If you are planning to dive in Mexico, you are in the right place. In this article, we will cover all the best diving spots in Mexico and how to plan an unforgetful dive trip or more.
Mexico has over 11,000 kilometers of coastline including the Pacific, Caribbean, and countless islands.
With all of this coastline, it should be no surprise that Mexico has an abundance of great places to go diving, from the crystal clear Caribbean waters to the Pacific and its many pelagic animals.
Divers who are looking for white sandy beaches that lead to colorful coral reefs should head to the Yucatan Peninsula and dive in the Caribbean Sea.
The Mesoamerican barrier reef runs along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Here divers will be treated to lively coral reefs that are filled with brightly colored fish.
Off the Pacific coast of Mexico, divers will find large rocky structures and migrations of different Pelagic animals including different types of rays, sharks, and whales.
Mexico offers a diverse array of diving, and here I will go through the best places to scuba dive in Mexico.
Is Dive Insurance necessary?
The short answer is: yes! Although we all hope that nothing bad will ever happen to you, you never know.
I always prefer to be safe than sorry and a small investment today can save you tons of dollars tomorrow.
Hyperbaric chambers and hospitalization, in general, are outrageously expensive in Mexico
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Dive in Mexico: The Yucatan Peninsula
The Yucatan Peninsula extends off the eastern coast of Mexico and separates the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
The Mesoamerican barrier reef runs north from Belize along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, providing some of the best places to dive in the Caribbean.
Beneath the crystal clear water of the Caribbean sea, you will find colorful reefs that are made up of a mixture of a variety of hard corals and sponges and countless species of marine animals.
The Yucatan jungle is also full of cenotes, which are the opening of underground, flooded water systems.
Divers who enter the cenotes will find otherworldly views of stalactites and rock formations. Here I will go through some of the top dive sites in the Yucatan Peninsula.
1. Cancun Underwater Museum
The Museo Subacuatico de Arte, known as MUSA is located in the calm, shallow waters between the coast of Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
Opened in 2010, MUSA is an artificial reef created to help offset the damage being done to shallow reefs in Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
It is made up of hundreds of statues that were constructed with neutral pH concrete in order to promote coral growth.
One of the most famous pieces is Jason deCaires Taylor’s The Silent Evolution, which has over 400 statues of humans, based on members of his local community and shows the impact humans have on nature.
When first sunk, these statues had impressive details; however, with time much of that detail has been covered by new coral growth.
MUSA is accessible on dive boats leaving from either Isla Mujeres or Cancun and is located in calm, clear water around 25 feet deep.
This dive is great for all skill-level divers, including beginners and students. Photographers will enjoy taking shots of the sculptures with amazing natural light shining down.
Most of the artificial reefs found worldwide are shipwrecks, making a dive at MUSA an exciting, unique experience.
2. General Anaya C- 58 Shipwreck
Located off the coast of Cancun, General Anaya or C-58 shipwreck sits in 85 feet of water and is a dive advanced divers do not want to miss. It is one of the best dive sites in Cancun.
The C-58 was a World War II ship built by the United States and later sold to Mexico before being intentionally sunk to make an artificial reef.
The power of Hurricane Wilma in 2005 broke the ship into two parts that sit about 100 meters apart from each other.
Depending on the current and their air consumption, divers can visit both parts during their dive here.
Divers can penetrate the ship, exploring the rooms and looking for moray eels and glassy sweepers.
During the winter months of November to March, it is common to see a school of spotted Eagle Rays gathering in the current outside of the wreck.
Dive boats from both Isla Mujeres and Cancun visit the C-58 wreck. This dive is for advanced divers due to the depth and the strong current around the wreck.
In addition to the large animal life around the ship, the wreck itself has substantial coral and sponge growth, providing a home to smaller reef fish.
3. Manchones Reef
Manchones Reef is located off the coast of Isla Mujeres. This site is shallow, with a sandy bottom of around 35 feet, and has large, beautiful coral heads.
As divers cruise around these coral heads, they will find countless varieties of reef fish, such as parrotfish, filefish, and angelfish as well as schools of grunts.
It is very common for divers here to find sea turtles munching on sponges.
In the sandy patches between coral formations, it is common to find nurse sharks and southern stingrays.
Manchones Reef is an excellent dive for any level diver.
From beginner to advanced divers will appreciate the vibrant colors of the coral heads and enjoy watching the lively fishes swimming around.
