10 Best Places to Scuba Dive in Mexico

Are you planning a trip to Mexico in hopes of experiencing the world-renowned, breathtaking underwater views? Here are the best scuba diving sites Mexico has to offer.

Best Scuba Diving in Mexico – Top 10 Places

Between the Gulf and Pacific coasts, as well as extensive freshwater cave systems, Mexico has thousands of dive sites. Consequently, Mexico is considered the best place in the world to scuba dive, whether you are an expert, a novice diver, or somewhere in between.

#1. Cancun – Underwater Museum

cancun - underwater museum

The Underwater Museum (MUSA) is a non-profit organization devoted to conservation as an art form and is situated in Cancun. The museum contains of 500 sculptures by foreign and local sculptors in three distinct galleries buried between three and six meters (9.8 and 19.6 ft) deep in the ocean within the Cancun National Marine Park.

The intention behind the museum is to alleviate tourism strains on other adjacent sites, while also acting as a spur for fresh coral growth. You can weave and wind through several breath-taking art installations and view all the underwater majesty that Cancun has to offer.

There are multiple tours available daily and are suitable for both snorkelers and novice divers.

WATCH VIDEO: Underwater Museum of Art

WhereCaribbean, Yucatan Peninsula – along the Riviera Maya
WhenDecember to April
Water temperature77-84°F / 25-29°C
What you can expect to seeYou can see a variety of tropical reef fish, as well as dolphins, turtles, and nurse sharks at the Underwater Museum.
Experience neededThis dive site is recommended for beginners.
PricingFrom $58

#2. Cozumel – Palancar Reef

cozumel - palancar reef

If you ask a local diver to give you their favorite dive sites in Cozumel area, they’ll almost certainly recommend the Palancar Reef locations.

The four Palancar Reef dive sites, located on the island’s southeast coast, feature coral pinnacles that ascend from the sandy ocean floor and gradually slope downward, creating a dive site suited for divers of all skill levels.

Gentle currents and pristine, shallow waters may also be enjoyed as you wind your way through swim-throughs, tunnels, and the impressive reef wall, observing a variety of tropical fish along the way. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of an eagle ray or a nurse shark.

WATCH VIDEO: Palancar Coral Reef

WhereCaribbean – 10 miles off of the Yucatan Peninsula
WhenCozumel typically gets slammed by hurricanes and other inclement weather in September, but is great for diving the other 11 months of the year.
Water temperature77-84°F / 25-29°C
What you can expect to seeBecause the Palancar Reef is part of the Great Maya Barrier Reef system, there are loads of tropical fish, as well as nurse sharks and eagle rays.
Experience neededThis dive site is recommended for beginners.
PricingFrom $59

#3. Cenotes – Dos Ojos

diving at dos ojos

The Yucatan Peninsula is actually a plateau with a network of underwater tunnels, some of which have collapsed into sinkholes. Mexico is possibly the best place in the world to learn how to cave dive.

Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) are two cenotes that resemble two eyes staring down into the abyss. These are two quite different cave systems that begin and end in the same location.

The first dive, dubbed ‘The Barbie Line,’ is a 500m circuit that brings divers around the aperture of the second eye. It has enough of daylight and lots of space for divers to explore the massive columns and stalactites.

The second dive, “The Bat Cave Line,” is the darker of the two, leading to an air-filled bat cave with little light penetration.

WATCH VIDEO: Cenote Diving Dos Ojos

WhereEast coast – south and inland from Playa del Carmen.
WhenAll year
Water temperature77°F / 25°C
What you can expect to seeBecause you are diving in caverns, you should expect to see lots of stalagmites and stalactites.
Experience neededThis site is recommended for intermediate to advanced divers who are comfortable with cave diving.
PricingFrom $14

#4. Socorro Islands – The Boiler

socorro Islands – the boiler

The Revillagigedo Archipelago, recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, are located in the Pacific Ocean 250 miles (400 kilometers) off the Baja Peninsula. They are made up of four volcanic peaks (San Benedicto, Socorro, Roca Partida and Clarión) protruding from an underwater mountain range.

These islands are well-known for their maritime encounters with humpback whales, hammerhead sharks, and, most notably, Giant Oceanic Manta Rays.

The Boiler (on San Benedicto island) is an undewater pinnacle used as a cleaning station by manta rays. It is possibly the most consistent location in the Socorro Islands for manta ray sightings, with five or more sighted on a regular basis.

Its mystique is enhanced by the generally pristine water conditions, making it a recurrent favorite with liveaboard guests. Some divers even claim Socorro to be one of the most beautiful dive sites on Earth.

