Diving and Snorkeling in the Riviera Maya

Lying just off the shore of the Riviera Maya is the second largest reef system in the world, called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System; also known as the Great Mayan Reef. It is this reef that protects the bays along the shoreline and helps to create the algae plains that the turtles here feed on. The reef is home to more than 65 species of coral, 350 species of mollusk and over 500 species of fish. Some notable marine species that call this reef home are: Green sea turtles, Hawksbill turtles, Leatherback turtles, Loggerhead sea turtles, West Indian Manatee and Manta Rays.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is not the only snorkeling and diving draw in the Riviera Maya. This area boasts the unique diving prospect of cenotes, and these natural pools are an entrance to another magical underwater world. Beneath your feet run some of the longest underground cave systems and caverns in the world, and these can be explored through diving. However the Cenotes are not just for divers, they boast crystal clear waters and will usually be over 50feet (15meters) deep! Containing their own unique wildlife, a day at a cenote is an experience not to be missed on the Riviera Maya.


Put your snorkel on and walk out into clear waters, that is literally all you need to do in the Riviera Maya; the whole coastline is awash with natural beauty and marine wildlife. Forgot to pack your snorkel? Don’t fret almost everywhere you will want to snorkel there are people and places that rent them and many also offer lifejackets and tours. Want to own your own? There are there are numerous dive shops that sell them, as well as the smaller holiday shops. You do have no excuse not to go snorkeling whilst on your holiday. Some notable snorkeling places are:

Akumal Bay. In the Mayan tongue Akumal mean “the place of the turtles” so there’s no surprise as to what you expect to find under the surface. But there is more here than just turtles. Coral reefs are also here, swaying gently in the tide and containing an abundance of marine life.

Yal-ku. About two kilometers (1.25miles) down the road from Akumal Bay this small lagoon costs $186 pesos (15USD) and is a beautifully tranquil location. There is no tidal influence here and the underwater landscape is simply spectacular. For a more detailed description of the snorkeling in this area, and what to expect, visit our blog entry on Yalku Bay.

Cenotes. There are so many cenotes it can be very hard to choose which one in particular you want to visit. Unfortunately we cannot tell you, only assist you. Visit our Cenotes of the Riviera Maya List to find small descriptions and prices of a cenote visit. But, to repeat what was said earlier: cenotes are a unique, clear water experience not to be missed!


The amount of diving opportunities on the Riviera Maya are inexhaustible. To help you partake in this activity there are also countless dive shops operating out of every town that lies along this shoreline. So don’t just go with the first one you see, check a few out and find one you are comfortable with. Whether you want to become a qualified diver, add another specialty to your diving skill set or just go and explore the reefs and cenotes, there are a huge variety of courses and trips you can take that can be tailored to suit your desires and dreams.

The reef is obviously the main attraction here, with its multitude of colourful marine life and beautiful corals, every dive will provide you with something new to gawp at. These dives are available to anyone, be it qualified or total unexperienced, and can be undertaken over a few days or as one whole day.

Cenotes are a diving attraction that are certainly not to be missed by anyone. They are full of crystal clear fresh water and are regularly over 50 feet (15meters) deep. Down here you can watch the beams of sunlight play off the beautiful rock formations and tour a huge variety of caverns. Cavern dive tours require an open water certification, as very good buoyancy control is required, and allow you to enter 194feet (59meters) into the system.

Cave diving requires a special dive course certification, which can be obtained from many of the dive centers on the Riviera Maya. With this you can explore deep into the caves that lie through various cenotes. The course is 10 days long and intense; but cave divers speak of what you can experience and see in this environment as impossible to find or better at any other dive locations; we’ll leave you to be the judge of that one.