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12 Things to KNOW Before Going Scuba Diving in Cancun

12 Things to KNOW Before Going Scuba Diving in Cancun

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Although the gorgeous beaches, luxurious resorts, and vibrant nightlife are all awesome reasons to visit Cancun, for me, there’s an even bigger draw: scuba diving

Diving is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Cancun, and the great thing is that here, you don’t even need to be a certified diver in order to do it! Plus, kids as young as 10 can join beginner dives, so you can even go diving as a family.

There’s so much marine magic to discover in Cancun, from colorful coral reefs that are teeming with tropical fish to underwater sculptures and eerie shipwrecks from years gone by. We thought that it was only right to create a comprehensive guide to scuba diving in Cancun so that you can make the most of your underwater adventures.

Don’t have time to read the full article? We bet our reasons for enjoying Cancun are similar to yours – it’s a great place to eat amazing food, relax on the beach, and even have a little fun exploring the nightlife. But one of the TOP reasons we visit is to explore the ocean, so if you’re looking to “seas the day“, we highly recommend this Beginner’s Caribbean Dive.

1. About scuba diving in Cancun 

Bailey and Daniel look at a Sting Ray at the MUSA dive site in Cancun
A stingray at MUSA!
Daniel getting ready to go scuba diving in Cancun, Mexico
Ready to go!

Cancun is a tropical paradise surrounded by crystal clear waters that offer excellent visibility for divers. We’re talking about 80-115 feet (24-35 meters), which is considered high! 

Although diving is more popular during the dry season, you can actually dive for around 300 days per year in Cancun, which means you should be able to get a good few dives during a Cancun vacation. We’ve gone scuba diving here at lots of different times of the year, and it’s always a fantastic experience.

Plus, the water temperature remains pretty constant and hovers between 24-29°C (75-84°F) all year, so you never need to worry about plunging into cold water! 

As a result, Cancun’s tropical waters are home to an amazing range of marine life. You can see nurse sharks, brain coral, lobsters, sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and so much more when you go scuba diving here. There’s a reason we come back so often! 

Another thing that makes scuba diving in Cancun so great is that there are several environmental protections in place to preserve marine life here. Most of the area’s most popular dive sites fall under the protection of the Cancun National Marine Park or Isla Mujeres National Park. The local authorities work hard to ensure that the reefs and sea life are protected from damage and overfishing, so you can enjoy diving while feeling good about supporting sustainable tourism.

2. Why do I love scuba diving in Cancun?

Daniel and Bailey scuba dive in Cancun
How many underwater museums can you visit in the world?

There are so many reasons! 

Cancun is home to a ton of amazing dive locations in Mexico and you can explore them for very reasonable prices. Diving can be really expensive in certain parts of the world, and Mexico is one of the most affordable countries to do it in.

Plus, the marine life here is just incredible. I feel like Cancun has a big reputation for partying and people sometimes don’t realize just how amazing the sealife is here. 

And just because scuba diving is relatively cheap here doesn’t mean that you miss out in terms of quality. There are loads of dive schools here with Western certifications, like PADI, which is pretty much the gold standard of diving certifications. The dive masters who accompany you on tours have thousands of hours of experience and really know their stuff, and there are also some great diving courses here if you want to get certified.

I’m also super passionate about conservation and eco-friendly tourism, so I’m really happy that Mexico is putting more and more emphasis on this. So when you dive in Cancun, you’re actually encouraging the industry to keep moving in a sustainable way and to do more work on protecting the environment.

So really, the question is: who wouldn’t love scuba diving in Cancun?!

3. When is the best time to go scuba diving in Cancun? 

A school of fish while scuba diving in Cancun
A puffer fish while scuba diving in Cancun
A puffer fish while scuba diving in Cancun

You can go scuba diving in Cancun all year round but the best time is during the dry season, which lasts from November to April. During this time, you’ll enjoy visibility of up to 100 feet (30 meters) which is incredible! Going in November, February or March is especially nice, as Cancun is a bit less crowded during this time than it is over the festive period. 

And for real adrenaline junkies, November to March is also bull shark season!  

With that being said, you can also have a great time scuba diving in Cancun during the rainy season, and the waters tend to be less crowded. May to September is whale shark season, so if you want to swim with whale sharks in Cancun, this is the best time to see these beautiful gentle giants. This is also a great time of year to see sea turtles, especially at Akumal Beach, which is a fun day trip from Cancun

The water is also warmest during the summer months, reaching up to 29°C (84°F), so it’s almost like diving in bathwater.

