With its beautiful, far-reaching coastline and warm waters, Mexico is an ideal destination for scuba diving enthusiasts. The large country has diving opportunities in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and thanks to the presence of numerous large resort towns, dive shops are easy to come by.
Specific areas to take note of when considering a diving holiday in Mexico are those of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya, the Gulf of Mexico, the Baja Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean Coast.
With so many areas to explore, it’s easy to see why Mexico was one of Jacques Cousteau’s favourite diving destinations. It is interesting to note that many of the sites along Mexico’s Caribbean, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines have yet to be explored, only adding to the thrill of these mystifying waters.
Best Diving Destinations in Mexico
Mexico boasts phenomenal diving and is a must-visit destination for many scuba divers.
Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya
Some of the best diving in Mexico can be found along the coastal areas of Costa Maya and the Riviera Maya. Here the Yucatan Peninsula joins the magnificent clear blue waters of the Caribbean, and it truly doesn’t get much better than this. All levels of diver will enjoy the diving in this area, where the warm waters and fantastic visibility only add to the natural beauty that can be found above the water’s surface. The Riviera Maya is also home to a number of Mayan ruin sites. Exploring these historically significant sites is a great shore-based activity for divers and non-divers alike.
Off the shores of Cancun and Play del Carmen lie a host of fantastic diving opportunities for those wishing to explore Mexico’s Caribbean dive spots. All sites in this area are sure to present an underwater scene of sheer beauty, with pristine reefs and colourful, tropical fish in abundance. The world-renowned Underwater Museum in Cancun offers divers the chance to swim amongst a host of marine creatures that now call this artificial reef home. Dolphins, sea turtles, nurse sharks and moray eels can all be found in this unique underwater setting complete with statues that have been placed underwater to aid coral growth.
The islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are nearby this area of Caribbean coastline and can also offer access to great diving, especially for more advanced divers. The deep dive sites of Cuevas de Afuera and El Tunel are nearby Isla Mujeres and offer a great challenge for technical divers. Hammerhead sharks are often present around these famous dive sites.
Mexico’s only coral atoll, Banco Chinchorro, can be found off the coast of Costa Maya, nearby the Belize border. This atoll is one of only four in the western hemisphere, with the other three coral atolls located in Belize waters. The marine life flourishes in the remote area of Banco Chinchorro and divers who make the effort to visit will be rewarded with unmatched visibility and beautiful underwater scenes. The area is well protected by the Mexican government and although there are wrecks nearby, the probability of being permitted to dive these wrecks is unfortunately slim. The currents here are dangerously strong and many of the wrecks have been stripped bare by underwater thieves. On rare and special occasions, dive shops along Costa Maya, Playa del Carmen and Cancun will visit Banco Chinchorro and provide divers with the opportunity to dive in this fantastic area.
Gulf of Mexico
The busy port of Veracruz is home to welcoming green/blue waters and superb visibility. Despite the area having high pollution rates, the coral reef platforms are surprisingly healthy and offer an abundance of marine life to see. Wreck diving is also possible in this area, with two wrecks located on either side of the magnificent Anegada reef: El Rielero to the south and Maria Elena to the north.
Pacific Ocean Coast
Mexico’s coast that runs along the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez is well-known for hosting popular tourist towns such as Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Although these Pacific Ocean waters are not quite as inviting as the clear, warm waters of the Caribbean and offer strong currents to contend with, the area is still popular amongst experienced scuba divers. Many scuba diving trips in this area will travel further afield to escape the strong currents, and many divers enjoy the unique experience available at Islas Marias off Puerto Vallarta. Divers are recommended to make use of a wet suit when diving these areas and, depending on conditions, many will opt for a dry suit to keep comfortable. The dive sites of El Chimo, Los Arco and Majahuitas located in Banderas Bay are also well-worth a visit.
