Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned diver, few experiences can equal the excitement and adventure of a dive trip on a tropical reef. Mahahual, south of the Riviera Maya in the region known as Costa Maya, offers many locations from which you can embark on your ultimate dive adventure on the world’s second largest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Reef, which extends along the entire coast of the Yucatan Peninsula down to the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Immense rays, exotic fish and vast, pristine networks of coral populate the waters off the coast of Mahahual, offering a plethora of choices for diving and snorkeling excursions. In Mahahual, you’ll find an abundance of hotels and casa rentals as well as restaurants, bars, and shopping on the Malecon located right along the beach. If you crave an exciting dive adventure and the beach-side laid-back lifestyle reminiscent of a Jimmy Buffet tune, Mahahual is your kind of place.
Diving off the coast of Mahahual is excellent year around; the colorful, iridescent coral reef formation of the Mesoamerican Reef System is unequaled. It’s not uncommon to experience underwater visibility of up to 90 feet, affording excellent opportunities to witness schools of tropical fish, eels, rays and more. During the winter months, you may see aquatic life usually found in deeper water, such as sharks and dolphins.
The ideal time to visit Mahahual is December to June when the average water and air temperature is in the low to mid-80s (F).
Many dive centers are operating in Mahahual, and most will certify you during your stay. Many students now do their classroom theory portion of the certification at home, and these days they’re available online. One favorite dive shop is Buceando Mahahual. It is small dive center with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. You can find them located right on the Malecon pedestrian walkway along the beach, and offering PADI dive courses from a Discover Scuba Diving four-hour shallow-water beginner course to Open Water and all the way up to Divemaster Certification. Snorkeling excursions to the Chinchorro Banks are also available.
In addition to the numerous dive and snorkeling sites located right off the coast of Mahahual, you’ll have the opportunity to experience one of the Western Hemisphere’s preeminent diving destinations, the Chinchorro Banks (Banco Chinchorro). Located 25 miles southeast of Mahahual, this unique 310-square-mile Caribbean atoll reef is renowned worldwide for its mixture of some of the best diving in the world. Endless pristine coral formations, large rainbow-like sponges, and big schools of tropical fish and aquatic life populate this reef.
Getting to Chinchorro Banks requires some planning. It’s a 1.5-2 hour boat trip from Mahahual in smaller panga-style boats on seas that can be smooth to choppy at times. The ride can be challenging, but the destination is more than worth it, and the memories you take away from this underwater paradise will last a lifetime. Dive operators must have permission to conduct diving at Chinchorro Banks, so it helps to check around for availability.
If you’re a non-diver, no worries – Mahahual is also an excellent snorkeling destination. All along the Malecon, you’ll find outfitters who, for a minimal price, will take you out via a 10-minute boat ride to the same pristine wonderland divers get to experience. Expect to be in the water for about an hour with anywhere from 10-15 other snorkelers. And who knows, maybe you’ll be so hooked, you’ll sign up for one of the Discover Diving courses offered by the many dive shops here.
Turn right out of the airport onto the highway, go straight and veer left drive about four hours, and stop when you reach the lighthouse and beach. Okay, that’s a bit of oversimplification, but not by much. Mahahual is roughly 5 hours by car from Cancun International Airport via MX307. After passing through Tulum and Puerto Filipe Carillo, continue south and follow the signs directing you left toward Mahahual.
Traveling by bus is possible, but there are still no direct bus routes from Cancun to Mahahual, meaning a lengthy road trip, so renting a vehicle will almost certainly make your trip south more enjoyable and let you travel and explore at your own pace. There are many reputable rental companies available in Cancun. Quick tip: on your way, keep a sharp lookout for roadside stands where you can have a very cheap lunch or dinner. LocoGringo will be happy to provide any information you need in inquiring about or setting up a car rental for your adventure of a lifetime!
There are many hotel and casita rentals in and around Mahahual in which to make this little slice of heaven your home for a few days or a week. One Saturday afternoon while shopping for souvenirs in the shops along the Malecon, we bumped into Matt, a welder from Texas. His first trip to Mahahual was by cruise ship on his honeymoon a few years back. While in port, he and his wife Lisa decided they’d be returning one day soon. When asked where he was staying, Lisa replied, “40 Cannons! It’s the best!” Indeed, 40 Cannons is very popular with Mahahual guests, and for a good reason. Rooms have private bathrooms, wi-fi, and air conditioning. The hotel has a full-service restaurant and bar on site and a top-notch staff.
If the ultimate dive adventure in a laid-back tropical paradise is what you’re looking for, Mahahual may just be your destination. Check out these charming beach-front spots to stay during your surface intervals.