Mexico has remained a popular vacation destination for several reasons – stunning sandy beaches, delicious cuisines, and friendly locals. But ask any underwater enthusiast and they will confidently tell you that diving in Mexico is the main draw.
There are numerous dive spots and sceneries to explore on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. From the normal reef diving to the fascinating subterranean sinkholes (Cenotes), the underwater world on this side of the universe’s got something for every diver.
Whether you are eyeing a cage dive with the great white sharks, want to explore the beautiful and mysterious freshwater caves, or just looking to do a gentle drift dive in the reef gardens of Cozumel, this guide shows you where to go so you can make the most out of your diving vacation in Mexico. So here are our top 10 spots for the best scuba diving in Mexico.
Located about 10 miles off Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is the largest island in Mexico. It houses the amazing nurse sharks, eagle rays, and a huge number of tropical fish species.
One of the best and most popular dive spots in Cozumel is Palancar Reef, where several different coral formations blend to form an incredible underwater ecosystem. For instance:
- The Palancar Gardens located at the north of the reef features beautiful caverns. The Little Caves area accommodates gorgeous tunnels and passageways, surrounded by vibrant coral. These parts are shallow and could be the best for people who are still learning how to snorkel or scuba dive.
- Deep Palancar provides flawless and pure natural beauty and a wide variety of marine life. Columbia Reef provides some of the most mind-blowing deep dives, with giant coral pinnacles, some going up to 90 feet tall. Santa Roosa Reef affords amazing coral overhangs, gigantic sponges, and friendly groupers. These are the best areas for pro divers.
Diving in Cozumel is possible all year round. However, the best time to book your trip would be between May and November. The waters are usually warm at this time, dive sites are not so crowded, and conditions are generally calm. To see the bull shark, consider a period between November and March.
2. Banco Chinchorro
The most remote locations are known to hide the best spots for diving in Mexico. Banco Chinchorro is one of these and not only is it difficult to reach, but one also requires a special permit from the Federal Government of Mexico to dive here.
This outstanding coral atoll is located off Coasta Maya’s Coast and is the largest in the Western hemisphere. Banco Chinchorro houses almost 200 wrecks, dating back to the 17th century, coral walls and canyons. This is actually one of the sites where you will be intensely overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the underwater world.
Cancun is found in the northeastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula and is among the spots that provide the best scuba diving in Mexico. The tranquil white sands, beach parties, and stunning resorts make it a tourists’ hot spot.
MUSA Underwater Museum is one of the most popular scuba diving and snorkeling spots in Cancun and attracts thousands of divers every year. Here, over 400 lifelike statues are sunken at the bottom of the sea and as corals grow, they attract fish and other marine creatures to the spot.
Cancun is the highlight of all diving in Yucatan and you should not leave Mexico without having a taste of the underwater world on this site. Make sure to visit Isla Mujeres, especially if you are making your trip during the whale shark season.
And of course, do not forget the cenotes regardless of your diving experience. Some cenotes are only allowed for snorkelers and swimmers, others allow recreational and intermediate divers, and some will only allow highly skilled cave divers. So, no matter what level you are, you surely should check out the dive spots near Tulum along the coast, Playa Del Carmen, or near Merida.
The most effective way to get to Cancun would be by air. Being a popular tourist destination, it has numerous flights servicing it from almost every part of the US. You will therefore have no trouble finding a flight to this amazing spot. If you love long treks and backpacking trips, you can use the overland route either from Belize to Cancun or from Guatemala to Cancun.
4. Gran Cenote Island
This is yet another popular site for snorkeling and scuba diving in Mexico. Accessing this impressive sinkhole is easy, as it is situated on the highway that leads to the Mayan ruins.
Gran Cenote can be enjoyed by both divers and non-divers. If you are planning a getaway for the whole family, this would be a great place to include in your bucket list.
This majestic pool provides a huge parking area as well as a staircase that leads to the crescent-shaped Cenote, which is used to enter the magical marine world of the Cenote. Have your diving camera or underwater drone ready and capture those endless chambers, passageways, and cave systems.
Get those monster stalactites, columns, and stalagmites on flick too as they glide through the water. A truly breathtaking and wondrous adventure that you do not want to miss!
5. Playa Del Carmen
Located in Yucatan, Playa Del Carmen is yet another destination that provides endless fun to divers. Though not as busy as the nearby Cancun, Playa Del Carmen boasts some of the most gorgeous dive spots. With stunning white sand beaches and plenty of seashells, this spot would be perfect for any diver who would like to add sand bathing, seashells collecting, and other beach games to their marine fun.
Cenotes are not the only wonder to see at this spot; there are plenty of on-land attractions and offshore dives to explore too. One experience you don’t want to miss is the seasonal bull shark dive. Every year between November and March, pregnant bull sharks flock here to give birth, and as the saying goes, “Where girls go, boys follow”. So you can expect to see plenty of male bull sharks here as well.
Those who scuba dive with sharks can tell you that the bulls are the most dangerous of all shark species. Sure, the great white has its bad reputation but most shark attacks are in most cases associated with the bull sharks.
During a bull shark dive, your dive shop takes you offshore where you can watch as they hand-feed the monster sharks. A sight worth documenting!
