The Best Scuba Diving in Cancun: The Best 8 Sites + Practical Tips
Whether you are planning a dive-focused trip to Cancun or you just want to take a few dives while you are there, this post will help you figure out what are the best Scuba Diving spots in Cancun.
When people think of Cancun a vision of luxurious hotels with white sandy beaches comes to mind, but one of the most beautiful parts of Cancun is what lies below the surface.
In the waters off the coast of Cancun, you can find the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is home to 65 species of coral and around 500 species of fish.
Cancun is a great spot to enjoy these lively reefs- filled with colorful corals, sponges, and a variety of marine animals.
Here I will take you through all you need to know about diving in Cancun to plan a great vacation.
[OUR PICK] Aquaworld Wreck dive
2-tank dive – half-day excursion – 4.5⭐️ 142 Reviews
Includes: the Underwater Sculpture Museum, the wreck of a C-58 Minesweeper, a night dive or dive the Great Mayan Reef.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Best Scuba diving in Cancun: a place for every level of experience
Cancun is a popular tropical location for travelers of all different ages and comfort levels in the water, from experienced scuba divers to people who want to try snorkeling for the first time.
One of the greatest things about the reefs in Cancun is the variety of depths and amount of current between different dive sites.
There are a variety of shallow sites that sit between 20 and 30 feet below the surface, these sites often have mild currents and are ideal for beginner divers or snorkelers.
Cancun is a popular destination for Discover Scuba Diving experiences, where uncertified divers can take a short class and then do a shallow dive in the company of an instructor, and for beginner divers to work on their open water certification.
For individuals who want to snorkel, the sunshine and clear water make good visibility for people to watch the marine life.
That is why Cancun is also a great destination for families or groups that have a mix of divers and snorkelers, as many dive shops will send boats to the shallow reefs and both snorkelers and divers can enjoy the same reef.
Shallow reefs are ideal for snorkelers and beginners; nevertheless, advanced divers can also enjoy these spots.
Shallow reefs are often home to juvenile fish, such as the juvenile damselfish which looks like it has sparkling jewels on its back.
Cancun is a great spot for novice divers, but advanced divers will find a variety of reefs to challenge and excite them too.
It is not known for deep dive sites, with many reefs sitting in the sand around 65 to 70 feet, but the combination of coral formation and current makes them interesting dives as well.
Experienced divers will learn to navigate the current and tuck behind the coral heads to study the reef, looking for small critters. The C-58 shipwreck is a great, deeper dive for advanced divers who visit the Cancun area.
Cancun diving offers dive sites appropriate for beginners as well as challenging sites for advanced divers.
Whether divers chose to spend their entire vacation diving or just go for a day, there is plenty of variety to keep them entertained.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Cancun Diving Season – When is the best time to scuba dive in Cancun?
Cancun offers great diving all year round, and there are positive aspects to every season. The high season for tourism in Cancun is during the dry, winter season, between November and April.
During these months many tourists want to escape the cold of their homes and come spend time on a tropical beach.
Here below I will share what diving in Cancun will be like in winter and in the summer months.
You will notice that regardless of what time of year you decide to visit Cancun, you will likely be greeted with good weather and even better diving.
👉Also read: The best time to travel to Cancun: the ultimate guide
Scuba Diving in Cancun in winter
This is the coolest time of year in Cancun, with average temperatures between the 70s and mid 80s degrees Fahrenheit, and water 76 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
For divers who are diving for many consecutive days or are sensitive to the cold, they will be most comfortable in a 3 to 5mm wetsuit and should take a light jacket on the boat with them, as the wind can feel cool when they get out of the water.
During the winter months strong, cold winds can blow in from the north, locally referred to as a note.
These nortes (wind from the north in Spanish) can lower temperatures and cause the harbor master to close the port due to rough seas and unsafe conditions for water sports.
Nortes are most common in the winter months, especially from January to March.
Although the winter months in Cancun are the coolest temperatures, with the correct gear, it is still very comfortable for diving.
The winter months are great for diving because of the activity of marine life.
In fact, in winter, you have the best chance of seeing spotted eagle rays, majestic rays that seem to fly through the current.
Divers who travel south of Cancun to Playa del Carmen in the winter months can have the opportunity to dive with bull sharks.
In the months of November or December groups of female bull sharks arrive in the area and then enter the mangroves to have their babies.
The months of May to October are technically the rainy season, with the Atlantic hurricane season running from late June to the end of November, but do not let that scare you away from planning a trip to Cancun during this time.
