The best scuba diving in Mexico – 2021
There are few places in the world that can compare with Mexico when it comes to offering such a variety of scuba diving opportunities. The culture and tropical paradise you find on land is replicated in the oceans around this beautiful country.
You will have the option of discovering tropical paradises around the Caribbean peninsula and learn to dive into calm, controlled environments. For those experienced scuba divers, you can embark on exciting pelagic dives with some of nature’s true predators.
The best time to go scuba diving in Mexico
Let’s start off by talking about the best time to go scuba diving in Mexico. If you have visited the country before, you will be aware that Mexico has a fantastic climate, with tropical warm weather throughout the year. However, the climate across Mexico does vary depending on location and this means there will be diving opportunities all year round, as well as during specific seasons.
November to May
The peak season for international tourists, thanks to minimal rain, warm sunshine and warmer seas. This translates as the busiest time to visit so you will need to book everything as early as possible.
During this period, the Pacific is relatively calm and warm drawing whales down from the north who wish to breed and give birth. This means it’s a great opportunity to see whale sharks and humpback whales. If you want to dive with bull sharks then Playa del Carmen at this time of year is perfect.
May to September
Thanks to its natural geography and ancient history around the Yucatan peninsula, there is an array of sinkholes to explore for anyone into cenote diving. Visiting between May and September is the recommended time for this, as well as for seeing a whale shark or two around Isla Mujeres.
This coincides with one of the quietest parts of the year for tourism, meaning you can save money and have greater freedom on dive sites thanks to fewer tourists.
July to November
The final season is July to November, which is another quieter period for tourism. This is primarily due to it being hurricane season in certain places. However, thanks to Mexicos position in the world, you can experience the cold waters in Guadalupe, a favourite spot for great white sharks, or the warm seas in other locations.
If you choose to visit the Yucatan peninsula, then you can in theory dive all year round but visiting within this season will offer greater views and visibility under the water.
What are the diving conditions for each region?
We’ve broken down the regions into three distinct types, in order to help explain the diving conditions for you. These are the Pacific coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean coast, and then Cenotes. It is incredibly important to think about the conditions where you will be diving, particularly if you are inexperienced or wish to see certain types of marine life.
The Pacific dive sites can be a challenge, particularly due to the conditions of the open sea. As a result, we would suggest this location for those with plenty of experience and an understanding of the equipment required for them. The flip side of this is that you will get the opportunity to scuba dive in some breathtaking places, encountering some pelagic species that you won’t find anywhere else. We certainly rank this as the best scuba diving in Mexico for experts.
The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Coast
This region encompasses some of the most popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Warmer seas, minimal currents and beautiful coral reefs close to the shore mean this is the perfect location to learn to dive, or for those who are still beginners. Don’t worry that you will be missing out though, as there is a fantastic array of marine life with plenty of visibility.
We appreciate this isn’t a region but we felt it important to include it in our regions for diving in Mexico because of the very complex nature of cenotes. Whilst these caves are often calm with plenty of visibility, they can cause some people to feel claustrophobic due to the closeness of some sections and lack of natural light. This will certainly be for the confident and more experienced scuba diver.
Top 5 locations
There are countless diving opportunities and locations within Mexico but we have put together the top 5 that we think will deliver special experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Each one has its own particular focus, whether that is on a pelagic species or a lower degree of difficulty. Take the time to do your research and you will soon have your wish list of locations ready to explore.
We start off with a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Socorro Islands have an enviable selection of shark and pelagic species to discover. Located approximately 240 miles out, this is an option for those wanting a liveaboard diving experience and it comes with some challenging conditions. Expect strong ocean currents and difficult weather but if you can get through this then we guarantee you will remember this dive for the rest of your life.
You will likely discover a whole range of sharks including hammerhead and whitetip reef sharks, as well as the majestic oceanic manta rays. You will be able to watch them glide around you, almost as if you’re not there. To top it off, there is a good chance of seeing plenty of fish species including Marlin, as well as dolphins!
