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The Riviera Maya

Dezember 7, 2019

By Chantal

PADI IDC Staff Instructor and passionate diver.

The Reviera Maya – a top diving destination and famous for its endless white sand beaches and populated by exclusive resorts. The Riviera Maya is a world class holiday destination. Millions of people from all around the world visit Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Most are seeking for rest, sun and perhaps a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins. But Mexico also offers some of the most varied scuba diving in the world.

Bring your camera because today we are going to submerge into the mystic Mayan world.

About Riviera Maya

The crystal clear waters of Mexico’s Caribbean coast are a paradise that was once home to the Mayans and their rich culture. The Riviera Maya is located to the northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the northernmost reaches of the Caribbean Sea. It’s home to 200 coral species and around 500 fish species. It includes many divers ‘most wanted’ species like nurse sharks, reef sharks, bull sharks, hammerheads, whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays and several species of turtles.

The reason for such incredible diversity lies in the Atlantic Sea’s proximity. It delivers a rich source of plankton to the Caribbean by strong oceanic currents. The result is the largest concentration of whale sharks anywhere in the world. Not only this, but the feature rich Mayan Riviera holds even more unique surprises, including pristine Cenotes and some of the largest and most decorated cave systems in the world.

The Riviera Maya is located northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the northernmost reaches of the Caribbean Sea.


Cozumel is a small island situated just off the coast of Playa del Carmen. It is probably one of the most famous diving locations in the world and receives more than 2 million divers per year.

In July 1996 a Natural Marine Reserve was established around Cozumel and it has been praised as being one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Clear waters, strong currents, explosions of life and special reef formations with long coral-lined swim throughs give a taste of Cozumel’s beauty. Turtles, lobsters, black tale groupers, nurse sharks, reef sharks, eagle rays, stingrays, seahorses… It’s almost a never ending list! And keep an eye out in the cracks and crevices for the local goat fish, a species endemic to Cozumel. The best scuba diving sites in Cozumel are The Devils Throat, Colombia Wall, Palancar Reef and Santa Rosa wall.

Playa del Carmen

Diving in Playa del Carmen provides excellent scuba diving. Long shallow reefs, mild currents and year-round clear water make this paradise ideal for new and inexperienced divers.

Every year again even the most experienced divers flock to Playa del Carmen in search of a truly adrenaline filled experience – bull shark season. During the winter this awesome and powerful shark visits the coast of Playa del Carmen. If you’re lucky, they can be spotted at many dive sites, but they tend to congregate in very specific locations. One such a place is around 500m off Mamitas Beach, one of the most visited sections of beach in Playa del Carmen. The site is sandy bottomed, perfect for kneeling down and waiting for the bull shark to come to you. It is a spectacular experience. During a typical dive you may see 5 to 7 of one of the most powerful animals on the planet.


Heading south from Playa del Carmen towards Tulum you will notice several different signs announcing Cenotes. Many books have been written about these magical geological features and many more to come. The Cenotes open up a brand new world for divers and you might find people travelling to Mexico for the sole purpose to visit them.

Beneath the Riviera Maya lies a highly intricate network of underwater rivers, mostly consisting of fresh water. Over thousands of years some sections of the river’s roof collapsed and left behind a hole on the surface known as a Cenote.

Diving in a Cenote is maybe one of the most cherished life experiences one can have. A completely new scene for many divers and something you will not find anywhere else in the world.

It’s almost hard to believe that you are actually swimming through water since it is so clear! The gleaming white of the cave and dazzling penetrations of light are breathtaking. It has taken millions of years for such formations as stalactites, stalagmites and columns to form. The only way you can truly appreciate this unique environment is to dive a Cenote yourself.

Cavern Diving

Cenote diving is cavern diving and not to be confused with cave diving (which is all in all a totally different discipline). Cenotes fall within the cavern zone, usually with big, highly decorated chambers and always with natural light in sight and an exit close by. A PADI Open Water diver meets the certification requirements to dive in a cavern zone with a guide. Even though most dive centres require that you undertake a check dive with them before taking you to one of this stunning places.

The most visited Cenotes are the Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos, Chack Mool, Taj Maja, Angelita and The Pit. There are many Cenotes and many more still left to discover. Each one is totally different from the others and they all have their own charm.


Cancun is the perfect place to visit during summer. Why? Because it’s whale shark season!

Measures over 12 metres at their longest, the waters around Cancun have been noted to hold the largest concentration of whale sharks in the world with a staggering 400 individuals recorded in one day. There are no shortages of tour operators who will take you to see this spectacular feeding event.

You may only snorkel with these gentle giants, but it’s absolutely a worthwhile experience. Jump into the water with your guide and watch the beautifully coloured whale sharks glides by. The more patient you wait, the closer they will swim towards you! There’s also a really good chance of seeing manta rays amongst the whale sharks. They have even been seen to breach cleanly from the water, jumping high into the air.

The Riviera Maya is a unique experience in many aspects. The huge variety of diving makes it a must visit location for every diver.

Got excited about some diving?

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