• You might be familiar with Puerto Vallarta as a holiday destination, but did you know it’s also a fantastic place for scuba diving in Mexico?

    Embarking on a short boat ride from Puerto Vallarta takes you to numerous dive spots in Banderas Bay, most suitable for both beginners and experienced divers. The best dive sites around Puerto Vallarta include sunken ships, caves, underwater mountain ranges, and more.

    While diving around Puerto Vallarta, you’ll encounter a myriad of breathtaking marine life, from various rays and sea turtles to moray eels, dolphins, and even humpback whales.

    Scuba diving is truly an incredible experience and one of the best activities in Puerto Vallarta.

    Despite Cozumel and Carmen Beach in the Caribbean Sea being more renowned, Puerto Vallarta itself is a fantastic diving destination.

    In my personal opinion, it’s also a more delightful place. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I’ve spent most of the past three years living there, but choosing this seaside town on the west coast of Mexico has its reasons!

    Although it takes some time to reach Puerto Vallarta’s prime dive spots from downtown, it’s an adventure in itself. On these boat trips around Banderas Bay, you’ll enjoy some picturesque scenery on your way to the dive sites. It’s truly a breathtaking place.

    Most importantly, beyond the underwater world, Puerto Vallarta offers plenty of things to see and do.

    It’s a perfect destination if you want a mix of adventurous and cultural activities alongside diving. Of course, you can also lie on the beach, sipping a margarita, and simply relax!

    If you’re planning to scuba dive in Puerto Vallarta, read on to discover the best times for diving, top dive sites, and some highly-rated dive shops.

    When to Dive in Puerto Vallarta

    The best time to go scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta depends on what you’re looking for. Some say the prime months are from November to May when the sea is generally calm.

    During these months, the weather is usually sunny, warm, and dry, allowing you to enjoy pleasant topside activities.

    However, winter months bring limited visibility, and water temperatures can become quite chilly. In February, temperatures might drop to 72°F (26°C). The explosion of plankton during this time affects visibility but also attracts bat rays and sharks, which you might want to see.

    On a popular dive shop’s website, they mention the winter season brings highly unpredictable conditions to many of the best dive sites. Strong currents and winds may limit or completely block access to some of these sites, so it’s advisable to plan at least a week in advance during this season.

    The tourist peak season in Puerto Vallarta is from December to March, especially around Christmas and New Year. If traveling during this extremely busy period, be sure to book accommodation well in advance!

    Semana Santa, the Holy Week, is another small peak season. If you enjoy cultural experiences, it’s one of the best times to travel to Mexico, but if you prefer to avoid crowds, it’s better to steer clear during this time.

    Summer marks Puerto Vallarta’s rainy season, which has its pros and cons.

    On one hand, the weather is hot and humid, with occasional showers. Dealing with the occasional bad weather means fewer crowds and lower prices.

    However, an exception in summer is the weekends when Mexican families flock to the beaches. This time also offers the warmest water temperatures (around 85°F/30°C from August to September) and the best visibility, making it a good time for diving in Puerto Vallarta.

    Top Dive Sites in Puerto Vallarta

    Scuba Diving in Puerto Vallarta – Los Arcos
    Although there are not many dive sites near or around downtown, the journey to reach them by boat is an adventure in itself. On clear sunny days, taking a boat around Banderas Bay to reach places for two dives is not a bad way to commute.

    Here are the top dive sites in Puerto Vallarta:

    Los Arcos

    Water Temperature: 65-89°F (18-31°C)
    Average Visibility: 20-50 feet (6-15 meters)
    Depth: 29.5-130 feet (9-40 meters)

    Los Arcos might be the most popular dive site in Puerto Vallarta. This magnificent marine park features arches (hence the name) along with caves, tunnels, and a reef teeming with marine life. Divers can navigate along various paths suitable for all skill levels due to significant depth variations. Beginners can enjoy the “Aquarium” (El Acuario), while more experienced divers can explore “Devil’s Jaw” (La Quijada del Diablo).


