RGB Ventures / SuperStock / Alamy
Laura Winfree
October 21, 2014

The immense Mesoamerican Barrier Reef—the second largest reef on earth—begins just off the coast of Cancun. This 1,000-kilometer stretch of atolls and colorful stony coral curves from the coast of Mexico down to Belize and the Bay of Honduras. Take an awe-inspiring dive during your next Cancun vacation for a chance to swim amongst the world’s largest manatee population, or to glimpse endangered leatherback and hawksbill turtles. An underwater exploration in this Caribbean destination can also lead you to delve into underground rivers, peek into shipwrecks, and even browse underwater art! Here, nature has created an epic backdrop of looming caves and vibrant reefs for a truly unforgettable dive.  Whether you’re interested in natural splendors or prefer to seek historic relics, there are plenty of dive tours available throughout the year to guide you to the immeasurable underwater beauty of Cancun. So grab your flippers and suit up—your Mexican vacation is about to go to the next level. 

MUSA Underwater Museum

This eerie museum features more than 500 underwater sculptures off the coast of Cancun. MUSA combines contemporary art with reef conservation, using specialized materials to support the growth of coral life and to provide a protected home for marine life. The submerged sculpture garden sets stills in contrast with the constantly moving Caribbean Sea. Spot abandoned Volkswagen bugs and a group of businessmen with their heads buried beneath the sand. 

Shipwreck Dives

Off the coast of nearby Isla Mujeres lie two shipwrecks for intermediate and advanced divers to explore: the C55 Barrera and the C58 Anaya. Both of these navy minesweepers have been underwater for several years, and have already begun to accumulate a layer of coral. They’re also home to an impressive community of reef sharks, barracuda, and eagle rays. 

Cenote Dos Ojos

Enter the underground rivers and caves of the Yucatan Peninsula through a cenote— a natural spring found only in this part of the world. Cenote Dos Ojos, or Two Eyes, is named after the double rivers that come together in a large underwater cavern. Located about two hours south of Cancun, Dos Ojos is the deepest known cave passage in the region.

Manchones Reef

This breathtaking reef is situated just off the southern tip of Isla Mujeres, a quick and easy boat ride from the Cancun Hotel Zone. It’s one of the most popular local dive tours for divers of all levels, known for its spectacular coral formations, abundant wildlife, and clear, shallow waters. Manchones Reef is also home to the Cross of the Bay: a tribute to the men and women who have died at sea.

Atlantis Reef

Divers touring this reef can expect to find everything from endangered turtles to barracudas and elusive sharks. Located near the island of Isla Mujeres, it’s a stunning shallow dive site appropriate for divers of any skill level. The calm waters are perfect for families, or for travelers seeking to get SCUBA certified. 

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