Coast line of Tulum. There is text on photo that reads "scuba diving Tulum, MX".

The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving in Tulum

Welcome to the Yucatan peninsula and cenote diving. But there is way more to Tulum than diving in its incredible and sacred sinkholes. Pour a margarita, sit back and let’s explore this beautiful part of the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

The water, ruins and culture make Tulum a prime travel destination.

Rich with Mayan culture and ruins and sitting on the Caribbean sea, divers, explorers and relaxing vacationers will all find something in this town of Quintana Roo.

Getting There

Tulum is between an hour and a half to a two hour drive from Cancun. Most travelers will fly into the Cancun international airport and travel over road from there. You could also fly into Cozumel, but the road trip from there involves a ferry and is about a two and a half hour drive.

An arial photograph of Cancun.
Fly into Cancun and then obtain ground transportation for your drive to Tulum.

A rental car might be a good idea here, especially if you are going to visit some of the cenotes and other inland attractions.

Accommodations

There are many different options to choose from for your stay in Tulum.

Depending on what you are looking for, you can choose from hotels closer to the Caribbean Sea or more inland. From the all inclusive family friendly Dreams Tulum Spa & Resort to the more couples secluded Yellow Nest, travelers can find something to suit their needs.

A multitude of accommodations can be found from family friendly to a more intimate couples’ retreat.

And if you ever wanted to stay in a treehouse, check out the beautiful Nomade. It’s not a cheep stay, but one you will surely never forget.

Tarzan never had it as good as you will find it at the Nomade treehouse.

Scuba Diving In Tulum

Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the Riviera Maya and Tulum offer a truly unique scuba diving experience. Scuba divers travel from all over the globe to get wet in these warm sacred waters.

Looking for fresh water, you can choose to stay inland and dive the incredible cenotes. If salt water is more to your liking, you can head out to the open sea. But hey, why choose?! Take the time to get in both types of dives to fully appreciate this beautiful town, region and its various underwater options.

A couple scuba diving in Tulum
Tulum offers amazing inland cenote diving and reef diving in the open sea.

Dive Operations

Whether diving inland in the cenotes or heading out to the open sea, there are many dive shop options to choose from to fit any scuba diving needs.

Many diving operations, like La calypso Dive Center and Aqua Clara Diving offer scuba diving tours at both the cenotes and out on the Caribbean Sea.

Scuba tanks in a dive shop.
No matter your diving needs, you’ll be able to find a shop in Tulum to suit them.

Diving Sites of Tulum

As mentioned above, the great thing about Tulum is there are incredible diving opportunities very unique to this region. The options to inland cenote diving and open water diving on the Mesoamerican Reef in the Caribbean Sea is something you will only find on the Yucatan peninsula.

Cenote diving in tulum

When discussing Tulum diving, the absolutely incredible cenotes are the place to start. From advanced cave divers to basic open water divers, all can find a cenote to suit their speed and dive qualification level.

Millions of years ago, the Yucatan peninsula was a reef underwater. When the sea levels dropped, thousands of beautiful cenotes were left behind scattered across the region. These important water sources were places of significant importance to the Mayan people, who considered them doorways to the underworld.

Seeing these geological wonders makes you understand why they were places of reverie in the Mayan culture.

The cenotes remain an important water source for the peninsula. However, they are also now visited by thousands of tourists each year who are looking to dive into such sites as, Zacil-Ha, Gran and Calavera aka “The Temple of Doom” (the Indiana Jones in me wants to see this cenote for the name alone).

You may not find the Golden Idol, but you will feel like Indy exploring cenotes such as “The Temple of Doom.”

Generally speaking the water temp. in the various cenotes is in the mid 70s. While you usually find fresh water in them, there are some where you will get to experience a halocline, where fresh water meets and divides from salt water.

Those that are not scuba certified, can still get in on the action and take a snorkeling tour of some of these sites or, where available, do a discover scuba diving tour that includes an intro. to scuba class and cenote basic dive.

There is clearly no shortage of cenotes in Tulum and one could spend years exploring them all. Below is a list of some of the best cenotes to choose from.