The best time of day to go diving in Cancun is in the morning. You’ll usually get the best conditions in the morning because there’s less wind and the current is milder, so you’ll enjoy better visibility. This is especially true during the rainy season because it tends to rain in the late afternoon, so you can avoid this by going early.

So basically, avoid Cancun’s bustling bars if you want to go scuba diving the next day! 

4. What can you see when scuba diving in Cancun? 

A puffer fish in Cancun, Mexico
A puffer fish in Cancun, Mexico
A sting ray on the ocean floor in Cancun, mexico
A sting ray on the ocean floor in Cancun

You can see TONS of amazing marine creatures when you go scuba diving in Cancun. It’s one of the best places in the world to go scuba diving with bull sharks, which is an incredible experience. But if bull sharks sound a bit too scary, there are also less intimidating kinds of sharks like whale sharks, nurse sharks, and the famously curious reef sharks.

Cancun is also home to three different species of sea turtles. Green turtles, hawksbill turtles, and loggerhead turtles can also be spotted in the waters around Cancun. Hawksbill turtles are rare, so it’s always really exciting to see one swim past! 

There are also so many tropical fish here that you might start to wonder if Finding Nemo wasn’t based in Cancun rather than Australia.

You can also swim alongside manta rays, sting rays, and eagle rays here. It’s also pretty common to see barracuda, boxfish, and starfish around.

And honestly, this list is just scratching the surface. I’ve seen so many amazing creatures while scuba diving in Cancun, and I feel like every time I come back, I see something new and fascinating! 

5. What are the best dive spots in Cancun? 

Scuba diving in Cancun, Mexico
MUSA

MUSA Underwater Museum

The MUSA underwater museum is undoubtedly one of the best dive spots in Cancun. It’s home to over 500 statues which represent the complex (and sadly decaying) relationship between mankind and nature. 

Diving here should definitely be on your Mexico bucket list so you can see all of the underwater sculptures for yourself. In fact, it feels a bit like discovering the Lost City of Atlantis! 

But not only is this unique dive site a ton of fun to explore, but it’s also good for the ocean! The sculptures at MUSA have actually created an artificial reef that has really benefited the marine ecosystem by providing a suitable habitat for coral and tropical fish. You might even spot some turtles swimming around here.

For one of the best tours in Cancun we’ve been on, you can visit MUSA as part of this 2-dive tour for only $115 USD. It’s an experience we still talk about it was THAT good!

Manchones Reef

The Manchones Reef is another incredible dive site located between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Many people actually access this reef by going scuba diving from Isla Mujeres. The biodiversity here is mind-blowing and I actually think that it’s one of the best places to dive not just in Cancun, but the whole of Mexico! 

There are lots of different types of coral to spot here, including elkhorn coral, as well as lobsters, angel fish, parrot fish, and stingrays … but honestly, if I were to sit here and name everything I’ve seen while snorkeling this reef, this blog would go on forever!

You can visit the Manchones Reef and MUSA all in one go on this small group, 2-dive tour. At $85 USD per person, it’s a great way to tick off two of Cancun’s top dive sites in a single afternoon.

C-58/C-55 Wreck Dive

In Cancun, you have the chance to dive and see not one but two Mexican Navy Minesweeper ships from WWII. C-55 and C-58 were both sunk by the Mexican Army and are now popular dive sites thanks to their interesting history and all of the marine life around them.

You can see manta rays, barracudas, octopus, starfish, seahorses, and so much more around these wrecks. The currents around here can be pretty strong, though, so this is a scuba site for more experienced divers. If you’ve logged at least 20 dives, then you can join this 2-tank dive tour of the C-55 and C-58 wrecks for $115 USD. It’s only offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays and tends to sell out, so make sure you book online before your trip!

Bull shark above us while diving in Cancun, Mexico
Bull shark above us while diving in Cancun, Mexico

Bull shark diving

From November to March, you can also go bull shark diving around Cancun. They actually tend to be found a little further south of Cancun, closer to Playa del Carmen, but the two towns are close so you can easily dive with bull sharks from Cancun. Although bull sharks are considered one of the more aggressive shark species, it’s safe to dive with them, but you will need to have an advanced diving certification in order to do it.

