Diving in Cancun and the Riviera Maya

Lapped at the by shimmering waters of the Caribbean Sea, Cancun and the Riviera Maya are perched along some of the most exquisite shores of Mexico. Gleaming under the sun is its long stretch of pale, powdery sands, which make this one of the world’s ultimate beach destinations.

The waters crashing into the Mexican Caribbean Coast are rich with marine life and mysterious underwater landscapes. They are also home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Great Mesoamerican Reef, which reaches across 700 kilometres and boasts hundreds of coral and fish species.

Riviera Maya

Who can scuba dive here?

Diving sites across the Riviera Maya and Cancun are diverse and varied, giving plenty of scope for beginners, advanced divers and even experts. If you’ve never tried the sport before it is the ideal place to start, as the coastline is filled with diving centres and training schools, where you can learn the basics and enjoy an accompanied first time step into the world of scuba diving.

The area’s huge collection of courses and programmes include plenty of accredited, specialist options, so ensure your choice has been PADI verified, then you can feel safe that you will receive the proper guidance to help you become ocean ready.

With a plethora of shallow reefs and cenotes within paddling and walking distance, there are plenty of first time diving experiences to be had, and many of them are found in calm waters. Gran Cenote Island has some perfect shallow sections filled with vibrant marine life, and the shallow corals of El Bajito and Chitales are ideal for beginners.

I’m an experienced diver; can I find any new and exciting sites here?

As well as providing a wealth of diving sites for beginners, the waters of Cancun and the Riviera Maya are perfect for experienced and expert divers. The life hiding beneath the surface of the sea here is diverse, and there are plenty of mysterious and captivating places you can marvel at even if you’ve been scuba diving countless times before.

High level divers can find some thrills on a drift dive, the ocean’s very own version of a magic carpet ride, or you can visit a mystifying wreck, such as the minesweeper found at San Toribio.

For a new experience you can try some diving in the area’s cenotes, which offer astounding visibility of up to 120 metres. These dark and secretive cave systems are made up of hidden underground passages, so they provide an adrenaline tour for anyone who delves into them. The Hidden World Cenotes Adventure Park is home to some of the most pristine examples in the region.

Can I visit whatever the time of year?

The Cancun and Riviera Maya area enjoys a similar climate throughout the year, so you can book your flight to Mexico with an airline such as Thomson whatever the month and expect to encounter some stunning underwater sights. July and August are typically around 32 degrees centigrade, whilst January averages at around 27C. The water temperatures are also steady across the year, averaging from around 25C to 28C.

Being within the Atlantic Hurricane Zone, Cancun does experience a storm season from May until December, but large storms are very rare. Bad weather cancellations of diving excursions are uncommon within the area, so you stand a great chance of experiencing some scuba diving whatever the time of year.

Do I need to bring any equipment?

With a huge array of diving centres and equipment shops across the coastline, there are plenty of places where you can hire equipment and find all the necessary items for a safe dive.

Beginners will be introduced to the appropriate apparatus, and most diving courses include hire of their equipment for your dive.

From mysterious underground caverns and ship wrecks, to vibrant, colourful reefs and sea life, the diving experience across Cancun and the Riviera Maya is a diverse one. Whether you want to encounter the sun glistening on the luminous coral, or you wish to explore a dark cave in search of sharks and turtles, Mexico’s Caribbean Coast has it all.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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2 Comments

  1. I’d love to do a PADI Open Water course next year when I go to Mexico. Do you know how many days such a course takes?

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  2. @stef I would recommend Mexico Blue Dream in Playa del Carmen. It’s located 20min south of Cancun. I want to say the course is 3-4 days. 2 days of book work 1 day practical and tests and the last day for two dives in open water. I got my certs from them a few years ago and always book with them when I’m down there. Great people and service…cheers and..keep exploring!

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