The Baja Peninsula is best known for the town of Cabo, San Lucas where resorts, tourist shops and dive operators can be found in abundance. The nightlife is also fantastic here and is a major drawing card for many tourists. The underwater scene in these waters is nothing short of stunning, and it’s clear to see why many divers flock to this area. On the Sea of Cortex side of the peninsula lies the capital, La Paz, where day trips can be arranged to visit the numerous reef formations scattered around the area.
When to Visit Mexico
Mexico experiences a rainy season between the months of May to October and with the high rainfall comes increased humidity, especially in May and June. Throughout the rest of the rainy season, from June to October, is considered hurricane season, where strong winds can have an effect on currents and visibility. It is therefore best to visit Mexico outside of these months. Water temperatures remain in the region of 25-28°C even in winter and air temperatures rarely drop below 18°C, making Mexico an ideal destination for warm weather lovers.
Getting to Mexico
Mexico is an exotic destination that is well-connected internationally. With many of the popular coastal towns having their own international airports and direct flights possible both from Mexico City and many American cities in Texas, LA and other areas, travelling to and from popular Mexican dive spots is quite simple. Flights from the western states of the United States are often very affordable and can have visitors touch down in the paradises of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Cabo in only 6 hours.
In the heart of Mexico lies the world-famous Mexico City, with its busy International Airport known as Internacional Benito Juarez. Ideal as the starting point for an incredible Mexican adventure, Mexico City boasts connections with many of the popular tourist destinations in Mexico via airports in Cancun, Veracruz, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo. The airport in Mexico City also offers short hop flights to the smaller, more remote coastal villages which boast phenomenal diving experiences.
Where to Stay in Mexico
The best scuba diving opportunities in Mexico can be found along its magnificent and extensive coastline and can be divided into four main diving areas: the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Coast, the Baja Peninsula and the Yucatan Peninsula. Regardless of where you choose to stay, rest assured that there is a reason why so many divers return to Mexico year after year – all of the areas offer superb diving opportunities. The Mexican scuba diving industry is growing rapidly in the resort regions as well as in the smaller fishing villages and with wonderful warm weather throughout the year, you really can’t go wrong.
The Gulf of Mexico and specifically the area around Veracruz is one area that has yet to be affected by mass tourism and still holds an authentic, local feel that is difficult to match. The clear green waters that surround Veracruz are warm throughout the year and feature fantastic platform reefs to explore. These reefs are easily accessible by boat and trips can be arranged with local dive shops in the area. Major dive resorts and chain hotels have yet to set up shop here, which adds to the special charm of the area. Divers can opt to make use of the numerous dive shop offerings when looking to explore the local sites around Puerto Vallarta, or can be adventurous and hire a private boat to explore the magnificent Banderas Bay. To the south of Veracruz lies a quaint fishing town known as Anton Lizardo, where a number of dive sites lie offshore amongst the pristine reefs of the area.
The rocky Baja Peninsula is home to a host of dive operators and boat captains that will happily help to arrange visits to the many popular dive sites off the peninsula. Many of these dive shops are concentrated in the Cabo marina and offer both diving and snorkelling trips for visitors.
Mexico’s most famous scuba diving opportunities can be found in the area off Cancun and in the Riviera Maya which is where many visiting divers choose to stay. Hotels, dive resorts and training centres can be found in abundance and divers should have no trouble arranging fantastic dives along Mexico’s best diving coast.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the Riviera Maya and headed down towards Belize lies the Yucatan Peninsula. Here visitors can experience a more traditional Caribbean Mexico, especially in the tiny fishing village known as Mahahual. Dive shops here offer trips to the many sites along the nearby barrier reef and can offer great local tips for divers. Dive shops in Mahahual may also be able to assist divers with getting to the remote area of Banco Chinchorro, Mexico’s only coral atoll that is well worth a visit.
If you happen to visit a remote area of Mexico and would like to experience the diving, be sure to ask around as there is likely to be a local boat captain or scuba diving instructor in the area. There are many local Mexicans or US and European expats who can assist in finding great dive spots.