Cozumel Divers’ Guide to Wetsuits and Thermal Protection

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Diving in Cozumel full time, my need for neoprene varies greatly throughout the year but I always wear a wetsuit, and some key accessories I’ve come to rely on over the years. 

Many divers in Cozumel’s warm water conditions are comfortable in super light garments, while others tend to get a little cold after only about 40-45 minutes at depth, even during the warm season. 

No matter the water temperatures when scuba diving, and level of thermal dive garments I need, I also always wear long sleeves, long pants, and a hood of some kind. 

Most scuba divers in Cozumel wear wetsuits and tend to opt for full-length 3mm-5mm wetsuits, light hoods, and booties in the cooler diving season months of December through March, and shift down to 2-3mm wetsuits and fewer thermal layers or accessories during the warmer months of June through October. 

Caribbean diving offers relatively warm temperatures all year long, though, so your own body tolerances and the number of consecutive dives planned should determine the appropriate thermal protection you’ll need.  

Depending on the month you’re planning your dive trip to Cozumel, I’ll recommend a few different wetsuits and thermal scuba gear and accessories to add to your packing list. 

*Some of the links to my favorite dive gear below are affiliate links, where I may receive a small % commission for referrals. These are items I use and recommend, with honest pros and cons listed where appropriate.

Some Divers Just Don’t Get That Cold

First off, I know there will be a chorus of experienced Cozumel regulars who are happy as a clam diving here– at any time – with a shorty wetsuit or even just swim shorts and a rash guard top. 

I so wish I could do that comfortably, still. I really do. 

And for many, of course, that makes sense.  

Diving in Cozumel is nice and warm.  The absolute coldest water temperatures we experience are from January through March when the water can fluctuate from about 80F/26C only down to about 77-78F/25C.  

And that’s pretty darn warm, for sure. (another reason Cozumel is such a great place to dive!) 

Plus, many folks are coming here in the Winter from the frigid regions of Canada, the U.S., Mexico City, the U.K., and from all over!  Getting away from the cold and snow, you’ll feel plenty warm in the sunny heat of Mexico and the Caribbean’s nice warm diving temperatures.

However…others simply have slightly lower core temperatures and/or lower tolerances for being cold while diving. 

We may have compromised body heat – be it from loads of consecutive dives, older age, different body type, a slightly lower natural temperature, or just a dislike for being even the slightest bit chilly.  Who knows?

Newsflash, though – it’s not a contest!  We should all just wear what we need to wear to truly stay warm and comfortable. 

Don’t forget, also, that being chilled on a dive is not only uncomfortable, but according to DAN it can also be dangerous.

Feeling chilled adds unnecessary stress as a baseline condition, which in turn could make you a little less able to handle other potential issues that may arise during your dive.  

We all know from our training that adding any unnecessary stressors is never a good idea. 

So recommendation #1 – don’t be a hero.  

If you are comfy cozy in a bathing suit and rashie, I envy you. 

But honestly, I’m never way too warm on any dive, and if I were, I could always flush a little cool water into my warm-water wetsuit. 

You’ll pretty much always find me covering my arms and legs and head, preventing any jelly stings, and staying as warm as possible. Done.

Other Reasons to Wear a Wetsuit While Diving in the Caribbean 

Wearing a wetsuit is pretty standard in diving, and mostly we do it for thermal protection. Scuba divers need to make sure our core body temperature doesn’t dip too low as a result of being submerged in water that is colder than our internal body temperatures. 

There are other reasons to wear a wetsuit while diving, too (as I alluded to just above…). 

The main one is to protect your bare skin from minor irritants that could be floating in the water column – namely, translucent and perhaps even microscopic organisms, like jellyfish, etc., that could cause a sting or other irritation on your skin.  

In Cozumel, the diving visibility is incredibly clear most of the time, but you still can’t always see the clear or tiny little critters being carried by the current.  

Every now and then I feel a weird point of stinging on my face or hand, and am grateful that I’m pretty well covered up, otherwise.  