Calavera

Whether your first dive or last dive, cenote Calavera is not to be missed. Dubbed “The Temple of Doom,” You will feel like Indy walking to and exploring this cenote in a not so developed area.

To enter “The Temple,” one must take a giant stride “leap of faith” – just like Dr. Jones – to the water surface about 8ft below. The exit is a wooden ladder that can get slippery, so watch your step getting out.

To exit “The Temple of Doom” you will need to climb a wooden ladder back to the surface.

Once you are in the the clear, but somewhat greenish, water you will experience a halocline during your descent down. During your exploration of the cenote, you will follow the permanent guideline and hit a depth of about 50ft.

Calavera means skull in Spanish, but nothing to fear here. The name comes from the three circular openings of the cenote and not an actual skull, but those too can be found in certain cenotes.

Exposed to plenty of sunlight this cenote makes for a nice easy place to dive, swim and snorkel. Just make sure to follow the guideline and take heed of posted warnings of wandering into deeper cavern systems…or you might permanently be a part of “The Temple of Doom.”

outside of temple of doom cenote in tulum.
You won’t find ruins at Calavera, but dive smartly and follow posted warnings…or “The Temple” may be your tomb.
Dos Ojos

Cenote Dos Ojos, or the “Two Eyes,” is a very popular dive and tourist destination. Made up of two connecting cenotes – hence the name – this spot is good for all level of divers and a great place to conduct your first dive to get used to cenote diving in Tulum.

Also a great snorkeling spot, in Dos Ojos you will find crystal clear water, more than enough natural light and cool geological formations. This can be a very busy site, so best to get here early in the day.

dos ojos cenote in tulum.
Plenty of light filters in Dos Ojos allowing divers to see the geography.

For those advanced cave divers, there are many passages leading off of the main cenotes as this is one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world. The deeper passages include such aptly named systems as the “Wakulla Room” and “The Next Generation Passage.” The deepest passage is close to 400ft down, so don’t get lost.

Scuba divers in a cenote in Tulum.
There are many passages to be followed for various skill levels.

Make sure to visit “The Batcave” in Dos Ojos and look above for the, you guessed it, bats! Or don’t look, if that’s not your thing.

Inside a cenote in Tulum.
You’re not going to find Batman in this bat cave, but you won’t be alone!

If you’d prefer to stay dry, or want to show non-divers Dos Ojos, check out the 2002 IMAX film Journey Into Amazing Caves, which features this beautiful underwater cave system.

El Pit

For a truly atmospheric dive, check out The Pit.

Outside a cenote in Tulum.
You’ll descend down a steep set of stairs to enter The Pit for an incredible diving experience.

Once in the water and descending down into this oval shaped cenote, you feel like you are skydiving in a cavern. On your descent, you will hit a halocline at about 40ft. Then, continuing on, you’ll come to a misty hydrogen sulfide cloud at about 100ft.

The pit is about 131ft deep and there is much to take in between the surface and bottom. On this dive you will see such things as trees, ancient rock formations and stalactites. This is transformative cenote diving like no other!

Stalactites showed hanging in The Pit, located in Tulum.
Stalactites are just some of the natural wonders of The Pit.
Aktun Ha

Aktun Ha means “water cave” in Mayan. However, this cenote is also know by another more popular name – “Car Wash” – as taxi drivers used to wash their cars here.

One of the first cenotes discovered in the area, Aktun Ha is also one of the most accessible. With a maximum depth of about only 60ft, all level of divers are welcome. This is also a great destination for swimmers and snorkelers.

Keep your eye out because in addition to the rock formations you can also spy turtles and small fish in this cenote. After your dive, you can shed the scuba gear and sunbath or jump off of the diving platform above.

Casa

Mi casa es su casa! You will definitely feel at home at the less visited Casa cenote, and what a home it is.

This cenote looks more like a river and lies in the shape of a snake among the surrounding vegetation, including mangroves. The Beautiful crystal clear fresh water with an average depth of 13ft makes Casa cenote an ideal diving, snorkeling and swimming destination.

Aerial view of casa cenote.
Cutting through the vegetation like a snake is the Casa cenote.