Although rain is more common during these months, it is rare that it will rain for long periods of time during the day.
It is common during this season for frequent, but short, rain showers that will not interfere with your vacation plans.
The temperatures during this season are hot, with temperatures reaching the low 90s Fahrenheit, and the ocean temperature can reach up to the mid-80s Fahrenheit.
The months of September and October have the greatest chance of hurricanes passing through the area, making these the least visited times of the year to visit.
Visitors who risk having their vacation interrupted by storms very well may be rewarded with sunny days and uncrowded dive sites.
If you are flexible in your travel and willing to make changes at the sign of bad weather, this can be a great time of year to visit.
The warm air and water temperatures during the summer months make it a great time to be in the water.
Most scuba divers will be comfortable in either a very light wetsuit or not wetsuit at all.
If you are comfortable without a wetsuit, bring a rashguard to use for sun protection and to protect yourself from any small jellyfish in the water.
Scuba Diving in Cancun in Summer
During the summer months of mid-May to mid-September, you can take a snorkeling excursion that takes you past Isla Mujeres, which is just 13 kilometers east of Cancun, to see whale sharks.
These gentle giants gather in the summer months to feast on a plankton bloom, and lucky snorkelers may even spot manta rays and dolphins during the snorkel.
Next, I will explain some of my favorite dive sites that you can visit year-round.
🔽 Get a free Dive Insurance quote here 🔽
The best scuba diving tours in Cancun
Since Cancun is such a popular tourist destination, it can be a good idea to book your diving adventures before your vacation to ensure that the tour operator you chose can accommodate you.
Now more than ever it is easy to book things online, but you want to make sure you are signing up for the excursion that is correct for you.
Here I will outline some of the most popular excursions and what they generally include so you can book the experience you want.
👉 Diving in the Mexican Caribbean for Beginners | 2 Tanks 2 Dives | All Inclusive
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 182 Reviews
This is a discover scuba experience, where new, not certified divers will go to a pool and get some basic scuba instruction and then head out on the boat to dive into two shallow reefs with an instructor.
👉 2 Tank MUSA & Reef
⭐⭐⭐⭐★ 84 Reviews
This is a two-tank boat dive, with one of the dive sites being the underwater museum and the other a nearby coral reef.
It is common in Cancun for dive operators to include the cost of equipment rental ( some charge extra for wetsuits ) in the tour cost – to be sure, you can double-check this with your tour operator.
Operators include water on the boat and some also include small snacks between dives.
👉 Diving in Puerto Morelos
2-tank dive for Certified divers from the beautiful Bahía Petempich. In this diving adventure, you will be able to have 2 dives of 45 minutes in the marine park of Puerto Morelos, also known as “Great Mayan Reef”, one of the jewels of the Mexican Caribbean.
👉 Open Water Diver course PADI in Cancun
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 6 Reviews
PADI Open water course is a few-day course that covers theory, pool sessions, and four open water dives.
At the end of the course, students will become certified divers. All shops schedule the course differently, but it will take a few days to cover all the material.
👉 Wreck Dive
⭐⭐⭐⭐★ 119 Reviews
This is your chance to go dive into the C-58 in Cancun. This dive is for advanced divers due to its current and depth.
👉 2 Tanks Dives Shipwreck and Reef in Cancun for Certified Divers
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 9 Reviews
Two tank dive trip that includes one dive on the C-58 and another dive on a nearby coral reef.
2-Tank Scuba Diving in Punta Cancun Reefs for Certified Divers
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 7 Reviews
Sign up for a one or two-tank boat dive for certified divers. The boat will take you out to two different sites with a surface interval in between.
👉 2 Tanks Dives Cancun Underwater Museum for Certified Divers
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 7 Reviews
Two-tank dive trip for certified divers with one of the dives at the underwater museum.
👉 Discover Scuba Diving – One Tank at Coral Reef
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 6 Reviews
Discover scuba diving with a reef dive. This means divers who are not certified will be given a short class in the pool and then go do a shallow one-tank dive with their instructor on a coral reef.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
The best scuba diving sites in Cancun
1. Scuba Diving Cancun Reefs Inside the Bay
The area between Cancun and Isla Mujeres is referred to as the bay.
This area is generally very shallow with a sandy bottom of around 30 feet and has a very mild current.
The shallow water is so clear that it appears to be crystal blue due to the sand beneath it.
