I never thought I would visit Cancun in my life: for many reasons, there are thousands of places I’d rather explore than the American Spring Break destination. But one thing in Cancun had always caught my attention: The MUSA. Diving Cancun Underwater Museum was on my dream bucket list. So when we had to transit via Cancun for our friends’ wedding, I assured we had time to check it out. Read one to learn from my experience and get useful tips to plan your visit.
Should you put the Cancun Underwater Museum (the MUSA) on your bucket list?
If you’re in Cancun: go for it!
Even if you’re not certified for scuba diving, you will be able to try this experience (click here for more info*).
The dive is easy, and it’s fun to see something very different than usual – whether we’re talking about scuba diving or visiting a museum. I found the 450 life-size statues quite impressive to look at with all the expressions on the faces. There’s no noise and communication is limited underwater. Hence, the way I looked at the objects down there was very different from the usual approach I’d have in a museum. These conditions, combined with the reduced visibility and colours underwater, create an eery atmosphere.
Also, don’t forget to look inside the New Beetle sculpture: there was a large group of beautiful fish, including a huge porcupinefish, my personal favourite!
But I was disappointed the experience wasn’t more than a dive. To be honest, there are a few things I regret about the MUSA. I’ll get back to it later.
If you plan to travel to Cancun just to visit the MUSA Underwater Museum: wait!
They obtained a permit to sink 1,200 structures in 10 different areas. At the moment, only three galleries exist: Manchones (8-meter deep so better for scuba diving), Punta Nizuc and Punta Sam (both good for snorkeling as it’s only 4-meter deep). Half of the sculptures are yet to be featured in the museum!
Plus, the first statues were sunk a few years ago, in 2009 It means they aren’t in the perfect state as per the image you may have in your head. But the coral has just started to grow so it isn’t amazing yet and marine life isn’t as abundant as you could wish.
The many things I loved about the MUSA Diving Experience
First, it’s an eco-project ran by a non-profit organisation. By attracting tourists to the sunken statues, it provides relief to the coral reef near Cancun – one of the most visited stretches of water in the world. The art pieces were created with the objective of growing a new reef so they are made of a material on which corals can grow and have holes, so it’s easy for marine life to conquer the place.
Second, I love the creativity behind the project and how the author of the concept Jason deCaires Taylor showed a brilliant example of multi-potentiality, combining his love for arts and scuba diving.
But the MUSA concept is not perfect.
What I regretted about the MUSA Diving Experience
First, most of the sculptures in the museum are from Jason deCaires Taylor, the British sculptor at the origin of the idea. As we’re in Mexico where the culture is a strong asset, I hope the future ones will be mostly done by local artists and provide a cultural experience in relation to the destination. I only learnt after the dive that the models from the statues were part of a local fishing village. Our guide didn’t have any information about the art down there and we had to make research to learn more about it. In a museum, you usually have some explanations, and that was missing in the MUSA. When I did a snorkeling trail in Noumea or in Port Cros, there were some signs to explain what we were looking at – so it would be possible to somehow add this feature.
I was also surprised that there was no education about reef conservation and climate change during our tour. This concept could be a great way to spread the word about the difficulties that coral reefs are facing worldwide. Unfortunately, and despite our curiosity to learn more about the places we visit, our guide was there just to show us the way.
During the dive, I was surprised by the distance between the sculptures. We had to swim quite a lot in areas where there wasn’t so much to see – which isn’t the best use of your time while diving. I mean, that’s how it is at some sites, and I accept it, but I would expect a not-so-natural place to avoid this. Let’s hope there’s a good reason behind this, maybe in prevision of higher traffic or for coral development?
What’s Cancun Underwater Museum price?
A double dive at the MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum from Cancun will cost you around US$90 with the equipment. We were quoted almost the same price to do a single dive. That’s to visit Manchones, one of the three galleries. If you’re not a certified diver, you can do two dives for less than US$140 (click here to book online*). Or it’s around $72 for a snorkeling tour (click here to book online*).
The other galleries are for snorkelling only. I am unsure if they can be accessed via the beach (see map and comments below). It costs around US$66 for a private boat trip to Punta Nizuc from Cancun (click here to book online*). Punta Sam is the newest gallery and does not have many sculptures yet. It’s only a few hundred metres away, which will please those who are subject to seasickness. I found a tour going there for $US70 (click here to view) on its way to three other snorkeling sites.
When you’re planning your budget for diving or snorkeling MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum, consider the extra fees for boat docking that are often excluded from the displayed price!
Where is the MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum?
The MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum has been imagined like a museum with several galleries. The galleries are not close to each other, and you’ll need to organise different trips if you want to visit them all.
I have only dived the Machones Reef near Isla Mujeres via a boat trip from Cancun.
I didn’t go to the snorkeling sites – I’d love to read your feedback if you have. From my research, some sculptures are close to the beach in Punta Nizuc but I read the beach was private, and access was by boat only. But it may have changed. The new gallery in Punta Sam seems to be only 200 metres from the shore. Of course, it is necessary to get local advice before entering the water in case there is any danger or currents, but it seems this reef can be snorkeled from the beach.
Have you dived or snorkeled the MUSA? Please share your experience and tips in the comments below!
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