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Have you ever heard someone say they went scuba diving and didn’t like it? No? Me neither!
That’s because scuba diving is an amazing, super addictive activity, and Mexico just so happens to be one of the best countries in the world to do it in.
What I love most is Mexico’s incredibly diverse marine life and tons of reefs, cenotes, and caves to explore. We’re lucky enough to have been diving all over the country and can easily say it’s one of the best things to do in Mexico! In fact, we’re both avid divers and have over 150 dives between us and around 30 in Mexico!
One thing that’s really cool about diving in Mexico is that if you’re not a certified diver, there are lots of opportunities to do discovery dives. These are beginner dives that you do under the guidance of a pro, and they’re actually pretty rare in most countries, so we recommend that you make the most of it while you’re here! And if you do want to get certified while you’re in Mexico, there are lots of opportunities to do that, too.
So mask up and let’s dive – pun intended – into the 12 best places to go scuba diving in Mexico!
Don’t have time to read the full article? Here our some of our favorite scuba spots in Mexico:
- Get your fins wet in Cancun and take a beginner diving course to explore an Underwater Art Museum and Manchones reef!
- Enjoy this two reef discover dive to see all the extraordinary sea creatures in Playa del Carmen.
- Brag about scuba diving in Cozumel to all your friends!
- Eat seafood to your heart’s content in Isla Holbox and see sleeping sharks with Squalo Adventures.
- Dive into the clear waters of Costa Maya with this small-group scuba tour!
Best places to go Scuba Diving in Mexico
Ah, Cancun. I’ve been coming here since I was 7 years old and we’ve been here loads of times as a couple, too. It’s a very touristy resort town that’s famed for its nightlife, but one of our favorite things to do in Cancun is dive, because the marine life here is amazing, and there are some really amazing sites to explore.
One of the best places to scuba dive in Cancun is MUSA, or the Underwater Museum, which is made up of around 500 statues. The museum is actually split up into three different locations in the waters around Cancun, and the only way to access it is by boat. I mean, it wouldn’t be an Underwater Museum if you could get there on foot.
You can also dive shipwrecks in Cancun and you should definitely explore Manchones Reef, which is south of Isla Mujeres and is famed for its incredible biodiversity. You can see everything from brain coral to lobsters, angel fish, and nurse sharks here. It’s one of the best reefs in Mexico for sure.
Cancun is a great place to do discovery dives, and for $135 USD this full-day, two-tank tour is perfect for beginners. You’ll get an introductory lesson before you head out to explore the Underwater Museum and the Manchones Reef. It’s only shallow dives, so we think that this tour is a great way to get a taste for diving before you commit to a full course. We also like that the group size is capped at 6 people so it feels less overwhelming if you’re nervous. You can book a spot on this tour online here to get a taste of scuba diving in Mexico!
If you’re a certified diver, then we highly recommend this 2-dive tour. We did it and absolutely loved it! We got to go to both MUSA and the Manchones Reef, and it really was epic. It cost us only $100 USD each (plus a $15 USD reef preservation fee) and we definitely considered it money well spent. If you want to book the exact same tour we took, you can reserve your spot online!
Cancun is also a great place to get your PADI certification and we think that this 3-day diving course is perfect for doing just that. You get theory lessons in a classroom, practice sessions in a pool, and 4 open water dives across the 3 days, and by the end of it all, you’ll be a bona-fide scuba diver! It costs $650 USD per person, which sounds like a lot but Mexico is actually one of the cheapest countries in the world to do a diving course, so it’s definitely worth considering booking this course if that’s on your bucket list.
2. Playa Del Carmen
It’s a prime place to go scuba diving in Mexico because there’s just as much going on beneath its clear blue waters as there is on its sandy shores. There are lots of amazing dive sites around, from the Turtle and Barracuda Reefs to cenotes and shipwrecks. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a pro in Playa Del Carmen, because there are plenty of dives to suit everyone.
