costa maya


The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the largest in the northern hemisphere and the second largest in the world. Also known as the Great Mayan Barrier, it stretches over 1,126 kms (700 miles) under the clear waters of the Caribbean, from the Bay Islands, in Honduras, to the island of Contoy, in Mexico.

We call “local diving” our 10 kms of coastline that includes up to six different underwater landscapes and three depth ranges. All dives (except the night dive) are boat dives. Our maximum DM/diver ratio is 1:5. Full equipment is always included, but computer and torches.


The Mahahual reef is the habitat of more than 65 species of stony corals, 350 species of molluscs and more than 500 species of fish. Many protected or endangered species find their refuge here, including sea turtles (green, hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback), the Caribbean manatee, the Moreleti crocodile, the elkhorn coral and the black coral.

In any given dive it will be likely to meet turtles, moray eels, nurse sharks, rays, lithodidae, lobsters, barracudas, groupers and a wide range of Caribbean tropical fish: angel fish, butterfly fish, parrot fish, wrasses, cheetahs, damselfish, surgeonfish… swimming in schools, approaching full of curiosity or playing hide and seek among the coral gardens.

The number of coral species -soft and hard- is generous and they create that underwater landscape that resembles a dream: brain corals, mushroom, lettuce, elkhorn, fans and the precious black coral, among many others. However, many animals -such as the octopus, the honeycomb moray eel, lobsters and most crustaceans- remain inactive during the day, waiting for darkness to come out of their hiding places. Therefore, night dives provide a completely different and complementary view of the reef.

Morphologically, most of the Costa Maya in front of Mahahual is made up of two ranges running parallel, although at different depths. The shallowest creates the surf that can be seen from shore. It begins, therefore, on the surface and descends to 15-18 meters on a slope with an incline of 45o. It follows a sandy bottom whose distance to the second corridor varies from area to area. Starting at 15 meters, the outer wall descends in steps or on a slope (proper walls are rare) until it reaches a vertical drop off that occurs at 50 meters and falls to abyssal depths. In this second barrier we may find a feeble current, usually flowing northbound, although sometimes -due to persistent winds- it gets stronger and runs southward. South of Mahahual, the reef barrier is older and more developed and it shows a typical “fingers” pattern.

With a few exceptions, most sites are technically suitable for new divers. Indeed, there are few reefs as attractive and friendly to start your Open Water Diver adventure.

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