Playa del Carmen is a scuba diver’s dream come true. With crystal-clear waters, diverse marine life, and some of the best dive sites in the world, it’s no wonder this Mexican hotspot is so popular with divers. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the best dive sites in Playa del Carmen, as well as what makes them so special.
About Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a coastal city located on the Yucatán Peninsula in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is located on the Caribbean Sea 75 miles (120 km) south of Cancun, and 68 miles (110 km) north of Tulum. All three destinations are easily accessible by car or bus, and it takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and around 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive from Tulum to Playa del Carmen. In fact, many scuba operators will share dive sites.
The area is known for its stunning beaches, cenotes (sinkholes), and vibrant nightlife. It’s an excellent place for scuba diving, with numerous dive sites catering to all levels of experience.
These sites include the Great Maya Reef, the world’s second-largest barrier reef, and the cenotes, which are natural sinkholes that are popular for diving and snorkeling. You can also find a number of different marine species such as turtles, dolphins, and even nurse as well as bull sharks.
The best 12 dive sites in Playa del Carmen
|What to see
|Cueva del Pargo
|39 ft/ 12 m
|2 dive areas; abundance of sea life, turtles, rays
|30 ft/ 9 m
|Series of underwater caves;
2-tank dive: Barbie Line & Bat Cave
|Moc Che Reef (shallow & deep)
|42 ft/ 13 m
100 ft/ 30 m
|2 dive areas: shallow and deep.Nurse sharks, bull sharks
|100 ft/ 30 m
|Coral, wall/drift dive, marine life
|39 ft/ 12 m
|For novice cavern divers, surface air pocket.
|52 ft/ 16 m
|Open cavern, only a few formations
|49 ft/ 15 m
|Soft coral, schools of fish, silverfish, macro life
|39 ft/ 12 m –
100 ft/ 30 m
|Turtles, barracudas, rays
|82 ft / 25 m
|Wreck, abundance of marine life
|78 ft/ 24 m
|115 ft/ 35 m
|Rays, Green Morays
|39 ft/ 12 m
|School of fish, bull sharks
What scuba certification level do you need at Playa del Carmen?
Scuba diving in Playa del Carmen is possible with all levels of certification. However, many – and actually some of the best – dive spots require the Advanced Open Water certification. If you have a look at the above table, you will notice that many sites like the Mama Vina Playa del Carmen shipwreck, Shark Point, or Chac Moc Che Deep Reef are deeper than the depth limit of Open Water divers.
That being said, Playa del Carmen is a great place to advance your scuba diving and get the next certification level.
Are there sharks in Playa del Carmen?
Yes, Playa del Carmen is home to sharks, including nurse sharks and bull sharks.
Bull sharks migrate in the winter months between November and March to the area to give birth. Pregnant female bull sharks come here until they disappear for some time in February and March to give birth in deeper water. After giving birth, the females come back skinnier for a few days before they go unseen until the next winter season.
The best places to see sharks are at the deeper dive spots, especially shark point and nearby dive sites.
Nurse sharks can be spotted at Moc Che Reef.
Unproved Shark attacks in Playa del Carmen
In the time from 1990 to 2021, there were a total of 4 reported unprovoked shark attacks in the Playa del Carmen area. One of those incidents was fatal in 1993 by a tiger shark.
How much does it cost to scuba dive in Playa del Carmen?
The average cost for a 1-tank dive with an experienced and certified guide is approximately 60 USD. Prices vary depending on the dive site and the type of dive. If you’re interested in exploring a cave or cenote, prices can go up to 100 USD per person.
When is the best time to dive in Playa del Carmen?
The best time to dive in Playa del Carmen is between May and September when the water visibility is at its peak. Depending on what you’d like to see, the winter months increase your chances to encounter bull sharks.
Scuba diving itinerary for Playa del Carmen
If you’re looking to get the most out of your scuba diving holiday in Playa del Carmen, here’s an itinerary that includes some of the best dive sites in the area.
Day 1: Visit Moc Che Reef to explore colorful coral formations, eagle rays, and nurse sharks.
Day 2: Dive the Chac Mool Cenote to discover a mesmerizing underground world with stalactites and stalagmites, and explore the deeper sections of the cenote.
Day 3: Head to Shark Point for a thrilling experience with bull sharks. (only in the winter months)
Day 4: Explore the sunken Mama Vina shipwreck and artificial reef, giving life to many corals and fish.
With crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, and a wide variety of dive sites, Playa del Carmen is one of the world’s top destinations for scuba divers. Its close location to Tulum, Cancun, and Cozumel makes it the perfect scuba dive hub.