If you’re not a certified diver, then you can do this discovery dive and explore two different reefs for 40-60 minutes at a time (after your theory lesson and practice session in the pool, of course). As well as the stunning coral and tropical fish, you can also spot moray eels and turtles, too. It costs $140 USD per person, including your guide and all fees, and lasts for about 8 hours, so it’s a full-day experience.
Or, for the ultimate adrenaline-pumping experience, you can go scuba diving with bull sharks between mid-October and March. Admittedly, it does sound pretty terrifying, since bull sharks are known as fierce hunters, but they’re highly unlikely to attack humans (especially if you follow your divemaster’s instructions!). This crazy experience costs $140 USD and you get two dives, in a group of 15 people or less. We know it’s not for everyone but if you live for thrills, then you’ll want to book this tour!
This tour also offers the chance to spot bull sharks between November and March, but it runs all year round and focuses more on the beautiful reefs around Playa Del Carmen. It’s for certified divers only, and the spots you visit will be hand-picked based on your level of training, which we think is really cool. It costs $125 USD per person to book this half-day trip, but this price only includes tanks and not other equipment like wetsuits and flippers, although you can rent this for an extra fee.
Meanwhile, if you want to get certified while you’re in Playa Del Carmen, then we think that this PADI certification course is an absolute bargain at $490 USD! Like the one in Cancun, it includes theory lessons, pool practice sessions, and 4 open-water dives. And once you’re done, you’ll be able to dive up to 60 feet all over the world, which opens up a whole new level of exploration.
Not to brag, but I actually visited Tulum before it was cool.
Well, it was always a fantastic place to visit, but its popularity seems to have grown tenfold in the past few years. Even the rich and famous flock to Tulum for its boho chic vibe, beautiful beaches, and ancient ruins, but we think that its marine life is equally as appealing as all of the above (if not more so).
For one thing, Tulum is home to the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. There are also lots of cenotes around Tulum to explore, like Dos Ojos, the Gran Cenote, and Casa Cenote to explore, and experienced divers can even head down into Tulum’s cave network for a truly epic adventure.
But if you’re not quite ready for cave diving, you can start with a discovery dive in Casa Cenote. We went diving here and it was one of our most unique and memorable diving experiences in Mexico. You get to dive underneath mangroves and see patches of light refracting through the water. It’s a pretty ethereal experience that makes you feel like you’re in a movie! This dive is one of the top tours in Tulum and costs $149 USD, including a briefing and practice session and you can reserve your spot online.
Or, if you want to do two discovery dives, this full-day tour will take you to explore the Tulum Barrier Reef, which is part of the enormous Mesoamerican Reef we talked about. Included in the $180 USD tour is a local lunch of fresh fruit and cochinita (a traditional pork dish) between the two dives. The crew on this tour is so friendly and will put you right at ease if this is your first time scuba diving! This tour has a max of 12, so secure your spot by booking online with Viator!
We love the small island of Cozumel not only because it’s insanely beautiful, but also because it has a really rich cultural heritage and super friendly people. And although there’s some great nightlife, there’s less of a spring break vibe to this island, so it’s perfect if you want somewhere a bit more chilled out.
Best of all, though, Cozumel is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world for scuba diving! There are so many fantastic dive sites that this blog would be several thousand words longer if we were to list them all, but we love Columbia Shallow Reef for beginners, while sites like the Santa Rosa Wall, Palancar Gardens, and San Francisco Wall are suitable for all abilities.
And if you’re an advanced diver, there are some truly bucket list places to dive in Cozumel, like the Punta Sur Cathedral, which allows you to swim through a large, sponge-lined cave opening while you spot turtles and Eagle Rays. Our favorite, though, is the Palancar Caves dive site. You can explore the caves with a flashlight in hand and spot an insane variety of rare fish – it really is epic.