WATCH VIDEO: Diving El Boiler, Isla San Benedicto

WherePacific Coast – 250 miles (400 km) from the tip of the Baja peninsula (Cabo San Lucas)
WhenNovember to May
Water temperature69°F (21°C) in February to 82°F (28°C) in November
What you can expect to seeDuring the winter months, large populations of humpback whales can be seen in the area, as they like to breed here. All year, you can see whale sharks, hammerheads, and mantas.
Experience neededAdvanced scuba diving skills are recommended for this dive site.
PricingFrom $230/day (only available as a liveaboard trip)

#5. Discovery Bay, Isla Guadalupe

shark cage diving at isla guadalupe

If you consider yourself a thrill-seeker, you will surely want to add Guadalupe Island to your bucket list. It’s one of the few spots in the world where you can dive alongside great white sharks, and it’s located off the coast of Baja California.

Even though you’ll be in a cage, you’ll get an opportunity to glimpse one of the 170 to 180 enormous beasts that lurk in the waterways around the island. During the peak months, it is possible to see up to ten sharks on each dive. In the area, over 200 different species have been identified.

WATCH VIDEO: The Great White Shark of Guadalupe Island

WherePacific Coast – 240km off the Baja Peninsula
WhenAugust to October
Water temperature66-72°F / 19-22°C
What you can expect to seeDiscovery Bay is home to one of the world’s most abundant Great White Shark populations. This is one of the few places on the planet where you can dive with them.
Experience neededThis site is good for beginners, but due to the shark population, only cage diving is permitted. Most operators allow snorkeling in cages on the surface as well as diving in lowered cages.
PricingFrom $240/day (only available as a liveaboard trip)

#6. Bull Shark Dive, Playa del Carmen

bull shark dive - playa del carmen

Consider the bull shark dive in Playa del Carmen if you’re seeking a true adventure experience. Hundreds of these huge sharks arrive in the sandy shallow waters right offshore every year.

Their exact reason for migrating to Playa del Carmen is unknown but many have debated the topic. While some believe it’s because of their birthing rituals, others think it’s because of the freshwater water flow from the cenotes.

Either way, divers who are daring enough can reap the benefits of this yearly journey by swimming alongside these bull sharks. Keep in mind that this dive is not suitable for inexperienced divers.

WATCH VIDEO: Bull Sharks of Playa del Carmen

WhereCaribbean – Yucatan Peninsula, along the Riveria Maya coastline
WhenNovember to March
Water temperature77-84°F / 25-29°C
What you can expect to seeAnnually, a large population of bull sharks mysteriously flock to the sandy bottoms just offshore.
Experience neededThis dive location is not suitable for inexperienced divers. Intermediate to advanced divers will often stay close to the bottom to observe the sharks without moving too much.
PricingFrom $120

#7. Manchones Reef, Isla Mujeres

manchones reef - isla mujeres

Isla Mujeres is located just off the coast of Cancun and is known for the plethora of whale sharks that visit between June and September each year. Manchones Reef, with approximately 800 meters of reef containing elk horn, stag horn, and brain coral, is one of the top dive locations on Isla Mujeres.

“The Man on Fire” and “The Ernest Hemingway Desk”, two notable sculptures from the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), can also be seen at Machones Reef.

Even experienced divers are captivated by the reef’s bright colors and abundant schools of snappers, grunts, wrasse, and blue tangs. Stingrays, nurse sharks, king crabs, and lobsters thrive in the reef’s sandy bottom and hole formations. The giant parrot, queen angel fish, and spotted trunkfish make it an unforgettable experience for divers, as well as photographers, of all skill levels.

WATCH VIDEO: Scuba Diving Manchones Reef

WhereCaribbean – just north of the Yucatan peninsula (close to Cancun)
WhenJune to September
Water temperature77-84°F / 25-29°C
What you can expect to seeThere are only shallow depths at the Manchones Reef dive site, but perhaps the best place in the world to see a large population of whale sharks in one place.
Experience neededThis site is suitable for beginners and those who want to snorkel.
PricingFrom $95 (includes MUSA dive as well)

#8. Banco Chinchorro

diving at banco chinchorro

Banco Chinchorro is the largest coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere, with only 1% of its landmass above water. Due to its secluded locale, entry to this gorgeous location requires a specific license from the Mexican Federal Government.

The atoll’s scuba diving is immaculate, with clear views and a diversified robust marine life and reef. The atoll is protected by a Biosphere Reserve and has shipwrecks, drift dives, and brilliant reefs. There is also a plethora of beautiful black coral, brain coral, and massive barrel sponges.