Casa cenote is very easily accessible and not far from some surrounding hotels. It is also just a stone’s throw away from a beautiful beach on the Caribbean Sea. This is a perfect spot for a nice relaxing day trip.

People shown snorkeling and swimming in Casa cenote.
The clear shallow water of Casa cenote makes snorkelers and swimmers feel right at home.
Zacil-Ha

Like cenote Casa, Zacil-Ha is another great spot for everyone. The crystal clear water with a depth of 13ft, makes this a perfect spot to cool off during a hot day of sightseeing.

A spot in Tulum called Zacil-Ha.
Like an oasis, Zacil-Ha is a nice spot to go to cool off.

Zacil-Ha includes a small cave area and those adventurous types can try the zipline right over the cenote.

Angelita

Cenote Angelita- “Little Angel” – is as incredible as it is not for the faint of heart. More for advanced divers, you will first have to make your way through the first layer of murkiness before you get to the clearer waters below.

When you first see this cenote from the surface, you may think you are looking at a pond. But this unassuming location holds many surprises, including a hydrogen sulfate cloud.

The "Little Angel" in Tulum.
A mysterious wonderful dive experience can be found in the “Little Angel.”

This is a deep cenote with its deepest part being just over 200ft down. But you don’t have to go that deep for it to get dark. So bring a flashlight if heading down below to see the remains of trees and rock debris from when parts of this cavern collapsed.

Gran

Gran cenote is one of the most famous cenotes in the region. Made up of several caverns with installed wooden decks, there are several spots for divers and snorkelers to enter the clear turquoise water. Making your way to the various water entrances you will see hundreds of stalactites of various sizes.

As you explore this cenote, keep a look out for the small fish and turtles that make their home here. The maximum depth of Gran is 30ft, making it a great spot for everyone to enjoy.

People shown scuba diving in Gran cenote, Tulum.
Gran is a cenote for the whole family to discover.

As this is one of the more popular sites, best to get here early to enjoy the beautiful scenery before the crowds arrive.

reef Diving in tulum

If you have had enough of cavern and cave diving and are ready for some ocean reef diving, Tulum has you covered. The open sea is just as special in Tulum as the cenote dives.

The open sea of Tulum.
Hard to believe that this might be your second choice for diving in Tulum right behind the cenotes.

Home to Mesoamerican Reef (“MAR”), the second largest coral reef in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, you are in for some spectacular scenery and marine life on your open water dives. The MAR is over 600 miles long and travels along the coasts of not just Mexico, but also Honduras, Belize and Guatemala.

Off of the Yucatan coast you can find over 500 species of saltwater wildlife including a multitude of reef fish, sea turtles, manta rays, eels and even occasionally whale sharks. You will also see some beautiful coral structures with vibrant sea fans and sponges.

Sea turtles are just one of the hundreds of various kinds of marine life you’ll see on your scuba dive on the MAR.

Most shops will take you out for a two tank reef dive. Some will even target dive sites to take you on a particular dive, like a stingray dive.

With its diverse ecosystem and aquatic life, ocean diving and reef diving in Tulum is an amazing experience like no other.

Other Activities

There are so many more things to do in Tulum than just scuba diving. A mix of old and new world adventures await above the water as well, so grab your fedora and get going!

Here are a few of my favorite non-diving things to see and do:

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

In the Mayan language Sian Ka’an means “origin of the sky” and you just might think that is true visiting this incredible ecosystem. Encompassing over a million acres, there is much to see and do at this reserve.

You’d be hard pressed to find a reserve more impressive than the “origin of the sky.”

Estbalished in 1986 and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the footprint of Sian Ka’an is as diverse as it is vast. The ecosystem includes lagoons, extensive mangroves (four different kinds), coastal wetlands and even part of the Mesoamerican Reef.

The spectacular mangroves are but one of many reasons to visit Sian Ka’an.

A trip to the reserve can encompass anything from hiking to snorkeling the reef and from boat tours of the waterways to a visit to Mayan ruins.

Visit the Muyil ruins that feel like they were abandoned not all that long ago.

