Diving in Mexico offers some world-class experiences.  If you’re a diver, you already know all about Cozumel and the cenote (cave) dives you can do in the Yucatan.  If you’re not a diver, you might consider getting certified, either in the U.S. or in Mexico and doing some diving in Mexico.  Cozumel is found on pretty much every dive magazine’s top-5-in-the-world list and it will certainly not disappoint.  The cave dives are equally spectacular and a change from the ordinary.  Let’s talk about what you can expect when you’re diving in Mexico.

Sea turtles abound in Vallarta’s Banderas Bay

My own dive experience started when I got my Advanced Open Water certification in Thailand many years ago.  I spent about a month at various dive sites on two separate trips.  It was really great stuff and I had the time of my life.   From there I went on to Belize for two weeks of diving and made it to the Blue hole, quite an experience.  I also spent some time diving in Hawaii but not extensively.  I’m not the world’s most experienced diver and I don’t claim to know all the sites in Mexico, but I have dived in Puerto Vallarta, around Cozumel, and completed two cenote dives. 

A school of Trevaly Jack around Baja

Puerto Vallarta –  Let’s start with the enormous Banderas Bay. The diving is good here but the water isn’t the clearest and can be a little chilly in the winter for cold wimps like me.  The underwater flora and fauna are good but not spectacular and nowhere near what you’ll find in the waters around Cozumel.  You’ll probably have better luck if you get out of the Bay to some of the offshore sites, where you may see giant mantas, whale sharks, and humpbacks, depending on the season.  There are plenty of sea turtles in the Bay and an occasional octopus or eel to look for.  They chum the waters pretty heavily around Los Arcos so there are plenty of colorful fish in that area and it’s quite close to Vallarta proper so it makes for a very relaxed dive day.

Manta Rays are common in season in Vallarta

Cozumel – One of the best areas in the world.  You can dive wrecks and see an amazing array of coral and fish here.  Threading your way through tall overhead coral “canyons” is a sublime experience and makes this one of the best dive areas.  I still remember coming around a blind “corner” and stopping literally face to face with a six-foot barracuda.  I read that the water between Cozumel and the mainland is completely refreshed twice each day, which is what gives it such spectacular clarity, often 200+ feet.  You can do all the Cozumel dives without having to actually stay on the island, although Cozumel is small, almost traffic free, and a fun place to hang out.  There are plenty of quality operators in Playa Del Carmen who will get you to the sites in small, speedy dive boats.  Otherwise, catch the ferry out to the island and start your dives there.

Your first cenote dive is an unforgettable experience.

Cenote diving – This was a new experience for me.  First of all, it’s fresh water and that felt different.  Then, the plunge into complete darkness, keeping ahold of a string that some intrepid soul placed there for us all.  To my mind the greatest thing about cenote diving was seeing up ahead in the total darkness a large shaft of brilliant turquoise light.  This comes in from openings in the surface and it’s just gorgeous.  I thought that cenote diving was fun and I enjoyed it. It’s completely different from ocean diving and definitely worth trying.

In pitch-black cenotes, a ray of light can be a beautiful thing.
Bolonchen Cenote the way it appeared in the 19th century

Sea Of Cortez – I can’t personally vouch for any other spots in Mexico but it’s well known that the Sea of Cortez, between the Baja Peninsula and the mainland, offers some out-of-this-world diving.  In season, you’ll almost certainly see manta rays, fin whales, large numbers of nudibranchs, humpbacks, whale sharks, sea lions, and more.  With over 800 vertebrate species, its biodiversity is so important that the entire North Sea of Cortez has been designated a UNESCO protected site.

Socorro Island – You have to be pretty dedicated to choose a dive spot 240 miles from the mainland but experienced divers feel that this place is worth it.  The reason?  Sharks!  Tons of them, in fact.  Hammerheads, white tips, and many others swarm this area.  You’re also visiting one of the best places in the world to hang with manta rays.  It’s for experienced divers though, as the ocean currents can be quite strong here.  You’re only going to dive there in a live-aboard.  Trips start at US$2300.

Peaceful whale sharks are an eye-opening sight

Land’s End In Baja – The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula also offers some really good diving and you’re most likely to stay in Cabo San Lucas, a trendy tourist destination that still manages to retain quite a bit of its old Mexican charm.  There’s really good diving here depending on the season, with whale sharks, humpbacks, and manta rays all making yearly pilgrimages.  Check with a local dive shop (there are many quality outfits) for the best seasons to dive.

Land’s End is spectacular above the water as well as under it.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the diving areas in Mexico but it should give you an idea of some places to get started if you’re interested.  All the top-rated dive shops offer reliable, competent service, English-speaking dive masters, quality boats and rental gear, and certification classes.  It pays to do some research and find a dive shop that stocks only the latest top-level gear.  They have friendly and competent instructors in Mexico but my advice is to get your certification in the U.S., before you leave.  That way you don’t spend precious vacation days learning about your gear and studying for the quiz.  Anyway, check out diving in Mexico with its warm water, tropical ocean denizens, and cenotes.  Who know?  You may discover a new passion.