This area has several shallow reefs that are filled with marine life and are some of the best places to scuba dive and snorkel in the area.
Due to the shallow depth and mild currents, dive sites in the bay are a great option for beginner divers, dive students, and snorkelers.
Experienced divers will also enjoy these shallow dives because they are home to a variety of coral species and sea life.
2. Manchones Reef
Manchones Reef is one of the best reefs in the bay and part of the protected marine park area. It is made up of a series of robust coral heads that have a variety of different corals and sponges on them.
These coral heads are home to countless fish, including schools of grunts, blue tang, and snapper.
The sandy bottom and overhangs on the coral reef make this an ideal spot to look for southern stingrays, golden rays, and nurse sharks.
There is plenty of trunkfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, and filefish that swim between the coral heads.
Turtle sightings are common at Manchones Reef too!
In addition to all the aquatic life, you will find at Manchones reef, you will also see the statue Cruz de la Bahia, which means cross of the bay.
This statue was placed in 1997 as a monument to all those who have lost their life at sea.
3. Banderas Reef
Banderas Reef is another area inside the bay that you do not want to miss. This coral reef is composed of two large coral mounds and divers will work their way around them in a figure-eight motion.
The current here can be a bit tricky, so it is not always possible to dive this site, but one day when the current cooperates divers are in for a treat.
Despite its shallow depth, this site is ideal for experienced divers who will take their time exploring the coral.
These coral formations are home to tons of reef life including barracuda, angel fish, moray eels, lobster, and crab.
You can find a variety of colorful sponges and elkhorn coral.
Divers who want to do a night dive in Cancun should expect to do the dive on one of the reefs in the bay.
These shallow reefs provide ideal conditions for night diving with great visibility, mild currents, and most importantly, an abundance of sea life.
At night these reefs transform as octopus, eels, squid, lobster, and crab emerge from their homes and actively hunt.
4. Underwater Museum
No dive trip to Cancun would be complete without visiting the underwater museum, the Museo Subaquatico de Arte, locally known as MUSA.
MUSA is located in the calm water of the bay and is home to over 500 different sculptures.
Book your dive to the Underwater Museum for beginners and Pro divers –
88 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reviews
The idea for the museum came from the former marine park director Jaime Gonzalez Cano, and opened in November 2010.
He recognized that several of the Cancun area reefs were being damaged, partially because of the high number of divers that visit them every year.
He wanted to create a new underwater attraction to give some of these reefs a break, and at the same time promote new coral growth.
He teamed up with Jason deCaires Taylor, an experienced underwater sculptor to create the underwater museum.
The sculptures were made with a pH-neutral concrete that will eventually promote growth, creating new coral for visitors to enjoy.
One of the most famous installations in MUSA is Taylor’s work The Silent Evolution.
This piece is made of over 400 sculptures of people, inspired by local fishermen, and shows the positive and negative effects that humans have on their surroundings.
If you have ever seen pictures of the underwater museum before, it is probably of these sculptures. Taylor took pieces of damaged reefs and attached them to the sculptures to further promote coral growth.
While diving MUSA you will be able to slowly take your time looking at these different sculptures. Another favorite part of MUSA is the sunken Volkswagen Beetle.
One of the best parts of MUSA is that it is constantly evolving with new sponges and coral growth.
A lot of the underwater presence for MUSA still shows pictures of when the sculptures were new.
For example, the sculptures of the people in The Silent Evolution originally had great detail in their facial expressions, but now with over a decade of growth, this detail has been covered by coral and sponge.
The new coral and sponge attract a variety of sea life, making it a great dive.
Divers who are interested in underwater photography will enjoy MUSA, with the shallow depths and clear water, the lighting and sculptures make for dramatic underwater shots.
The underwater museum is a great site for people of all skill levels in the water.
The sculptures sit on a sandy bottom around 20-25 feet deep, making it ideal for beginner snorkelers, divers who are students or just trying scuba out for the first time, or experienced divers.
For many experienced divers, their only other experiences on artificial reefs are shipwrecks, so this is a new and interesting experience for them too!
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Scuba Diving in Cancun – Deep Dives in Cancun Outside of the Bay
The dive sites in Cancun are divided into two categories, inside the bay, or the space between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, and outside of the bay, which is the coast of Cancun to the south of Isla Mujeres.
The dive sites outside of the bay are characterized by stronger currents and deeper depths.
