On the island of Cozumel, 12 miles off the Yucatán Peninsula, you can still horseback ride in the bush, explore Maya ruins at San Gervasio, snorkel at Chankanaab Park, and swim off any number of lovely beaches. And Cozumel's main stage is the current-swept leeward western shore, a cornucopia of teeming marine life, coral gardens, coral pinnacles and fall-away vertical walls no surprise given that the Yucatán Peninsula and Cozumel are separated by a channel nearly a half-mile deep.
The currents that sweep the 20-mile-long system of reefs rimming the leeward shore provide nutrients for corals, which have responded with an explosion of growth seen in few other places. As a bonus, the same currents make the diving here fairly effortless.
Cozumel is a two-hour flight from Miami and Houston. Most divers can recite the names of its famous spots Palancar Caves, Santa Rosa Wall, Columbia Pinnacles because most divers have seen them, and return for yearly pilgrimages. Famed Palancar Reef, a nearly mile-long system that includes Horseshoe Reef and Palancar Gardens, features a lovely natural coral amphitheater and deluges of tropical fish.
Don't forget the viz from 100 feet down you can clearly see clouds floating overhead. If this isn't enough, a short ferry ride separates Cozumel from the Yucatán Peninsula.
For travel package informationwww.sportdiver.com/divemexico
The once-sleepy fishing village of San Miguel is now home to many dive operators plus excellent restaurants and shopping. And if you want to truly escape, just drive across the island to the sleepy eastern shore.