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Diving in The Pacific Coast of Mexico

Less crowded than elsewhere in Mexico, the Pacific Coast offers a variety of sites, including reefs, deep sea drifts and one awesome wreck.

Highlights

Manta Rays at Socorro Island

As a lonely seamount far offshore, Socorro Island attracts a large number of pelagic species, among them are large groups of giant manta rays.

Humpbacks at Roca Partida

Although the location for humpbacks changes from year to year, Roca Partida often yields the best whale sightings and interactions for scuba divers.

San Luciano Wreck

Sunk during a hurricane in 1959, today, the top of the wreck is just 4 feet (1 meter) below the surface, making it a perfect wreck for beginners.

Hammerheads at San Benedicto

An unusually calm dive in the Revillagigedo Islands, the Canyon near San Benedicto Island regularly hosts large hammerhead sharks in great visibility.

Mantas and Whale Sharks

At the Marietas Islands advanced divers can see larger species who ride the currents from the distant blue, including mantas and whale sharks.

Diving in The Pacific Coast of Mexico

Quick facts

The Pacific Coast of Mexico is not known for its diving in the same way that the Baja Peninsula or Caribbean Mexico is. However, with several diving areas up and down the coast and many offshore islands, it makes sense that many divers wish to visit the wild west coast. Pelagic species and rocky corals abound in this off-the-beaten path diving destination.

Advanced divers will find plenty of offshore islands with heavy current to explore, while the wrecks and protected bays are perfect for beginners.

To reach the Revillagigedo Islands, a liveaboard trip is necessary.

Outside of the Revillagigedo Islands, diving is not a mainstream idea is many cities along the Pacific Coast. Therefore, you’ll probably be some of the only guests on your dives, meaning you’ll get personalized service. Some shore diving does exist, but the vast majority of diving takes place from small speed boats or small wooden pangas.

Keep in mind, a 16% tax is levied on all diving operations in Mexico and reef hooks are not permitted in nationally protected areas.

When to go

Pelagic species are most easily seen at offshore islands from November to May. June to October feature the warmest water temps and best visibility.

November to May

November to May is considered the best time to dive in Socorro Island. Liveaboards set sail for this remote island at this time, because the sea conditions in the Pacific are calmest during these months. The weather is generally sunny with occasional rain showers.

Manta rays can be seen throughout the year in Socorro, but during the winter months, divers also have the chance of spotting a whale shark or one of the thousands of humpbacks that breed and calve in the area. This is also the best time of year to see mantas and whale sharks near Puerto Vallarta.

At this time, visibility is negatively impacted is by plankton blooms. These are most common around the full moon.

If you love diving with pelagic species, book your holiday between November and May.

Elsewhere in Mexico, November to May is considered high season for general tourism, causing an increase in the prices of flights and accommodation.

June to October

June to October are the offseason for liveaboards in the area. Many set their sights on Guadalupe or remain in dock. However, at this time, the water warms significantly, reaching 84°F (26°C) in August and September. For many divers, especially beginners who will find the open ocean sites difficult to reach, the summer months are an ideal time to dive.

In addition, visibility is at its peak from June to October. It’s also low season for tourism throughout Mexico, meaning you should find excellent deals on accommodation, airfare and excursions. However, you will have to battle the hot and humid summer weather while topside.

If you’d prefer to look elsewhere, try Caribbean diving for a change. The season on the east side of Mexico is year-round.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

The Marietas Islands and Revillagigedo Islands are for pelagic-lovers. Beginners will love the protected sites in Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
  • Acapulco

    A premier holiday destination with a budding scuba industry, Acapulco’s underwater shrine, wrecks and drifts make it a noteworthy dive destination.

  • Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

    Two neighboring resort destinations, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo boast current-free bays filled with colorful fish, an ideal environment for novice divers.

  • Manzanillo

    With a shallow, penetrable wreck and some of the most pristine coral reefs in Central Pacific Mexico, Manzanillo is an off-the-beaten-path paradise.

  • Puerto Vallarta

    Boasting some of the best diving on the Central Pacific Coast of Mexico, you might happen upon whale sharks or giant manta rays in Puerto Vallarta.