(I also keep a small tube of this reef-friendly sting gel in my dive kit, just in case.) 

It’s also a good idea to wear long pants and long sleeves to protect you from brushing up against any fire coral, or certain marine life that might sting – but that also might be camouflaged so you don’t see it until it’s too late.  

Now, of course, we should never be close enough to the coral reef or the sandy bottom to touch anything, especially in Mexico’s protected national marine park.  

However, it’s also true that accidents happen, especially with new divers. 

Plus, sometimes the ocean current here can be quite swift and it can change direction suddenly, even on rare occasions creating a forceful ‘down’ current.  

So even among the best of us, there are times when you may very inadvertently come in contact with fire coral or other prickly surfaces.  

“Better safe than sorry” gets my vote. 

Best Warm-Water Wetsuits for the “Winter” Season

The high tourism season in Cozumel is traditionally from December through March. That is also when we start getting some of the coolest water temperatures of the year, bottoming out at around 77-78F/25C. 

After a few consecutive dives at 77 degrees, your core temperature will likely have a tougher time bouncing back.  

Also, if you want to add in a night dive or two, or an extra tank here and there, chances are you’re going to want to step up to a warmer wetsuit, or at least have a hooded vest or warmer socks in the wings, as the days (or weeks) move along.

Since I’m diving here constantly, come December I’m already in a full 5mm wetsuit and have broken out my heavier hood, socks, and am starting to rotate in Frogskin (similar to Lavacore, but better IMO) or 2mm vests to layer underneath.  

By the time I gear up in February with socks, cozy hood, and my 5mm Henderson thermoprene-pro (which is, btw, the MOST comfortable wetsuit I’ve ever worn in my life) – and sometimes even my battery-powered Thermalution heated tank top!

I sometimes get some light ribbing from folks who’ve just arrived from the snowy lands of the Northern US or Canada. 

As stated above, that’s totally understandable!

But also… so be it!  Who cares? There’s no shame in wearing the proper thermal protection for YOU. Just the opposite, in fact, if you recall your scuba diving training… 

I just want to make sure I stay warm – and free from discomfort and any distractions – so I can thoroughly enjoy each and every 60 min.+ dive, make the most of my bottom time, and not shiver through my surface interval – and possibly dread going back in for the second dive. 

If you do this all the time and the cooler water doesn’t phase you?  Great. 

When in doubt, though? I strongly recommend packing a good 5mm wetsuit for a trip during the high season, and thermal protection for your head and feet, at least. 

And don’t forget to have the right stuff for your surface interval, as well. 

When you’re dripping wet and have just been immersed in the ocean for over an hour, the awesome Cozumel breezes can start to feel a little chilly. 

After much trial and error, here is my ideal thermal wardrobe for diving here during the winter months or anywhere the water temps are consistently below 80F/26C. 

Note: I’m always in favor of trying on and purchasing dive gear from your Local Dive Shop (LDS) – your LDS will provide the best service, and help you find the best fit. Plus, they need the support to stay running and helping the sport through lessons and dive travel coordination, etc.  

If you don’t have a good LDS nearby, there are direct links below to help you out.  

Some combination of the following thermal dive gear items are always in my favorite dive bag

Frogskin hooded thermal vest

This item is great, but is a little hard to find – I ordered mine from Australia. It’s light and has a fleecy lining. Pretty comparable to a Lavacore garment, which would be a good alternative, though Frogskin stuff dries a little faster, doesn’t get as stinky, and – for me – provided a slightly better fit.  I had the socks, too, but I lost them…saving up again…)

Neosport 2mm vest

This simple neoprene vest is a staple layer in my diving gear arsenal. I use it as an alternative to the Frogskin.  I also always pack it on dive trips in case I want to add a layer for a night dive, or toward the end of the week. 

Henderson Aqualock 5mm hood 

I found this hood on Amazon last year, and I’m in love.  It comes in sizes, so it fits my larger noggin perfectly without squeezing my face or compressing my neck down. It has super warm and cozy felted fleece on the inside and also dries pretty quickly. All around it’s a great and well-constructed product.

