Do you dream about a vacation where you can explore incredible reefs and wrecks without spending a fortune — and then cap off a dive trip with an ice-cold margarita? Then you’ll want to discover these incredible diving locations that are all found just south of the U.S. border. With beautiful beaches, gracious resorts and stunning sights both above and under the water, the scuba diving scene in Mexico is hard to beat.
So start planning your Cinco de Mayo getaway by researching these famed spots along Mexico’s Caribbean coastline, in the state of Quintana Roo.
Though Cancun can be a zoo during March and April as waves of college students show up for Spring Break, the area is much more relaxed — while still retaining a fun tourist vibe — throughout the rest of the year. For something different, head to Isla Mujeres, a 6-kilometer island that’s found just off the coast.
Or plan a trip to the amazingly unique Underwater Museum of Modern Art, where divers can admire more than 400 submerged and eye-catching sculptures.
You can fly directly into Cozumel or take a ferry from Playa del Carmen to this unique destination that caters to both beginner and advanced divers alike. The island is surrounded by dive destinations. Several resorts cater to divers and have dive shops and dive boats onsite, meaning you don’t need a vehicle or pay for a lot of taxis to get around.
The vibe here is a bit more laid back than Cancun, although in recent years cruise ships have been making regular visits. As a result, there are more tours, restaurants and stores than in previous decades.
This diving destination has certainly risen in stature and has more of a tourist-y vibe, but it’s still an exceptional spot for reef diving. Divers can expect to enjoy plenty of gentle currents, reasonably-priced dive shops and plenty of activities onshore at this resort-style stretch of beach. From here you can easily reach several cenotes, sinkholes filled with water that offer interesting and unusual diving and snorkeling experiences.
Visitors who want to experience the Playa del Carmen of yesteryear can head to this vibrant, small fishing village north of Playa del Carmen that features easy access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, second largest coral reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
The reef runs along the entire Yucatan Peninsula but is closest to shore here. This section has been a national marine park for a long time, so it’s in better health than many other reefs in the Caribbean. It’s well-suited for beginners and even for just snorkeling. You do have to go with a guide out to the reef, whether you’re snorkeling or diving, but the cost is not excessive.
The corals in this region may not be as dramatic as other Rivera Maya spots, but this destination does have the distinction of being the birthplace of scuba diving in the Mexican Caribbean. Divers can also expect to see an abundance of sea life, both on and off the shore – the eco-friendly beaches are famed as a sea turtle nesting site.
This region in the southern part of Quintana Roo is not far from the Belize border and includes Quintana Roo’s capital town, Chetumal. While once a small, sleepy area, a cruise ship pier has brought more tourist activities and amenities to the area. This region is still steeped in many Mayan customs and includes the largest number of Mayan archeological sites in Mexico. You’ll find some small eco-resorts in this area as well.
Not far off the coast is Banco Chinchorro, an amazing coral atoll that is isolated and includes several wreck dives. Pilot whales, dolphins and spotted eagle rays are common in the area during certain times of the year.
And these are just dive sites along the Caribbean coast of Mexico — you can head to Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific coast or the Sea of Cortez, between the mainland and the Baja peninsula for more diving adventures!
Do you have a favorite dive destination in Mexico? Let us know in the comments section below!