Diving in Cancun for Certified Divers | 2 Dives | All Inclusive
Private 2 tank dive in Cancun – Includes MUSA Underwater museum – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 32 Reviews
4. Cozumel Marine Park
The island of Cozumel is located around 10 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen and is famous for its drift diving, dramatic walls, and stunning coral formations.
The Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel is a national marine park that runs along the majority of the western coast of Cozumel and is home to many famous dive sites.
►Check out our post on the Best Cozumel Dive sites
5. Santa Rosa Wall
No dive trip to Cozumel would be complete without visiting Santa Rosa Wall.
Santa Rosa Wall is divided into two major sections, with the first being a sloping wall covered with barrel sponges and overhangs for lobsters and nurse sharks to hide in.
The second section of the wall has a top of around 50 feet and a dramatic vertical dropoff. Divers here can cruise along the side of the wall, feeling like they are floating above the abyss.
This section also has many beautiful swim-throughs, where divers will see beautiful rays of light shining down through cracks in the coral formation.
Lucky divers will find large grouper or spotted eagle rays swimming along the wall.
Running parallel to Santa Rosa Wall is Santa Rosa Shallows, a shallow reef, running from 25 to 50 feet, with stretches of reef and large coral heads.
Experienced divers can start their dive along the wall and cross to the shallow section to finish, and beginner divers can spend their entire dive in the shallows.
Here divers will find golden rays swimming in the sand and colorful reef fish, such as white spotted filefish and midnight parrot fish swimming along the reef.
Between the wall and shallows, Santa Rosa is a great dive site for all divers.
4-Hour Certified Scuba Diving Tour with Two Tanks in Cozumel
Explore the underwater world of Cozumel’s National Marine Park including the popular reefs of Palancar, and Colombia,
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6. Palancar Reef
Palancar Reef is located in the southern part of the Cozumel Marine Park and is famous for its large, coral formations.
Sitting on a white sandy bottom, next to a dramatic wall dropoff, Palancar has large coral pinnacles that can be up to 100 feet tall.
These beautiful, hard coral formations are home to sea turtles and reef fish and make for dramatic dives.
Divers can begin their divers here on the shallow top of the coral formations and go deeper, winding their way between majestic coral formations.
Here divers will find tunnels and swim-throughs to explore.
It is said that Jacques Cousteau fell in love with Cozumel when he visited Palancar Reef. Divers here will be amazed at the lively reef and dramatic coral formations.
7. Colombia Reef
Colombia Reef is off the southern coast of Cozumel and is a mix of dramatic wall dives and impressive coral formations.
There are several sections of Colombia, allowing divers to decide if they want to stay on the shallow reef, swim between coral pinnacles over a deep sandy bottom, or drift along the wall.
Here there are numerous swim-throughs that take you from the vertical wall, onto a white sandy bottom where you can find rays.
Regardless of what route your dive guide takes you on here, you have beautiful views of impressive coral formations that have been growing for thousands of years.
The coral here is amazing any time of the year, and during the winter months, you can spot small reef sharks and spotted eagle rays.
8. Bull Shark Diving from Playa del Carmen
During the winter months around November to February, divers can visit the bull sharks that come to Playa del Carmen.
The bull sharks who come to the area are pregnant females, who spend some time in the ocean before entering the mangroves to have their babies.
After exiting the mangroves they then spend more time in the waters off of Playa del Carmen before returning to their normal migratory behaviors.
The bull sharks are most often spotted in sandy areas around 80 feet deep.
It is obviously very thrilling to see a bull shark while diving, but in recent years bull shark dives have become controversial in Playa del Carmen.
Years ago the number of bull sharks that came to the region was much higher, and it was common for divers to spot bull sharks while diving on the reef.
As the number of bull sharks arriving in the area became less, some dive shops wanted to guarantee their divers would have an encounter with these sharks by feeding them.
Feeding any marine animal in order to attract them for dives is controversial because it can alter their natural behavior.
Most marine experts agree that we should be passive observers while diving and our presence should in no way interfere with nature.
Why feeding sharks is unethical
By feeding the sharks humans can interrupt their natural instincts and eating habits. It is also believed that feeding predatory animals can become dangerous for divers in the area because the sharks associate humans with food and can get aggressive around them.
In addition to general concerns about feeding bull sharks, in Playa del Carmen fishermen can legally fish bull sharks, and the feeding spots that divers use can become an easy place for Fishman to kill the bull sharks.
