The Top 10 Best Dive Sites in Mexico

Mexico is an easy-to-reach paradise that ranks high on many scuba diver’s wish lists. Between the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Caribbean and a freshwater cave system, it holds thousands of dive sites to explore, including everything from shark encounters to pristine reefs and manta cleaning stations. When planning your dive vacation in Mexico keep in mind that there’s a little something for everyone, but all together these are the top ten dive sites and dive experiences in Mexico.

1. Cenote Dos Ojos, Yucatan

Cenote dive Mexico is perhaps the best destination in the world for an introduction to cave diving. This is due to its system of flooded freshwater caves, locally called cenotes. When staying in the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll have your choice of several, but one cenote stands out as the best dive in the region. That’s Cenote Dos Ojos (or Cenote Two Eyes). This cave reaches for more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) and offers several dive paths through its many passages and rooms. As one of the most popular dives in Mexico, don’t expect to be the only diver underwater.

Dive Type: Cave
Recommended Level: Intermediate to Advanced
When to Go: May to September

2. Discovery Bay, Isla Guadalupe

Along with South Africa, California and Australia, Isla Guadalupe in Mexico is one of the four best places to dive with great white sharks. Located 150 miles (240 kilometers) off the Baja Peninsula, this island is annually home to approximately 170 individuals. The journey to the island is an arduous task, but worthwhile for nearly guaranteed sightings. There are two types of diving here. Some operators place their cages on the surface and don’t require scuba experience. Other operators lower their cages and allow divers to float half-way outside the cage for a no barred view of these giant sharks.

Dive Type: Cage
Recommended Level: No Scuba Experience Required
When to Go: July to November

3. The Boiler, San Benedicto, Revillagigedo Islands

Giant manta ray Recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Revillagigedo Islands are located 240 miles (390 kilometers) off the Baja Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. These islands are famous for their pelagic encounters ranging from humpback whales to hammerheads and, most importantly, Giant Oceanic Manta Rays. The Boiler is perhaps the most predictable site in the Socorro Islands for manta ray sightings with five or more regularly seen. The normally clear water conditions add to its mystique, making it a perennial favorite among liveaboard guests.

Dive Type: Pinnacle
Recommended Level: Advanced
When to Go: November to May

4. Bull Shark Dive, Playa del Carmen

If you’re looking for a real adventure, consider the bull shark dive in Playa del Carmen. Every year dozens of these large sharks arrive to the sandy shallows just offshore. No one quite knows why they are here but some theorize it has to do with their birthing rituals and others believe it has to do with the freshwater waterflow from the cenotes. However, adventurous divers can take advantage of the annual migration by getting in the water with these predators. Keep in mind that this dive should not be attempted by novice divers.

Dive Type: Shark
Recommended Level: Intermediate to Advanced
When to Go: November to March

5. Afuera, Isla Mujeres

Whale shark dive Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, and Isla Mujeres is perhaps the best place in the world to get in the water with these creatures. This gorgeous island is not far from Cancun, but the shallow site known as “Afuera” is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Isla Mujeres. Some scientists believe that this region annually boasts the largest congregations of whale sharks at any one time. There are so many whale sharks that many tour operators offer a “money-back guarantee.” However, the whale shark tourism industry in Mexico is highly regulated so be sure to do your research before booking a tour.

Dive Type: Snorkel
Recommended Level: No Scuba Experience Necessary
When to Go: June to September

6. Manchones Reef, Cancun

Also known as MUSA, this dive site features more than 60 underwater installations from the famed sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. These statues were originally sculpted using models from the local community. Then, they were placed underwater for two purposes. First, they relieve some of the pressure placed on the area’s other coral reefs by creating a secondary attraction for snorkelers and scuba divers. Second, they act as catalysts for new coral growth. As a unique site, this part of Cancun is perfect for fun underwater photography.

Dive Type: Reef
Recommended Level: Beginner
When to Go: December to April

7. Aquarium I and II, Banco Chinchorro

Off the far southeastern shore of Mexico, Banco Chinchorro represents the largest reef atoll in the northern hemisphere. The atoll covers 300 square miles (800 square kilometers), is protected by a Biosphere Reserve and is home to wrecks, drift dives and colorful reefs. One series of sites stands out above the rest. That is Aquarium I and II on the west side of the atoll where you’ll find gorgeous examples of black coral, brain coral and huge barrel sponges.

Dive Type: Reef
Recommended Level: Beginner
When to Go: May to November

8. Gordo Banks, Los Cabos

Approximately 5 miles (8 kilometers) offshore of San Jose del Cabo, the top of this seamount encompasses two football fields in area, creating a giant platform for viewing marine life. This perfect for watching the variety of species attracted to the high current area at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. You might get a glimpse of mackerels, jacks, snapper, eagle rays, mobula rays, cownose rays and, with any luck, scalloped hammerhead sharks or silky sharks.

Dive Type: Pinnacle/Blue Water
Recommended Level: Advanced
When to Go: December to May

9. Palancar Reef, Cozumel

Nurse shark Ask any local diver for their top dive site in Cozumel, and they’re bound to tell you to head for the Palancar Reef sites. These four sites are located to the southeast of the island. Coral pinnacles rise from a sandy bottom which slopes slowly down to a drop-off. With gentle current, you’ll wind your way through tunnels and swim-throughs then along the dramatic wall, spotting a variety of tropical fish along the way. Eagle rays and nurse sharks make the occasional appearance. Because of its generally good visibility and shallow nature, this makes a good wall dive for beginners.

