Diving is a magnificent water sport that gives you the opportunity to explore the wonderful world hidden beneath the ocean’s surface. Hilton Hotels prioritize the safety of their visitors; therefore, we consider taking into account the following recommendations if you wish to practice diving at any of the tourist sites you visit.
First of all, you must take training courses and be certified as a diver before going on any excursion, always try to dive with a group, know how to communicate effectively underwater, and finally, keep your diving equipment in excellent condition, or If you are going to rent it, make sure it is from a reliable place.
The 130-kilometer tourist corridor between Cancun and Tulum make up the Riviera Maya, where some of the best destinations for diving lovers can be found. In order to enjoy your visit to the Riviera Maya to the fullest, we invite you to learn about the best places to go diving, where you will find unforgettable experiences among reefs, cenotes, where you can also go swimming and even feed sharks.
Coral reefs are not only the most diverse ecosystem in the world, but they also provide habitats and shelter for various specimens of marine life. The reefs are rock structures on underwater platforms formed by coral skeletons that take thousands of years to grow. Their striking colors are due to microorganisms that live in symbiosis within the coral.
There are also artificial reefs, which are manmade and composed of different materials, including sunken ships. Given that the reefs are the habitat for 25 percent of the marine biodiversity of the planet, if you are a lover of nature and adventure, the Riviera Maya is your chance to experience these natural beauties up close.
Throughout the Riviera Maya, there are many places where you can dive, but we must highlight Cozumel. Diving is an intrinsic element to Cozumel. From the pier of Playa del Carmen, the ferries leave for the island, where the second most important barrier reef in the world is located. Divers of all levels marvel at the universe of aquatic flora and fauna unique to this area. Here you will be able to observe and swim with barracudas, turtles, eagle rays, angels, groupers, whale shark and many others.
We have selected the best reefs in the Riviera Maya for you, so be prepared to be completely amazed and impressed by what nature has to offer you at the bottom of the sea.
- You can’t miss the C53 Felipe Xicotencatl, a boat built in the USA. in 1944 which served as a minesweeper for the American Navy. In 1962, it was sold to the Mexican Navy and turned into an admiral-class destroyer, which patrolled the Gulf of Mexico until 1999 year, when it was retired and sunk, thus becoming an artificial reef. The remains of this boat offer a special glimpse into World War II history and also serves as an easily accessible dive site. The approach to the remains is quite dramatic, as once you start the descent, you can see almost the entire upper part of the sunken ship. Be sure to carry a flashlight so you can explore the boat’s corridors and don’t be surprised if a dark eel shows up to greet you from the bunk.
- The Manchones Reef occupies an area of 2 km and is one of the most popular options for surface diving and diving day or night. At night, you can see octopuses, moray eels and lobsters, which hide during the day. In addition, you can find much of the artificial reef, and certainly impressive, the Underwater Museum of Art, which occupies an area of 420 square meters. This consists of more than 500 sculptures fixed to the seabed and created to promote the formation of reefs placed a few meters off the coasts of Isla Mujeres and Cancun. This diving experience features sculptures in the shape of people, vehicles, giant hands, among others.
- If you are an adrenaline junkie, be sure to visit the Barracuda Reef in Cozumel, which is a diving experience for expert levels due to the strong currents. This reef is not for the weakhearted, as it is a place where divers have been lost precisely because of treacherous currents. So if you decide to undertake this adventure, which many have cataloged as the best in the world, prepare to descend and ascend in a group. Due to the limited number of divers, this experience offers a virgin site, crystal clear water, a colorful reef on the rise and full of life. If you are lucky you will see extraordinary toadfish, stingrays, turtles, nurse sharks, lobsters, and crabs.
Exploring The Cenotes
The cenotes of the Riviera Maya are a sight to behold. Cenote originates from the Mayan worddzonoot, which means “hole with water” and they are considered to be sacred places. The cenotes are deep water caves that feed on the rain and the currents of the rivers. The age of the cenote is denoted by its formation, therefore, an underground cenote is the youngest, a semi-open cenote is middle-aged and the open cenotes are the oldest.
If you decide to venture out to experience the beauty and mysteries of the cenotes, you will not only swim among crystalline waters but you will also be able to appreciate the stalactites, which emerge from the drops of water that fall and dissolve the limestone, a process which takes between 4,000 and 5,000 years. The cenotes are the preferred diving experiences in the Riviera Maya. Just to give you an idea, it is estimated that in Quintana Roo alone there are around 19,000 cenotes. In fact, Mexico is one of the world’s top diving destinations, both for beginners and experts, and the cenotes are unique to this country. The best cenotes to dive in the Riviera Maya can be found in the following locations:
- The system of flooded caves of the Dos Ojos Cenote must be your first stop. Its name comes from the cenote’s formation, as it’s two connected cenotes, which when seen from afar, look like eyes. The transparency of the water gives you the sensation of flying and the filtered sun’s rays create a unique, dazzling and unimaginable game of lights and colors. It’s something you must experience! You will also come across some fossil remains that showcase the history of this area which was once submerged in its entirety millions of years ago.
- The Pit Cenote is the deepest cavern in Quintana Roo and is for experienced divers. Its name does not do it justice since it is one of the most popular and unique diving destinations of the Riviera Maya. What you will like most about this cenote are the rays of sun that seep into this cavern. You will see them dancing as you make your way through the cavern, and thanks to the visibility, it’s a sight like no other. At the bottom of this cenote, you will also find a blanket of clouds or mist, which gives you the feeling of being in the middle of a cloud forest at night, which are visions you will never forget.
- The best cenote for divers is the Taj Mahal Cenote, which consists of four interconnected cenotes and offers you a more challenging dive. You go through a web of tunnels and caverns with what appear to be solar light lasers that filter to light your way. Here you can admire the stalagmites and stalactites, as well as observe the phenomenon of the halocline, the point where salt water meets fresh water. It is then that everything looks blurry and you will feel a change in your buoyancy. It’s very exciting!
Swim With Sharks
Finally, we leave the best for last! If you are a daredevil and love nature, and, above all, live what it is to see majestic animals in their natural habitat, do not miss the opportunity to swim and feed the sharks at Playa del Carmen. Bull sharks arrive towards the end of December and stay until March or April in Playa del Carmen, and most of them are females. Feeding the bull shark is one of the most popular activities in the Riviera Maya. It is an extraordinary diving experience.
In order to do so, you must start by descending around 20 meters with a large group. Upon making it to the bottom, the divers line up along a cable making sure there are no spaces between them, and all are standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Once this is achieved, the sharks perceive the group as a single large object, and that is when an experienced professional begins to throw bait to feed the sharks. It is worth noting that sharks are quite fussy when it comes to their dinner, so first they will swim around, and either then they start eating or some even fight each other over food. It will be an unforgettable experience and you will learn so much about these fascinating animals like never before.
This area is undoubtedly a mecca for diving and a region full of diverse and amazing underwater fauna and flora that attracts all types of tourists. However, whether you are an experienced diver or you are venturing into the world of diving for the first time, Mexico is the best place for your deep-sea adventure, and you will soon learn that some of the world’s best diving spots are indeed those located in the Riviera Maya.