Where we’re at: Here, I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Mexico in November.
When it comes to scuba diving in the Yucatan Peninsula, there are some major rockstars: the reefs of Cozumel, the cenotes of Tulum, the bull sharks of Playa del Carmen. But of course, I couldn’t spend my birthday in Mexico without heading out for a dive or two — it was a dream come true to have all my besties aboard the SS Birthday and come diving with me and Pocna Dive Center while in Isla Mujeres!
Isla Mujeres doesn’t get the dive buzz that some of those hotspots do, but it’s great place to get your fins wet — I loved my four dives here.
We broke our dives into two half-days of diving, and I was super grateful to Pocna for being flexible with our unique scheduling situation.
It just so worked out that my first to friends to arrive in Mexico, Kat and Heather, are also my two girlfriends who are PADI Dive Instructors! So we asked Pocna if we could do things a bit backwards and do the more advanced morning dives first, and then do the more beginner-friendly dives later in the week when the rest of the crew arrived. Considering we are all PADI Pros and had dove recently, they were happy to comply.
So, we hopped the first ferry from funky Downtown Cancun over to Isla Mujeres, saw a gorgeous sunrise from the deck, stashed our luggage at the dive center, grabbed a quick breakfast, and had plenty of time to make the morning boat — which we just so happened to have all to ourselves.
I’d definitely recommend this plan to anyone who wants to take full advantage of a day in Isla Mujeres but can’t check into their accommodation until later. Plus, scheduling your dives at the beginning of the trip is always a good idea in case weather reschedules things — especially in the shoulder season, like we were in early November.
On the itinerary for the day? A shipwreck, followed by a beautiful drift dive!
The C-58, used as a minesweeper in World War II, was sunk as an artificial reef by the Mexican Navy and today is lush with life. In 2005, hurricane Wilma caused the C-58 to split into two — but it still sits largely upright and there are several opportunities to penetrate the wreck.
With an 80 foot max depth, Advanced Open Water certification or above is required, but it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular advanced dive sites in the area.
The wreck had beautiful lighting and was fun to photograph, even without strobes (that’s where a black and white edit comes in handy!)
I might not be the world’s biggest wreck enthusiast but I do love to occasionally explore them, and this one had plenty of life to keep even the biggest wreck skeptic — which, if that’s you, I dare you to go to Egypt’s Red Sea and remain one! — happy as a sea clam.
When we booked our dives, the dive center told us that eagle ray season starts in mid-November, so we might get super lucky and see them on the shipwreck, one of their most popular hangs. Upon arrival they informed us that unfortunately, none had been spotted yet that season.
So imagine our thrill when, just as we were circling up to surface, we spotted one gliding elegantly past us! We had officially spotted the first eagle ray of the season. We were thrilled (so thrilled that I didn’t even mind that I didn’t get a photo.)
Next up? Punta Negra, a favorite Isla Mujeres drift dive.
Here we got to see a bit of what Mujeres’s reefs are made of! It was fun bobbing along in the gentle current, following along as our divemaster pointed out exciting discoveries along the way.
Personally, knowing these reefs are nowhere near as famous as Cozumel’s, I was very impressed by the health of the coral and the amount of sealife encountered. The big schools were my favorite — I love when they move as one!
While I’d been diving in Mexico’s cenotes once before, this was my first time diving in the Gulf of Mexico — and I hope it was just the first of many.
Not a bad spot to return to land, right?
Later that week, after two nights at the world famous Shell House, and a milestone birthday celebration, we returned to Pocna Dive Center with our full crew of eight. Again, they were happy to stash our bags as we swapped accommodation that day.
On this day we were heading out for Isla Mujeres’s signature dive trip — a 2 tank tour to the MUSA underwater museum galleries and the Manchones natural reef.
First up, the Manchones Galleries of MUSA. You may recall that Kat and I visited the MUSA workshop in Downtown Cancun, so we were really looking forward to seeing the way the ocean had modified these works of art and become an artist of its own!
These galleries were created as a way to ease congestion on the natural reefs around Isla Mujeres and fuel the creative community in The Yucatán. It worked — today they are the most popular dive and snorkel site around Isla Mujeres.
We had quite the crew going. Out of the eight of us we had two PADI Instructors, one PADI Divemaster, two PADI Advanced Open Water Divers, and one PADI Open Water Diver! Steffi and Liz aren’t certified, so Steffi did a Discover Scuba Dive so she could join us — meaning she completed some basic skills beforehand and had an instructor all to herself — and Liz snorkeled above us at the surface.
While Liz loved being out on the boat with us, I think the sculptures are a little deep here to fully experience that way. There is another more shallow gallery off Punta Nizuc in Cancun which is more suitable for snorkeling — I’d love to see it on a future trip.
Visually, I think my favorite sculpture was the cute little frame the girls had fun popping into for photos, and the bomb. The human-like sculptures, cast from locals in Mujeres and Cancun, were the oldest and thus the most covered in coral and life. They were also certainly the most haunting.
It was fun, following our divemaster around on a little underwater treasure hunt.
Soon, we were surfaced again, and heading out for dive two! Once again, we had a private boat to ourselves — such a treat!
Next up was a colorful reef dive at Manchones Natural Reef, perhaps Mujeres’s most well-known reef. I was looking forward to it after the beauty of our previous drift dive.
I was right too. More colorful macro life for me to play with capturing with my Canon G7X and Waterproof Housing, more wild schools of fish to watch ripple and shudder as one, more crystal clear visibility seemingly stretching for miles.
I really had to pinch myself every time I looked around and saw all my girls underwater with me and all the fishes. It was like my own personal Wander Women Retreat!
If you’re heading to Isla Mujeres and want to sign up for all of the above, a four tank package is priced at an incredibly reasonable $178USD. While gear is included, I’d recommend bringing your own mask and in particular fins — while the rest of Pocna’s gear was great, their fins were more appropriate for snorkeling than diving, and I yearned for my own pair. Find a full rundown of my gear recommendations (and the order I recommend purchasing it in!) right here.
Thanks for us, Pocna Dive Center! I highly recommend this centrally located, flexible, eco-friendly dive center to anyone wanting to experience the best of Isla Mujeres underwater.
Have you been scuba diving in Mexico? Where? I can’t wait for the next trip!
Many thanks to Pocna Dive Center for hosting us. As usual, you receive nothing but my unfiltered thoughts and opinions regardless of any gifts or sponsorships.