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The 7 Best Playa Del Carmen Reefs for Scuba Diving (Maps and Pictures Included)

Today we talk about the best Playa del Carmen Reefs, someone has to do that, finally.

How many articles are there about the Australian Great Barrier Reefs? Thousands

How many articles are there about Cozumel Reefs? Uncountable

How many articles are there about Playa del Carmen Reefs?… (Listen to the sound of silence)

It’s enough! Playa del Carmen reefs are also worthy and deserve an article.

So, for you that love scuba diving in Playa del Carmen, we have written this article.

If you’re a beginner, certified diver, or advanced, it doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter if you’re reading this because the Playa Del Carmen reefs are among your favorites or simply because you haven’t encountered them yet. It’s your article.

Take a look at the content table:

1. Tortugas, the most popular reef in Playa del Carmen 70 feet / 22 meters

Attention all divers and marine enthusiasts! Tortugas is a unique reef located in Playa del Carmen known for its huge population of turtlesHawksbill, Green, and Loggerhead turtles can all be spotted in one dive!

Tortugas Reef is cataloged as a “carpet” reef, which means it is wide and flat, providing a perfect habitat for these amazing sea creatures. And that’s not all! In addition to the turtles, you’ll find massive barrel sponges and a diverse range of marine life, including moray eels, nurse sharks, rays, and some endemic Caribbean fish like the Orange Filefish, Batfish, and Blue spotted Cornet fish.

Between June and September, you can dive there with huge schools of tarpon, while when the water cools down, you’ll see eagle rays and, if you’re lucky, the impressive bull sharks.

The current at this reef in Playa Del Carmen is moderate to firm, so don’t fight it. Just let yourself go and enjoy the fantastic marine life that this dive site has to offer. This is a must- reef for all divers visiting the Riviera Maya area.


2. Barracuda Reef: A Dive Spot You Can’t Miss!

With a depth of 36-46 feet / 12-14 meters, this reef is very close to Tortugas reef and the legendary wreck “Mama Viña”, making it perfect for a second dive.

Imagine this: you dive onto a reef shaped like a hand and navigate from bay to bay along its “fingers”. You just need to keep in mind the current, which will take you flying along the fascinating corals to reach the next bay.

Trust us, these bays are worth it: they’re protected from the current, allowing you to take your time exploring them. And what do you find in them? Giant morays, lobsters, and crabs. Of course, this reef in Playa Del Carmen is home to barracudas, as its name suggests. You’ll see them lurking after smaller fish, which are very abundant on the reef.

It’s no wonder this site is one of the favorites among photography-loving divers.

Don’t hesitate and dive the impressive world of the Barracuda reef!

3. Discover The Hidden Gem of Jardines Reef Near Playa Del Carmen

Discover the shallow-depth jewel that is the Jardines Reef. Located near Playa del Carmen, this impressive reef boasts a small wall of coral and sponges that is 2 meters tall and houses small caves and shelters where marine life thrives.

The Jardines Reef is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful shallow dive sites that we have explored from the Playa del Carmen base at Dressel Divers. With its calm waters and little to no current, diving here is a relaxing experience that requires no effort.

You will be surprised by the vibrant variety of marine life here. From the elusive green moray eels hiding in its crevices to the fascinating trunkfish and the colorful parrotfish party, you will be amazed at each new discovery. And let’s not forget the magnificent angel fish that show their beauty throughout the reef.

And that’s not all, the lobster, scorpionfish, and trumpetfish call this reef home, as well as schools of snappers and grunts. Here, you can even enjoy occasional sightings of barracudas. Not to mention the possibility of spotting turtles or bull sharks during the winter months.

And the best part? Your camera will enjoy natural light to take photos of all that life. At only 12 meters/40 feet from the surface, you will be surrounded by beauty at the Jardines Reef of Playa del Carmen. Trust us, this is a dive site you won’t want to miss!

4. Dive into Adventure at the Mama Viña Wreck: One of the Riviera Maya’s Best-Kept Secrets!

Mama Viña was once a shrimp boat intentionally sunk in 1995 to create an artificial reef for snorkelers. However, Mother Nature had other plans, and a hurricane dragged it away, giving us divers this amazing dive site. Today, Mama Viña is a thriving underwater paradise filled with diverse marine life, including groupers, barracudas, and turtles. In addition to the permanent residents, we’re talking about the Atlantic spadefish. And if you’re lucky enough to dive there during the winter, you might even see a bull shark swimming around!

This wreck has its deeper parts lying around 28m/100ft and the deck at around 15m/50ft.

Mama Viña is located across the current and offers a medium level of difficulty for divers.

