In the Riviera Maya, you can find Quintana Roo, a privileged state of the Mexican Caribbean, covered with exuberant nature, mangroves, jungle, cenotes, underwater rivers and of course, a beautiful sea. The crystal-clear water and the great variety of marine life that you can find, make this place one of the most visited spots to dive in Mexico. If you are planning to go to this state in search of the best diving in Mexico, you will not regret it. I was lucky enough to spend several months in the area, but for you, I will condense it down to a week of scuba diving the Riviera Maya.
Diving in Cancun
Probably, if you travel to Quintana Roo you will land in this great Caribbean city. Cancun is famous for its multiple resorts and its turquoise blue beaches. But this city has much more to offer to people who like to be underwater. Perhaps the most popular of them all is the MUSA Underwater Museum.
MUSA is the first underwater museum built in Mexico, and is a fun way to dive. For sure, this is one of the best diving spots in Cancun. It is located in front of Isla Mujeres and has up to 515 life-size sculptures. In addition, the sculptures are built with a special marine cement that makes coral reefs grow on it, helping to conserve the marine environment.
The sculptures are at different depths. In fact, there are some that you can observe simply by snorkeling, but by diving deeper, you can enjoy the complete museum. On this tour, two dives are usually made to do the complete visit of the underwater museum. This kind of dive is recommended for both expert and beginner divers, as the maximum depth is around 30 feet (10 meters). Due to the shallow depths, this is a great first warm-up dive of your vacation.
If you are passionate about history and you like wreck diving, you will really like this next diving experience. At this dive site there are two old US Navy ships used as mine detectors during World War II. Those are two of the most wonderful wrecks in Cancun.
The shipwrecks C-58 and C55 were sunk in order to create an artificial reef, and today they are excellent dives which during winter can serve as a refuge for dozens of Eagle Rays. On this tour, two dives are made to a depth of 25 meters (80 feet) and is recommended for advanced divers. The use of Nitrox is also recommended.
Diving in Playa del Carmen
After two great days in Cancun, we are ready to move onto Playa del Carmen. This is another of the most important cities for diving in the Riviera Maya. It is a very diverse and vibrant community, where you will find everything from big resorts, local shops, restaurants from fine dining to street vendors, and oh yeah, lots of fun!
But focusing on the diving, there are different dive sites in this area depending on your diving preferences you can choose from reefs, cenotes, or in our case, shark dives!
Diving with Bull Sharks
Being able to dive with the bull shark in Playa del Carmen, is undoubtedly, one of the most incredible experiences that you can have as a diver. This is possible during the season from November to March, when the water drops in temperature and these impressive animals visit the area.
To dive with the bull sharks, at a depth of 24 meters, they can be seen from about 5 or 10 meters away doing their normal life without any method to attract them. They have a genuine curiosity and will come to investigate the divers. After this heart-pumping dive, we needed to relax with an island vibe.
Diving in Cozumel
Cozumel is a small island located approximately 40 minutes from Playa del Carmen, from where the ferries leave. It will take you around 30 minutes by boat to arrive to this paradise.
The island is characterized by the transparent and turquoise blue water of the sea, which make it the typical postcard of the Mexican Caribbean Sea. It is part of the Great Belt of Reefs of the Western Atlantic, also known as the Great Mayan Reef, and it is one of the best places to dive in the Riviera Maya and in the world, so do not hesitate to add it to your route.
Diving in the Cozumel National Marine Park
There are different places to enjoy diving. Operators here will do two dives in the morning or afternoon, in different spots depending on your level. With a vast selection of reefs at their disposal, Cozumel can provide for both beginners and advanced divers.
Some of the best-known diving places are Arrecife Paraíso (also known for night dives in Cozumel), Palancar Reef (with a depth of up to 30 meters (100 ft) with intricate formations, tunnels, crevasses, and different caves to explore, or the Wall of Santa Rosa (a coral wall that goes from 10 meters up to 30 meters deep).
Spending two or three days in Cozumel is not enough, so we recommend finding operators that can do morning and afternoon dives. Three days of 4-tank diving in Cozumel will leave you yearning for more.
Diving in Punta Sur and Devil’s Throat
Perhaps the highlight for us was the epic swim-through known as Devil’s Throat. Normally, the current is strong and of course once inside the throat you have an overhead environment leading you to 130 feet / 40 meters. Obviously, this type of diving is reserved for divers with more experience.
Once outside the tunnel, reef sharks and large schools of fish can be seen. Impressive pillars rising from the depths creating unimaginable formations fully covered with vibrant corals. Truthfully, extending bottom time by not entering the throat is one of the best dives of the Caribbean. Booking a private charter boat and doing two dives on Punta Sur is the best decision you could make in Cozumel.
Diving in Tulum
When you are in the Riviera Maya you cannot pass up the opportunity to dive cenotes. There is no better place in the world to do this than Tulum. Cenotes are deep water wells, which are fed by the filtration of the rain. The water temperature is around 24 degrees Celsius, and there are three kinds of cenotes: closed, semi-open, and open cenotes. Your skill level will dictate which is right for you, but regardless, you will be able to see different rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites that will leave you speechless.
Diving in cenotes and caves
There are countless cenotes scattered around the Riviera Maya. Some records say over 7000 and cenotes and new discoveries still happening. So, it is not realistic to think one day will be enough, but it is good to get the experience!
This kind of diving is a little rarer than what you may be used to since it is not done from a boat or from the shore of the beach. The diving center will take care of taking you by van to the different cenotes in which you want to dive, as well as taking all the diving equipment and everything you need to make your experience unique.
Depending on the cenote you go to, the trip by van will be longer or shorter since usually, cenotes are a bit far from the city. For our afternoon, we chose diving in the cenote Dos Ojos.
This is one of the most beautiful and famous cenotes for scuba diving. In this cenote, you will find extremely transparent waters and underground geology that will leave you open-mouthed. There are different tours inside this cenote depending on your certification level, so all divers can enjoy this experience.
Other famous cenotes to dive from Tulum are the Gran Cenote, Car Wash Cenote, Dreamgate Cenote, among many others.
A Week is not Enough
As you can see, the Riviera Maya has numerous interesting diving spots, so depending on what your preferences are, you will have to choose where you prefer to spend more time diving. The only sure thing is that you choose what you choose, you will spend an unforgettable week of diving in the Riviera Maya.
All photos are credited to Robert Stansfield.