The best season for this location is November to May but within this range, there are specific months that offer a greater chance of seeing certain species. For example, February and March are the best times for humpback whales. As highlighted, this is best suited to those more experienced divers and require you to use a liveaboard service.
One of the most popular tourist destinations, Cozumel is close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It is a celebration of the idyllic Caribbean sea, with warm waters and tropical reefs that support colorful species of coral, fish, turtles and rays. To put it into some context, Cozumel has more than 40 diving sites that range from beginner level up to more challenging dives for experienced visitors.
You can easily reach Cozumel from the mainland, so you can do shorter day trips or stay over if you wish. It has a marine park that has protected the coral reef, helping it to thrive along with more than 250 species of fish. The shallow, clear waters allow for snorkelling or scuba diving and are a great place to start for beginners. As you move further along, the difficulty level of the dives increase.
Cozumel is one of the all year diving locations but do remember that the peak tourism season of December to April will mean it is busy and more expensive. If you go in May and June then you can still enjoy the weather but with fewer people around.
Riviera Maya Cenotes
The cenotes of Riviera Maya will astound even the most experienced divers, with its incredible views of rock formations through the stunning tropical lights. The Yucatan Peninsula has a wealth of sinkholes and caves throughout its freshwater rivers and many choose Tulum as the base from which to explore.
Cenotes are a unique diving experience, with tunnels to explore and huge caves opening up in front of you after squeezing through the tightest gaps. These waters rarely support marine life so these dives are more about the challenge, the experience and the wondrous topography.
Whilst we would recommend cenotes for the more experienced divers, you can explore the entrance areas via snorkel and gradually work your way to the more difficult locations. One of the big benefits of cenote diving is that they are suitable all year round, allowing you to avoid some of the busier parts of the year.
Here is the option for those thrill-seekers wanting to dive with great white sharks. This island is possibly one of the best destinations in the world for scuba diving with the ultimate ocean predator. It is approximately 150 miles off the west coast and is accessible by liveaboard or specialist shark-diving boats, averaging as a 3-day trip.
The months of August through to October are generally listed as the season for diving with great white sharks, as they travel to the area to mate. This adds extra intrigue and experiences as you see them interact together. It is important to remember that there is plenty more on offer than just these sharks, with seals and sea lions in abundance, as well as potential sightings of whales and dolphins.
Shark diving in cages is technically suitable for all levels of experience, but it does require some confidence and bravery. We recommend everyone gives this a go if they feel up to the challenge!
Cabo San Lucas and Cabo Pulmo
The final location on our list is actually two locations and they offer an incredible variety of experiences for divers who want to learn the ropes, through to experienced scuba divers. These locations are on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and near the world-renowned Sea of Cortez. Cabo San Lucas is the best choice for those wanting an introduction to diving, with coral reefs full of tropical fish. If you then venture further out from the shore, you can witness humpback whales and hammerhead sharks, but do be wary of the stronger currents.
Cabo Pulmo is a marine park protected by the government and is a 27-square mile wonderland of coral reef and marine life. Not only will you be able to snorkel in the shallows alongside the tropical fish, but you can also see the sea lions racing around. Once more, if you venture further out then you will be able to observe a whole range of sharks and whales, particularly in the winter months.
These two locations are perfect for divers of all levels, with inshore locations supporting newcomers and further out for the experienced divers. The best time to go does depend on what you’re looking for, with December to May offering a greater chance of seeing the pelagic species.
Mexico is a truly breathtaking, wonderful environment suited to the world of scuba diving. With unrivalled opportunity to observe and interact with nature, whether it is coral reefs, great white sharks or sea lions. We have listed our top 5 places to dive in Mexico to help you start to think about where to go on your next trip but the most important thing to do is think about what is on your wish list and whether you have the experience to cope with the conditions. Once you have this list ready, it’s time to book that trip and make some memories!