To the majority of scuba divers, Mexico is known as a diving hub with beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and most importantly unparalleled dive sites. For many years, Mexico’s Caribbean coast served as an amazing spot for divers flying into Cancun, traveling to Playa Del Carmen and then ferrying over to Cozumel. However, over the past decade, many divers have chosen to stay in the Riviera Maya to explore Mexico’s hidden dive spots. From standard reef diving to intriguing Cenotes (subterranean sinkholes), there is something for every level of diver.
If you are planning a trip to Mexico in the near or distant future, then here are some of the top dive sites that should not be missed…
Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya and Costa Maya
In general, divers say that the best diving in Mexico is found along the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya areas, where the Yucatan Peninsula meets the calm, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. The crystal clear, blue waters of the Caribbean are certainly hard to beat and offer idyllic conditions for both advanced and beginner scuba divers.
Usually, the best diving in Mexico is found in the most remote locations such as the protected Banco Chinchorro. This unbelievable coral atoll is found off the coast of Costa Maya, not far from the border between Mexico and Belize. It is the western hemisphere’s largest coral atoll and is on most seasoned diver’s bucket lists. Not only is it hard to get to, it benefits from its remote location as well as requires special permits from the Mexican Federal Government in order to access this beautiful location.
There really are no words to describe what it feels like to explore Banco Chinchorro and to know that you are most likely one of the only dive boats diving this atoll that stretches for over 600 square miles. With less that 1% being above water, this atoll has been witness to almost 200 wrecks, which date back to the 16th century. It is one of those dive sites where the sheer beauty can be intensely overwhelming for divers.
If you have a stomach for the high seas, why not find a center going out to this deserted location and join them on this dive. It is certainly a challenge from finding a dive center that has the permits to getting out there, but it is most certainly worth it.
Grand Cenote Island
It’s all in the name. This large Cenote is one of the most popular diving and snorkeling sites in the Riviera Maya. It is located on the highway to the Mayan ruins in Coba just outside the city of Tulum. Access to this impressive sinkhole could not be easier. This majestic pool can be enjoyed by divers and non-divers alike and is a great place to take the family to cool down and explore in the hot summer months. Once you reach this magical site, you will find a huge parking area and a staircase leading to this large, crescent-shaped Cenote. Take a huge stride off the platform and you enter the cool world of the Cenote. Beneath the lily pads you will see an ethereal underwater ballroom, which then leads to endless cave systems, passageways, and chambers. Huge stalagmites, stalactites, and columns pierce through the water providing endless wonder and adventure. This is certainly not a spot to be missed by any diver.
Dos Ojos is one of the most famous and most often visited cavern dive sites out of the Rivera Maya’s Cenotes. In English, Dos Ojos means ‘two-eyes’ and refers to these two neighboring Cenotes, which connect into one very large cavern zone. These two cenotes appear like two eyes peering into the underworld below. The original cave diving exploration of the whole cave system within the Riviera Maya began through these cenotes. These are two very different cave systems, which start and end in the same place.
The first dive called ‘The Barbie Line’ on its 500m circuit, leads divers along the opening of the second eye, containing plenty of daylight and provides a lot of space for divers to explore the huge columns and stalactites.
The second dive is called ‘The Bat Cave Line’ and feels like you are cave diving. It is the darker of the two and leads to an air-filled bat cave where there is little light penetration.
This amazing dive site is definitely one for your list.
Cancun and Playa Del Carmen
Most of the scuba diving in Mexico takes place off the Caribbean coast from Cancun and playa Del Carmen as well as the nearby islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. The combination of beauty laid back environments, warm, crystal clear waters and phenomenal marine life makes this place a divers haven.
The Underwater Museum or MUSA is one of the major attractions for scuba divers traveling to Mexico from all over the world, due to its incredible life-sized sculptures. It is located in the waters between Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc and is home to over 500 life-sized pieces of art. This underwater museum was created in order to divert tourists away from other reef systems in order to protect them and to help them recover. This incredible exhibition is home to a number of marine species and is an incredible artificial ecosystem. Scuba dive or swim with nurse sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and many other reef fish, amongst the art that was created to provide a medium for coral growth as well as hiding homes for moray eels and damselfish.
This dive site is located approximately 25 minutes by boat from the marina at Playa Del Carmen and consists of a wall, which extends between 20 and 30 meters deep. This dive site is usually a drift dive, which allows you to see the wall in all its glory. From the spectacular corals, sponges, sea fans and a myriad of macro-invertebrates that cover this wall, you will certainly not be disappointed on this dive. The wall is also home to many reef fish moray eels, turtles, and stingrays.
Sloping rivers of sand divide sections of the wall and you will frequently see larger pelagic species, given that the reef is located in the middle of a sandy plain.
This is a popular dive site and provides access to some beautiful and healthy coral reef systems. This dive site opens up to many other dive sites or can be enjoyed on its own. It is located east of Cancun’s hotel zone and is home to beautifully colored coral as well as a diverse array of marine life, which include, barracuda, sharks, and rays.
Akumal and Tulum
South of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen is the Bustling town of Akumal, which is known for its European vibe. Off the coast of Tulum and Akumal are beautiful dive sites, which not only have excellent visibility but also are only a short 5 minutes boat ride off the coast. You are likely to see turtles, barracuda, lobsters, stingrays and nursing sharks.
Seeing as Cozumel is home to some of the best dive sites in the world, we have chosen to create a whole post dedicated to diving in this area, so stay tuned to read all about the amazing dive locations that this island and the surrounding reefs have to offer.