Scuba Diving Cancun – The Complete Guide

Diving MUSA and Manchones Reef Mexico-41

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Many people overlook scuba diving Cancun, but why? Our dive guide shows the location of Cancun Underwater Museum, shipwrecks, coral reefs, and the best dive shops in Cancun, plus other exciting dive adventures in the Riviera Maya. A trip to Cancun would be incomplete without exploring its vast underwater world!

Many dive shops offer pickup from your resort in the Hotel Zone. Typical Cancun dive trips give you a choice between in bay diving with shallow reefs, light current, and the world-famous Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA). When you leave the bay, you’ll find enormous coral reefs with swim-throughs and outstanding sea life as well as ships sunk as artificial reefs for divers, complete with penetration holes.

The warm Caribbean water makes Cancun a year-round diving destination with plenty to see and do above and below the water for adventurous couples and action aficionados everywhere.

Map to Cancun Dive Sites

Below is our map to some of the top Cancun dive sites. It’s not for navigation, but it does give you an idea of the types of scuba dives in Cancun. We even put links to our favorite videos of these dives at each point if you click around. They aren’t all great, but they’re something. If the map doesn’t load, just hit the refresh button 😉

Scuba Diving Cancun Underwater Museum

Scuba diving Cancun at MUSA is a bucket list dive for many divers, attracting divers from around the world. The Cancun Underwater Museum has a total of 500 sculptures, 487 by Jason deCaires Taylor, and the rest by five Mexican artists. The Manchones Gallery by Isla Mujeres contains 477 statues, and the remaining 23 are in the Nizuc Gallery. This phase of construction was completed in 2013 with plans to add 1,200 more pieces in ten different dive sites around Cancun.

The largest and most poignant work in the Cancun Underwater Museum is The Silent Evolution, which consists of more than 400 human figures depicted interacting with the environment around them, with both a positive and negative impact. This piece shows how humans can live together with nature, but also how humans have damaged the environment, specifically coral reefs. Floating over The Silent Evolution offers a moment of reflection and introspection for all divers.

Scuba Diving Cancun Reefs Inside the Bay

The easiest place for scuba diving in Cancun is a series of dive sites that line the edge of the bay between Isla Mujeres and Cancun. From north to south, you’ll find reefs such as Manchones, Bandera, San Remedo, and Chitales. They sit in approximately 40′ of water with little or no current. Being this shallow, you’ll have plenty of bottom time and great light for photographs. Visibility is usually excellent with decent structure. Plus, there’s plenty of medium-sized fish such as grunts, angelfish, and Sergeant majors to keep your camera clicking. 

Reefs inside the bay make an excellent second dive on MUSA dive trip. They’re also a popular destination for night dives from Cancun. If you’re taking a dive trip to Riviera Maya and feel a bit rusty on your skills, seriously consider going on an in-bay dive trip to brush up on your skills or take a dive recertification course. You will be shallow with light current and no overhead environment, but you will still have plenty to see.

Dive Cancun Shipwrecks

Dive Cancun on one of two feature shipwrecks, C55 Barrera and C58 Anaya. These are both navy minesweepers in 85′ of water and have been down for about 20 years. They are even relatively close to one another. It’s possible to enter the structure of both of these wrecks. These are excellent places to see goliath groupers, eagle rays (in winter), or barracudas.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk dive safety, now that we’ve set the scene with 85′ of water and wreck penetration. The depth limits for an open water certification is 60′, but you don’t have to descend to the sand on every dive. Also, wreck penetration runs the risk of cutting hazards at the least. The best time to review these concerns is on the surface, in the dive shop. Look for shops with a low diver to instructor ratio and consider if this is the time to take an advanced course. An advanced open water course is a lot of fun and will increase your safety.

Drift Diving in Cancun

Dive sites like Punta Negra, San Miguel, La Harradura, Grampin, El Túnel, San Toribio, and Cuevas de Afuera sit outside the bay on the edge of the Yucatan Current. Often clocked at a rate of 3 knots or higher, you’ll likely be drift diving on these reefs. Depending on the day and the site, the boat might be able to drop anchor, and you can execute a more traditional out and back dive plan.

If you’ve never done a drift dive, it’s a wonderful experience. You float by the reef expending minimal energy as you go. With a depth of about 60′ on these sites, you can expect long bottom times, especially if you are in a small group. Along the way, you’ll find coral swim-throughs that are even the namesake for El Túnel and Cuevas de Afuera. Sea life includes eels, rays, nurse sharks, and the usual collection of reef fish. During winter months, lucky visitors might witness eagle rays on their annual migration. The outer reefs are often a second tank dive on a wreck diving trip.

