Taking the Plunge: Can’t Miss Dive Sites in the Caribbean

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Mexico and Jamaica provide some of the best diving on the planet

Anyone can enjoy the sun and beach on a Caribbean adventure, but to truly appreciate the wonders of the crystalline blue waters, you have to go deeper, beneath the surface. Literally. After all, it was Jacques Cousteau who said, “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.”

Diving is the closest human beings can get to becoming one with the Caribbean. And sport diving in Mexico and Jamaica is among the best on the planet. The following is a list of dive sites that will transport you to a parallel universe of discovery and wonder.

Go ahead, dive in…

Wreck of SS Kathryn, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Just ten minutes off the coast of Ocho Rios is a dive spot famous for its accessibility and for the variety of sea life that abounds, as well as the history it tells. In 1991, the SS Kathryn, a 140-foot Canadian minesweeper, was purposely sunk to serve as habitat for coral and other sea life, and, of course, a spot for thrill-seeking divers.

The wreck rests only 50 feet below the surface, making it well within the reach of beginner divers. Even so, only more experienced divers should venture inside the vessel. Still, everyone will enjoy what has become a picturesque artificial coral reef including a center pulpit seemingly reaching up to the surface and bustling with ocean life.

How to go: Scuba Caribe at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande takes resort guests to the site upon request. The operators also offer access to the best dive areas including Ocho Rios Wall, which boasts a variety of eels, turtles, seahorses, and barrel sponges.

Cave of Sleeping Sharks, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Any dive spot featured in a Jacques Cousteau documentary –The Undersea World OF Jacques Cousteau – The Sleeping Sharks of Yucatan – is a must for diving aficionados. Only 60 to 70 feet below the surface, divers with a healthy fear of Jaws might want to swim this one out.

The mystery of the sleeping sharks is a result of fresh water bubbles that attract a variety of bull, black tip, nurse, and gray reef sharks. The air pockets have a calming effect on the intimidating creatures, allowing divers close range interaction.

How to go: Join your mate for a couples dive departing from the pier at Isla Mujeres Palace that can be arranged with the dive master at the resort.

 Palancar Bricks, Cozumel, Mexico

A worthy introduction to the wonders of diving for novices, Palancar Bricks off the southernmost point of Cozumel is a wonderland of coral reef mazes that brim with sea life. It’s the start of a close to three-mile stretch of canyons and caves, so there is more to explore than you can imagine, or get to on a single visit. In case you were wondering, the name of the site comes from a plentitude of actual red brick that fell off a capsized ship more than 65 years ago.

How to go: Aqua Safari caters to novice and intermediate divers all around Cozumel and provides beginner classes in addition to PADI Open Water Certifications.

MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art), Cancun, Mexico 

Talk about entering a surreal and vast world of blue, the Underwater Museum of Art between Cancun and Isla Mujeres allows divers to hover above hundreds of underwater statues of people now covered with sea life. The artistic installation has become a favorite of divers and art enthusiasts alike, as well as a boon to the local marine life population.

How to go: Aquaworld takes divers and snorkelers to the MUSA site. Their glass-bottom boats offer a sneak peek of the dive before taking the plunge.

 Dos Ojos Cenote, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

If you find yourself in Playa del Carmen and are looking for the most amazing diving site in close proximity, you’ll have to look westward and inland instead of out to the Gulf of Mexico. That’s because the Dos Ojos Cenote, a fresh water system of enormous caves attracts divers from across the globe.

Clear, cool water and stalagmites growing from the limestone rock create an alien-like environment with plenty of room to explore. Think Carlsbad Caverns, filled with clear water and in the middle of a jungle.

How to go: Diving tours to Dos Ojos depart from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Ask your resort’s dive master.