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Diving Playa Del Carmen's Reefs

Playa Del Carmen's reefs are part of the expansive Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world extending from Mexico's Yucatan peninsula all the way down to Costa Rica.  The island of Cozumel provides a natural buffer to the open sea so tidal movement is limited, as a result there tends to be a greater density of nutrients in the water around Playa resulting in a greater density of fish.  While visibility is not quite as crystal clear as Cozumel because of the nutrients in the water, it is still excellent by most standards ranging from 60-100ft (20-30m).

Given the normal northbound current and the distance from shore, most of the dives off the coast of Playa Del Carmen are drift dives and are done from a boat which follows us on the surface to the end of the dive.  Depths on the Playa reefs vary between an easy 15ft (5m) to about 120ft (37m) making it a great place to dive for everyone from a novice to an experienced technical diver.  The water temperature rarely drops below about 79F (26C) providing enjoyable diving year round. Check out the current diving & ocean conditions in Playa del Carmen.

There are three different levels to the reef system in Playa Del Carmen heading from the beach out towards “El Cantil” (the cliff).  Moving away from the beach the drop-offs in the shallow to mid-depths are very gradual with a white sandy bottom.  The depths at this first level range from 20-75ft (7-24m) with pinnacles of coral, patch and finger reefs dotting the area providing excellent shelter and feeding grounds for a vast array of Caribbean marine life.  Read more about the three levels of Playa Del Carmen's reef system.

For rates for diving Playa Del Carmen and other locations we dive click here.

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Playa Del Carmen Dive Sites
Click on the dive flag for site name & info or scroll down for site description

Underwater Video
Great walls, wrecks, reefs & marine life in Playa

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Photo Gallery
Underwater Photos from Playa Del Carmen Dives

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diving playa del carmen

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Cerebros

Cerebros, meaning “brains” is one of our farthest dives sites to the north from Playa and is so properly named after the abundant brain corals here. This is a shallow, sloping dive that bottoms out at 35ft/12m in sand. There is almost no current and the visibility ranges from 40-50ft (15m). There are large pinnacles of corals shrouded with fish that spring up from the slope to just under the surface. This is home to many lobsters, crabs, moray eels, and scorpionfish. Spotted eagle rays and tarpon have also been spotted there. There are some dramatic swim-thru’s as well.

 

Los Arcos

Los Arcos, meaning “the arches”, is the deepest dive out of Playa. It’s a wall dive with the top of the wall starting at 75ft/24m and bottoms out in sand at 110ft/33m. The site has two beautiful swim-thru’s (arches). There is usually strong current present with an average visibility of around 75ft/24m. As you approach the arches, a huge pinnacle of rock covered in corals appears and is always circled by a large school of horse-eyed jacks and broadside jacks. The depth combined with the currents make this one of our most advanced dives.

 

Pared Verde

Pared Verde, meaning “green wall”, is a wall dive that is broken up into two sections. The sections of wall are separated by a sloping sandy bottom. The top of the wall starts at 75ft/24m and bottoms out in sand at 100ft/30m. The current here is moderate and the visibility ranges from 75-100ft (24-30m). There is a chimney style swim thru towards the end of the dive. Its best to stay at the lip of the wall where the coral growth is the most abundant. Here you can see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, large moray eels, and the occasional spotted eagle ray or manta.

 

Moc-Che Deep

Moc-Che Deep is a continuous wall dive that starts in 65ft/20m and bottoms out in sand at 100ft/30m. There is a light to moderate current present with visibility ranging from 80-100ft (26-30m). The wall is draped in hard and soft corals with an abundant amount of sealife making it their home. Usual sightings include moray eels, king crabs, turtles, and stingrays. In the winter, bull sharks and spotted eagle rays can sometimes be seen.

 

Moc-Che Shallow

Moc-Che Shallow is a winding reef that gently slopes down to sand. There are numerous coral formations providing home to sealife. The top of the reef is in 25ft/8m and bottoms out in sand at 40ft/14m. There is a light to moderate current with visibility ranging from 40-50ft (15m). Here you can find small and large rays and in spring spotted eagle rays schooling around toward the end of the site. The highlight of the dive is a beautiful arch covered in coral which is the home to a very large green moray eel. Seahorses, pipefish and pipehorses have been spotted here as well.

