7 Best Places to Scuba Dive in Cancun

Last Updated: February 14, 2023

Cancun is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit in Mexico. With stunning beaches, spectacular marine wildlife, and calm, warm seas, it is also one of the world’s most loved places to take part in scuba diving and snorkeling.

There are many scuba diving spots close to Cancun. Some of the best include Manchones Reef, Manta Valley, and Cenote Zapote.

In this article, I list the top seven scuba diving spots in Cancun. You can also read about the specific conditions of each dive and what you need to know before you head out.

Best Scuba Diving in Cancun – Top 7 Places

1. Underwater Museum (MUSA)

cancun - underwater museum

The Cancun Underwater Museum, known locally as the Museo Subacuático de Arte, is one of the world’s largest underwater snorkeling and scuba diving museums.

Essentially an underwater sculpture garden, it has been designed to provide a spectacular underwater artistic experience as well as protect the region’s coral reefs by providing a protected area for divers to explore.

The museum was the brainchild of Jaime Gonzalez Canto, who employed British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor to help bring his vision to life. First built in 2009, today there are over 500 sculptures scattered throughout the Cancun National Marine Park.

You can experience the museum in several ways:

  • Scuba Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • In a regular boat
  • In a glass-bottomed boat

Even though there are hundreds of sculptures to admire, make sure you check out Jason deCaires Taylor’s The Silent Evolution and Anthropocene, two of the highlights of the park.

WATCH VIDEO: Jason deCaires Taylor's Underwater Sculptures

Things to know

The Museo Subacuático de Arte is located within the boundaries of the Cancun National Marine Park. This is between the northern tip of the Hotel Zone and Isla Mujeres.

If your hotel can’t organize a boat trip out to the museum, you can book one of the many local tour operators. Not only will they take you out and back, but they will let you know what you need to bring with you.

Most local pickups are from the Marina Puerto Cancun and the Hotel Zone.

2. Manchones Reef, Isla Mujeres

manchones reef - isla mujeres

A diving trip to Cancun would not be complete without a trip to Manchones Reef, one of the most spectacular sites within Isla Mujeres and the National Marine Park. Here, you can experience the beauty and vibrancy of blue tangs, snappers, wrasse, grunts, as well as elk horn, stag horn, and brain coral.

The reef is also home to larger marine wildlife such as lobsters, king crabs, stingrays, and nurse sharks. If you’re lucky, you will also be able to see large parrotfish, queen angelfish, and spotted trunkfish.

With part of the reef abutting the Museo Subacuático de Arte, you can include a viewing of two spectacular sculptures, The Man on Fire and The Ernest Hemingway Desk.

For those with a religious interest, the Cruz de la Bahia (Cross of the Bay) was installed here in 1997.

WATCH VIDEO: Scuba Diving Manchones Reef

Things to know

The reef is 10 meters (33 feet) deep and suitable for both beginners and experienced certified divers.

The water is generally warm, with temperatures sitting comfortably at 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit). On a good day, visibility is around 20 meters (66 feet).

3. C-58 Wreck

c-58 wreck

The ship known as General Anaya was sunk off the coast of Quintana Roo to help create an artificial reef. Today, it is a popular scuba diving destination.

General Anaya was sold to the Mexican Navy in 1962. Beforehand, the vessel was part of the US Navy and had taken part in the Second World War. Her name at the time was USS Harlequin.

Sitting about 80 feet below the surface, the wreck of C-58 is quite open and divers can swim the whole way around and go inside to see each room.

Only experienced divers should attempt to visit the wreck, for there are strong and unpredictable currents to navigate as you make your way from the surface to the dive site.

If you enjoy marine wildlife, you might keep an eye out for schools of groupers, eagle rays, barracuda, and manta rays.

WATCH VIDEO: C-58 Wreck Dive

Things to know

You can reach the wreck by boat from Puerto Morelos, Isla Mujeres, or Cancun.

It is not recommended to dive during bad weather, so you should check the forecast before you set out.

4. Ultrafreeze Wreck – El Frio

Also known as El Frio, you will find the Ultrafreeze Wreck southeast of Isla Mujeres. This is one of Cancun’s most well-known dives, thanks to its abundant marine life.

The wreck is 110 meters (250 feet) long and can be found 29 (90 feet) meters down. It was originally towed to its current destination and sunk in 1979, not long after a fire tore through the hull and damaged it beyond repair. In 1992, a strong hurricane passed through the region and it snapped the wreck in half, creating an interesting L-shape and fascinating dive experience.

If you dive El Frio, you’re likely to spot manta rays, barracuda, groupers, and turtles.

WATCH VIDEO: Ultrafreeze Wreck

Things to know

The wreck is between 27 and 33 meters (90 and 110 feet) below the surface. It should only be attempted by experienced divers, who have the knowledge to navigate the particularly strong ocean currents and can use nitrox.

