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Scuba Diving in the Riviera Maya and Cancun

PADI Scuba Diving in Riviera Maya and Cancun, MexicoDiscover the underwater beauty - Dive a cenote - image by Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office

Located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, the Riviera Maya and Cancun provide easy access to the Great Mesoamerican Reef. Stretching 724 kilometres/450 miles from the tip of Cancun south to the Bay Islands in Honduras, the world's second largest reef is home to more than 150 species of reef fish and nearly 100 coral species. In addition, freshwater sinkholes called cenotes are prevalent throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

Beginning 18 kilometres/11 miles south of the Cancun International Airport in Puerto Morelos, the area known as the Riviera Maya extends south to the small town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto near the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.. The region is known for tranquil beaches, network of underground rivers, eco-adventure sports (including kayaking, mountain biking and scuba diving among others), archeological sites and several eco-archeological parks.

Playa Del Carmen, is the largest city along the Riviera Maya and boasts some of the area’s best beaches. Further south and just 30 minutes north of Tulum's famous ruins, Puerto Aventuras has wonderful reefs and caverns for divers to enjoy.

North of the Riviera Maya, Cancun has more than 25,000 hotel rooms, 400 restaurants, numerous water activities, cenote and cavern diving, dazzling beaches, remarkable shopping, countless tours and scores of other attractions.
PADI Dive Shops and Resorts

Next to Riviera Maya, Cancun contains over 25,000 hotel rooms, 400 restaurants, numerous water activities, cenote and cavern diving, dazzling beaches, remarkable shopping, countless tours and attractions that will have you coming back year after year. 

PADI Dive Shops and Resorts
Find contact information for all PADI Dive Shops and Resorts in the region.

Dive Summary
  Depending on the site, depths range from 10-30 metres/30-100 feet.

Visibility: For open-ocean dives, visibility can range from 12 metres/40 feet in the winter to 23 metres/75 feet in the summer. Visibility in cenotes or caverns can reach 122 metres/400 feet year-round.
Current:  Currents are generally mild, but can be strong at some sites like Playa Tortugas. Be sure to check with the local PADI Dive Center or Resort before each dive.
Water Temperature:  Water temperature averages 26-28˚Celsius/79-82˚Fahrenheit in the winter and 27-29˚ Celsius/81-84˚ Fahrenheit in summer. A light to medium wet suit or skin is recommended.

Dive Season:  Although you can dive year-round, hurricane season runs from July to November.

Weather:  Air temperatures range from 19-32˚Celsius/66-90˚Fahrenheit. The rainy season runs from May – October and the dry season is typically from November - April. May and June often have the highest humidity.

Access:  Most ocean sites are reached by boat but you can walk in to most cenotes.

Skill level:  With shallow reefs, mild currents and colorful marine life, this can be one of the best places to learn to dive. Intermediate to expert divers will enjoy the local reefs and wrecks while appropriately trained technical divers can enjoy the area's cenotes and cave systems.

Recommended courses
• Boat DivingDiver swims along reef with turtle - image by Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office
• Cavern Diving
• Deep Diver
• Digital Underwater Photographer
• Drift Diver
• Enriched Air Diver
• Multilevel Diver
• Night Diver
• Peak Performance Buoyancy
• Underwater Naturalist
• Underwater Navigator
• Wreck Diver

Recommended scuba gear
• Tropical scuba equipment  
• Underwater photography equipment

Recommended length of stay
7-14 days

Featured creatures
Riviera Maya has an abundance of hawksbill turtles and it's common to see at least one on every dive. Other common sightings include eagle rays, moray eels, lobsters, spadefish, parrotfish, creole wrasse, trumpetfish, angelfish and just about anything else you'd expect on a Caribbean reef dive. If you’re lucky you'll catch a glimpse of lemon sharks, manatees or nurse sharks on certain dives. And, if you travel to Isla Holbox you might find whale sharks.

Featured dive sites
Riviera Maya
There are plenty of dive sites along the Riviera Maya such as Lake Bacalar, Barracuda, Chinchorro Banks, wreck of the C-58, Jardines, Paamul Mini Wall, Ballena, Palancar Caves, Columbia Wall and the wreck of the C-53.

It's position along the Great Mesoamerican Reef means the coast off Cancun has numerous dive sites. Punta Cancun, Playa Tortugas, Manchones, La Bandera, El Tunnel and Punta Nizuc are all popular. But, many divers make the trip to sample one of the Yucatan Peninsula's more than 2,000 cenotes.

Yucatan Peninsula
Cenotes are deep, freshwater-filled sinkholes formed when the roof of a limestone cavern collapses and fills with water. Some cenotes have intricate cave and underground tunnels that attract advanced and appropriately trained divers from around the globe. Many cenotes boast pristine turquoise waters and a beautiful array of stalagmite and stalactite formations formed over millions of years. If you do not have appropriate training, you can still take day trips to snorkel some of the cenotes.

A couple of the best cenotes are:
Silhouette of diver in a cenote - image by Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office
Dos Ojos
Depth: 7 metres/24 feet
Visibility: 91 metres/300 feet
Water temperature: 25˚Celsius/ 77˚Fahrenheit

Dos Ojos is made up of two sinkholes - Dos Ojos East and West. A tunnel, with breathtaking stalagmite and stalactite formations, traverses both openings. Dos Ojos also contains the “Bat Cavern” where there have been sightings of albino bats. Be sure to take your Cavern diver course along with a Peak Performance Buoyancy or Digital Underwater Photographer course before making the trip to Dos Ojos. Remember, cave diver training is required for any overhead environment without direct access to the surface. You should not enter these environments without the appropriate training.

The Gran Cenote
Depth: 9 metres/30 feet
Visibility: 122 metres/400 feet
Water temperature: 26˚Celsius/ 79˚ Fahrenheit

Gran Cenote is a popular destination for both snorkelers and divers. Shallower than many other cenotes, Gran Cenote makes up for its lack of depth with sparkling, clear water and striking formations.

Other cenotes to consider:
• Tres Bocas 
• Cristalino 
• Cenote Azul 
• El Jardin de Eden 
• Xunaan-Ha
• Choc Mool
• Casa Cenote 

Topside Treats
• Swim with the dolphins  at Dolphinaris or La Isla.
• Sailboarding, paddleboarding, horseback riding (in Rancho Loma Bonito) or just lounging on the white sand beach are all popular pastimes.
• Visit the Wet’n Wild water park.
• Play a round of golf at Cancun Golf Club at Pok Ta Pok or the Moon Palace Golf Resort.
• Head to the mall in Cancun for great deals.
• Take an ATV jungle tour.
• Visit Xcaret and Xel Ha Eco Parks.
• Experience the ruins of Coba on a Coba Jungle Safari.

For more information about these activities, visit Travel Yucatan.


Fast facts
• Language – Spanish and Mayan but English is commonly spoken in tourist areas.
• Currency – Mexican Peso
• Transportation – Buses, taxis or hotel shuttles

Book now
Your local PADI Dive shop can help you set up a trip to Riviera Maya.

You can also check out our recent Vacation Spotlight on Cozumel.

Want to know more? Visit for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.