Dive Type: Reef/Wall/Drift
Recommended Level: Beginner
When to Go: December to April

10. Los Islotes, La Paz

Los Islotes, just north of La Paz, is home to more than 400 sea lions. Here you’ll spot bulls jockeying for position, feeding adults and playful babies. Both snorkelers and scuba divers are welcome. If you are diving, don’t forget to pack a snorkel as many winter time tours also boast whale shark sightings. During other times during the year, you might also spot a humpback or gray whale on your way to the island.

Dive Type: Shore/Snorkel
Recommended Level: Beginner
When to Go: December to May

Diving Headfirst Against Pollution: An Introduction to the Divers of the EPA

epa diver The employees of the EPA do more than regulate the emissions in your car–some of them take direct measures toward protecting the health of American waterways.

Since the agency’s inception in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency has maintained a scientific diving program. The first diving teams were based in Seattle and Gulf Breeze, Florida, to support EPA research, environmental monitoring and emergency response efforts.

Today, the EPA’s diving program operates out of nine offices across the country, and conducts hundreds of scientific missions annually. In fact, each of the nine teams of EPA divers averages over 100 ...

Take Your Scuba Diving Deeper with Underwater Metal Detecting

underwater metal detecting Looking for a way to take your SCUBA diving to the next level? Many divers are exploring the exciting hobby of underwater metal detecting.

Underwater metal detecting and SCUBA diving are a pretty great pair. While you’re out diving and looking at all the amazing undersea life, your hands are basically free. Taking a metal detector along allows you to add another element to your dive that could even help you find sunken treasure!

There Are Fewer Metal Detectorists in the Ocean

Metal detectorists are even taking notice and getting their SCUBA diver’s certification so they too can ...

Sven Can See Anti-Fog Review

Fogging masks are an annoyance that every diver has had to deal with. Proper application of spit, anti-fog, whatever and care to not avoid the delicate layer of slime before or during the dive preoccupies too much time for me.

I recently received an anti-fog product sample called Sven Can See (I do not know who Sven is). The product is intended for more uses than just diving, but obviously that will be my focus here. Sven Can See

The application itself is quite simple: spray the dry lens once and use your finger to spread it around to cover the lens (sounds ...

Why Does a Mask Fog?

The crystal clear water feels warm on a beautiful sunny day. You look around at the stunning island scenery before you slowly descend below the calm surface. Excitement grows as you anticipate the vivid colors and active sealife.

You continue descending and begin to make out the shape of the reef. This is going to be a great dive...

Suddenly, your mask fogs up. Uh-oh.

"Did I rub on the drops?"

"Did I spit with enough phlegm?"

"Maybe I rinsed twice instead of once?"

"Did I rinse too aggressively?"

"Did I turn in a circle twice while rubbing my stomach ...

How Do You Clear a Scuba Mask?

After breathing, there is perhaps no skill more fundamental than mask clearing. While other skills, such as gear assembly, are a requisite part of getting in the water, they technically could be done by someone else (although this is not recommended). Mask clearing, however, is a solo skill, and the inabiility to perform it will easily ruin a dive.

Once mastered, this is a skill you will use immensely. I frequently perform mask clearing not just when water leaks in, but also when I insufficiently apply defog. Mask fog can ruin an otherwise good dive, but with, ahem, fluid mask ...

Spanish For Diving

My wife and I have a modest use of the Spanish language that we used this past week in Cozumel, Mexico. It's always fun being able to interact with locals in their native language.

A big hurdle for beginners is simply learning vocabulary. As such, it is commonly recommended to utilize some sort of flashcard system for learning new words. Many experts, however, recommend a smart flashcard system, like those built around spaced repetition. My personal favorite in this category is Anki, but there are a others out there if you look around. You can read more about spaced ...

Dive Experience Through Deliberate Practice

One of the pleasures of running this site is that I get to hear from a variety of divers all over the world. At times these divers disagree with me, and I certainly appreciate hearing the different point-of-views these fellow enthusiasts have---even when I think they are wrong! ;)

In a previous article, I said the following:

The level of experience you quickly achieve moving through the professional ranks comes along with a level of comfort in the water. This level comes much quicker than just through regular diving.

I have heard some disagreement with this statement and it has been ...

Decorating Scuba Gear with Paint Markers

The other day I wrote about decorating scuba equipment in an environmentally sound way.

Reader Marwah, who asked the original question, sent me an update. Apparently permanent markers washed off her fins, but paint markers worked great. There are two things I took from this:

  • The importance of testing out your paint before you do a lot of fancy artwork. It may wash right off. Permanent markers worked well for my rubbery fins, but didn't stick on Marwah's more smooth, plastic fins (as I guess they are).

  • Paint markers are a fantastic option that I didn't think ...

Decorating Scuba Equipment

Reader Marwah asks,

"I wanted to know if you know of paints or markers or other mediums I can use on my gear that wouldn't be harmful to the coral or marine life. I want to put elaborate, colourful stuff on my fins to begin with but I don't want to do it at the expense of underwater life. If you know of anything I could use please let me know."

Great question! Fortunately, these days paints and markers are fairly safe for the environment and getting better every year. The main things you want to avoid are ...