Scuba Diving Mexico’s Great Barrier Reef!

Mexico is a well established traveler hub often sought after for its authentic food, parties, ancient culture, and beaches. The street tacos, enchiladas, and spicy food is unmatched in the many local towns across the large country. Mexico is also extremely popular among young people with party capitals like Cancun, Tulum, and Tijuana to indulge all of your vacation aspirations.

What you probably did not know is that Mexico also offers paramount scuba diving opportunities that EVEN rival top diving destinations like the Great Barrier Reef!

Why Mexico Diving is so GREAT?!

I will explain why I and other avid world divers agree with the BOLD claims that Mexico’s diving can rival sites at the Great Barrier Reef. I originally traveled to Mexico to explore the world renowned cenote diving and had not expected the ocean dive sites to be of such high quality, especially with the spring break party reputation of notorious hubs like Cancun and Play del Carmen. I could not have been more wrong!

The reef dives along Mexico’s Caribbean coast offer diverse marine wildlife, coral reefs, tour opportunities, and a local flare unique to the Riviera.


Most scuba divers rate dive sites based on the quality and prevalence of exotic wildlife and Mexico has no shortage. The Caribbean waters off the Yucatan boast an astounding diversity of marine wildlife including whale sharks, barracuda, dolphins, bull sharks, reef fish, sting rays, eels, and soft corals!

Coral Reefs

What I was most surprised about diving in Mexico was the abundance and assortment of soft coral species blanketing the reefs. THIS is the reason why Mexican diving is superior! As you probably know oceans are warming at an increasing rate and climate change is causing significant shifts in species diversity and reef health across the world. Sites like the Great Barrier Reef have shrunk drastically with studies suggesting the unfortunate loss of almost half of the regions coral species.

While the Caribbean is also experience rates of loss and impacts from climate change, the reefs in Mexico seem to be intact and flourishing. I have gone on extensive dive trips all over south east Asia including expeditions to Bali, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand and I was SHOCKED the reefs off Cancun looked just as good, if not better than the supposed best diving sites the world has to offer.

Coming from Hawai’i I also expected similar conditions with predominantly hard corals that are often devoid of the plethora of colors and species characteristic of so many idolized coral reef sites. The assortment of soft coral species throughout the Riviera Maya were infinite, and each dive I did left me in astonishment. I love soft corals because they flow in the water’s currents like trees in the wind. I think these types of corals offer more fish and animal diversity, photo opportunities, and overall dive enjoyment.

Marine Life

The marine life is just as vibrant and diverse as the corals in the Riviera Maya. When diving in Mexico you are likely to see more than 50 reef fish species, sharks, turtles, and more on every dive. Animals like the giant barracuda, bull sharks, and healthy reefs are all reason enough to plan a dive trip the next time you are in Mexico.

While the reefs lack charismatic aquarium fish like yellow tang or clown fish, you will be greeted with other varieties like the blue tang (Dory), butterfly fish, moray eel, wrasse, angelfish, grouper, manta ray, parrotfish, and stingray.

There are additional opportunities throughout Mexico to plan trips with providers that specialize in whale shark and dolphin tours, or take your luck with whatever dive company you choose. Cozumel island directly across from Playa del Carmen is quickly becoming one of the most popular scuba diving destinations in the world.


Dive Access

One of the easiest places to access dive tours while in Mexico is directly from your resort. Most all inclusive destinations in Mexico have dive shops associated with their resorts and sometimes even locate don their premises. I recommend using Groupon to find affordable all inclusive deal packages that will include all you can eat and drink, and sometimes additional benefits like flights or activities.

The best dive sites include Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. AND If you did not know Mexico also offers unique freshwater diving opportunities into cenote caverns and caves distributed throughout the Yucatan peninsula. I highly recommend adding cenote diving to your itinerary because it is one of the most insane adventures I have ever been on.

Check out my guide >> Scuba Diving Cenotes in Cancun to discover the magical secret of Mayan freshwater cavern diving.


Things to Note

How much does diving in Mexico cost?

  • Budget $75 USD for each dive, but you can easily find discount deals with your resort and packages with two dives for less than $100 USD.
  • Cenote diving is a bit more expensive and totally dependent on which ones you choose to dive. Budget $100 for each cenote dive, but there are always package deals for multiple cenotes for less than $160 for at least two dives.
  • Cenote diving requires additional gear rental costs like flashlights to see in the dark caverns and transportation costs from your stay.

What are the diving conditions like in Cancun, Mexico?

  • Diving conditions in the ocean are very good with high visibility, normally calm water, and full of life!
  • Water visibility averages 115 feet with some days extending up to 150 feet!
  • If you get seasick, stick to reef dives in the morning as winds and surface conditions deteriorate later in the day.

Are there dangerous animals diving in Mexico?

  • The most dangerous animals you may run into are bull sharks, barracuda, and jellyfish. With that being said the scariest thing I saw was a tiny angel fish that bit my hand, so that was the most of my dangerous encounters.
  • Sharks and barracuda do not usually attack humans unprovoked, and all PADI certified dive tours prioritize safety.
  • The cenotes are usually void of life, but many site give you the chance to see ancient fossil skeltons of creatures that died and fell into the pools thousands of years ago.

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