Best Scuba Diving Spots on the Yucatan Peninsula

Coral in the Caribbean

 Chris VR

The Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico's Caribbean coast offer some of the best diving experiences you could hope for. Magical shipwrecks, atmospheric caves, a vast network of freshwater cenotes, and the world’s second-largest barrier reef, diving along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula offers a world of underwater riches. Here's what you should know and where you should go if you're interested in scuba diving and exploring the underwater world.

What to Know Before You Go

Visitors to Mexico wanting to scuba dive will need to demonstrate that they’re certified with a recognized scuba diving outfit such as PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or another reputable diving organization. Specialized forms of diving, like shipwreck diving and cave diving, may require extra certification. Always check what the specific dive requirements are with the dive operator before booking.

If you haven’t dived before, you can take a course at many dive shops and resorts while in Mexico, but bear in mind that training can take some time, so ensure you make allowances when planning your trip. Consider getting certified at home before you arrive in Mexico. If you’re already certified, remember to bring your dive license and log-book. You’ll need to complete your last dive at least 24 hours before taking a flight, so be sure to plan accordingly.

When to Go

Thanks to its temperate climate, the water temperature tends to be pleasant year-round on the Yucatan Peninsula. However, the weather—and consequently the water—is coolest from December to April and warmest from May to November. June to November is hurricane season, although most hurricanes strike from August to October.

The high tourist season on the Yucatan Peninsula runs from November to March, so travel outside of those months if you’re keen to avoid crowds, both in and out of the water. Read more about the weather in Mexico and the best time to visit Mexico.

Where to Go Reef Diving

The Great Mesoamerican Reef, which runs along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea, is the world’s second-largest reef (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) and one of Mexico’s most popular natural wonders. Diving opportunities abound all along the coast, from Cancun to the Costa Maya, south of Tulum. Here are some popular reef diving spots:

  • Punta Cancun, the easternmost point of the hotel zone
  • Isla Mujeres
  • Cozumel
  • Playa Tortugas
  • Manchones
  • La Bandera
  • El Tunnel
  • Punta Nizuc

Where to Go Wreck Diving

For many scuba enthusiasts, wreck diving offers a magical underwater experience without parallel. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Cancun to the Costa Maya (south of the Riviera Maya) is home to several wrecks, mostly sunk navy vessels turned artificial reefs. You will also find the one-of-a-kind creations like MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), an underwater art project/museum in the waters surrounding Cancun and Isla Mujeres.

Note: some wreck dives require extra certification as the environments—enclosed spaces, challenging entries, and exits from the wrecks—can require advanced skills. Here are some popular wreck diving spots:

  • The C58 Minesweeper
  • Ultrafreeze
  • C-55 Gun Ship
  • The C-53
  • The Chinchorro Atoll

Where to Go Cave Diving

Cave diving is a specialized form of scuba diving that takes place in underground caverns or flooded caves. Thanks to its network of over 2,000 cenotes, the East Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the best places on earth to experience cave diving. Along with the well-known cenotes and caves dotted around the peninsula, there are many hidden caves on private property that can be experienced by joining a tour with an adventure company like AllTourNative.

Note—because of its extra degree of difficulty and risk, divers need special equipment and extra training beyond that required for open water dives. In order to cave dive, you’ll need to have undergone specific cavern diving training. Below are some popular cave diving spots:

  • Dos Ojos
  • The Gran Cenote
  • Tres Bocas
  • Cristalino
  • Cenote Azul
  • El Jardin de Eden