And the best part is that Henderson stands by all their dive garments and offers a 10-year warranty – check and register at the time of your purchase. 

Henderson full 5mm Thermoprene Pro

I’ve always liked Henderson, but when I upgraded to this 5mm Thermoprene Pro, it was well worth it. 

The whole suit is very stretchy and comfy, and their size chart was quite accurate.  I’m larger on top and have average-narrower hips, and the fit is great (there is a little room in the hip and butt area, but not enough to make me colder). 

The interior material is a little vulnerable to abrasion from the suit’s own strong velcro closure tab, but I’m relieved to report that it’s still holding up really great after about a year (and counting) of heavy use.

It also dries really quickly for a 5mm. 

Women: I’ve also read hundreds of happy reviews of the Bare Evoke suits, and it sounds like they’re a little better for those of you with narrower shoulders and smaller waists, perhaps. I’ve never tried one, so I can’t vouch for it, but it is an extremely popular choice among many social media groups for female divers. Worth a look!

Henderson full Greenprene wetsuit

Even though I love the Thermoprene Pro line a lot, I was still kind of chilly this past Feb and March, and a trusted friend convinced me to try the eco-friendly Greenprene suit. I’m so glad I did!  

I feel better about the non-petroleum-based materials (see the video, below) and best of all: this thing is toasty warm!  I tried the 3mm, but this season I’m seriously considering getting the greenprene in the 7mm version, so I can hopefully go without a supplementary vest through March and also have it for another dive trip I have planned for next Winter. 

BTW, A double extra shout-out for innovation behind the Henderson Greenprene wetsuits.

Take a look at the Henderson YouTube video below (or here) explaining the completely petroleum-free manufacturing process.

This new eco-friendly wetsuit from Henderson is even careful regarding the packaging, as they mention shipping it out with more environmentally conscious packaging, using little to no plastic, soy inks, recycled paper.  I’m loving it. 

That video review in the link above also happens to feature one of my UW photography heroes, Stephen Frink, so…I’m impressed. And happy to support the cause.

I can’t wait until Henderson adds more thermal diving garments to this petroleum-free product range. 

Great Light Thermal Gear for Diving in the Warm Season

Ahhhhh, the warmer months in Cozumel are HOT on land, but the diving is divine. 

You can definitely ease off on the thermal! No more bulky layers, and a much lighter dive bag

No matter how warm the water is, I am never really hot by the end of a nice looooong drift dive in Cozumel, so I stick with the long pants and long sleeves.

During the hot days from June through October, I usually reach for a long-sleeved shorty wetsuit with simple leggings or running tights underneath. 

I also store that more substantial hood for next winter and swap in my favorite light beanie hood

It’s also a great feeling to go back to barefoot in my favorite full foot fins, though I now often add some light socks anyway, just to make the fins extra comfortable. 

Here’s my own tried and true summer Cozumel diving wardrobe, just to give you an idea of what you might want to bring along: 

Any old socks, or my Lavacore socks for a little padding and warmth

If I’m doing a shore dive, I will bring light booties or some aqua-socks I have with little grippies on the soles.  Otherwise, a simple pair of lycra socks, an old pair of Lavacore or other dive socks, or even just a pair of cotton peds or tennis socks will do.  Ideally, I like to just go barefoot in my Cressi fins when I can, but sometimes I need a little extra protection or padding. 

NeoSport (also from Henderson) long-sleeved shorty suit in 3mm or 5mm

I copied one of my old mentors on this long-sleeved-shorty wetsuit vibe, and I’ve done so ever since.  Donning this suit could not be easier, especially thanks to the front-zip.  

I can wear anything under it, too – like the thin layer vest in the transition months, and whatever diving pants or leggings I have around. It’s all way easier and lighter to stash in my gear bag and wash out and dry at the end of the day.  

