Thinking of doing a Mexican diving trip and wondering where to go? Some of the best sites to scuba dive in Mexico are right here in the Riviera Maya, which as it so happens is also where the majority of tourists flock to Mexico.
But why do so many come diving in the Mayan Riviera each year? Mostly because it’s hot all year round, the sea temperature is warm even during the winter, it’s also crystal clear and has incredible visibility, plus there are direct flights from across the USA into Cancun airport which makes it very accessible.
So where is the best diving in Mexico? In all honesty, if you are a serious and experienced scuba diver then some of the best diving in Mexico is actually off the Baja Peninsular and you will need to book yourself on a Liveaboard to experience it (see the bottom of this post for more details).
But if it’s boat diving you are after then you will find that right here in the Riviera Maya. In this post, I’ve done a round-up of my top places to go diving in the Mayan Riviera. I have written in-depth articles on many of these places so you can get more detailed info by clicking through the links.
Mexican Diving Hot Spots in the Riviera Maya
This list of Riviera Maya scuba diving hot spots is in order of my personal preference, just so you know! All of the places included in this list are popular and easily accessible for tourism and are affordable on all budgets whether you want to stay in a 5* hotel in Cancun or a campsite in Tulum. This is my opinion of these Mexican diving hotspots.
If you want the best scuba diving in the Mayan Riviera there Cozumel has to be at the top of your list. In my humble opinion when it comes to diving then the best scuba diving in Mexico you will find in Cozumel?
What makes Cozumel so great? Take a read of this post to learn all of my reasons for spending so much time diving in Cozumel with ScubaTony (the only dive operator on the island I personally dive with).
In short though, off the coast of Cozumel is a protected Marine park full of beautiful coral, sharks, turtles, bright-colored fish, warm water, incredible visibility… I could go on and on. But I’ll stop there and simply say, if you want to go Scuba Diving in the Riviera Maya then your first choice should always be Cozumel.
Number 2 on my list of Mayan Riviera scuba diving hot spots is Tulum, but not for open water diving. Here in Tulum it’s all about cave diving. Riviera Maya is built on a huge coral reef and just below ground is a huge network of underground rivers called cenotes (click here to learn more about cenotes). Now under normal circumstances, you can’t just go cave diving without a special certificate. However, this is Mexico and you can go cavern diving in Riviera Maya so long as you stick to the rules about never being far from the surface or an opening. Which is actually a lot less terrifying than it may seem.
In actual fact, most of the cenotes that are popular with non-cave diving certificate holders are shallow (no need for a safety stop) and in my experience, the instructors normally start people off in the cenotes that are at least part open (ie not completely closed), you build up to the cenote dives that are more challenging.
I’ve personally done a lot of cave or cavern diving in Riviera Maya in cenotes in Tulum and Puerto Morelos with Koox in Tulum and Playa del Carmen I’ve written a detailed blog post that you can read by clicking on the link below.
If Cozumel is a ferry ride too far away and the idea of diving in a cenote fills you with dread then the best place to dive over here on the mainland would be Puerto Morelos. Scuba diving in Puerto Morelos is great for many reasons, but for me probably the top one is that everything is very close, so you won’t need any long boat rides to get to your dive site. They also have a lot of great wreck dives in Puerto Morelos which I highly recommend.
Puerto Morelos isn’t the best scuba diving in the Riviera Maya Mexico, but it’s not far off. I’ve never had a bad dive there and it’s nice to be able to not have the hassle of taking a ferry over to Cozumel sometimes.
If you are considering scuba diving Puerto Morelos then take a read of this blog post for more detailed information. Puerto Morelos is also an excellent place to stay here in the Riviera Maya, especially if you are looking for somewhere smaller and less built-up than Cancun.
You will be forgiven for never having heard of Mahahual before. I hadn’t either until I went there for a long weekend with my friends. Sadly, I only found out after I’d arrived that it has some of the best diving in Riviera Maya. I have yet to verify this for myself but I’m planning on doing so very soon.
What I can say though is that Mahahual is quite possibly the best Riviera Maya diving for someone on a budget. The town itself is very small and low key. Accommodation is very affordable and diving is some of the cheapest I’ve seen.
I’ll report back with a full review of scuba diving in Mahahual once I’ve been.
Considering that Akumal is just 30 minutes from my house, I’m not sure why I’ve never actually been diving in Akumal. Probably because you don’t actually scuba dive in Akumal as they take you to the reefs in Cozumel. So for me to drive to Akumal to then take a boat over to Cozumel seems a little pointless, I’d rather just go diving in Cozumel.
However, it’s good to know that if you do happen to be staying in Akumal that you can enjoy scuba diving there on the Cozumel reefs as well as being close to a lot of cenotes. So in Akumal, you have the best of both worlds and can access some of the best scuba diving in Riviera Maya.
Playa del Carmen
I had such a bad view of scuba diving in Playa del Carmen for the longest time. Until I met Kim from K&K Diving and her and Kelly totally changed my mind! Kelly specializes in cenote diving while Kim is a marine biologist and the perfect person to be your guide on the Bull Shark diving in Playa del Carmen, which you really MUST do!
The ocean diving in Playa isn’t as good as Cozumel, but there are still plenty of things to see down there.
I know a lot of vacationers want to go scuba diving Mexico Cancun, but I wouldn’t advise it for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned about not recommending Playa del Carmen. There really is nothing to see here when you compare it to other places.
My advice is, the best scuba diving in Cancun is in Puerto Morelos haha. Cozumel may be a little far from you in Cancun, which is fair enough, but Puerto Morelos is close enough to get there easily. So rather than wasting your money trying to find the best diving in Cancun, just book some diving in Puerto Morelos and book a taxi to take you there instead!
The Best Diving In Mexico
All of the above is focused on the best diving Riviera Maya, but Mexico is a big country and a lot of the most exciting Mexico scuba diving sites are actually a little bit far off the coast to travel to in a day. That’s where Mexico Liveaboard Diving comes in.
There are so many amazing liveaboards to choose from depending on what you want to see.
This is my current wish list for Mexico diving vacations:
1. Socorro Islands and Guadalupe for manta rays, schools of hammerhead sharks, and best of all the chance to see humpback whales.
2. Bahia de Los Angeles where from May-October you can see whale sharks and sea lions.
3. Cabo Pulmo from September to December you can see bull sharks, tiger sharks, sea lions, and manta rays as well as huge schools of fish.
Looking for somewhere to stay in Playa del Carmen?
I wrote a whole guide to Accommodation in Playa del Carmen you can read here. I also recommend booking one of these Airbnb’s. They are all in great locations and are super reasonably priced.
Book your trip now
Are you ready to book your trip? To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.
- Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with.
- Booking.com – I LOVE booking.com especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on Bookin.com.
- Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as booking.com, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there.
- Worldpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Worldpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership!
- Book a Way – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then bookaway.com is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and cars.
- RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
- World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review.
- SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here.
- Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration.
- Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.