While you do not need to go with a tour, there are many outfits that will take you on half and full day trips, if you’d like something more guided. Many of these companies, like Visit Sian Ka’an, offer eco tours designed to respect the environment.

Nature lovers will be in heaven at the reserve as there are over 300 species of birds and butterflies to be found along with over 100 species of mammals and over 500 species of fish.

The roseate spoonbill is one of hundreds of species of birds you’ll find in Sian Ka’an.

Mayan Ruins

Like the Cenotes in the region, it would take a whole separate list to cover all the ruins to be found in and around Tulum. Some of the most popular include the Tulum Archeological Site, Zona Arqueológica de Muyil, Nohoch Mul Pyramid and Ek Balam.

Right in Tulum you will find the Tulum Archeological site. These beautiful Mayan ruins sit on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The El Castillo or “lighthouse” is particularly an amazing site to behold.

If you get hot during your visit, you can make your way down to the beach and swim out and see these ruins from the sea. A truly incredible experience!

The Tulum Mayan ruins on the Caribbean Sea is one of a kind.

Zona Arqueológica de Muyil is about 20 minutes from Tulum and is in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve mentioned above. One of the earliest and longest inhibited Mayan sites, Muyil does not disappoint for those looking for photo-ops.

Muyil ruins in Tulum
Just 20 minutes from Tulum you’ll find these impressive ruins.

The Nohoch Mul Pyramid is the largest pyramid located in the Cobá Archaeological Zone. Following the approximate 40 minute drive from Tulum, you’ll be able to climb the 120 steps to the top of “The Great Mound” for a magnificent view of the landscape below.

The Nohoch Mul Pyramid in Tulum
Pack a lunch and head up “The Great Mound” for an incredible sightseeing experience.

Ek Balam is an incredible archeological site that is about a two hour drive from Tulum. Once the seat of the Mayan kingdom, this site spans almost 10 miles. While many of its ruins lay unexcavated due to lack of funding, there are still many structures to see with their glyphic carvings.

Ek Balam or the “black jaguar” rises out of the surrounding greenery and is a popular attraction.

Tours

Whether by bike, bus, boat or ATV, you will be able to find a mode of transportation to show you the wonders of Tulum.

From half to full day outings you can pick and choose tours specific to the cenotes and ruins or possibly a mixture of both. Some of the tours available even include swimming, snorkeling and ziplining.

A man shown ziplining in Tulum
Not just ziplining, but ziplining over a cenote for an added adventure to your tour.

Water Sports

Of course not all the fun is to be found under the waves or on land in Tulum!

Get out on the water and try some deep sea fishing and other water sports.

As with the land adventures, you can plan a half or full day on the water and try jet skiing, paddle boarding and deep sea fishing. You can even become a mermaid for a day if you’d like!

Mermaid entertaining kids in Tulum.
The young and the young at heart can all be mermaids in Tulum.

Cozumel and Cancun

If you’d like to get to more of the hustle and bustle of a big city, you’re in luck because two of them are within reach. Both Cozumel and Cancun can each be done as a day trip.

The skyline of Cancun.
If missing the big city, Cancun is just a drive away.

With Cancun about two hours away and Cozumel about two and a half hours away, you can easily travel to either city and still have plenty of time for sightseeing activities. Heading to Cozumel will require a ferry ride, so plan accordingly.

The Cozumel ferry at port.
If driving to Cozumel, you’ll need to take a ferry over to the island.

As within Tulum, there are many land and sea adventures and tours available in both Cancun and Cozumel.

Wrapping Things Up

If you’re looking for a great getaway that has something for everyone, then look no further than this Mexican town in the Riviera Maya that often is overlooked and overshadowed by its big brothers Cancun and Cozumel. With its cultural history, various unique diving opportunities and attractions, you will be happy to adventure here.

PS – Scuba Jay’s song recommendation as you are getting ready to touch down to start your trip is Ride Like The Wind:

“And I’ve got such a long way to go (such a long way to go) to make it to the border of Mexico.

So I’ll ride…like the wind, ride like the wind!”

Ride Like The Wind to get to your adventure in Tulum.

“How boring would the world be if everywhere and everyone were the same. Safe travels and good adventures.” Scuba Jay

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