Yucatan in a Nutshell
Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is best known for cenotes diving, but also offers reef scuba dives, a bull shark feeding dive, American Crocodlles at Chinchorro Banks, plus whale shark and sailfish snorkeling off Isla Mujeres. Acommodation ranges from quiet retreats to huge all inclusive resorts, with plenty of topside activites like visiting the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
For complete details on diving Cozumel, visit our Cozumel Scuba Diving page.
Intro to the Yucatan Peninsula
Easy to reach, the Yucatan is a very popular vacation destination. The region is in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and is also known as the Riviera Maya. Unique diving opportunities abound, whether as a dedicated dive trip or as an add-on to a tropical vacation package.
Travel to the Yucatan is easy from the United States and major international hubs. Cancun (CUN) is the larger airport, while Cozumel (CZM) is convenient for diving, you guessed it, Isla Cozumel. Divers can find many different types of accommodation in the cities of Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel or Isla Mujeres. The abundance of activities and tours makes the Yucatan a great destination for divers traveling with non-divers.
The scuba diving is varied, as we'll discuss below.
Yucatan Scuba Diving
Cozumel is an amazing scuba destination. Check out our entire Cozumel Scuba Diving page.
The Mayans believed cenotes were the entrances to a sacred underwater world. They cater to two types of divers: the full cave-certified explorers diving the true caves and the ocean certified divers who swim through the caverns. The difference is that the cavern lines will always have a visible exit, and while technically an overhead environment, are safe for non-cave certifed divers to explore with a trained guide. The boundary where a cavern turns into a cave is usually marked by a large sign.
Each cenote (cavern) is a different dive experience, blending magnificent stalactites and stalagmites, dark corners, crisp sun rays and views through the crystal clear water into the jungle canopy above. Many cenotes have haloclines, where top freshwater blends with the lower salt water (yes, many of the cenotes connect with the ocean!). These haloclines are a blast to swim through. Depth on cenotes dives will range anywhere from 120ft (and beyond for technical divers) to 25ft.
Want to see more cenotes photos? Check out Diving the Mexico Cenotes on the Underwater Photography Guide.
SAILFISH AND WHALE SHARK SNORKELING
There are two distinct snorkeling opportunities off Isla Mujeres that attract divers and underwater photographers year after year. These are swimming with sailfish from mid-December to mid-March and swimming with whale sharks during the summer.
Those who wish to dive with sailfish will spend up to 8 or 10 hours on a boat searching for the sailfish as they hunt and control schools of baitfish. Sea conditions can be rough, and like any natural encounter, the sailfish are not guaranteed to show up. The encounters with sailfish will be brief, but it is an incredible experience.
Whale sharks gather during the summing in two areas. Most operators will snorkel off Isla Holbox, where the whale sharks gather to feed on plankton and krill. Other operators will take snorkelers way off Isla Mujeres to clear blue water, where whale sharks and mantas feed on bonito eggs after spawning events. Depending on the day, there can be many whale sharks or not many whale sharks.
Bull Shark Dive
This is an adrenaline-filled scuba dive off Playa Del Carmen. Bull Sharks are baited in and fed, while divers watch and shoot photos. The season is between November and March.
A popular dive trip in recent years, Chinchorro Banks is home to saltwater crocodiles that live in shallow water. Amenities are minimal but the photos speak for themselves.
Best Time to Dive the Yucatan, Water Temps and Visibility
The Yucatan is a year-round dive destination, although the specific marinelife encounters are seasonal (see above). The water off Cozumel ranges from 75-85F depending on season. The water in the Cenotes is about 77F. The angle of the sun shifts during the year, so different cenotes will benefit from different angles of light. For example, temperatures can be very hot during the summer, but that is when the sun is overhead and shines to the bottom of The Pit (391ft), creating a very surreal experience.
Flying to Cancun (CUN) is easy thanks to all the visiting tourists. From Cancun, it's a 45 minute drive to Playa Del Carmen. The drive from the airport to the Isla Mujeres ferry is about 30 minutes and the ferries run every half hour during the day. You can also fly directly into Cozumel (CZM).
The Yucatan has many non-diving activities, making it a fun destination for divers as well as groups and those who aren't divers. Resort and hotel accommodation is abundant, whether quiet and romantic or large and all-inclusive. Whale sharks is a snorkeling activity, and several of the cenotes offer snorkeling in addition to scuba diving (including Dos Ojos and Eden). Visitors can tour Mayan ruins, visit postcard-perfect white sand beaches, shop, or participate in the vibrant nightlife of Cancun. Playa Del Rey offers a more quiet scene.
Be sure to email us with additional questions. We have experience diving all over the Yucatan and can book the perfect trip for you!