At Dressel Divers, we will start our dive at the bow, facing the south-north current, and taking advantage of it by making three clockwise laps around the boat. On the first lap, we will go around the hull where we’re likely to see some green morays and schools of Atlantic fish. The second lap will take us to the deck where we’ll swim to the bridge. And finally, the last lap will be around the tower before ascending back to the surface. (Víctor Córdoba, Dressel Divers Course Director).

Join us on an unforgettable diving adventure and discover the beauty of the Mama Viña wreck for yourself.

5. Moc-Che Deep a Reef in Playa Del Carmen Worth Every Minute of Diving

When diving in Moc-Che Deep, at the southern end of the reef and at a depth of 24-25 meters / 79-82 feet, we encounter an impressive view: a 5-6 meter / 16-20 feet wall full of life.

From hanging crevices that house large green moray eels and king crabs, to parrotfish, angel and butterfly fish that swim around, this place is a paradise for marine life enthusiasts.

During this dive, we navigate along the wall while being carried along by a moderate current. Sea turtles, marlins, and giant barracudas are abundant here.

With a maximum depth of 30 meters, this dive is only for certified Open Water Divers.

For a calmer dive, you can also dive in Moc-Che Shallow, a beautiful shallow dive at 12.5 meters / 40 feet.


6. Shangri-La Is a Must-Visit for Underwater Photographers

This is one of the shallowest reefs in the Playa del Carmen area and a must-visit for both photographers and beginner divers.

We started our dive from the south and head north, keeping the reef to our left. From the very beginning, scuba divers are in awe of the beautiful overhangs filled with an abundance of marine life, from blue-striped grunts to schools of southern sennet and even the occasional turtle.

What makes Shangrila, even more special, is the lack of current, making it the perfect spot to hone your photography skills and enjoy a relaxed dive.

And as a shallow dive site, it is home to miniature marine creatures. For those with a good eye, there is always the possibility of seeing a seahorse or a nudibranch. Our advice is to take it easy, enjoy and focus on the small details.

Prepare to be amazed by the great biodiversity exhibited on this Playa del Carmen reef. Trust us, it won’t disappoint!

7. Sabalos is a Playa Del Carmen Reef Full of Tarpons

Summer is the perfect time to witness the magnificent schools of tarpon at Sabalos reef. In fact, sabalos and tarpon is the same name, the first in Spanish and the second in English. Not only will you get to admire these beautiful creatures, but also a plethora of sea life and stunning coral formations.

This fringing reef boasts a maximum depth of 59-79 feet / 18-24 meters, making it ideal for a Drift Dive. With the current flowing it’s best to stick to the edge for the optimal diving experience.

Tarpon is one of the Playa del Carmen reefs that is preferred by divers, and for good reason. From the undulating hard coral to the protected areas filled with schools of grunts and snappers, there is always something new to discover. If you’re paying attention, you might even see seahorses! This reef is a must-visit for any adventure-seeking diver.


Playa del Carmen Reef Conservation

Playa del Carmen’s coral reefs are getting the attention they deserve! Mexico’s National Institute for Fisheries (INAPESCA) and the government of Quintana Roo have been working hard since 2016 on a project to repopulate the north reef area with 265,000 corals by 2022.

In 2019, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) teamed up with UNAM, INAPESCA, and the Healthy Reefs Initiative to develop a comprehensive action plan to raise awareness about coral threats and educate the public, private sector, tourists, and residents.

Furthermore, the Mexican government has set out to curb the incidence of Sargassum and has succeeded. To this end, there are also interesting initiatives funded by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) to build monitoring observatories for sargassum and early warning systems. And the best part? There are even projects exploring the potential use and commercialization of sargassum as a source of energy and for the production of footwear, notebooks, and kitchen utensils.

Playa del Carmen Reef Guide and Tips

Dive into the warm waters of Playa del Carmen, where temperatures range from a comfortable 26ºC to a tropical 31ºC (78.8ºF to 87.8ºF). A 1.2 inch/3mm wetsuit is perfect for these conditions. Dive the stunning reefs all year round, with air temperatures ranging from a mild 18ºC to a balmy 32ºC (65ºF to 90ºF).

May and June bring higher levels of humidity, so be prepared to sweat when you’re not diving!

The Playa del Carmen crystal-clear waters are known for their great visibility, which averages 25 m/75 feet. Gloves are not allowed in Playa del Carmen; this measure is intended to protect marine life from human contact. Do your part by avoiding contact with corals, reefs, sponges, wrecks, and any other type of animal or plant life. Don’t feed the fish either.

Perfect your buoyancy and kicking techniques to avoid disturbing the sand and damaging the delicate coral formations. Keep a safe distance of at least 3 feet above the reef and make sure your diving gear is securely attached to your BCD. This will prevent it from colliding and doing damage.

Drift diving is the normal way to dive in Playa del Carmen, so avoid resting by clinging to the corals. And remember, always use biodegradable, non-greasy sunblock.


Playa del Carmen Reef Map

playa del carmen dive sites map