5. Manta Valley

Also known as Bahia de las Mantas, or Valle de Mantas, this offshore diving experience is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself among spectacular, huge, and numerous manta rays.

There are strong, open water currents, so it is not suitable for inexperienced divers. Some diving companies won’t take you out there unless you can prove that you’ve taken part in at least 40 dives.

The mantas that you encounter at Manta Valley are most likely the Giant Manta species and the best time to visit is towards the end of fall when the numbers are at their highest for the year.

WATCH VIDEO: Manta Rays at Manta Valley

Things to know

Manta Valley is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) offshore, so it will take a couple of hours to reach by boat.

The water is usually around 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) and the dive depth is 22 meters (74 feet).

6. Cenote Zapote

cenote zapote

Mexico is famous for its cenotes, the naturally-forming sinkholes that are dotted across the landscape. Over time, they have been filled with water and are now some of the most popular diving sites in the world.

Cenotes Zapote is a conglomeration of four distinct cenotes, two with an above-ground opening and two that are completely underground. It is located close to the beach in Puerto Morelos, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Cancun.

Cenote Zapote is more than a cenote, it is an amusement park with a variety of activities to choose from. You can jump into the cenote from a platform, take an aquatic zip line, and snorkel as you like.

You can also take part in one of the 3 tours they have on offer:

  1. Chaka tour – You visit all four cenotes, test your mettle on the water zipline, and enjoy downtime on the hammocks.
  2. Zapote tour – While vising all four cenotes, you can jump from a platform, zoom the water zipline, and then take a rest on the hammocks. When you’re ready, you can also enjoy the culinary delights of a regional buffet that includes tacos and handmade tortillas.
  3. Chechen tour – For the most adventurous out there, this tour allows you to jump from a platform, try the water zipline and take to the path on the bicycle circuit. You will also be able to try the 500-meter Jungle zipline, as well as a delicious regional buffet.

And if all that activity isn’t enough, you can collect your scuba gear and enjoy one of the most spectacular cenote dives in Mexico.

WATCH VIDEO: Cenotes Zapote

Things to know

As a resort-style adventure park, you will have to pay to go on one of the three tours, with the prices ranging from 40 to 99 USD.

7. Sleeping Sharks Cave, Isla Mujeres

Don’t let the name scare you. Sleeping Sharks Cave, located just off the Isla Mujeres, is a safe and beautiful place for a scuba dive.

It was discovered about 50 years ago when local man Carlos Garcia Castilla was exploring the island, he found a deep cave filled with sharks. What’s more, they all appeared to be sleeping.

Scientists have long understood that most sharks need to keep swimming to survive, to ensure that enough oxygen passes over their gills.

How do the sharks of Sleeping Sharks Cave survive? Scientists have found that the cave has very high levels of oxygen thanks to an underwater spring, and reduced salinity, which means that it is the perfect place for them to rest, while still getting the oxygen they need.

WATCH VIDEO: Sleeping Shark Cave - Isla Mujeres

Things to know

The cave is about 20 meters (65 feet) from the surface. The sharks aren’t always in the cave, so be sure to check with your tour guide before you go to maximize your chances of seeing them when you dive.

Read on to find out more about the state of scuba diving in Cancun.

Is Scuba Diving in Cancun Good?

Absolutely, Cancun not only has the best spots to scuba dive in Mexico, it is also one of the most spectacular places in the world for diving. With splendid visibility, calm waters during the dry season (December to May), and a range of different attractions, there is something for everyone.

You can enjoy:

  • Diving the spectacular depths of Mexico’s famous cenotes
  • Exploring the shipwrecks that dot the coastline and form artificial reefs
  • Visiting over 500 of the underwater sculptures in MUSA, the Underwater Museum
  • Immersing yourself in populations of manta rays at Manta Valley
  • Marveling at the beautiful marine life of the coastal reefs

And the best part is that there are scuba diving options for beginners, those with a little experience under their belts, and seasoned professionals.

Best Time to Scuba Dive in Cancun

Even though you can dive in Cancun throughout the year, the best time to visit for a dive is during the dry season. At this time of year, the water is at its warmest, the seas are calm and you’re unlikely to be troubled by storms or hurricanes.

For the most part, the water is generally warm, between 29 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit) in the summer and 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) in the winter.

How Deep Can You Dive in Cancun?

Thanks to Cancun’s famously clear waters, you can dive to around 30 meters (100 feet) deep. This is true for both open water and cenote dives.

Final Thoughts

With pristine beaches and beautiful summer weather, Mexico is famous for its aquatic attractions. People around the world are attracted to Cancun, which has some of the best diving experiences the country has to offer.

To help you decide which of Cancun’s diving spots is best for you, I’ve listed seven of the best.

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