Manta Valley

If you’ve got 40-50 dives under your belt, then Manta Valley is an awesome site to explore. Manta Valley is where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet, so the marine life here is absolutely incredible. You can see frogfish, batfish, big pelagics, and (of course) manta rays at this pristine reef, to name but a few species that inhabit these waters. I think this is a very underrated site, so definitely check it out if you’re experienced enough!

Punta Negra Reef

Punta Negra Reef is home to an impressive variety of marine creatures, from eels and nurse sharks to barracudas and lobsters. One thing I like about diving this reef is that the current runs parallel to the reef, so you can enjoy an easy drift down along the coral-filled edge. If you’re looking for a relaxing dive, this site is perfect!

Cenote diving

We actually don’t recommend going cenote diving in Cancun! The cenotes in Tulum are far better and they’re all within much easier reach. Plus, cenote diving is a lot more popular in Tulum and so you’ll find much better tours in Tulum

Related Read: After your time in the water, make sure to check out some of the most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico with a tour to Chichen Itza from Cancun!

6. Is scuba diving in Cancun safe?

close up of a statue at the MUSA Reef in Cancun
Daniel dives with a school of fish in Cancun, Mexico

Yes! All the divemasters and instructors here are PADI certified and have a ton of experience. And by that, we mean thousands of hours! They really know what they’re doing, and the dive schools here are excellent, with robust safety standards. Scuba diving here is just as safe as anywhere else. 

Related Read: Now that you know scuba diving here is safe, read more about our safety tips for traveling to Cancun before you go!

7. What is a Discovery Dive in Cancun? 

Bailey and Daniel with a car at the MUSA reef in Cancun, Mexico
On a discovery dive, your guide is right there with you!

A discovery dive is basically a beginner’s dive for people who don’t have a diving certification. It’s a great opportunity to try scuba diving if you’ve never been before and aren’t sure about committing to a course. 

You usually have a quick theory lesson and pool session to make sure that you’ve got the basics down before you head out to do an open-water dive. Often, you’ll be one-on-one with your instructor as you dive, which is great if you’re nervous. 

You don’t go super deep, but in Cancun, you’ll still see a ton of awesome marine creatures. Cancun’s warm waters, great visibility, and generally calm sea make it the perfect place to do a discovery dive.

Basically, we think that Cancun is an awesome place to try out scuba diving, and there are some great discovery dives on offer. 

This beginner scuba tour will take you to the MUSA underwater museum and the Manchones Reef, so you get to experience two incredible dive sites, and you’ll be in a small group which we think is ideal for first-timers. It costs $135 USD per person and lasts for about 6 hours, with a comprehensive theory lesson and pool session before you hit the water, which is great for building confidence.

This small-group tour also takes you to the same dive sites, but groups are even smaller as they’re capped at just 4 people. It seems cheaper at first at $86 USD per person, but there are more additional costs so it works out at almost the same price after you add wetsuit rental, marine park fees, and the cost of the theory lesson.

8. What are the best scuba diving tours in Cancun?

MUSA, Cancun
MUSA, Cancun

2-Tank Dive MUSA and Reef

This is the scuba diving tour that we did last time we visited MUSA and the Manchones Reef, and we loved every second! It was an epic adventure and we saw so much sea life, it was like being in a real-life aquarium. 

The tour costs $115 USD, and includes the reef preservation charge. You get 2 dives and complimentary bottled water, and a wetsuit if you need it. We would highly recommend booking this tour if you’re a certified diver looking to scuba in Cancun!

Diving in the Mexican Caribbean for Beginners

If you’re looking to do a discovery dive in Cancun, then we think that this beginner scuba tour is an excellent option. It’s very highly rated and the instructors are excellent. The theory lesson covers a lot and then you get to dive at the MUSA underwater museum and the Manchones Reef, so we bet that you’ll be hooked on scuba diving by the end of the day!

This discovery dive costs $173 USD per person, and you get lessons in the morning, followed by two 30-40 minute dives in the afternoon. There will also be snacks and bottled water along the way since diving requires a lot of energy! To get your feet wet in scuba diving, book your spot on this tour online!

Shipwreck for Certified divers with Aquaworld

What we like about this 2-dive tour is that you can choose between different dive sites and even a night dive. One of the options is to go and dive to the C-58 shipwreck, which gives you the chance to see a piece of Mexico’s military history and witness all of the sea creatures that now call the former minesweeper home. 

