Scuba diving and snorkelling are the sorts of activities where the memories stay with you for decades, and nowhere in the world is there a better place to dive in than the crystal clear, calm waters of the Caribbean. Cancun and the surrounding areas have a whole host of excellent dive sites, whether you’re a novice or a dive master, and diving culture is very much embedded in the local scene, so there’ll be no trouble finding likeminded souls. The area also has the benefit of having gorgeous scenery close to the shore, for those who are keener on donning a snorkel as opposed to a wetsuit and tank. There is so much to see, both in terms of scenery and local wildlife, that it can almost feel like another planet down there, and no matter what your diving aim, you’ll definitely surface with a renewed appreciation of just how gorgeous the deep blue sea can be.
There are plenty of diving spots in and around the city itself, but more experienced divers (such as those who want to go freediving in Cancun) should look south, where there is an abundance of marine wildlife, technicolour reefs, and cenotes that wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a wildlife magazine. That’s not to say Cancun doesn’t have its own charms and irresistible beauty, especially for a first timer. Whether you’re a beginner diver, a seasoned snorkeler, or everything in between, no matter what you want to do on the Caribbean coast you can find it. If you’re keen to learn more, check out our top tips for diving into Cancun!
The water is quite good all year round (excepting stormy days), but the best Cancun diving season is the dry season (December to April); however, if you’re looking for smaller crowds, then you should aim for the wet season. The beginning of the dry period is also the best time to see Bull Sharks, although you’ll have to travel south to Playa Del Carmen if you want a guarantee of seeing them as they aren’t always attracted to spots with lots of human activity. If you’re looking to dive cenotes, you’ll also have to head south to Tulum, but as it’s an established route there are plenty of tours and local buses that head this way, so getting there won’t be much of an imposition.
Beginner divers need instruction, and Scuba Diving Cancun are the most reputable and reliable school in the seaside city. A three-day open water course with them encompasses pool work, theoretical study, and the chance to dive around the Cancun reefs up to four times. This costs MXP 9,300 (GBP 400) but includes all equipment rental and teaching. Once you’re up to speed, you can take on another, more advanced course, or explore the other diving opportunities on offer.
Cancun Diving Spots
Possibly the most unique diving experience in the world, MUSA (Cancun Underwater Museum) consists of over five hundred underwater sculptures, all submerged between three and six metres in the Cancun National Marine Park. Costs vary, but through Scuba Diving Cancun you can arrange a tour for MXP 1,700 (GBP 70). If you’re a keen diver but your companions aren’t, they can enjoy the wonders of the museum through a glass bottom boat, so nobody has to miss out.
If you go a bit further out to Isla Mujeres, whale sharks can usually be spotted around August time. However, if you want to stay closer to home, there are excellent reefs just off Punta Nizuc, a short drive from the Hotel zone and probably the best spot for Cancun diving. Here you can spot starfish, turtles, and lobsters. The area around Cancun proper also has the benefit of slower currents, so visibility is better, and the dive is much less strenuous than in other locations.
There are plenty of diving schools you can organise tours with, including the aforementioned Scuba Diving Cancun, but if you’re qualified and looking to go on your own you can rent from any number of scuba specialist stores. If you’re organising your entire holiday around diving, it may even makes sense to go to Maya Charters Diving Resort to meet likeminded travellers.
Playa Del Carmen
About two hours south of Cancun, this coastal town is more geared to divers than its big brother up north. There are plenty of things to see around here, notably bull sharks in the latter months of the year and stingrays most of the year round. That’s not all, though: there’s a tonne of excellent reef to explore, including Cerebros, Los Arcos, and Pared Verde, which all offer different types of dive.
Serious divers need to head to Cozumel to get the very best of diving off the Mexican coast. Bigger animals, harder dives, and scenery so otherworldly it’s almost impossible to comprehend you’re only a hundred metres or so from civilisation, this island about two hours south of Cancun has everything you’d want from an underwater excursion.
Scuba Tony is a local favourite school, offering dives all over the island, most notably Santa Rosa Wall, Colombia Wall, and the Palancar Reef/Horseshoe. Whilst beginners can learn to dive here, the best sites are really only accessible by intermediate or strong divers due to powerful currents. In Cozumel, you can spot a whole host of different marine life throughout the year, and it’s considered to be the best place to dive in the Cancun area by most experts.
The famous cenotes of the Caribbean coast can be found a bit further south in the Tulum area. These dives are open to anybody with an open water certification but should only be attempted with a local guide or if you’re supremely confident. There are many to choose from, but Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos are two of the most stunning, with the various shades of blue combining to make the water look like a magic potion. Most Cancun diving schools will offer trips to these spots, which are also ideal places to go freediving in Cancun.
If diving isn’t for you, or if you’re on a budget, you can still get a look at the unforgettable marine life that’s just off the coast. Snorkelling in Cancun is one of the best experiences anyone can have, as you still have access to beautiful reefs, amazing wildlife, and gentle seas. Snorkellers can also access MUSA for a much lower price (MXP 800 (GBP 27)), so you won’t miss out on Cancun’s most unique attraction if you choose not to dive.
Once again, Scuba Diving Cancun offer great snorkelling tours for all strengths of swimmer, although we wouldn’t recommend doing anything too strenuous if you’re not a strong swimmer, especially during the wet months of May to November.
We would recommend a tour rather than simply going out on your own, as unlike diving there aren’t too many established sites, and therefore the local knowledge from diving school employees can be used to make sure you see everything you want to see, instead of just going for an expensive swim. Adventuras Mayas are another excellent and reputable operator, and they also offer snorkelling tours of the cenotes further south for around MXP 1,900 (GBP 80).
Hoping to see meet some shark friends during your trip? Take a look at our guide to whale shark watching in Cancun.
Ready to take the plunge with the scuba holiday of your dreams? Download the Orbzii app today to Dream, Plan, and Book your Mexican excursion today.