A few years ago my buddy and I finally found some time off to explore Mexico’s best and most unique diving sites. We booked a rather spontaneous 3-week flight to Cancun with just a rough idea of the best places in Mexico we wanted to scuba dive in.
This wasn’t a scuba-only trip, so we only packed scuba-diving essential gear which is easy to carry:
- Diving Computer – essential since you’ll be diving from multiple diving centers
- PADI Diving certificates and logbook (tip: make sure to have them scanned as well)
- Diving socks
- A diving mask
Before traveling: make sure you do all proper vaccines for the region
We landed in Cancun in the evening and pre-booked at the Selina hotel near the main bus station since we preferred not to travel at night. The following morning we took an ADO bus to Playa Del Carmen. Tickets are about 200 Pesos (one way), and buses are available every 30 minutes. The bus was clean and comfortable (with phone charging available), but It’s also possible to just take a taxi if you’re not on a budget.
1. Scuba Diving in Playa Del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen is THE beachy tourist hotspot. We took a hostel in the center of the main area and explored the colorful town. Once there we found a dive center with a presence in Cozumel as well and booked some dives for the following days in Playa.
There are many dive centers around and each has their own style, gear, and cost. When I don’t dive with my personal gear, I always check the way the center treats its rental gear to avoid problems during the dives themselves. It’s also important to verify the size of the groups going for the dives with each guide to make sure you’re the one setting the pace.
We tried to steer away from the ultra-touristy shows in the city, so between diving we went to the local restaurants, beaches, and met new friends at our hostel’s bar and swimming pool. For some reason, there were also plenty of nude beaches in the Yucatan region of Mexico.
2. Scuba Diving in Cozumel
After 2 days in Playa we took the ferry to Cozumel. Cozumel is a small island with most of the action within walking distance from the ferry stop. The island is small and filled with dive shops, centers, and local restaurants and bars. One of the local delicacies is a LionFish, known to be very poisonous to divers, but was actually served to us as a topping on a pizza.
We spent 3 days in Cozumel, each day taking the boat to a different reef and exploring the underwater life. We saw many fish and turtles, and the water conditions were really good. Most of the divers aboard the boat were young guys and gals and we it’s always fun to share experiences and hear each other’s stories and tips.
We took the last day on the island to explore it by car. Our hotel had one available to rent for the day and we took it all around the island and got to see some of the lesser traveled roads. There are some ruins in the area which were also neat to see (and were enough to impress us at the time).
3. Scuba Diving in Tulum
From Cozumel we took the ferry back to Playa and took one of the shuttles (“colectivo”) to Tulum. The shuttles are very frequent and drop you anywhere you want on their route, and they are not much more expensive than the bus. Tulum is a great hub for seeing the many Cenotes around.
In case you’re not familiar with these, Cenotes are natural sinkholes in which you can dive and explore vast underwater tunnels/caves, each with their own unique features including rare fish, amazing stalactites, and so much more.
Once we got set up in our hotel, The Cental Station Tulum, we set out to look for a dive center. We booked 4 days of 2-3 dives each. Each day we’d go with a personal guide and another couple to a few different cenotes, have a quick-lunch, and come back. Most of the cenotes are located in hard-to-reach areas in the middle of the jungle, which makes the experience even more exciting.
My friend brought his drone to capture the area of each site, but unfortunately it was beaten by the jungle and dropped in the cenote (then rescued in our dive). Each day was more beautiful than the previous. Each cenote is unique and unlike any other dive site I’ve seen.
And scuba-diving is just one way to enjoy Tulum’s beautiful waters. In between dives we took our snorkels for a spin, and we were surprised to see how lifeful the shallow waters are.
Bonus: Bacalar Town
From Tulum we rented a car and continued to Bacalar, a quiet town on the southern border near Belize with its own crystal-clear lagoon. We spent a few days resting, kayaking, Supping on inflatable boards, and resting some more
From there we started our way back north, went through some Mayan ruins at Coba until finally arriving at Chichen-Itza
And took a swim at Cenote Ik Kil near by:
From there we headed back through Cancun and took a ferry for Isla Mujeres for a bit more underwater activities that reminded us a past trip to the beaches of Karpathos, and meeting some turtles at the turtle sanctuary
Isla Mujeres marked the end of our trip, from there it was a ferry ride back to Cancun and to the airport home.