We mentioned earlier that there are two wrecks to explore around Cancun, but C-58 is the more interesting of the two because it was split in half by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, so it’s now possible to actually go inside the ship and explore. 

You can also explore the MUSA museum, Great Mayan Reef, or Manchones Reef on this tour, but if you’ve got some diving experience then we definitely recommend diving the wreck. It costs $95 USD per person and usually lasts from 8 am until midday unless you choose to do a night dive, of course. For a choose-your-own adventure scuba experience, book a spot on this tour here!

Scuba Diving Wreck and Reef in Cancun for Certified Divers

Last but not least, we really like this shipwreck and reef tour because it offers the best of both worlds in terms of Cancun diving, so it’s ideal for certified divers who don’t have the time or budget to keep doing separate tours. 

For $115 USD, you get to explore the C-58 or C-55 wreck in a small group of up to 6 people, and then afterwards you’ll head to a nearby natural reef. It’s super exciting and we really like that there are no hidden fees with this tour – not even wetsuit rental, which is hardly ever included! 

You do need to have done over 20 dives to do this tour, so if you’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt we think it’s perfect! This tour is only available two days a week and tends to sell out, so book now to secure your spot and you can even choose to pay later when you book with Viator!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

9. Can you learn to scuba dive in Cancun?

On the boat with all our scuba diving gear in Cancun
A guide teaches newbies on our boat how to set up their gear!

Yes, and I actually think it’s a fantastic place to learn. There are lots of excellent dive schools here so you can learn with highly experienced instructors who really know their stuff. I mean, Cancun is a scuba diving paradise, so it’s no surprise that great instructors flock here! Plus, it’s such a beautiful place to learn and will really give you a passion for scuba diving. 

PADI is the most widely recognized diving certification and you can do the standard open-water course in just three days. Once you’ve got your certification, you’ll be able to dive up to 18 meters/59 feet all over the world, so it opens up so many wonderful experiences for you.

This PADI open water course is excellent for anyone looking to get certified in Cancun. You can even do your theory lessons online before you arrive in Cancun so that you don’t waste any vacation time in a classroom. Then, you’ll learn the basic skills in the pool before completing four open water dives in the waters around Cancun, so you’ll not only get certified, you’ll have a great time doing it. It costs $650 USD (or cheaper for larger groups) when you book online and even includes daily hotel pickup and drop off, which is a really convenient bonus!

Related Read: You can also learn to dive on one of the scuba diving tours in Playa del Carmen!

10. Is scuba diving in Cancun suitable for children? 

Two people scuba dive the MUSA Reef off the coast of Cancun, Mexico

Yes, just not super young kids.

We think that scuba diving in Cancun is actually a great way for kids to build confidence and develop a passion for the underwater world!

Children as young as 10 years old can go diving in Mexico, although the minimum age to become fully certified is 15. Kids aged 10-14 can join discovery dives or gain a PADI Junior Open Water certification, which allows them to dive with a supervised adult. 

Kids aged 10 or 11 can dive up to 12 meters/39 feet with a junior certification, while 12 to 14-year-olds can go up to 18 meters/59 feet, which is the same depth as a certified adult.

Related Read: For more ideas for an incredible family trip, check out our recommendations for the 10 best tours in the Yucatan Peninsula!

11. Scuba diving vs snorkeling in Cancun 

Snorkeling with fish at Akumal Beach in Mexico
Snorkeling with fish at Akumal Beach in Mexico
Bailey and daniel scuba dive past a huge coral in Cancun, mexico
Scuba diving is overall better!

Overall, I think that scuba diving in Cancun is way better. 

Snorkeling in Cancun can be a bit restrictive in terms of the sites you get to visit, and you only get surface-level views. It can still be a lot of fun but scuba dives are generally way more impressive. Diving allows you to go way deeper and explore some really unique sites that aren’t visible from the surface. You see so much more wildlife this way and it’s a much more adventurous experience.

Plus, nothing beats the weightless sensation you get while you’re diving. There’s a reason people get so addicted to it! It’s also a more challenging experience and I always get a real sense of accomplishment after a dive. There’s nothing like it. 

With that being said, scuba diving isn’t for everyone and sometimes snorkeling might be a better alternative. You need to be pretty physically fit in order to scuba dive and it’s not a suitable activity for those with asthma or heart conditions. It’s more accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels, and there’s less risk involved.

Plus, snorkeling is often cheaper than scuba diving, and you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a course to be able to do it. 