Due to the excellent visibility of the waters here, as well as the protection from currents provided by the reef, the sites inside the reef are frequently popular among novice divers. Outer reef locations on the Banco Chinchorro, on the other hand, are more difficult and appealing to more experienced divers.

WATCH VIDEO: Scuba Diving at Banco Chinchorro

WhereEast coast – an atoll off the coast of Costa Maya, close to the Mexican/Belize border
WhenMay to November
Water temperature77-84°F / 25-29°C
What you can expect to seeThe marine life and reef are thriving at this location and you should expect to see lots of coral, as well as crocodiles.
Experience neededThis dive site is recommended for beginners.
PricingFrom $275

#9. Gordo Banks, Los Cabos

hammerhead sharks at gordo banks

The top of this seamount is approximately 5 miles (8 kilometers) offshore of San Jose del Cabo, creating a massive platform for watching marine life. Gordo Banks is ideal for observing the various species drawn to the strong currents at the edge of the Baja Peninsula.

If you’re lucky, you could experience a rare sighting of silky sharks or even scalloped hammerhead sharks. However, it is more likely to see snapper, mackerels, jacks, as well as mobula, eagle, and cownose rays.

WATCH VIDEO: Gordo Banks Scuba Diving

WherePacific coast – the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula
WhenAll year
Water temperature75-80°F / 24-27°C
What you can expect to seeThere is such a diverse population of marine life at Gordo Banks that is visible year-round. If you visit from December to March, you are likely to spot humpback whales and mobula rays between June and August.
Experience neededThis dive site has something for every diver, from novice to expert.
PricingFrom $279 (min 2 divers)

#10. Los Islotes, La Paz

sea lions at los islotes

More than 400 sea lions live in Los Islotes, just north of La Paz. Bull sharks vying for position, grazing adults, and lively babies may all be found here. La Paz is a dive site that is welcoming to both snorkelers and scuba divers.

Don’t forget to bring a snorkel if you’re going diving because many winter expeditions have been known to include whale shark encounters. You might also see a humpback or gray whale on your journey to the island at other times of the year.

WATCH VIDEO: Scuba Diving Los Islotes, La Paz

WherePacific coast – between the Mexican mainland and the Baja, CA peninsula
WhenAll year
Water temperatureAround 80°F / 27°C
What you can expect to seeThe Sea of Cortez is home to various species of marine life that can be seen at different times during the year. If you want to see sea lions, you should go between December and May. To see Hammerhead sharks, you should visit in September and October. You can also expect to see grey whales and whale sharks during your dives here.
Experience neededThis site is recommended for divers of all experience levels.
PricingFrom $200

Mexico Diving Season

Simply put, you can find good diving conditions in Mexico any time of the year. The Caribbean is open for diving all year. When the weather isn’t cooperating, go for a dive in cenotes with stunning 100 m clarity and reliably warm water (78˚ F/26˚ C).

While conditions for diving in Mexico are suitable year-round, there are certain times of the year when various species will be in the area. So, if you are interested in observing a particular species, you will want to plan your trip accordingly.

When to See Certain Marine Life

The season for bull sharks runs from November through May. Manta rays can be spotted all year, but whale sharks and thousands of humpback whales visit from January to March to breed and calve. Plankton blooms at this time of year tend to reduce water clarity but increase migratory activity to the area.

The temperatures of Isla Guadalupe’s waters are at their coolest (66-71°F/19-22°C) between August and October, attracting a huge migration of great white sharks. The warmest waters (80°F/27°C) at the Sea of Cortez can be found during these months as well, providing the optimum opportunity for encounters with hammerheads.

If you want to see breath-taking light effects on the cenotes, you should dive at Dos Ojos between May and September.

How Much Does Suba Diving in Mexico Cost?

The prices for dive sites mentioned in this guide reflect single dives. Group rates and multiple-day dives are available as well. In most instances, unless otherwise noted, possession of your scuba certification is assumed.

Generally speaking, scuba diving is an expensive hobby. You should expect to pay around $300 for your diving certification, between $200 and $2,000 for scuba diving equipment, and $75 to $200 per dive.

That being said, once you get your certification and your equipment, your costs really only come from travel and the actual cost of the dive experience. Most dive costs include:

  • Hotel pick up and drop off from select locations
  • Professional guide during the dive
  • Use of equipment (sometimes for an extra fee): tanks, weights, snorkels, life jackets, etc
  • Water and snacks
  • Some dives include lunch or a break during the dive for you to eat

Make sure you know what your dive package includes so you can plan accordingly.

What is a Liveaboard Experience?

Liveaboard excursions are also an option for experienced divers. These vacation packages typically include lodging for multiple nights, multiple days of diving, 12-15 tanks of air, a professional dive guide, and food. These trips usually range from $1500 to $4000 depending on the duration of the trip as well as the amenities available on the vessel.

