We studied physiological traits of 12 Criollo cocoa cultivars growing in a germplasm bank in the southern region of Maracaibo Lake Basin, during the rainy (RS) and dry seasons (DS) of 2007. A further evaluation of photosynthetic responses to changes in environmental parameters was done on three cultivars: Los Caños 001 (LCA001), Sur Porcelana 010 (SP010) and Escalante 001 (ESC001) in 2009 and 2010. Leaf water potential (ΨL) of most cultivars decreased during the DS of 2007, with the exception of ESC001. Maximum photosynthetic rate (Amax), stomatal conductance and water use efficiency varied among cultivars and seasons. The CO2-saturated photosynthetic rate (ACO2sat) was higher in LCA001 and ESC001 than in SP010, with no differences in carboxylation efficiency. Light curve responses of the three cultivars were similar. In all cultivars, no evidence of chronic photoinhibition was observed, since maximum quantum yield of photosystem II was high (0.77–0.81). We conclude that ESC001 has the best physiological performance (ΨL remained unchanged, highest Amax, ACO2sat and photochemical activity), and it seems to be a promising cultivar for cocoa agroforestry systems in the southern region of Maracaibo.