Known locally as the MUSA or "Museo Subacuático de Arte," the Cancun Underwater Museum is arguably the largest museum of its kind anywhere on Earth. Combining scuba diving and snorkeling with a visit to a world-class sculpture garden sounds like a recipe for adventure if you ask us. In this introduction, we offer some interesting facts about the museum as well as some recommendations for getting the most out of your visit to one of Cancun's more unique attractions.
Unique Underwater Sculptures
Diving Certification Options
Tips for Your Trip to MUSA
Mexico's Resort Paradise
Set on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun is a town continually inventing itself. Established as a tourist destination in the early 1970s, Cancun has risen to prominence, alongside Acapulco, as the premiere resort town in all Mexico. Beachgoers from around the world come to experience the white sands and blue Caribbean waters.
How to Get to Cancun
Mexico by and large avoided imposing harsh travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors arriving from abroad simply need to fill out a standard health questionnaire, which can be done online prior to departure or when you arrive. Cancun International Airport has a modern terminal that serves as a regional hub and gateway to other Yucatan destinations. It’s easy to find transportation from the airport to central Cancun or to the resort area in the hotel zone.
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An Introduction to MUSA
MUSA is the brainchild of Jaime Gonzalez Canto with the help of British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. Their aim was to help protect the local coral reefs by proving a dedicated place for divers to explore Cancun’s pristine waters. Construction began in 2009 and the museum opened one year later Today, there are over 500 sculptures placed within 2 separate section of Cancun National Marine Park. MUSA welcomes nearly 200,000 visitors each year.
How to Get to MUSA
MUSA is located within the Cancun National Marine Park between the northern tip of the Hotel Zone and Isla Mujeres. Obviously, you cannot just boat out to the waters yourself, hop in, and start looking around. The easiest option for most visitors is to book with a local tour operator. Basically any resort hotel should be able to arrange this for you. Pick-ups for the ferry are available in several places around Cancun, including at the Marina Puerto Cancun in the Hotel Zone. Ferries normally run daily every half-hour until 9:00 p.m. Be sure to carry some Pesos in case you need to grab a ticket or some supplies along the way. If you’re booking your visit through your hotel or a dedicated tour operator, transportation should be arranged for you. Also, make sure to inquire beforehand regarding what to bring (and what to leave behind).
Unique Underwater Sculptures
The Cancun Underwater Museum boasts a fascinating collection of sculptures made from pH neutral marine concrete that are anchored into the ocean floor. Unlike at a traditional museum, the sculptures at the MUSA change over time as they become integral parts of the aquatic environment and home to various plant and animal species. Among the more popular installations is "The Silent Evolution" by MUSA founder Jason deCaires Taylor. This work comprises nearly 450 life-size figurines grouped together in a way that suggests a harmonious coexistence of humanity. There is also "Anthropocene," which is an actual submerged Volkswagen Beetle located near Manchones Reef. The car's exterior has been covered by various plants and the car is now home to a diverse array of underwater life.
How to Explore MUSA
There are several ways to explore the Cancun Underwater Museum. These include scuba diving, snorkeling, and a glass-bottom boat tour. As the galleries are spaced somewhat apart, you will need to plan ahead regarding what to see and when. Also, snorkeling is not available in every gallery. Most sculptures are located at depths of up to 25 feet, making scuba diving easily the best option for exploring MUSA. It is recommended that visitors are comfortable swimming in open water. However, it is not necessary for visitors to have had prior diving experience. A diving license is not required; however, having one is certainly a plus. Visitors are offered basic safety and equipment training before heading out to the galleries.
If you don't think you're ready for the fully scuba experience, don't worry, the MUSA also offers the option to snorkel at some of the galleries. Visitors who want to do this should book designated the snorkeling tours. This is a great option for families or younger visitors who may not able to operate scuba gear. The MUSA provides visitors with same-day training on snorkeling safety and will let you get comfortable by first practicing in shallower pools before visiting the galleries. Even if you cannot get as close to the sculptures as you could by scuba diving, snorkeling is a fantastic way to enjoy the MUSA. The crystal clear waters make it easy to observe the art from a distance.
Available from the famous AquaWorld, you can enjoy a fun 30 minute ocean ride before reaching the galleries. That’s plenty of time to sip a refreshing soda or soak in the information from the bilingual guided tour. Once onsite, you can see several of the MUSA’s famous exhibits from the bottom deck with the help of the vessel’s glass-bottom hull. When booking the boat tour, you will likely be asked to pay an additional US$12 conservation fee. If the idea of getting wet when going to a museum is not your cup of tea, then the glass-bottom boat tour at the MUSA is right up your alley.
Diving Certification Options
To help you get the most from your visit, the Cancun Underwater Museum offers tourist-friendly packages with a variety of options to choose from. You could also look into various dive agencies located throughout Cancun that offer industry-standard courses such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) course or the Scuba Diving International (SDI) certifications. Training in open water diver and advanced open water dive certifications costs rough US$90 to US$115 per person. One big advantage in pursuing a diving certification with either the Cancun Underwater Museum or AquaWorld is that you can explore the various shipwrecks, caverns, and mangroves around Cancun in addition to the sculpture gallaries at MUSA.
The Cancun Underwater Museum is a great place for families as well as students. If you are leery about finding a private tour operator, we recommending booking a tour through MUSA’s official website. There are normally several options from which to choose. The non-certificate diving tours from Cancun cost between US$75 and $115 per person and take about 5 hours to complete. Make sure you have a good meal well before you’re scheduled to be in the water. Decide what works best given your personal preferences and familiarity with watersports. No matter which option you choose, the Cancun Underwater Museum is of the more memorable experiences in an already memorable resort town.
Tips for Your Trip to MUSA
Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of your visit:
- Wear eco-friendly sunscreen and make sure not to carry any loose plastics or other materials that could become dislodged and pollute the marine environment.
- Carry some spare Pesos to tip ferry operators and tour guides. This is often an important source of income for local people who work hard to provide you with an enjoyable vacation experience.
- Invest in some waterproof camera equipment if you want to record your visit. MUSA provides only the necessary diving and safety gear. If you want excellent underwater photos, consider investing in a GoPro or a similarly robust camera.
- Diving tours are open to anyone between the ages of 10 and 60. Kids under the age of 18 will be assisted by a professional diving instructor. The glass-bottom boat tour is a good option for non-swimmers.
- Tours are available year round (weather permitting). June to August is whale shark season and demand increases a lot during this period. Make sure to plan ahead during these time to avoid missing out.
- Most tours depart in the early morning and you need to arrive on time. Ferry services tend to run every half hour.
- MUSA diving tours do not have any audio-guided commentary. Make sure to ask your instructors as many questions as you want before beginning your dive. Tour fees covers one-on-one training with an instructor regardless of whether you also opt for the diving certification programs.
- Avoid touching the sculptures or disturbing the marine life in any way. Obeying the rules and adhering to the conservation protocols will make your tour more enjoyable.
Whether you are traveling with your family or just crossing scuba diving off your bucket list, the Cancun Underwater Museum is a must-visit! Mexico's Caribbean coastline has long attracted visitors from around the world. Come experience this unique and beautiful display of underwater art for yourself. MThis could be the ultimate Mexican vacation you've been waiting to enjoy!
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