These trips also usually include transportation to and from drop-off points, as well as opportunities to upgrade your experience with extra tanks of air, equipment rental, insurance, alcoholic beverages, and more.

Best Place to Get Scuba Certified in Mexico

getting scuba certified in mexico

Whether you are a novice diver or want to advance your skills, there are lots of options for you in Mexico. Even if you are brand new to diving and not sure yet if it’s for you, there are discovery classes available as well.

Should I Get My Scuba Diving Certification in Mexico?

Scuba diving in Mexico is such an amazing activity to do while on vacation simply due to the diversity of the dives you can experience, no matter your skill level. However, most dive sites do require a dive certification before you can experience anything under the water.

Sure, you can get your certification in your home country, but there are many advantages to actually getting your scuba diving certification in Mexico.

First of all, Mexico is home to the 2nd largest coral reef system in the world so you would be learning to dive at some of the best coral reef locations in the world, with hundreds of species of fish, sharks, turtles, and other aquatic life to observe.

In addition to excellent diving locations, Mexico boasts a well-developed diving infrastructure with PADI-certified Dive Masters. Diving is well-established in Mexico, and there is a vast network of professional and competent divers. Those who can guide or support you with dive preparation and design.

– PADI Discover Scuba Diving Program for Novice Divers

This course is the best option if you have never been scuba diving or if you are only in Mexico for a day or so. There is a classroom portion as well as a dive under close supervision from a professional diver. Also, if you choose to pursue a PADI certification, this class can count toward some of your pre-requisites.

These classes are offered all over dive sites in Mexico, including Cancun and Playa del Carmen, and typically range from $80 to $160.

– Open Water Diver Certification

Have you ever wanted to learn to scuba dive and explore the incredible world under the sea? The PADI Open Water Diver Certification is the key that will unlock that door for you and you can get that while you are in Mexico.

It is the most popular and well-known scuba training in the world. Through this course, millions of individuals have learned to scuba dive and gone on to discover the wonders of the blue waters.

You must be 10 years old or older to enlist. You must also have sufficient swimming ability and be in relatively good physical health. There is also no prior scuba diving experience required and takes 2-5 days to complete.

There are PADI Open Water Diver Certification courses all over dive sites in Mexico, including Los Islotes and Isla Mujeres, and typically range from $350 to $699.

– Advanced Open Water Diver Certification

For experienced divers who want to advance their skills, there are loads of courses available too, both for recreation and professional development. A PADI Open Water Diver Certification is required for this course.

Through various types of dives, the course helps you increase your confidence and enhance your dive skills. Try out different specializations while learning from your PADI Instructor. You log dives and gain skills as you discover new ways to enjoy scuba diving while in Mexico.

Most dive schools in Mexico offer these courses, including Cabo San Lucas and in Cancun, and range from $385 to $750. Once you get this certification, you can take other specialized courses that fit your interests. These can include (but are not limited to):

  • Rescue Diver
  • Night Diver
  • Cavern Diver
  • Wreck Diver
  • Underwater Photographer

Is Scuba Diving in Mexico Safe?

Contrary to popular belief and media portrayal, most of Mexico is actually a very safe place to visit. The most hazardous areas are Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Ciudad Juarez, all of which are near to the US border and far from where you would be diving.

The Mexican government works hard to protect tourists and prominent resort sites like Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen, but there are measures you can take to further ensure your safety.

Pro tips for staying safe in Mexico:

  • Unless they are within a bank, ATMs should not be used.
  • Always exchange your currency before you arrive in Mexico.
  • Carry cash with you in case you cannot use your credit card.
  • Avoid drawing too much attention to yourself.
  • Unless you are at the beach, avoid wearing your bathing suit when venturing outside the resort. Instead, wear sensible shoes and pants.
  • Leave all your valuables in the room, locked in a safe.
  • Cameras, watches, and phones should be used discreetly.

Is There Malaria in Mexico?

Mexico is not a high malaria risk location, but mosquitoes still exist, particularly in the rural areas and in the jungle in the south, especially during the wet season. If you are going to the jungle, you should wear long sleeves, pants, and socks, as well as use a strong repellent.

When planning your Mexican dive vacation, I recommend that you visit your local doctor about vaccinations and other health measures.

Final Thoughts

Mexico is home to arguably some of the best dive sites in the world and there are so many different locations to explore, no matter your skill level.

From cage diving with the sharks in Isla Guadalupe to snorkeling at Machones Reef, to experiencing cave dives at Dos Ojos. Mexico truly has something for everyone.

Happy Diving!