The bull sharks gather in the areas where dive shops offer feedings even when the feedings are not taking place.
Local fishermen can use this knowledge to fish the bull sharks. Opponents to the feedings point out that without the feedings the bull sharks would not congregate in one area, making it harder for fishermen to fish them.
Dive shops that participate in the feedings often argue that they use some of the profit to pay off the fishermen to leave the bull sharks, claiming that an alive shark is worth more than a caught one.
Unfortunately, even if dive shops can make unofficial arrangements with fishermen, who claim that they are simply doing their jobs by catching sharks, this is not a long-term solution to protecting the bull sharks.
Understandably, there is a lot of tension between different dive shops about the correct way to handle bull shark diving.
The few dive shops that offer feedings claim that they are doing it in a controlled manner.
They also claim that dive shops that do not feed the sharks benefit from the feedings because the sharks congregate in the areas where the feedings take place.
Dive shops that do not feed argue that no one should feed the sharks and that in addition to it being unethical it is not being done safely.
Without any organization to the feedings, dive shops were descending into areas while feedings were already taking place.
While feeding the bull sharks can become aggressive, so it is not recommended that divers are moving.
To address some of the safety concerns, in recent years dive shops have organized days of the week that are designated as feeding or nonfeeding times.
We recommend diving with a shop that does not participate in feedings. With these shops, you will still have a good chance of spotting a bull shark, without altering its natural behavior.
It is truly thrilling to be diving on the reef and see an enormous bull shark swim by.
While choosing your dive operator in Playa del Carmen, make sure to ask plenty of questions about how they handle the bull shark dives to make sure you are comfortable with their approach.
DIVE SHOPS THAT DON’T PARTICIPATE IN SHARK FEEDING
There are many dive shops in Playa del Carmen but the few ones that we found that have an ethical policy and don’t participate in Shark feeding are the following:
✅ Dive X
Located on the southern end of Mexico’s Caribbean coastline, Xcalak is a secluded destination with pristine natural wonders.
It can take around five hours driving to arrive at Xcalak from Cancun, and this small village works hard to preserve its natural resources both above and below the water.
The diving here takes place in the Xcalak Reef National Marine Park, where divers will find healthy, colorful coral reefs.
The coral topography ranges from shallow reefs to dramatic walls with swim-throughs. Divers here will find an assortment of marine life, including turtles, sharks, and rays.
There is a shallow reef in Xcalak where tarpon come up from deeper water to take shelter from strong currents.
Lucky divers will also have the rare opportunity here to see manatees swimming in the shallow reefs.
For drivers who want to get away from crowds and explore more remote reefs, Xcalak offers pristine coral reefs filled with marine life.
10. Banco Chinchorro
Banco Chinchorro is a coral atoll located 35 kilometers off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The atoll is around 40 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide.
The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO-protected area and few dive operators are given permission to take divers there, keeping it in pristine condition.
Dive operators who visit Banco Chinchorro leave from either Mahahual or Xcalak, with boat rides taking around 2 hours to arrive at the coral atoll.
Here divers will find a variety of healthy coral species including brain coral and elkhorn coral and lots of nurse sharks and conchs.
Between dives, many operators will stop on one of the islands, which is home to many crocodiles.
In addition to the beautiful coral reefs, the coral atoll has several shipwrecks that divers can visit, including sunken Spanish Galleons.
It is a long boat ride to Banco Chinchorro but divers here will find healthy coral, shipwrecks, and a variety of marine life.
Chinchorro Marine Reserve 2-tank dive
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Cenote Diving in Yucatan
The Yucatan Peninsula has thousands of cenotes or natural, freshwater sinkholes or pools that connect the surface to a vast underwater flooded river system.
The famous Sac Actun cave system is located in Quintana Roo and is one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world.
Found through the jungle, diving in the cenotes is a unique experience to enjoy the rock formations and stalactites in the underwater caverns and caves.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of cenotes that we can dive into in this region. The first type of cenotes is open, deep sinkholes.
The second types are shallower caverns with a more overhead environment and interesting rock formations and stalactites.
Certified, recreational scuba divers can enter the caverns, which are areas of the overhead environment that remain in the zone of visible light, with local guides.
With more cenotes being explored all the time, there are numerous cenotes that recreational divers can enjoy.
These natural wonders should not be missed. Here are a few of the most popular cenotes to dive into the area.
2-Tank Cenote Certified Dive in Tulum
This 5-hour guided tour includes transport from a meeting point in Tulum, a guide, equipment, and snacks.