Although the depths here are deeper than inside the bay, they are not very deep, with dive sites having a maximum depth of around 60 to 70ft.
Here I will take you through the best dive sites outside of the bay.
5. El Tunel
El Tunel is around 60ft deep in a long, flat channel of the reef. The current here is moderate to strong, but there are plenty of coral formations to hide behind to get out of the current.
Here there are several arches you can swim through. In addition to the beautiful coral formation here, you will find a great variety of marine life.
In the coral, you will find lobsters and crabs, and swimming around the reef a great variety of reef fish, such as angel fish and trunkfish.
Grampin is known for having great visibility and moderate current. This area is not too deep, with an average depth of around 50 feet and a huge variety of wildlife.
Here you can find schools of snapper and schoolmasters, as well as trumpetfish, scorpionfish, and plenty of parrotfish, wrasse, and cowfish.
This is a good area to look for larger sea life such as turtles and rays.
There is also a beautiful swim through you can explore.
7. Punta Negra Reef
Punta Negra Reef is a beautiful coral reef around 60 ft. Here the current usually run parallel to the reef, making for an enjoyable drift down the coral.
You will find an abundance of different marine life here, from smaller reef fish such as damselfish, angel fish, and filefish to larger marine animals such as nurse sharks, rays, turtles and eels.
You can spot many different creatures in the overhangs in the reef such as lobsters and crabs.
8. General Anaya C – 58 Shipwreck
Originally built for the United States Navy and used during World War II, this ship was then sold to the Mexican Navy, before being retired and intentionally sunk in 2000 to create an artificial reef in the Cancun marine park.
The C-58 sits on a sandy bottom of around 85 feet, making it the deepest dive in the Cancun area.
Due to its depth and the strong current you can experience here, it is for advanced divers.
There is a decent line down to the shipwreck from the surface.
During Hurricane Wilma in 2005 the C-58 was broken into two sections due to the force of the water.
The two sections are now about 100 meters apart and depending on the current and diver’s air consumption, both sections can be visited in a dive.
Divers can enter the wreck and there they will find eels and other fish that have made it their home.
Outside the wreck is full of sea life, with large groupers, and schools of eagle rays during the winter months.
Whether you want to explore the inside of the ship or stay on the outside to enjoy the wildlife, advanced divers do not want to miss the C-58.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Top Rated Cancun Dive Shops
Coconut Divers pride themselves on keeping dive groups small, their professional staff give a great, friendly service.
Solo Buceo shop has been in Cancun for over 25 years. They have experienced instructors and captains and keep their focus on providing safe service.
Squalo Divers is a great dive shop for anyone looking to take a dive class. They offer all different classes, from open water to tec courses.
They are accommodating and flexible to work with clients’ scheduling needs and dive desires.
Manta Divers is a family-run business that keeps dive groups small with a focus on safety with experienced guides.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Scuba Diving Outside Cancun
Diving in Puerto Morelos
The entire Riviera Maya has great diving options from Cancun all the south to the border of Belize. If you have time to travel in this region you can start by heading south from Cancun and make a stop in Puerto Morelos.
Similar to Cancun, this area has beautiful, fish-filled reefs inside a marine park.
Diving in Playa Del Carmen
The next stop is Playa del Carmen, which is known for the bull sharks that visit between December and February.
Diving in Mahahual
Further south you will get to Mahahual, which has shallow reefs and is the access point to head out to Banco Chinchorro, a coral atoll that is about 24 km from the coast of Mahahual.
This atoll is home to crystal clear water, beautiful coral formations which include healthy elk horn coral and brain coral, as well as large numbers of conch-shells and nurse sharks.
Diving in Xcalak
Even further south you will find Xcalak, a small community in the protected Sian Ka’an, a World Heritage Site known for its amazing wildlife.
All along the Riviera Maya, you will find cenotes, which are natural pools of water caused by the collapse of limestone. Cenotes can be large exposed pools of water, or underground.
For divers cenotes are large cave and cavern systems that can be explored while scuba diving. There are all different types of cenotes to visit and depending on your skill level, whether you are a fully certified cave diver, an open water diver, or a snorkeler there are cenotes you can visit.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Best scuba diving in Cancun – final thoughts
Cancun is a great destination for scuba divers. Whether you are a hard-core diver who will spend every day of your vacation under the water or a brand-new diver who wants to experience the underwater world for the first time, Cancun has what you are looking for.