For example, this half-day snorkel tour costs $75 USD (plus a $15 USD dock fee) and you get to explore 5 different areas, including coral reefs, the MUSA underwater museum, and a cenote. You’ll also head to a great turtle spot where you have over a 95% chance of spotting at least one sea turtle!

This reef and shipwreck snorkeling tour is another great option. You’ll explore wrecks, the underwater museum, reefs, and hopefully see some turtles, too. For $75 USD (and the dock fee), it also includes hotel pick up and drop off, which is really convenient. 

12. Is scuba diving in Cancun worth it?

A statue at the MUSA Reef in Cancun
A statue at the MUSA Reef in Cancun
Fish swim amougst corals off the coast of Cancun Mexico

Yes, for sure. There’s an amazing array of sea life in Cancun and I’m always totally blown away every time I dive here. It’s the kind of experience you’ll remember forever, and is a total must-do!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Cancun

Daniel stands in front of the main temple at Zona Arqueológica de San Miguelito in Cancun, Mexico
The main temple at the San Miguelito Ruins!
Bailey looks out the window of the Cancun Scenic Tower in Cancun, Mexico
Views for days at the Cancun Scenic Tower!

After your epic scuba adventure, there’s so much more to see and do in Cancun! I’ve been coming to Cancun since I was a kid and I never get tired of visiting. So if you’re looking for even more activities, check out some of my favorites below!

  • Eat, eat eat! – Calories don’t count on vacation right? The restaurants in Cancun deliver on amazing food – especially the Mexican restaurants of course. Mextreme has the best tacos and I always order the Aztec soup! If you want to try a bunch of different dishes in an evening – this taco and beer food tour will take you to five popular spots for a fun night you’ll want to arrive hungry for!
  • Cancun Scenic Tower – As if Cancun wasn’t scenic enough, there’s another way to enjoy the views here! The Cancun Scenic Tower gives you amazing views of the Caribbean! The entire viewing deck lifts up, so you won’t even need to climb any stairs to get this view.
  • Swim with whale sharks – For a totally unique and memorable experience, jump in the water to swim with whale sharks near Cancun! These gentle giants feast on plankton and fish, so you can relax on this whale shark tour and just admire these giant fish (they aren’t actually sharks!). Whale shark season is from May to September, so if you’re here at a different time of year, this half-day sailing trip is another way to get out on the water and cruise the beautiful ocean!

Where to Stay in Cancun

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun
Photo credit: Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun

If you’re going to be scuba diving in Cancun, then you’ll need a place to stay! Below are some of the best hotels (for every budget) in the Cancun Hotel Zone.

For budget travelers, the Selina Cancun Laguna Hotel Zone is a great choice. It doesn’t have the greatest reviews, but I really enjoyed my stay and for the price and fun atmosphere, you can’t go wrong! You can book this hostel on Hostelword or Booking.com.

If you prefer something a little nicer, I love the JW Marriott Cancun Resort. It’s not all-inclusive, which I enjoy because there are so many delicious restaurants in Cancun! The hotel is located right on the beach and has a huge pool. Rooms are typically $300-$500 USD depending on the time of year.

Of course, we all love a luxury all-inclusive stay and for that, I always book either the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun or the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun Adults Only. Both are not cheap (typically $700-$1,000 USD nightly) but are equally as luxurious with fantastic oceanfront locations, delicious food, quality alcohol, and more.

More of a luxury traveler? Learn about the absolute best resorts in Cancun to choose from!

Renting a Car in Mexico

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while driving around Mexico
A rental car means freedom to go to the beach whenever you want!

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car. 

I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically. 

I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend. 

The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too. 

Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit. 

Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper! 

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel pose for a photo at the MUSA underwater museum while scuba diving in Cancun, Mexico
Thanks for reading!

Whether you’re a complete newbie or a seasoned pro, scuba diving in Cancun is an experience you won’t want to miss! We’ve avid divers and loved every second of our underwater adventures here. So take a break from some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches and play a bit of I-Spy underwater to see what creatures you can spot!

If you need more ideas for your getaway to Mexico, let us help be your adventure guides! You can check out all the blogs we’ve written about Mexico or have a peek at a few popular ones below.

33 FUN Things to do in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

10 Things to Know BEFORE Booking an ATV Tour in Cancun

20 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Tulum Ruins

8 BEST Mexican Restaurants in Cancun