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Diving in the Yucatán Peninsula

The whale sharks of Isla Mujeres, the bull sharks of Playa del Carmen and hundreds of crystal clear cenotes await you among the varied dive sites of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Highlights

El Museo Subaquàtico de Arte

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

Just off-shore from Cancun, Isla Mujeres sits where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean. As such, it attracts hundreds of whale sharks every year from June to September.

Cenote Diving in Yucatan

With around 6000 cenotes, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and its extensive subterranean waterways are ideal for experimenting with cavern diving. The popular Cenote Dos Ojos is accessible to most divers.

Bull Sharks in Playa del Carmen

From November to March, get up close and personal with majestic bull sharks as they arrive in Playa del Carmen for breeding season.

Diving in the 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 also 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 the stunning underwater MUSA museum. The offshore islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are well known among divers for their pelagic migrations and open ocean drifts.

Don't 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. A 16% tax is levied on all diving activities in the area.

Recommended training

Take the PADI Cavern Diver courses to make the most of the cenotes. Consider the AWARE - Fish Identification course to help you identify what you’ll see and the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course to capture images of all the exceptional marine life.

When to go

Diving around the Yucatan Peninsula is a year-round activity. For uncrowded dive sites and the most comfortable water temperatures, 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.

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.

  • The Cenotes

    With an estimated 6000 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 fascinating fresh-water cenotes, diving in Playa del Carmen is a great addition to your Mexican vacation.

  • 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 local cenote dives and the Sian Ka’an Reserve, Tulum has a unique variety of dive sites to enjoy alongside its famous Mayan pyramids.

  • Xcalak

    Located just north of the Belize Cayes, this quintessential fishing village offers spectacular diving over the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and Banco Chinchorro.

USD 3,239Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,431Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,994Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

Snorkeling in the 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 take a dip 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 to snorkel with whale sharks. There are also trips to the deep sea for snorkeling with sailfish for something a little different.
Punta Cancun – This is a popular spot with divers and provides access to several dive sites and some healthy coral reefs. Located at the eastern end of Cancun's hotel zone, the reefs contain colorful coral formations and you can hang out with a diverse array of marine life, including barracuda, rays and sharks. Punta Nizuc – This site is famous for its snorkeling and diving, thanks to an offshore reef that is rife with abundant marine life. Depths average 10 m/30 ft and the great visibility makes this a spectacular spot where divers meet lobster, groupers, rays, sergeant majors and a host of other marine life. At Punta Nizuc art meets coral reef conservation and divers can visit a statue of a young girl lying in a coral garden. She’s part of an underwater museum, Museo Subacuático de Arte, that’s well worth exploring. Playa del Carmen, Akumal and Tulum – South of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a bustling town with a European vibe. Akumal and Tulum are seaside villages that offer a glimpse into the Yucatan of yesterday. Generally, the dive sites here are shallow with excellent visibility, and boat rides are as short as five minutes. You’re likely to see turtles, barracuda, stingrays, lobsters and nurse sharks. Pared Verde – Sloping rivers of sand divide sections of the wall which is well populated with coral, sponges and myriad macro invertebrates. Depths to 40 m/130 ft are possible and the currents can be strong. Larger pelagic species are frequently seen here, given the reef’s location in the middle of a sandy plain. Cenotes – If you want to try something truly special, dive a cenote. These deep, freshwater-filled sinkholes formed when the roofs of limestone caverns collapsed and filled with water. The Yucatan’s elaborate cenotes have intricate cave systems and underground tunnels that draw divers from around the globe. Many cenotes boast pristine turquoise waters and a beautiful array of stalagmites and stalactites formed over millions of years.

What to see

Dolphins and sharks patrol the 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.

Calendar

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

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

Separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean, the Yucatan Peninsula juts up from the base of Mexico. The homeland of the mysterious Mayan civilization, this region has been populated for hundreds of years. The Spanish conquered the area, colonizing and reforming.Today, the area buzzes with adventurous tourists, wanting to experience first hand the Mayan sites that still remain, majestic temples and curious carvings. The beautiful beaches and warm weather draw people here throughout the year, especially to the bustling city of Cancun.

Other attractions

The most incredible things to see above water in the region are the ancient Mayan temples that dot the landscape. There are sites aplenty, but two of the most famous are Chichen Itza and Tulum. Aside from the temples, going on a jungle trek or two is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. You’ll also find plenty of watersports from kayaking to parasailing as well as sandy white beaches on which to relax. In the evening, stroll through local villages, dine on delicious Mexican food and shop for local handicrafts.

Getting there

To reach the Yucatán Peninsula, fly into Cancun International Airport or Cozumel. Alternatively, take a bus from a nearby region. The public transportation in the area is very good. It can get you everywhere you could ever dream of wanting to go through the use of buses, private transfers, rental car and taxis.

UTC-05:00

Time zone

MXN

Currency

+52

Calling code

127 V

Electric volt

A, 

B

Plug type

CUN

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.
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