 

Chunzumbul

Chunzumbul is a garden like reef with a depth of 35ft/12m. There is little or no current with visibility is around 40-50ft (15m).  There are some coral overhangs here as well with lobsters and crabs. This is one of our longest dives but can be very affected by weather and sea condtions. Here you can find small rays, arrow crabs, pipefish, flounders,  schools of snappers, grunts, and porkfish

 

Jardines

Jardines, meaning “garden”, and is so named for its garden vegetation. This dive is along a 5-6ft (2m) ledge that is home to large green morays, lobster, crabs, and schools of snapper, grunts, porkfish, and chubs. This site bottoms out in sand at 35ft/12m with no current and the visibility ranges from 40-60ft (15-18m). Other animals that can be seen here are large rays and seahorses. This is a great dive for beginners or underwater photographers. There is a lot of boat traffic here so make sure you stay near the bottom until you are ready to surface and always fly a surface marker buoy before surfacing.

 

Sabalos

Sabalos, meaning “tarpon”, is a finger reef that has ledges and overhangs. The depths range from 30-45ft (10-15m) and the visibility is around 50ft/16m. There can be moderate to strong currents here. You will find protection from the current by dipping down behind the reef. Here you can take you time searching for morays, lobsters, crabs, dog-toothed snappers, octopus and seahorses. At the end of the dive there is a long swim thru with the entrance completely covered in fish. Sometimes a large school of tarpon and large rays can be seen towards the end of the dive as well.

 

Barracuda

Barracuda is named after the large barracudas that can be seen patrolling the reef. This site is a set of finger reefs (shaped like a hand) that have lots of ledges and overhangs to explore. There is moderate to strong current here with visibility around 50ft/16m. You need to stay over the sand at the edge of the reef so you are not blown over the reef and into sandy shallows. There are large schools of fish around all the ledges as well as large morays, lobsters, king crabs, pipefish and seahorses.

 

Tortugas

Tortugas, meaning “turtle”, is a gently sloping reef that is a barrel sponge field where sea turtles graze. Here you can find Hawksbills, Loggerheads, and Green sea turtles feeding. The reef starts in 60ft/18m and fade out into sand at 120ft/40m. There is always a light to moderate current. There is a ledge at 70ft/21m that is home to a couple very large green moray eels and a school of Atlantic spadefish. In the summer, there is a large school of tarpon the hang at the end of the reef. Some of the sightings here have included, bull and hammerhead sharks, manta and spotted eagle rays, and whale sharks!

 

Mama Vina Shipwreck

Mama Vina is a 90ft ferry sitting upright that was sank for diving purposes over ten years ago. Since that time the ship has been covered up in corals. The wreck is in 90ft/28m of water with strong to very strong currents around it making it one our more advanced dives. The mast is always crowded with a large school of barracudas and horse-eyed jacks. We penetrate the middle and top levels. The middle level has two rooms and on the top level we go through the wheelhouse. The scenery here is dramatic, and with an average of 100ft/30m visibility, makes for great underwater photography.

 

Islote

Islote’ is a slope dive with fantastic visibility ranging from 100-130ft/30-40m. There is a light current making it a good place for underwater photography. The top of the slop is in 70ft and slopes steeply to 110ft/33m. The coral here is thick and abundant with no sand so buoyancy control is very important. The reef is home to lobsters, turtles, large king crabs, nurse sharks, large stingrays, and a huge school of horse-eyed jacks. In summer, spotted eagle rays, sailfish and marlin can be seen here!

 

Punta Venado

Punta Venado means Deer Point and was so named for the sightings of white tailed deer swimming in the ocean here. The reef itself is in 60-70ft (18-20m) of seawater with a light current and 80-100ft (27-30m) visibility. This site is a continuous coral field with no sand so buoyancy control is very important. Here you can find large morays, lobsters, nurse sharks, and turtles. Occasionally we see mantas and spotted eagle rays here.

 

El Cantil

El Cantil, meaning “the cliff”, is the gorge between Playa and Cozumel. This is a bottomless wall dive that starts in 100ft and drops straight down to about 800ft! The visibility here ranges from 100-150ft! There is always a light to moderate current. Here we can see goliath groups, loggerhead turtles, bull sharks, and the occasional hammerhead. In the summer we can see schools of mahi-mahi (dorados) along with marlin and sailfish. This is our most advanced and deepest dive. This dive is only for the most seasoned divers. This is a special request dive done one on one and we must see you make a couple dives before you can sign up to make this dive.

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