If you want to dive from Playa del Carmen Puerto Morelos or any cenote of the Riviera Maya you can easily keep Cancun as a bay, staying in one of the spectacular Cancun all-inclusive hotels and taking day trips from there.
However, if you want to dive in Cozumel, Mahahual, and Xcalak you will need to stay there as they are further away.
BEST SCUBA DIVING IN CANCUN
Other Amazing Diving Spots in Mexico
Diving in Cozumel
Located about 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is famous for its large coral formations and dramatic wall dives.
The reefs here run along a drop-off, and the contrast of the white sand, coral formations, and blue abyss make for unforgettable dives.
In the southern section of the island, divers will swim between large coral pinnacles.
Cozumel has a large variety of tropical fish as well as sea turtles, nurse sharks, moray eels, and spotted eagle rays.
Cozumel is the mecca for diving in the area and for this reason, we have dedicated a specific post about Diving in Cozumel that you may find helpful.
Diving in Cabo Pulmo
Located on the Sea of Cortez between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, Cabo Pulmo is a protected marine park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the late 1990s local families worked to create the marine park in response to the overfishing and the sea life in Cabo Pulmo has flourished since then.
Depending on the time of year you visit you can see different animals migrating through this area including different species of rays, bull sharks, and lucky divers may even spot whales.
Diving in La Paz – Baja California Sur
North of Cabo Pulmo in the Sea of Cortez, La Paz is a great spot for divers who want the chance to see large marine life.
Animals migrate through this area so depending on the season you travel here you can spot hammerheads, whales, whale sharks, manta rays, and marlin.
All year round it is possible to see sea lions and sea turtles. The majority of the dive sites are around the Isla del Espiritu Santo, including different wreck dives.
Isla Guadalupe (Baja California Sur)
Located 130 miles off the coast of Ensenada, Baja California, in the Pacific Ocean. This island is famous for thrill seekers who want to cage dive with great white sharks.
This area has registered over 300 different individual great white sharks!
Liveaboard trips to Guadalupe Island usually run from July to October as this is the peak season for Great White Sharks.
On LiveAboard.com you will find a selection of top operators who run trips to Guadalupe, usually departing from San Diego and then heading out to Guadalupe Island.
Trips usually last 5 days with around 4 dives per day.
During these trips, you will have the opportunity to enjoy some up-close encounters with these spectacular marine creatures from the safety of a cage.
The cages are always lowered down to 10 meters in the water upon arrival to ensure the sharks get comfortable with them.
All divers can participate in cage diving as Surface Supplied Air is used during the cage dive.
Click here to check out all the available liveaboard options for Guadalupe Island
On the Liveaboard.com site, you can compare liveaboard boats’ prices and features with the help of their outstanding customer service staff who will assist you throughout the booking process, from start to boarding!
Located 370 miles from the coast of Baja California, Socorro and the islands of the Revillagigedo Archipelago are full of large, pelagic marine life.
Only accessible on liveaboard boats, these islands attract a variety of sharks, including silky and Galapagos, large manta rays, and dolphins.
I have been working with Liveaboards.com for a while and I cannot recommend them enough for booking your liveaboard experience.
Click here to learn about all the available liveaboard options for Socorro Islands
On the Liveaboard.com site, you can compare liveaboard boats’ prices and features and choose the one you like the most. Their outstanding customer service staff will assist you throughout the booking process, from the choice-making to boarding!
IMPORTANT: Socorro is an advanced diving area as sometimes there are strong currents and big waves, and most dive spots are quite deep, however, each liveaboard has its own minimum dive experience level, and most expect you to have your Advanced Open water with at least 50 logged dives.
Located north of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez, Loreto is home to a huge variety of marine life, including turtles, sea lions, rays, and whale sharks.
The Loreto National Marine Park is made up of several uninhabited dive sites, with underwater cliffs and rocky sea floors.
There are so many things to do in Loreto besides diving that you can spend an entire week or a month exploring the spectacular surroundings.
Or you can also check out World Nomads Travel insurance as they have the Explorer plan that should include diving. This way you will have the entire trip covered.
Scuba diving in Mexico: final thoughts
As you can see, Scuba Diving in Cancun is only one of the many amazing diving experiences that you can have in Mexico. I hope this guide will help you figure out the best place for your next dive.
About the Author
Adrienne Banka is a Michigander and fell in love with diving at 16 years old. Now she is an island living dive instructor turned brewmaster, turned mom. When she is not in the water she enjoys riding her bike and chasing after her dog and her little girl.