The group has a maximum of 4 divers.
You can visit cenotes like Cenote Dos Ojos, Casa Cenote, and Gran Cenote, depending on your preference and skill level.
Hotel pick up and drop off are not included.
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11. Gran Cenote
Casa Cenote is a great option for first-time cenote divers because it is a shallow, spacious dive. There is plenty of natural light that comes into the cavern, allowing divers to enjoy the rock formations.
Gran Cenote is located in a beautiful, jungle setting and is ideal for snorkelers and divers.
2. The Pit
The Pit is a large, dramatic sinkhole, and the highlight of the dive is a spooky hydrogen sulfate cloud that is located around 30 meters. As divers descend down into the Pit they will pass the remains of old, dead trees.
13. Cenote Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos, which means two eyes, is aptly named for the two different caverns that are connected to a large, open pool.
The first cavern, named Barbie, has a large spacious room with an overhead environment with cracks that allow beautiful rays of light to shine down. Here divers will encounter rock formations and stalactites.
The second cavern is called Baticueva and is darker and also has lots of rock formations and stalactites. This is one of the most famous cenotes in the area and a great second dive after diving in The Pit.
►Read more about Cave diving in Mexico
Dive in Mexico – Baja California
14. La Paz, Sea of Cortez
La Paz is a very popular diving spot in the Sea of Cortez. Dives here happen in the bay of La Paz or around Isla Espiritu Santo, and there is a great variety of dive sites.
Here divers can find shallow reefs, caves, rocky reefs, pinnacles, and shipwrecks all at a range of depths and filled with exciting marine life.
This variety makes La Paz such a popular dive destination, and one of the best parts about La Paz is that most of the marine life can be seen either while scuba diving or snorkeling.
You can dive in La Paz year round and the time of year you visit will determine what pelagic animals you find.
The winter months of December to May have the coldest water, but this also brings a variety of pelagic animals including humpback and grey whales.
There is a plankton bloom in the spring that attracts whale sharks. In many of your dives here you will encounter sea lions, and there is a large sea lion colony at Los Islotes.
La Paz is famous for its large, pelagic marine life; however, divers here can also find small creatures, including sea horses.
The sea of Cortez and its islets is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its amazing marine life. It is also a great destination for groups that have a mix of divers and snorkelers.
15. Socorro Island
Socorro Island is part of the Revillagigedo Islands which are around 400 kilometers from Los Cabos.
These islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and here you will find some of the best scuba diving in the western hemisphere.
These islands are famous for the abundant pelagic life that divers find here, including hammerheads, whale sharks, giant manta rays, and dolphins. A trip to the Socorro Islands is on most scuba divers’ bucket lists!
Due to the distance from Los Cabos, you can only access the Socorro Islands on a liveaboard.
It usually takes around 24 hours to reach the first dive sites, and your choice for liveaboard ranges from basic to luxury.
You can dive in Socorro all year round, and depending on when you go, you will have the best chance to encounter different marine animals.
For example, whale sharks are most commonly found from July to December and you have the best chance to see humpback whales from January to April.
One of the highlights of a trip to Socorro Islands is a visit with the famously friendly giant manta rays.
Here it is common for the manta rays to get very close to divers and seem to enjoy playing in the divers’ bubbles.
Divers who travel to Socorro should be advanced divers due to the strong currents and depths they may experience.
These conditions attract great marine life, and it is possible to see seven different types of sharks at Socorro. For divers who can make the trip, it is sure to be the experience of a lifetime.
👉 Book your liveaboard experience in the Socorro Islands on Liveaboard.com
16. Guadalupe Island
Guadalupe Island is located 130 miles off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. To dive here you must take a liveaboard, with boats departing from Ensenada or San Diego.
A dive trip to Guadalupe Island is all about one thing – great white sharks! Typical trips to Guadalupe Island will give you three days in a submersible cage watching the great white sharks.
Guadalupe Island is a protected marine area, and dive operators are not allowed to let anyone snorkel or swim outside of the cages.
The great white sharks come to Guadalupe Island to eat and breed. There is a large population of seals here, which is what attracts the hungry sharks to the area.
The season for diving with the great white sharks is from July to November.
Typically, early in the season, you will encounter smaller, male sharks, and the larger sharks show up later in the season and scare off the younger, smaller sharks.
There are no dive sites at Guadalupe, the dive operator will just move the boat and drop the cages where they have good weather conditions and believe you will have the chance to see the most sharks.