Any old leggings or running tights

Just look for ones you like that are more on the “quick-dry” side, as they’re just lighter and easier. I’d look for running gear on sale at TJ Maxx or something – or at Chedraui if I’m in Cozumel. 

A good tip you probably know: the lack of “diving brand” logos usually means a little less $$ 

Aqualung Hot-Head beanie hood (with velcro chin strap)

I’ve gone through 2-3 of these beanie hoods over the last…8 years?  I wear the thing every day for about 8-9 months out of the year. 

All I can say is I hope they never stop making it, though there are other great ones on the market. (It’s also THE best and easiest thing I found to finally keep my hair tamed and out of the way, no matter what haircut I have at the time). 

Cressi Pro-Reaction full-foot, warm water fins

On rare occasions, the Cozumel currents get the better of these all-around quality fins, but I’ve worn these for years and years on dives all over the world, and they’re nice, have a great fit, and good for some power and (especially) many finesse situations around the reefs.  

Best of all, they’re not expensive. Great value.

Hit up your local dive shop to try them on for size and support your LDS.

But if you’re on the move, order some via the link, above (and go by their European sizing – very accurate).   

When the Cozumel water temps are extra-warm, this modified kit of lighter thermal dive gear is so much easier and less bulky, I love it. 

The Scuba Surface Interval Stay-Warm Kit Advise

Most scuba diving in Cozumel consists of two-tank boat dives, where you go out in the morning for your first dive, and then stay on the boat or a nearby beach during the surface interval (or “S.I”), and then immediately suit back up for dive #2. 

On a clear sunny day, the surface interval may be a perfect time to take off your wetsuit and let the sun warm you up for a little while, though without exposing yourself to too many tropical UV rays.  

But in Jan-March, especially, it may also be the time to throw on your diver’s boat coat and a warm hat – especially if it’s a little cloudy and/or windy that day.  

Most of the time, Cozumel’s weather is spectacular, but packing for diving is all about anticipating potential problems and heading them off at the pass, right?  

Often it’s the surface interval that really gets divers chilly, when they haven’t packed a light jacket or a towel or anything dry for in-between dives. 

In that spirit, I also recommend you throw a few of these goodies in your dive bag

A good, light rain jacket

I have tried many, but these two are my current favorites:

This extremely nice one from Marmot is pricey, but after years of cheap-os, splurging on this was like finally getting that new car that won’t break down or those really good shoes.

It’s now my go-to for a really rainy-looking day. I got it after getting tired of the many other lesser models’ zippers failing and coatings wearing off.  I’ve had this jacket in my gear bag for two years and counting, and I’m just committed to taking better care of it. I rinse it in fresh water every few days and make sure the zippers stay clean and clear of any salt spray. (try gliding an old chapstick over all your zippers to help them stay viable)

This other one is my more utilitarian version. Lots of good vents and pockets and cinchers. I use this on days that I do not expect any serious weather (though it’ll work just fine if that happens…I just trust the other one a teeny bit more for serious rain.) 

A light fleece shell or flannel shirt 

These days, I really like to use a button-up fleece shirt or a chamois shirt (do they still call them that? My LL Bean catalog days are showing…).

Why?  No zippers. 

Zippers and Cozumel really don’t mix well, so I now often look for garments with buttons, instead.

Fleece shirts, or light-mid flannel shirts, are warm and just cozy enough, even if they get a little wet. They’re also as light as a feather for the dive bag.

A good sun-protective camp shirt

Camp shirts or fishing shirts are high SPF layers that are awesome all year round, and a key thing to pack on any trip.

Unlike T-shirts or rashguards, they protect your neck and chest from the strong sun. Plus, they’re light and they dry super fast.  Having a couple of these in my bag is a MUST when I travel for diving now, too – or really anywhere I might get caught out in too much sun.  

They’re also a great layer for throwing in the other direction – as in, if you get caught in strong air-conditioning – like on the plane, or in a restaurant or museum.  

