Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Most local dive spots are described in detail in Mexicandiver magazine, available in many local shops. Coral reefs at El Garrafón National Park have suffered tremendously from a variety of factors, some unavoidable (hurricanes) and some all-too-avoidable (boats dropping anchors onto soft coral, a practice now outlawed). Some good snorkeling can be found near Playa Norte on the north end.

Isla is a good place for learning to dive, since dive areas are close to shore. Offshore, there is excellent diving and snorkeling at Xlaches (pronounced ees-lah-chays) reef, due north on the way to Isla Contoy. One of Contoy’s most alluring dives is a cave full of sharks off the northern tip. Discovered in 1969 by a local fisherman, the cave was extensively explored by Ramón Bravo, a local diver, cinematographer, and Mexico’s foremost expert on sharks. It’s a fascinating 150-foot dive for experienced divers only.

At 30–40 feet deep and 3,300 feet off the southwestern coast, the coral reef known as Manchones is a good dive site. During the summer of 1994, an ecological group hoping to divert divers and snorkelers from El Garrafón commissioned a 1-ton, 9¾-foot bronze cross, which was later sunk here. Named the Cruz de la Bahía (Cross of the Bay), it’s a tribute to everyone who has died at sea. Another option is the Barco L-55 and C-58 dive, which visits World War II boats 20 minutes off Isla Mujeres’s coast.

Most dive shops offer a variety of packages with rates depending on the time of day, location, and the number of tanks.

Carey Diving. You can sign on for one-tank reef dives, deep dives, and two-tank cenote dives at this popular PADI dive shop. Whale-watching, fishing, and snorkeling excursions are offered as well. Av. Matamoros 13-A, off Av. Juárez, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 77400. 998/877–0763. www.careydivecenter.com. Dives from M$736.

Cruise Divers. This company organizes two-tank reef dives, shipwreck dives, and nighttime dives. Carretera Garrafon–Miraflores, Km. 3.6, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 77400. 998/274–0247. www.scubaislamujeres.com.mx. From M$869.

Sea Hawk Divers. In addition to highly regarded PADI courses, Sea Hawk Divers offers one- and two-tank dives plus special excursions to the more exotic shipwrecks and underwater museum. For nondivers, snorkel trips depart daily at 8:30 and 2:30. Av. Arq. Carlos Lazo, near Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 77400. 998/877–1233. www.seahawkislamujeres.com. Dives from $M936.

Searious Diving. Venture into the heart of whale shark territory with Searious Diving from June 1 to September 15. Owner Ramon Guerrero Garcia is a professional diver who has dedicated more than 20 years to researching these gentle giants. Included in the boat trip are beverages, a light snack, snorkel gear, and time at the reef and beach. Tours last approximately five hours and must be prebooked online. Ramon is available to answer questions via email at seariousdiving@yahoo.com or in person at Adrian's Internet Cafe in town.

Adrian's Internet Cafe, Av. Morelos, between Avs. Guerrero and Hidalgo, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 77400. 998/735–7360. www.islawhalesharks.com. M$1,672.

Squalo Adventures. One of the more experienced dive shops on the island, this PADI-certified outfit offers full scuba courses, as well as one- and two-tank dives to local sites including the underwater museum. Av. Hidalgo, Sm 1, Mza 18, Lote 27, between Matamoros and Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 77400. 998/274–1644. www.squaloadventures.com. Dives from M$976.

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