    Water Temperature: 65-86°F (18-30°C)
    Visibility: 20-60 feet (7-18 meters)
    Depth: 40-80 feet (12-25 meters)
    Chimo is a secluded fishing village in the bay area, ideal for more experienced divers and one of the best dive sites in Puerto Vallarta. On a two-dive trip here, you can encounter various marine life, including tropical fish, large sharks, bat rays, sea turtles, and even humpback whales from December to April. Additionally, you’ll get to see Las Iglesias, a rock formation resembling cathedral pillars, and Las Torrecillas, a series of spectacular peaks rising from the seabed.

    Marieta Islands

    Water Temperature: 62-86°F (17-30°C)
    Average Visibility: 40 feet (12 meters)
    Depth: 25-60 feet (7.5-18 meters)

    The Marieta Islands are a national park about an hour’s boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. Considered the best dive site in Puerto Vallarta due to protection from hunting and fishing, it boasts abundant marine life. On a dive trip, you might encounter massive bat rays, sea turtles, dolphins, moray eels, and even humpback whales from December to April. The journey to the Marieta Islands takes about an hour by boat. As you approach the islands, you might also spot various bird species, including blue-footed boobies. Most importantly, divers of all levels can enjoy the Marieta Islands tour.

    Cost of Diving in Puerto Vallarta

    The cost of scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta depends on the dive site you visit. As mentioned, many of them are quite far from the city center.

    For example, the cost of diving at Los Arcos ranges from $90 to $110. Meanwhile, trips to the Marieta Islands are slightly higher (from $120 to $150). This is because the trips are longer, and most operators also include lunch and drinks.

    Never scuba-dived before? Puerto Vallarta is an ideal place to learn and start exploring the other 70% of the Earth.

    You can sign up for a “Discover Scuba Diving” course for only $50. This gives you a chance to see if scuba diving is right for you.

    For those committed, you can enroll in the PADI Open Water Diver course. This typically takes 2-3 days to complete. Sign up for the course at a Puerto Vallarta dive shop, and the cost is around $450, including learning materials. Once completed, you’ll be certified and ready to embark on scuba diving adventures!

    Another option is to sign up for a referral course, costing only $240.

    This involves completing the book portion at a dive shop near your home and then heading to Mexico. It allows you to finish the learning part at home and spend more time diving in Puerto Vallarta.

    If you wish to elevate your scuba diving skills, you can also enroll in various courses such as Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, Deep Diver, and more. Prices for these courses typically range from $350 to $500 and take several days to complete.

    While scuba diving is generally a safe activity, accidents occasionally happen. That’s why you always want to know where the nearest hyperbaric chamber is.

    Unfortunately, Puerto Vallarta doesn’t have an SSS Network hyperbaric chamber. The closest one is in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California. You can click here to visit their website and get more information.

    Before you go scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta (or anywhere), make sure you have reliable travel insurance. For divers, DAN (Divers Alert Network) is a highly recommended option. Click here to learn more about their policies.

    How to Get to Puerto Vallarta

    Most tourists arrive at Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR). Direct flights from the United States and Canada are usually available, especially during the peak season (December to March).

    There aren’t many other international options to reach Puerto Vallarta. You can find direct flights to Panama City and to London and Manchester, but that’s about it.

    If you can’t find cheap flights directly to Puerto Vallarta, consider checking options to Mexico City or Guadalajara. Both cities are fascinating, and you’ll only need a short and inexpensive domestic flight to get to the beach!

    Puerto Vallarta is also a significant cruise destination. Even if you arrive from a cruise, you can still scuba dive in Puerto Vallarta, and you might even get to do it twice.

    There are plenty of options to travel to Puerto Vallarta. By flying to PVR, you can conveniently choose to stay in places like Sayulita, Bucerias, Punta de Mita, Mismaloya, or Yelapa. These locations are easily reachable by local buses or water taxis, bringing you closer to the best dive sites in the bay.


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