At one fifth the size of the United States, and boasting a population of 122 million, Mexico is an enormous country with plenty of coastline. Whether you favour the more rugged Pacific side, or prefer the Gulf of Mexico’s Caribbean flavour on the country’s eastern shores, scuba diving in Mexico offers endless opportunity for discovery. Virtually every corner of this tourist-friendly destination is easily reached through one of more than a hundred international airports, and although the capital of Mexico City is landlocked, many of the country’s major cities are conveniently located in the coastal regions.
Take advantage of unique opportunities to visit ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins, kayak amid the pink cliffs of Espiritu Santo, or witness millions of migratory monarch butterflies at the Reserva Mariposa. Land adventures are abundant in Mexico, and make for a great day or two out of the water. Jungle hiking, white water rafting, and pristine beach days can round out your vacation nicely, while providing great value for your dollar against the local peso.
Meanwhile, scuba diving packages in Mexico also offer something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned veteran, or are looking to drop by a local dive shop to get PADI-certified and try your hand at diving for the first time. Both shore diving and liveaboard options are yours for the asking throughout the country, and the climate is generally warm and sunny all year, with surface water temperatures averaging between 26 and 29oC (79-84oF). To get the most out of your diving vacation in Mexico, however, the country’s Caribbean shoreline is best explored between March and August, while August through February is the peak period for discovering everything the Pacific coast has to offer.
Sea of Cortez
In the cooler Pacific waters, a wetsuit is frequently required and stronger currents tend to make this thousand-mile coastline a better destination for the more experienced diver. Islands like Socorro and Guadalupe offer a Galapagos-like setting, and between the Baja Peninsula and the mainland, the stunning Sea of Cortez awaits. Otherwise known as the Gulf of California – or more casually, as the Aquarium of the World - this body of deep blue water is a world apart, with a different sense of time, place and rhythm all its own.
The Sea of Cortez hosts some of the most beautiful marine life encounters in the region, and boat trips out of Cabo San Lucas and La Paz promise to reveal its treasures to any who choose to come and take the plunge. Sea lions and rays, sharks and eels abound, and divers here can explore submerged mountains wreathed in hammerheads, or join swarms of tuna and jacks as they flit tirelessly in and out of local wrecks. Within the Sea’s boundaries, a group of uninhabited World Heritage desert islands offer a unique destination for kayaking and hiking that’s rich in natural history, unspoiled in beauty, and unrivaled in marine life.
For those divers looking for something a little more exotic and exciting, a liveaboard like the Nautilus Explorer can take you from Cabo San Lucas to the remote island of Socorro, one of a chain of volcanic islands about 400 km (250 miles) off the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. It's a long cross over the big, open ocean, but the pay-off is huge. Here you can get up close and personal with a number of the Pacific’s largest residents, including famous and friendly giant mantas, bottlenose dolphins, and schools of hammerheads, tiger sharks, and even whalesharks during November and December. Don your tanks between January and early April, and chances are excellent you’ll hear, and possibly even see, visiting humpback whales singing on every dive. Socorro is known for big animal action, and what it lacks in colorful reefs, it more than makes up for in heart-pumping action. A trip to Socorro is only accessible by liveaboard, and it's a dive destination that's not ideal for non-divers. The memorable moments from close encounters with amazing manta rays that actually want to be around divers, will remain with you forever.
If it’s the Great White shark you’re after, let the Nautilus carry you to the smaller island of Guadalupe, about 240 km (150 miles) off the northwestern coast of the Baja Peninsula. Giving both Australia and South Africa a run for their money as the contender for top Great White encounter destination, the waters around Guadalupe offer astounding visibility that ranges from 40-45 meters (125-150 feet), and adventurous divers here are well advised to have their underwater cameras ready at all times. Cage dive operations have identified as many as 170 unique Great Whites in the local bay, and viewing consistency is second to none.
Cross the country’s expanse to the farthest reaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, and you’ll find diving in Mexico’s warmer climes to be a whole different experience. Turtle playgrounds, bull sharks, gloriously coloured reefs, and extraordinary night diving are all at your disposal along the country’s east coast, and can often be enjoyed wearing little more than a swim suit. May through September, the beautifully warm waters around the coastal Isla Mujeres and Holbox Island are home to migrating whalesharks that arrive to feed off the area’s rich plankton reserves. Divers here at this time will thrill to the opportunity of swimming alongside these incredibly gentle giants. Visit in January or February for your best chance to catch the annual, one-of-a-kind sailfish bait ball event, when northern storms drive countless hordes of sardines south and into the waiting maws of the region’s grateful sailfish.
Inland, the Yucatan’s Mayan Riviera is a cave-diver’s dream with hundreds of kilometers of connected, underground caves, tunnels and sinkholes carved out of the limestone plateau. Certified open water divers can descend into the Cenotes through a hole in the jungle floor, and drift past the eerily haunting columns and silent stalactites that line these submerged caverns and underwater rivers.
If you’re looking for breath-taking walls and caverns, incredible swim-throughs, and the best drift diving in the Caribbean, Cozumel, otherwise known as the Island of the Swallows, is the place to be. As part of the second largest barrier reef system in the world, the crystal clear waters here teem with hundreds of species of colourful tropical fish, eagle rays and nurse sharks, and the region is well known for its massive elephant-ear sponges. Cozumel is located just 19 km (12 miles) off the Yucatan Peninsula’s eastern shoreline, and features an astonishing dive visibility of up to 60 meters (200 feet). Click here for more detailed information about the diving paradise known as Cozumel!