You might know Cancun for the 24km (15mi) long strip of hotels, bars, and resorts which line the coast. It may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of places for diving. But, it should definitely be on your dive list.
Cancun has a little bit of something for everyone. You can see amazing reefs, beautiful aquatic life, and world class cave systems.
Let’s take a look at the top spots for diving in Cancun so that you can see for yourself why it’s such an amazing place.
Best Diving Sites Cancun
#1 Cave of the Sleeping Sharks
One of the more unique dive sites in the world, you can see sharks doing exactly what the name says. ..sleeping. That isn’t the unique part. What is different about this site is that they are sleeping while being still.
You see, sharks have to keep moving to push water through their gills and breath. This cave, though, is oxygen rich making it easier for the sharks to breath without having to move.
You aren’t guaranteed to see sharks at this site. But, even if you don’t see them, there are plenty other awesome things to see here. The site is off the coast of Isla Mujeres close to Cancun.
- When to Dive: The wet season for Cancun is between May and October. This is also when the weather tends to be the hottest. You should plan your trip to Cancun during the dry season.The best months to visit are between January and April. These are both the coolest months of the year as well as some of the dryest.
- What to See: The main attraction here is the sharks. You stand a pretty good chance of seeing groups of nurse sharks chilling out in the cave. It is not always guaranteed that you will see sharks. Before you book a trip to this site, it is best to talk to local divers about the current conditions at the site.Also, be on the lookout for dolphins when you dive. Isla Mujeres is one of the best places around Cancun to see them so you stand a good chance of coming across a group. This video is a bit shaky but does a great job of showing off the cave as well as dolphins in the area.
You will need a deep dive certification for this dive. The cave is located at about 19m (65ft). As mentioned above there is no guarantee that you will see sharks at this site. It is always best to talk to local divers.If you don’t see any sharks the first time you dive this site, it is quite easy to book another. Isla Mujeres is only 12km (8mi) from Cancun so it is quite easy to get to this site.
#2 Underwater Museum
This is one of the best known and most unique dive sites around Cancun. You can see hundreds of statues sunk to create an artificial reef.
Most of the statues were created by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. The purpose of this underwater installation is dual. Firstly, an artificial reef is developing on the statues. Second, the attraction provides an alternative location for divers and snorkelers. This helps to take some of the load off the natural reefs in the area.
This is a site you can experience both as a beginner and an advanced diver. There are 500 statues in total so you can easily use a full tank and not see everything.
- When to Dive: Year-round. The best time to dive this area is during the dry season between the months of November and April. But, if the conditions are right, you can still enjoy this site during the wet season. Stormy weather will interrupt access to this site as it is in open waters.
- What to See: The main attraction here is the statues. You may see some aquatic life on this dive. Most likely though, you will be spending all your time looking at the various sculptures.The sculptures are mostly of people and are quite detailed. Other sculptures exist though such as a Volkswagen Beetle. The artist expressed a desire to show how people both live with and harm the environment. This helps to further the purpose of protecting the natural reefs in the area. This video does a good job of showing both the museum as well as the surrounding reefs.
This is a fantastic spot for divers of all skill levels. The dive is in shallow waters between 3m and 6m (9ft and 19ft). This is an extremely popular area so you need to make sure to look out for any boats. Glass bottom boat tours operate in the area and can create a potential hazard.
#3 C-58 Wreck
This is one of the more interesting wreck dives which you can do around Cancun. This is a WWII era minesweeper which the Mexican Navy sunk to create an artificial reef.
The wreck sits at about 26m (85ft) and is accessible by boat. You can easily find a group to join as this is one of the more popular places for dive centers to tour.
If you have a wreck diving certification you can enter the wreck. A hurricane tore the wreck in half giving divers access to the inside.
- When to Dive: This wreck is best during the dry season between November and April. You can expect the best visibility during these months.This doesn’t mean it is impossible to dive during the wet season. If conditions are right this is a dive which you can do throughout the year.