For those who aren’t PADI certified, we think that this discovery dive is an awesome way to dip your toe in the water (along with the rest of your body). It’s a private experience, so it will just be you and up to 3 other people, so if you’re nervous then you don’t have to worry about putting on a brave face in front of people you don’t know! But trust us, once you get in the water and start exploring the dive school’s house reef, you’ll catch the diving bug and probably never be cured. Plus, at $85 USD per person, we think that this trip is really good value for money! Make sure you book this dive for your trip before you leave!
As for certified divers, this scuba tour takes you on two dives during which you’ll explore some of the most beautiful sections of Cozumel’s world-class reef, with lunch in between. The boat that takes you to the reef is also faster than most others in Cozumel, so you get more time in the water with this tour. It costs $114 USD per person and it’s one of the top-rated tours on the entire island.
We think that Cozumel is also a fantastic place to learn to dive, although we must warn you that it will set your standards very high for all future diving trips! This 3-day PADI course costs $516 USD and after that, you’ll be free to dive all over Mexico (and the rest of the world, for that matter). Cozumel is a diving paradise, so the instructors here really know their stuff and are super patient.
5. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a postcard-perfect Caribbean island and the marine life here is so vibrant that you can even see fishes around without putting your head underwater, but it’s even better if you go scuba diving!
You can visit Isla Mujeres on a day trip from Cancun, or stay overnight and enjoy the laid-back pace of life on this beautiful island. There’s a ton to explore in terms of scuba diving around Isla Mujeres, including the MUSA Underwater Museum and the Manchones Reef.
If you’re a beginner, you can do this discovery dive for $150 USD (or $175 USD if you want to do two dives). You’ll get to explore the MUSA and marvel at all the underwater statues, which represent the fractured relationship between human beings and the natural environment – talk about a statement. If you choose to do the second dive, you can also explore the reef in all its glory.
And for certified divers, this small group tour will take you on two dives to the MUSA and the Manchones Reef for $135 USD (plus the entrance fees to the museum and the marine reserve). If it’s been a while since you last dived, you can also add a quick refresher course beforehand for $20 USD, which is a good idea if it’s been a while since you masked up.
Related Read: There are also plenty of adventures on the water around here like the epic whale shark tours from Isla Mujeres. These gentle giants are incredible to see up close!
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.
6. Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is one of our favorite islands in Mexico because it’s so relaxed. Although it’s rightfully on many travelers’ Mexico bucket lists, mass tourism has yet to touch this little slice of paradise. In fact, the island only has 1,000 permanent residents, and most of them are fishermen, so if you like seafood you’ll be in heaven here.
Squalo Adventures is the main scuba diving company in the area and they consistently receive excellent ratings for their tours. You can do a discovery dive with them to either MUSA or the Manchones Reef, and they also offer shipwreck dives and an awesome cave adventure where you can actually see sleeping sharks! Most sharks have to move constantly so that they can breathe, but inside this cave, they use bubbles to breathe and stay completely still while they sleep. This is VERY high up on our diving bucket list!
You can also do your PADI open water course through Squalo for $465 USD, or if you’re already certified you can do an advanced course for $440 USD. This opens up SO many epic dives all around the world and allows you to do deeper dives in more difficult conditions.
7. Costa Maya
Costa Maya is a gorgeous stretch of coastline along the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s a popular day stop for cruise ships, so tourists often stop here to relax on the beach or explore the nearby cenotes, but it’s definitely not as crowded as places like Cancun or Tulum (although we still love both!).
However, Costa Maya isn’t just a stop-off for boats on the way to Belize. It’s easy to access the Mahahual Reef from here, so it also has a reputation as one of the best places to go scuba diving in Mexico. The conditions here tend to be great all year round, with excellent visibility and lots of interesting creatures to spot, from moray eels to manatees.