Guadalupe Island is considered one of the very best places in the world to see great white sharks, and they have registered over 300 individual sharks there.
Divers who make the journey to Guadalupe Island will have a thrilling experience.
👉 Book your liveaboard experience to Guadalupe Island on Liveaboard.com
17. Cabo Pulmo
Cabo Pulmo is located to the north of Los Cabos on the Sea of Cortez. Off the coast of this small village is the oldest coral reef on the western coast of North America.
The reef here is over 20,000 years old! This area was victim to extreme overfishing and in the 1990s the local fisherman worked with the government to turn it into a protected area.
It officially became a marine park in 1995 and since that time has seen a spectacular increase in marine life.
Here the local dive shops take marine conservation seriously and strictly enforce marine park rules, including dive time limits of 45 minutes, no gloves or knives, and no anchors.
The creation of the marine park has allowed this area to flourish. Globally Cabo Pulmo is an example of one how communities can restore marine life. The season you visit Cabo Pulmo will impact what marine life you find.
The best visibility and warmest water are found in the months of June to December.
The amazing visibility will help you really appreciate the massive coral heads and you can look for groups, green eels, and a variety of fish including huge schools of jacks.
The winter months bring colder water and the opportunity to see humpback whales, orcas, and a variety of different sharks.
Cabo Pulmo is a great dive destination because of its reef which is home to over 6000 different species.
Loreto is to the north of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez. Compared to other tourist destinations in Baja California, Loreto is still a quiet, small community that offers amazing diving.
The Parque Nacional Bahia Loreto contains five islands, creating natural protection and calm waters.
Here divers will find hundreds of species of fish and around thirty different marine mammals, including seals, whales, and dolphins, inspiring Jacques Cousteau to call it “the aquarium of the world.”
There are many great dive sites off the coast of Loreto, with many of the dives occurring around the three closest islands.
Here divers will find diverse topography above and below the water, from dramatic cliffs and walls to shallow reefs.
The island of Coronado is an extinct volcano and offers divers the chance to cruise along walls and ledges and has a large section of black coral.
Around this island, divers will encounter the resident sea lion colony, as well as groupers and barracuda.
Carmen Island has impressive wall diving and coral pinnacles for divers to visit. Here divers will find huge amounts of fish.
Carmen island is also home to the Arroyo Blanco caves as well as a sunken ship, giving plenty of variety to the diving.
Danzante Island has walls and canyons for divers to explore, here you can find anything from large pelagic animals swimming by too small nudibranchs.
From the resident fish to the large pelagics that pass by this area, Loreto will offer exciting marine life encounters.
➢ Do I need travel insurance in Mexico? Yes, you do! I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens I am covered. I have been using Safety Wing and I find it quite fair, covering a lot for its pricing level. Depending on your needs or you can compare different insurance companies on this useful site, TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase. If you are undecided yet you can read my post on the best travel insurance for Mexico for more clarity.
Where to Dive in Mexico: final thoughts
No matter what you are interested in as a diver, Mexico has a location that will be perfect for your next dream dive vacation. From large pelagic marine life to coral reefs full of tropical fish to underwater cave systems, Mexico has amazing dive spots.
For Further Reading
▻ Things to do in Loreto Mexico
▻ Amazing things to do in Baja California Sur
▻ Where to stay in La Paz Mexico
▻ 45 Amazing Things to do in Cancun
▻ The best 15 all inclusive Resorts in Cancun
▻ The best surf spots in Mexico
✨ Mexico Travel Planning Guide ✨
👉 Do I need travel insurance to travel to Mexico?
I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.
🚰 Can I drink tap water in Mexico?
No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.
🚗 Is it safe to drive in Mexico?
The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I usually use Discover Cars because the site offers the options to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.
Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.
📱 Will my phone work in Mexico?
It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!
🤕 Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?
The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around.
Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping a low profile.
Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:
💉 Do I need any vaccine to travel to Mexico?
No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico
🇲🇽 Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico?
If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.
Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.
It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa
💸 Where do I find the best travel deals for Mexico? 💸
A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:
👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia or Skyscanner as usually, that’s where the best deals are.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals
Meet the Author: Adrienne Banka
Adrienne Banka is a Michigander and fell in love with diving at 16 years old. Now she is an island living dive instructor turned brewmaster, turned mom. When she is not in the water she enjoys riding her bike and chasing after her dog an eight-month-old.