The best diving locations in Miami and Cancun allow you to PADI and party on the same vacation.
If you want to combine the convenience of an amenity-packed vacation with stunning underwater adventures, Miami and Cancun should be top of your list.. These two destinations offer some of the best diving locations in the world, with spectacular coral reefs, shipwrecks, cenotes, and even an underwater museum. Whether putting on flippers for the first time or being an expert diver, you will find something to suit your preferences and skills. Here are some of the highlights of diving in Miami and Cancun.
Best Diving Locations in Miami
Miami is renowned for its sun, also, sand and surf, along with a vibrant Latin culture that attracts millions of tourists every year. However, underwater it’s just as fascinating as on the ground. Located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, Miami is home to the northernmost part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world. The reef hosts a variety of marine life, such as colorful fish, turtles, rays, sharks, and dolphins. You can also explore artificial reefs from sinking ships, planes, and even a concrete bar.
Biscayne National Park
This dive is suitable for all experience levels. Plunge below the surface of crustal blue water to see sea turtles, and Maritime Heritage Trail featuring century-old shipwrecks, natural reefs, and a lighthouse.
Scuba diving off the coast of the popular beach is very common. Here you’ll find home the Neptune memorial reef. Spanning hundreds of thousands of square feet, it’s one of the most extensive man-made artificial reefs ever created. It’s located at a depth of around 40-feet, and features concrete statues, columns, domes, and arches.
An impressive shipwreck for advanced divers to navigate. The Sheri-Lynn was a 235-foot Dutch freighter built in 1952 whose remains are now scattered along the ocean floor 90 feet below the sea. There are multiple bulkheads and tanks within the wreckage to explore, with the ship being transformed into a thriving artificial reef, with a variety of marine life to see, including large pelagic fish, like grouper, mahi-mahi, and sharks. The wreck is located about five miles east of Key Biscayne.
If you prefer natural reefs over artificial ones, the Emerald Reef won’t disappoint. This is one of Miami’s most beautiful coral reefs, composed of three shallow patch reefs one mile east of Key Biscayne. The average depth is about 20 feet, making it perfect for snorkeling and diving. You can see elkhorn and pillar coral, various sponges, and schools of juvenile tropical fish like sergeant major, blue tang, and other damselfish.
Best Diving Locations in Cancun
Cancun is probably Mexico’s most famous beach resort, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Located on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, it is surrounded by turquoise waters and white sand beaches. You can burn all the piña colada calories off with a few days of diving as Cancun is more than a party town. It’s also a great place to dive, offering access to the southern part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In addition, hundreds of freshwater cenotes (natural sinkholes) are unique to this region. You can dive with whale sharks, explore underwater caves, and marvel at the biodiversity of the reef.
C58 Minesweeper Wreck Dive
One of Miami’s most famous wreck dives is the C58 Minesweeper Wreck Dive. This old Navy vessel from World War II was sold to the Mexican Navy in 1962 and eventually sunk to create an artificial reef. The ship lies at about 80 feet below the surface, and it is split in two by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. You can swim around the entire ship and even enter the wreck where you can see groupers, eagle rays, barracuda, and manta rays. This dive site is recommended for experienced divers, as the currents can be strong.
Underwater Museum (MUSA)
The Underwater Museum (MUSA) will leave a lasting impression if you want something unique and artistic. Don’t worry, you won’t have to join a line to gain entry. This is one of the world’s largest underwater museums, with over 400 life-sized sculptures that form a remarkable man-made reef. The sculptures were created by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who used eco-friendly materials that promote coral growth. The museum is divided into two galleries: Salon Manchones and Salon Nizuc. The former is deeper and suitable for scuba diving, while the latter is shallower and ideal for snorkeling. Various sculptures depict human figures, animals, cars, and even a house. The museum is also home to rays, turtles, moray eels, and barracuda.
One of the best diving locations in Cancun is Manchones Reef, which is part of Isla Mujeres National Marine Park. This reef stretches for about 12 miles along the coast of Isla Mujeres, a small island off Cancun. The reef has an average depth of 30 feet and features coral formations, swim-throughs, ledges, and caverns. You can see various marine life here, such as angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, trumpetfish, seahorses, lobsters, crabs, octopi, and nurse sharks. You can also visit part of the Underwater Museum (MUSA) located within this reef.
More experienced divers might want to try their hand at some of the more adventurous cenote dives. Many are connected by an extensive underground river system that offers a unique diving experience. Cenote Zapote is one of the most famous cenotes in Cancun, and it is also known as Hell’s Bells because of its peculiar rock formations that resemble bells hanging from the ceiling. The cenote has a depth of 100 feet and is only suitable for advanced divers with proper training and equipment. This cenote shows stalactites, stalagmites, fossils, and some freshwater fish.
Sleeping Sharks Cave
If you are fascinated by sharks, you should not miss the Sleeping Sharks Cave, which is located near Isla Mujeres. This deep dive site reaches 60 feet and features a large cave where nurse sharks are resting on the sandy bottom. These sharks are harmless and usually ignore the divers, but you should keep a respectful distance and avoid touching them. You can also see other marine life around the cave, such as barracuda, snapper, grouper, and moray eels.
These are just some of the best diving locations in Miami and Cancun, but there are many more to discover. Whether you want to see coral reefs, shipwrecks, cenotes, or sharks, you will find something to suit your taste and level. Diving in Miami and Cancun is a great way to enjoy the beauty and diversity of the underwater world. You can hire all your diving gear at the location — make sure you pack a sense of adventure!