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Scuba diving in Yucatán Peninsula

The whale sharks of Isla Mujeres, the Bull Sharks of Playa del Carmen and crystal clear Cenotes await you among the many dive sites of the Yucatán Peninsula.
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Highlights

Cenote Diving in Yucatan

Hundreds of crystal clear cenotes (caves) can be found throughout Mexico. Cenote Dos Ojos near Tulum is the most famous and is easily accessible to most divers.

Bull Sharks in Playa del Carmen

From November to March, large bull shark females arrive in Playa del Carmen in order to breed. Get up close and personal with these amazing sharks.

El Museo Subaquàtico de Arte (MUSA)

The MUSA, located next to Cancun, is an underwater contemporary museum of art consisting of over 500 permanent life-size sculptures from English artist Jason deCaires Taylor.

Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres, just off-shore from Cancun, sits at the join of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. As such, it attracts hundreds of Whale Sharks from June to September each year.

Diving in Yucatán Peninsula

Quick facts

In the Yucatán Peninsula, divers can find everything from cenotes to high-speed drift diving. Most of the dive sites are found off Riviera Maya and Cancún in the Caribbean Sea, but unexplored reefs do exist along the northern coast of the peninsula.

Dive sites off Riviera Maya feature beautiful caverns while there is plenty of healthy reef near Cancún including an gorgeous underwater museum called MUSA. The offshore islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are well known among divers for their pelagic migrations and open ocean drifts.

Do not miss the opportunity to dive in the glassy cenotes located around the Yucatan. If you have the chance, schedule some time at the far southern edge of the territory. Here you’ll find Banco Chinchorro, a biodiversity hotspot at the top of the Belize Barrier Reef.

Diving in the Yucatan is a combination of boat dives and shore dives. Also, a 16% tax is levied on all diving activities in the area.

When to go

Diving around the Yucatan Peninsula is a year-round activity. For uncrowded dive sites and comfortable waters, book your trip between May and November.

December to April

There is no bad time to dive the Yucatan. In fact, the water temperatures remain constant year-round and cool only slightly during the winter months.

December to April is considered the best time to visit Mexico and therefore is the most popular time to dive in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Because the winter months constitute high season, you should make sure to book as early as possible in order to secure the best rate.

On average, water temperatures vary between 77 and 82ºF (25 and 28ºC) around the Yucatan Peninsula. In terms of marine life, Bull Sharks are commonly found off the coast of Playa del Carmen from November to March.

May to November

The best time for cenote diving is between May and September. These months bring the best light to the caves and result in better photographs.

Also note that diving in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico is possible year-round. Simply keep an eye on the forecast during the summer and early fall. These seasons do see the occasional hurricane. When there isn’t a hurricane, the weather during the summer is hot and humid with the occasional rain shower.

June to September in particular is best for whale sharks near Isla Mujeres. And from May to September, green and loggerhead turtles arrive to lay their eggs in Playa del Carmen.

As an added bonus, the summer months are low season throughout Mexico. At this time, you’ll find the best deals on diving and accommodation. If you enjoy uncrowded, dive sites, travel to Mexico between May and September.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Novice divers will be most comfortable in the protected reefs of Cancun while advanced divers can explore the cenotes and walls of Puerto Aventuras.

  • Akumal

    In the heart of the Riviera Maya, Akumal boasts twelve shallow and deep coral dives just seven minutes from shore, ideal for any level of diver.

  • Banco Chinchorro

    As the largest coral atoll in the Northern Hemisphere, Banco Chinchorro is home to several shipwrecks, healthy coral reefs and excellent drift diving.

  • Cancún

    From a world-class underwater sculpture park to annual whale shark visitors, Cancún delights scuba divers with above and below the water attractions.

  • Cenotes

    With an estimated 6,000 cenotes, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and its extensive subterranean waterways are ideal for experimenting with cavern diving.

  • Isla Mujeres

    Isla Mujeres is home to the most reliable whale shark expeditions in the world. It also features colorful corals, fascinating wrecks and a shark cave.

  • Mahahual

    As a jumping off point for Banco Chinchorro, Mahahual is an up-and-coming dive spot. Be sure to check out the barrier reef and cenotes here as well.

  • Playa del Carmen

    From Bull Sharks in crystal clear water to reefs and fascinating cenotes, diving in Playa del Carmen is a great addition to your Mexican holiday.

  • Puerto Aventuras

    On the doorstep of the cenotes, Puerto Aventuras is a seaside commune with access to amazing bull shark encounters and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

  • Puerto Morelos

    Home to one of the best protected sections of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Puerto Morelos offers easy shore diving or boat trips to nearby Cancun.

  • Tulum

    Known for nearby cenote dives and the Sian Ka’an Reserve, Tulum has a unique variety of dive sites to enjoy in the shadow of its famous Mayan pyramids.

  • Xcalak

    Located just north of the Belize Cayes, the quintessential fishing village called Xcalak offers up the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and Banco Chinchorro.

Snorkeling in Yucatán Peninsula

Non-divers will find plenty of reasons to enter the water in the Yucatan Peninsula. From shore, you’ll be able to access the region’s best reefs and even dip your head in a cenote. If you happen to be in the area from June to September, make sure to take a day trip to Isla Mujeres in order to snorkel with whale sharks. There are also trips to the deep sea for snorkeling with sailfish that may interest some.
The reefs of the Yucatan are teeming with life. One especially nice spot is Punta Nizuc, a shallow dive with so much to see. There is even art installed beneath the water’s surface: divers will discover the statute of a small girl relaxing in a vibrant coral garden, so bring your camera! Right off Cancun’s main drag of hotels there is a pretty little reef that begs your exploration. You can see a surprising amount of sharks and barracudas in this area, as well as all your other favorite Caribbean fish. While in the Yucatan don’t miss out on diving in the cenotes. These freshwater caverns are unreal, seemingly from another world. Dos Ojos features fascinating rock formations; looming stalagmites and stalactites. Far to the south, you’ll find Banco Chinchorro which represents the far northern reaches of the Belize Barrier Reef. Many believe this is the best diving in Mexico’s Caribbean Sea as far as the sheer number of tropical species found at these sites. Whatever your interest, you’ll find yourself wanting to don your gear day after day in the Yucatan Peninsula.

What to see

Dolphins and sharks patrol deeper waters, while stunning colorful fish hang out by the reefs. You will see eels and lobsters near overhangs, as well as plenty of eagle rays gliding through the shallows. If you dive in the mangroves you may even run across a manatee!

One of the major attractions to the underwater world of the Riviera Maya are the Bull Sharks that are attracted to the area’s crystalline waters between November and March. There’s also a chance of spotting Green Turtles, Loggerhead Turtles, whale sharks and sailfish during their respective migrations.

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