Snorkeling in The Pacific Coast of Mexico

While somewhat limited due to visibility in the region, snorkeling is a possibility for anyone not scuba certified. In particular, the San Luciano Wreck can be explored to the surface. It begins just 4 feet (1 meter) below the surface. In Puerto Vallarta, the Banderas Bay is a protected area full of fish flitting along the rocky bottom. No matter where you find yourself, snorkeling tours will abound in these southern waters.
In Puerto Vallarta, Los Arcos is the most popular stop for dive operators. Majahuitas is a close second as it features a coral-covered wall off a remote and beautiful beach. Further afield from the Bahia de Banderas, the Marietas Islands, Chimo and El Morro attract advanced divers. Here you can see larger species who ride the currents from the distant blue, including mantas and whale sharks. Further south, Manzanillo is home to the San Luciano wreck. This ship sank during a hurricane in 1959. Today, the top of the wreck is just 4 feet (1 meter) below the surface, making it a perfect wreck for beginners. Finally in the Revillagigedo Islands, Roca Partida is often a favorite among divers. This is where you’ll meet the most important actors of the Revillagigedo Islands. Mantas, humpback whales, schooling hammerheads and whale sharks often make appearances near the vertical walls of Roca Partida. Other stops in the Pacific Coast of Mexico don’t have as many famous sites, but there are plenty of areas to explore. You never know when you’ll stumble across your new favorite dive area.

What to see

The Central Pacific Coast of Mexico has it all. From tiny to huge, your log books will be full of interesting creatures whether your dive holiday takes to the Socorro Islands or Mazatlán. In terms of pelagic species, frequently reported sightings include humpback whales, whale sharks, oceanic white tips, manta rays, hammerheads, reef sharks and dolphins. You might also see schools of grunts, puffer fish and hawksbill turtles around the brightly colored sponges and stony corals. The seahorses and octopus love to hide out in the walls, reefs and wrecks. The Central Pacific Coast certainly doesn’t disappoint in the marine life category.

Calendar

For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

The Central Pacific Coast of Mexico can roughly be described as the western side of Mexico between Mazatlán to the north and Acapulco to the south. Major cities along the coast include Puerto Vallarta, Costa Alegre and Manzanillo Bay. For the purpose of this article, we will also include the Socorro Islands although they sit 250 miles (400 kilometers) off the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.

Aztecs and Mayans (among others) made their homes here during the time of Pre-Columbian Mexico. European colonists viciously took over the land, wiping out much of the native population. Wars erupted time and time again, and it wasn’t until the early 1800’s that Mexico gained its independence from Spain. Today, the Central Pacific Coast includes six provinces, namely Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán and Guerrero.

Other attractions

Mexico’s Central Pacific Coast is known as a beach holiday paradise. Vacationers arrive with one thing in mind, sitting on a white sand beach with a margarita in hand. Fortunately, this is an easy reality to achieve. Most towns up and down the coast feature all-inclusive resorts. Of course, there are more activities in the area than just gorgeous beaches. You can spend your topside hours jet-skiing, parasailing, surfing and fishing. Cliff diving in Acapulco will certainly get the adrenaline flowing. You might also wish to check out the colonial architecture in Old Vallarta or Guadalajara, and several archaeological sites from the Mayan and Aztec eras dot the landscape, including Monte Alban near Oaxaca. Finally, make some time for a tequila tour on which you will learn all about the best local tequilas and how they are made. That margarita on the beach will never be better than you’ll find on the Central Pacific Coast.

Getting there

There are many direct flights from the United States and Canada to airports in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Acapulco, Mazatlán and Zihuatanejo along the Central Pacific Coast. If you are coming from a different continent, you will most likely need to book a connecting flight.

It is also possible to drive to the Central Pacific Coast from the southern United States.

Once you reach the Central Pacific Coast, you’ll need to travel from point A to point B by car or bus.

UTC-06:00

Time zone

MXN

Currency

+52

Calling code

127 V

Electric volt

A, 

B

Plug type

PVR

Main airport
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.