Deep Dives in Cancun

Cancun dive shops have two primary routes, inside of the bay diving and outside of the bay diving. There are some rarely visited dives in deep water that certainly require an advanced certification or higher.

One such site is known as Ultra Freeze. Conflicting rumors of the site are it’s a tugboat in 110′ of water or a battleship at 300′ down. From the pictures I saw of the 300′ site trip, I don’t believe that’s accurate. The diver wasn’t equipped for a technical dive. That’s why I marked the 110′ tugboat location on my Cancun dive map.

Another deep dive is known as the Cave of the Sleep Sharks. It’s located north of Isla Mujeres, where the current rejoins behind the lee of the island. This site is in 100′ of water and features abundant nurse sharks under coral ledges.

Cancun Scuba Diving Seasons

Cancun scuba diving season lasts year-round with a water temperature of 75/77F winter, 80/82F summer. Cancun’s high season runs from November through April. Hurricane season lasts from July through October, with the most likelihood of severe weather in September and October. Migrations include the winter eagle rays and whale sharks and sea turtles in the summer.

Scuba Diving Outside of Cancun

Cancun makes an outstanding gateway to the Yucatan Peninsula. Cancun dive operators offer much more than boat trips from Cancun. You can take day trips to dive the cenotes of Tulum or go diving with bull sharks off Playa Del Carmen. You can even book a trip to Cozumel for the day or overnight.

Apart from diving, most shops offer snorkel trips and swimming with whale sharks during the summer. If you find a shop you like, you could make it your one-stop dive provider for the Riviera Maya.

Top Rated Cancun Dive Shops

Cancun has plenty of dive shops, but how do you pick the one for you? We reviewed multiple sources to find the consistently top-rated Cancun dive shops. These shops are all in the Hotel Zone and speak English. We’ve included their “about us” page and a link to their site to help you decide. 

Scuba Total Cancun

We try to give our divers the safest, most professional, and coolest diving experience, of their life. We are in love with the ocean and with every single sea animal.

Scuba Diving in Cancun has been our life for the past 15 years. In Scuba Total Cancun, we have been teaching how to dive to hundreds of sea-lovers. Every single dive or training has been treated with the same professionalism and care, and our client’s friendship is just a small proof of that.

Cancun Scuba Center

More than 25 years of experience helps us understand the needs of every single diver. If you are a novice or an experienced diver, we will make sure to satisfy all your needs. Your safety, fun, and satisfaction is our main goal.

We’ll take you to the best dive sites in Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Cenotes, and surroundings. Dive with the locals in small groups, enjoy first-class service, and fully personalized attention.

Deep Life Divers

We seek adventure where others only dream. We are bound together by our love of the underwater world and our desire to protect it.

Always Diving Cancun

Hi, I’m Alvaro Gonzalez. I got certified as a dive instructor back in 1982, since then I began my professional career in this activity, with the vision of creating a diving operation that transmits my passion about scuba diving, practicing every day my philosophy of life that is “Making friends, not customers.”

In my experience, I have realized that the most important reason why people do scuba diving is because it is fun!

I have always been sure that the two most important skills of a diving instructor are PATIENCE and EMPATHY. Therefore, my priority has been to train my staff so that, regardless of your level of diving, whether you are certified or not, you can be sure that you will dive with us in an easy, safe, and fun way.

Enjoying Your Cancun Surface Interval

Cancun offers so much to do on your surface intervals that the non-divers in your group might not even notice that you’re gone. From the all-inclusive resorts to shows at Xoximilco Park and Coco Bongo. Just don’t overdo it, because the diving in the morning is worth the self-control.

Pro-tip – check out Plaza Palapas for some authentic Mexican street food in the heart of the Hotel Zone.

If you’re looking for a non-diving day trip from Cancun, there’s plenty to choose from including:

We even put together a complete guide to Riviera Maya excursions and their less-touristy alternatives that is getting rave reviews.

Best Hotels for Cancun Scuba Divers

With the best dive shops located in the Hotel Zone, it makes sense to look for a hotel there as well. We’ve put together a quick list of highly-rated properties. Booking hotels through this list helps us continue to provide this content on our site with no additional cost to you.

Budget (Under $100 usd per night)

Mid-Range (Approx. $100-$250 usd per night)

Luxury (Approx. $250+ usd per night)

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Wrapping Up Our Guide to Scuba Diving Cancun

Diver’s worldwide know about the Cancun Underwater Museum. Scuba diving Cancun is so much more than that. There are at least two distinct dive trips in Cancun, one inside the bay with MUSA and one outside the bay with strong currents and shipwrecks. Throw in night dives and day trips to dive with bull sharks and in cenotes, Cancun makes an excellent dive destination.

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