive school we picked

We picked the dive school Maple Leaf Scuba. When we walked in for information, we were greeted by extremely friendly people who were happy to give us all the information we needed.

We were sold on this place the moment we walked in. To find out the lessons were 1 on 1 with an instructor (well, 2 on 1 in our case since we both did the course), we couldn’t say no.

They were slightly more expensive than other dive schools, but the quality and the great people that worked there made the decision for us. They start the training in the sea, as preferred, and they’ll send you videos and e-learning to do at your hostel or hotel.

You will get a ‘private’ instructor that will teach you all you need to know in 3 days.

2 scuba divers in full dive gear posing for the camera in front of the sea

Our experience diving as beginners in Cozumel

We started off in the sea to begin our training, but the sea was quite rough. This made it a little bit hard to do the training since I didn’t realise I would get seasick!

But, no worries, our instructor and the owner of the dive school made arrangements to get us in a pool instead. The training schedule was changed so our day 2 was slightly longer, and they booked a pool. This was all without any extra costs!

It is definitely worth taking seasickness medication before starting if you’re prone to seasickness like me. As I explained, it is best to start learning in the sea instead of a pool. Beginner mistake!

After we had done the skills in the confined water, we went out to sea, to do our first 2 official shore dives. We saw a great amount of fish, including the relatively rare rainbow parrot fish. These dives were at a maximum depth of 10 meters (30ft).

Our last day consisted of 2 boat dives, with a maximum depth of 18 meters (60ft). During our first dive, we had to show our instructor a few more skills that we had learned. After this, the real fun began. We had nothing more to prove to our instructor, so we went down and took in everything we saw.

The coral reefs were amazing and the wildlife was impressive. We saw a MASSIVE turtle swim up for air. She was so big, that even our instructor with over 600 dives, had to stop to take it all in.

Diving in Cozumel – Final Thoughts

If you already know you want to get your Open Water certification, Cozumel is the best place to do it. Look for a dive school that does e-learning, as it is more time-efficient.

Doing your initial confined water training in the sea is the best way to start off, so try to find a school that offers this. If you’re not sure what you want just yet, your best bet is to do a PADI introduction course. Which can always be upgraded to either Scuba Diver or Open Water.

Diving in Cozumel will be one of the best diving experiences you’ll ever have, so don’t hesitate and just go for it!

Fan of the island life? Check out our post on Holbox too!