This Columbia convertible long-sleeve style is one of my favorites and comes in a huge array of cool colors via Amazon.  

Good hat for sun and water

Preferably waterproof or quick-dry, and extra points for a neck flap for effective and reef-friendly sun protection (usually removable/retractable), or just be sure to rely on your favorite baseball cap.  

I have this exact hat for diving and dive travel, and love it because it is small, light, dries super fast, and the neck sun shield can be fully removed when you don’t need it (and then easily reattached when you do).

In the winter, I’ll also bring a knit or fleece beanie hat with me on the boat to really warm up and preserve core temp during the surface interval. 

Do We Need Wetsuits in Cozumel? 

TL;DR:  Yes, most of us do. 

Cozumel is a really nice warm place to vacation and a nice and warm place to dive.  

But many divers still get chilly after several days of repetitive diving, and it’s always better to err on the side of too warm than too cold when it comes to diver safety. 

Most regulars (including local divemasters) in Cozumel dive in a 1-3mm wetsuit in the Summer months, and upgrade to a 3mm-5mm long suit in the Winter months.  

Generally speaking, we have great diving conditions all year: 

  • The water temperatures in Cozumel range from about 83F/28C during our Summer months – so, from about July through September. 
  • Then diving water temperatures go down just a touch to about 78F/25C in the coldest few months – usually February-March.  
  • Aside from those two ends of the spectrum, the water temperatures hover around 80F/26C throughout the rest of the year. 

There are not many hazardous animals in the Cozumel reef system, but you also never know when you might accidentally brush up against fire coral, a bristle worm, or a few small jellyfish-type critters near the surface. 

Full coverage with your wetsuit or a long-sleeved dive skin and rash guard can go a long way, not only to prevent any stings but to keep you protected from the strong Caribbean sun without introducing sunscreen chemicals to the coral reefs.

For high-quality reef-safe sunscreen, mask de-fog, and hair products, try Stream 2 Sea brand (and use our partner code “COZINFO” at checkout for 10% off!). They’re awesome and have the research to back up their good name. 

Finally, while you’re thinking about what to pack for your dive trip, check out our general recommendations in the text box at the end of this article for water-worthy adventure gear we always pack – just in case!


If you’ve never been here before, check out this post all about Diving in Cozumel (hint: it is always a great diving destination). 

And to help plan a trip here and check out all the other things the island has to offer, and some of the fun stuff to do in downtown Cozumel.  


Cozumel Packing Advice: Rainy Any-Day Gear

Like all gorgeous tropical islands, Cozumel has blue skies, hot sun, lush foliage, and palm trees.  

Occasional and short bursts of rain come with the territory.  

BTW: Don’t worry if you see rain each day on your weather forecast app!
Usually, if it even happens, it’s very brief (and often followed by a rainbow).

Here are CozInfo’s top water-friendly items to always pack for your trip to Cozumel (or anywhere!): 

Light Rain Jacket with a hood like this one.  

These jackets don’t take up much room in your bag, but provide great protection from sudden showers, sun (especially on a dive boat), and can even serve as a warm layer on the airplane.  

Truly waterproof dry bag(s) for your phones, wallets, and important papers. 

All-terrain tennis shoes that are hip and stylish enough take you from walking around town, to snorkeling in the clear blue Caribbean, and then back to lunch at a cool cafe. 

I love mine, but note that these are wildly popular right now, so best to order in advance.

Water-tight dry box for your phone, keys, and wallet, especially IF you’re diving and might find yourself on a small fast boat, without tons of protected space on board.  These boxes will withstand immersion, so they’ll be fine with some rain.  The quality ones are also crush-proof – just in case.  (I think of it as a pretty cheap insurance policy for my iPhone…and all the information that’s on my iPhone!)

Rachel

Rachel runs and writes CozInfo.com when she's not diving, taking underwater photos, or trying a new local restaurant. After decades of project managing some mighty fine exhibition design projects in NYC, she took an adult gap year to pursue her divemaster training in Cozumel...and never made it back.