- What to See: The wreck is the star of this dive. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you should pay attention to though.Coral is developing on the wreck providing great contrast to the sand around the site. You can also see a variety of fish around this location. Be on the lookout for barracuda, grouper, eagle rays, and large bait balls.If you have previous wreck diving experience this is a fantastic wreck to enter. You can get in through the giant opening where the wreck was damaged. Here is a fantastic video of the wreck both inside and out.
This is a deep dive so you will need to be at least an advanced diver. It will also help if you have a wreck diving certification and peak performance buoyancy.The currents here can be strong on the descent so you should be comfortable in these conditions. Make sure that you are following the lead of your dive master.
This is a great site for underwater photography so if you have the right equipment make sure you bring it.
#4 Banderas Reef
Banderas Reef is one of the many amazing reefs around Cancun. The reef is located off the southern coast of Isla Mujeres. You can get here by boat either from the mainland or from the island.
The reef is long and is great to do as a drift dive as the currents in the area can be strong. There will be tons of life around the reef making this a great spot to see both large fish and colorful coral.
- When to Dive: As with other sites, the dry season is going to be the best time to dive here. The visibility will be clear and there will be less chance of storms disrupting access to the site. The dry season is between November and April.
- What to See: There is a little bit of everything at this site. The reef is full of soft coral and lined at the top with elkhorn that is healthy and robust.If you are looking more for fauna then your in luck. This site has large schools of barracuda, hawksbill and green sea turtles, and reef sharks. You may even come across dolphins if you are lucky. Check out this video to get a better idea of what to expect at this dive.
This is a great site for intermediate and advanced divers. The currents can be strong here so you need to make sure that you are following the lead of your dive master.Also, make sure to keep your buoyancy under control. It is quite easy to scrape the coral here and even a tiny mishap can cause damage that will take decades to repair.
#5 Dos Ojos Cenote
This is another dive unique to Cancun and the Yucatan. Cenotes are sinkholes where the limestone has collapsed and the groundwater left exposed.
The main cave entrance is about 60mi south of Cancun. You can do this as a day trip. It will be a two tank dive. You can explore many of these cenotes throughout the peninsula. This one in particular, though, is an exceptionally good site for diving.
The waters here are crystal clear and there are quite a few fish that swarm throughout the cave. This can be a great spot both for beginners and advanced divers looking for a break from the ordinary.
- When to Dive: This is one site you can dive year around outside of storms and other poor conditions. As with other sites, the best time to dive is during the dry season when the weather is cooler and the humidity lower. But, if you can’t make it to Cancun during the dry season, this is still a great location to add to your list.
- What to See: The cave is the primary attraction here. You can swim through crystal clear blue water and get an amazing view of the limestone.There are also a few species of fish which call the cave home including freshwater shrimp. If you want some great video footage, such as in this video, you can bring some food for the fish and watch them swarm.
This is a cave dive so make sure that you have the experience.
Even though it is a great spot for new cave divers you need to make sure you are following the lead of your dive master. Make sure that you understand the potential hazards of cave diving before you go. Also, make sure you go with a dive group that is familiar with the area. Cave dives, even ones considered relatively safe, present their own set of dangers. It is always best to go with a dive master that is familiar with the caves.
Diving in Cancun – Tips
Cancun can be an amazing place for diving but it can also be a dangerous one. Always make sure when you are choosing dive shops that you are doing your due diligence. Make sure to only go with shops that are reputable. Ask fellow divers you meet and check online reviews to find out which shops have the best safety records.
Also, make sure and stick within your limits. Don’t enter wreck sites if you’ve never been trained and don’t go deep water diving if you aren’t properly certified.
A good dive master will make sure to check that you are properly certified before taking you on a dive. But, you can’t always rely on this. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own safety. If you feel uncomfortable with a dive then it is best to skip it till later.
Doesn’t Cancun sound pretty awesome? We particularly like Cancun and the Yucatan for the number of unique dive sites. From caves to wrecks to reefs, we’ve never been bored with Cancun and we’re sure you won’t be either.
Do you have any experience diving in Cancun? Any awesome stories you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section. We love hearing from fellow divers about your experiences.