If you’re not a certified diver, this 3-hour discovery dive tour is a fantastic introduction to the world of scuba diving. You’ll have a theory lesson first, then practice in shallow water before completing a deeper, 40-minute dive at the Mahahual Reef. It costs $102 USD per person and the dive center is just a 5-minute cab ride away from the cruise port, so it’s perfect if you’re just stopping in Costa Maya for the day.
Meanwhile, we think that this scuba tour is perfect for certified divers, and again the experience starts close to the port so it’s great for cruise passengers, too. What’s great about it is that the dives will be selected according to your experience, certification level, and ability, so that you get the best experience possible. It costs $101 USD per person when booked online here and the experience lasts just under 4 hours, with a short break at the beach.
8. Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite places in Mexico and I even lived here for a while! It’s got amazing restaurants, hidden beaches to discover, lush jungle to explore on ATV tours, and a great entertainment scene. From the legendary Rhythms of the Night dinner show to drag shows and superclubs, Puerto Vallarta is one of our favorite places to party in Mexico. On top of all this, it’s also home to some of the best diving in the whole country!
There are lots of untouched bays, incredible reefs, and beautiful marine reserves to explore beneath the surface while you scuba dive around Puerto Vallarta. From the Las Marietas Islands to the rocky reef of Los Arcos National Park, there are lots of varied dive sites to discover. One of the best ones is Majahuitas Beach, which is famous for its insane variety of tropical fish, and the beautiful scenery doesn’t exactly hurt, either.
At $179 USD, this discovery dive is a bit more expensive than some of the others we’ve mentioned so far, but you get to do it with a 5-star PADI dive center. You’ll head to Las Caletas, a beautiful beach that’s actually privately owned by the tour company, so it’s super quiet and secluded. The coves here are perfect for your introductory dive and then you’ll also get to explore Banderas Bay.
Or if you’re traveling with a group, you can take a private scuba tour for up to 4 people at a time for $550 USD. We think this is a great choice because the tour operator will help you choose the best dive suits based on the group’s joint ability and experience, and honestly, just having a boat all to yourself is a really cool experience. Your group doesn’t even need to be certified for you to enjoy this experience together, although you’ll have a wider range of sites to choose from if everyone is certified. This is one of the best scuba diving tours in Puerto Vallarta, so make sure you book your private scuba experience here!
Sayulita is a quiet beach town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and it’s one of our favorite places to travel in the country! It’s super laid back, so a visit here is all about surfing, yoga, and enjoying the beautiful sunsets, as well as scuba diving, of course.
Sayulita is another great base for exploring the beautiful Marietas Islands, which we think are some of the best, untouched examples of Mexico’s true natural beauty. There are some incredible dive sites within the Marietas Islands National Park, and it’s an amazing place to see wildlife, like turtles, seals, manta rays, and more.
This discovery dive takes you to the Marietas Islands for $147 USD per person, which we think is great value since you can only visit as part of a tour, so it will cost you at least $100 USD to visit without any diving involved. If that’s not a good reason to take the plunge, then we don’t know what is!
This tour is the same price, but it’s for certified divers only. It’s a half-day excursion and you get two dives around the Marietas Islands, during which you’ll get to swim through volcanic rock reef alongside a plethora of amazing marine creatures. There’s a maximum of 7 participants per group, so once you book this tour you can actually tailor it to your interests and ask your guide all of your burning questions about these incredible islands.
Related Read: If you need a hotel, we’ve got you covered! These are the best places to stay in Sayulita for all budgets! Or if you want to know how to get here, here are all the ways to get from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita.
10. Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is another chilled-out beach town along the Pacific Coast, and it’s becoming more and more popular every year! It used to pretty much only draw in surfers but now all types of travelers are flocking to stay a few days in Puerto Escondido to party, hang out with turtles and dolphins on some of the great tours on offer, and of course scuba dive.