This is a smaller and a much quieter version of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun. It is a great place to explore the amazing cenotes. If you are a backcountry junkie, you can also spend some time enjoying the serene and pristine Sian Ka’an Reserve. This would be an amazing spot for turtle lovers.
Tulum is great for backpacking and scuba diving. Many outdoor enthusiasts set up their camping tents here and spend countless days and nights enjoying the memorable moments with what Mother Nature has to offer.
If you like something fancier, you could stay in Playa and still visit the cenotes in Tulum, but that will mean a longer drive. Most people prefer the quieter and more remote Tulum where the cenotes are much easier to access and the nights more peaceful.
Like most Mexican towns on the coast, Tulum prides itself on quality and peaceful beaches where you can relax after diving the cenotes. You can also check out the offshore dives around the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
Cenotes are the main diving jewels of Tulum. Whether you are a cave diver, open water diver, or snorkeler, there are enough cenotes for everyone. Even though the majority are only open to recreational and experienced divers, some can be experienced by all divers.
You can visit Tulum at any time of the year. If you are looking for great visibility and a time with less crowd, however, then between May and November would be the best time to head for a dive in the Caribbean.
7. Puerto Vallarta
Located in Bahia de Banderas, Puerto Vallarta hides some of the most amazing spots for diving in Mexico. Tourists flock here to spend time on the spectacular beaches and enjoy the laid back resort lifestyle provided by this site.
Most of the dive spots in this area are located in Los Arcos and Marietas Islands. Some of the underwater features to explore here are the coral reefs, caves, tunnels, and rock formations.
Puerto Vallarta experiences mild currents during the day, which provides the ideal conditions for beginner diving courses. If you are having trouble improving your buoyancy control or saving air when diving, for instance, and want to perfect these before you take your scuba tank for a dive, you can take advantage of the courses offered here.
Los Arcos, El Morro, El Sequential, Los Anegados, and El Chimo are the most popular dive spots in Puerto Vallarta. The blue waters in Los Arcos provide an amazing home for giant manta rays, large pelagics, and spotted eagle rays.
El Morro consists of large pinnacles and caves and will get you spending time with a bounty of fish, coral, and marine life. El Sequial hides sailfish and tuna but you can encounter sharks on certain occasions.
Los Anegados accommodates tunas, jacks, and manta rays. You can also find nurse sharks, eagle rays, and moray eels in the rocky banks. For green sea turtles and large loggerheads, El Chimo’s got you covered.
To access the dive spots in Puerto Vallarta, you will use the motorboats located offshore. Every site provides a unique experience, and therefore it would be wise to plan on where you want to visit to have a memorable dive.
Veracruz is yet another spot that provides the thrill of the underwater world. It is not as popular as the rest of the sites we have listed above but in recent years, more and more diving enthusiasts have started embracing the hidden beauty the water garden has to offer.
There are numerous shipwrecks on this site and healthy corals that provide an awesome diving experience. Most of the dive spots in Veracruz are located in the southern part and provide clear waters and plenty of marine life.
Among the sites that you should visit on your trip to Veracruz include Anton Lizardo, Isla Sacrificios, Rica Partida, USS Tacoma, and El Hidalgo Shipwrecks. All these areas are easily accessible from the beach and will make your dive expedition worth every while.
The coral reefs and abundant sea life are experiences you don’t want to miss. The dolphins, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, tunas, and humpback whales will really give you something to remember too. Not forgetting the magnificent shipwrecks at El Hidalgo.
9. The Boiler, San Benedicto
Located in Revillagigedo Islands off Baja Peninsula, this site is reputed for its amazing underwater encounters such as the hammerheads, humpback whales, and the monster oceanic manta rays. The crystal clear waters provide the best visibility for marine life sightings.
The Boiler is probably one of the best sites for advanced diving. New divers would need to take introductory classes to learn the basics of scuba diving including scuba diving breathing techniques, how to maintain buoyancy when underwater, as well as the most important dive safety gear to have underwater, before proceeding.
10. Puerto Escondido
This is the most remote site on our list but one of the areas where you will get the best scuba diving in Mexico. It will get you doing a little bit of trekking on land to get to it but the nice beaches and fewer crowds will be worth the hassle.
Puerto Escondido is a great spot for scuba diving, backpacking, and surfing. The climate is almost optimal all year round, which makes it a wonderful beach site for Mexican families.
The waters in this region provide diverse sea life including unexplored corals and fish species. During your plunge, you will possibly have an encounter with moray eels, angelfish, turtles, stonefish, butterflyfish, and groupers.
The most popular dive spots in Puerto Escondido include Punta Colorada, Roca Blanca, and Pressure point. Punta Colorada and Pressure Point are sites for beginners and shelter colorful fish species like angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, pufferfish, and triggerfish.
Roca Blanca on the other hand is reserved for advanced divers. Extreme caution is required due to the strong waves experienced in the area. Marine creatures to see in Roca Blanca include oysters, dolphins, turtles, and tuna.
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Mexico has been a great destination for marine life lovers, hikers, and all sorts of outdoor junkies. Not only does it house the most gorgeous spots for diving but also provides impressive landscapes for backcountry enthusiasts.
If you are planning a scuba dive trip to Mexico, make sure to prepare adequately. Have the right equipment on your scuba diving checklist. Learn all the dos and don’ts of the game. A little scuba diving etiquette would also go a long way in maintaining a good blend with the locals and other divers.
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