The waters surrounding Puerto Escondido are crystal clear, but there aren’t many interesting reefs right off of the beaches of the town itself. However, the local dive company Big Wave Diving can take you on a tour and show you all of the best nearby spots to scuba dive. You can even do a night-time dive and admire the bioluminescent plankton, which is a truly surreal experience.
Big Wave also has a really great, friendly crew who will ensure you have a fantastic day out, and we really appreciate the fact that they’re so committed to conservation.
11. Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is another super popular tourist destination in Mexico that seems to appeal to just about everyone, from honeymooners and families to celebrities and groups of friends looking for a party. We can’t get enough because there really is something for everyone here – including scuba diving! In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful places that we have ever scuba dived, which is saying something because we go every chance that we get.
Cabo San Lucas is famed for its incredibly rich marine ecosystem. It’s part of the Sea of Cortez, which has been nicknamed “the World’s Aquarium” because of its biodiversity. You can swim with whale sharks, seals, manta rays, and turtles here, as well as an insane variety of tropical fish, so why wouldn’t you want to go?!
For beginners, we recommend this awesome discovery dive because not only do you get to dive in Cabo San Lucas Marine Park alongside puffer fish, manta rays, and sea lions, but you also get a boat tour of the area afterward! For $125 USD per person, we think that this tour is pretty good value for money. Plus, there really aren’t that many places in the world where you can experience this level of marine biodiversity without a PADI certification, so this dive is a pretty unique opportunity!
If you’re certified, the same diving company offers this three-tank dive tour for $180 USD. What we think is amazing about this tour is that you get to scuba dive in both the Marine Park and The Corridor, so you get to experience two different underwater ecosystems in a single trip. In addition to all of the tropical fish, sea lions, and incredible coral you’ll see, you also get to see the underwater Sand Falls. The cascading sand is a unique phenomenon that can only be found in a handful of places worldwide, so seeing this in person really is an epic experience you’ll get by booking a spot on this dive.
Given the insane biodiversity of the waters surrounding Cabo San Lucas, it’s no surprise that it’s also an excellent place to get your PADI certification! For $580 USD, this scuba diving course includes flexible e-learning, pool practice sessions, and four open water dives. The dive school is very well rated and the instructors really know their stuff.
Related Read: If you’d prefer to get out on the water instead of under it, here’s a full breakdown of all the best cruises in Cabo San Lucas!
Acapulco is a beautiful beach town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico known for its golf courses, resorts, excellent food, and stunning sandy shores. This place has universal appeal, but it’s definitely not as packed with tourists as some of the more famous destinations we’ve mentioned on this list, like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. It’s still very much a resort town, but it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhere that’s off the typical tourist track.
The water around Acapulco is super clear, which automatically makes scuba diving ten times better, and there is a ton of marine life to spot. La Roqueta island is probably the most popular dive site because it’s very beginner friendly and there’s a lot to see. Meanwhile, La Cagada is known for its huge variety of tropical fish and eagle rays, and advanced divers can spot shipwrecks and a ton of underwater plant life in Las Cuevas.
For beginners who don’t yet have their diving certification, we recommend this discovery dive to Roqueta Island. You’ll get a practice session before your proper dive to make sure that you feel comfortable, and then enjoy a longer dive with an instructor. It costs $90 USD without transportation, or $99-$120 USD with hotel pickup and drop off, depending on your hotel zone.
If you’re a certified diver, then this 2-tank boat dive is a great choice and for between $80 – $99 USD per person (depending on the transport option you select), we think it’s really good value for money, too. There’s a maximum of 14 people per group and the dive sites will be picked according to your ability level to make sure you really get the most out of your experience.
Renting a Car in Mexico
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!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
There are so many amazing places to scuba dive in Mexico, the hardest part might be deciding where to go! After dozens of dives in Mexico, we can’t get enough of this underwater paradise. I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of it!
If you need more travel inspiration or tips before your trip, have a peek at our other Mexico blogs. We’ve lived and traveled extensively across Mexico and would love to help you plan your own amazing vacation.