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Is Puerto Vallarta a good place to learn SCUBA?

Since I love snorkeling, I’ve always been curious to try SCUBA. In fact, going on my first SCUBA dive was one of my “50th birthday resolutions” this year. But I wasn’t ready to commit to paying for a SCUBA certification program. That’s why, on my March trip to Puerto Vallarta, I decided to have a PADI Discover SCUBA Diving experience.

If I absolutely loved my Discover SCUBA Diving course, I figured I would sign up for a SCUBA certification program in the future. If you are also interested in PADI’s Discover SCUBA course, read on to learn if Puerto Vallarta would be the best place for you to try diving!

What is PADI Discover Scuba Diving?

boats in the foreground, caves in the background, on my way to Discover SCUBA diving experience

PADI is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. They’re the people who certify you to SCUBA dive. PADI’s full SCUBA certification course takes about four days and can cost up to $1,500. Discover SCUBA Diving, on the other hand, is just a brief introduction.

You could complete a Discover SCUBA class in two hours in a swimming pool. But what fun would that be? I chose a Discover SCUBA experience that included both the pool class and two ocean dives.

What is diving in Puerto Vallarta like?

mountains in the background at the Bay of Banderas where I had my Discover SCUBA Diving experience.

After just one excursion in the Bay of Banderas, I’m no expert in Puerto Vallarta’s diving conditions. But my experience taking the Discover SCUBA diving course was that Puerto Vallarta is a good but not great diving location. Compared to the Caribbean or Hawaii, you’ll probably find visibility to be so-so. I saw a ray, many pufferfish and a sea turtle. But the colors were dulled by sand in the water. I didn’t see any colorful coral.

During my March dive, the water temperature was not cold, but not warm either. You’ll want to wear a wet suit. A veteran diver who was on our boat felt the water was too cold that day, even with her wet suit.

My experience taking Scuba Discovery with Silent World Divers

First, I’ll cover the 2-hour pool portion of the PADI Discover SCUBA course. Then I’ll cover the two dives in the Bay of Banderas.

Discover SCUBA Diving in the pool

When I showed up at Silent World Divers‘ shop in central Puerto Vallarta, I found a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I met Shannon, the dive master who would be teaching me and one other student. Shannon was nice and clearly very knowledgeable. Shannon handed us backpacks full of equipment, and she carried some herself as well. We walked several blocks to a resort where we signed in at a service entrance and went to a shallow pool.

At the pool, Shannon introduced us to the different parts of the SCUBA equipment: the regulator, the vest, the tanks, etc. We sat at the edge of the pool and Shannon helped us get strapped into weight belts and the vests, which hold the air tank. We got to practice sitting at the bottom of the pool, breathing air from the regulator. She taught us the hand signals we’d use. Shannon also filled us in on important safety rules, like making sure to equalize your ear pressure regularly. Her calm demeanor helped me learn these things without undue worry.

Then we got to paddle around the pool, breathing from our regulators. That’s it! We were SCUBA diving! I left the pool lesson feeling confident that I could safely use the SCUBA equipment on the dive the next day.

Shannon also recommended a seasickness remedy not sold in the US, diphenidol, and recommended a good Mexican pharmacy where I could buy some. Afterwards, at the shop, I tried on a wet suit for the next day’s ocean dive.

My first ocean SCUBA diving experience

The Los Muertos Pier, departure point for my Discover SCUBA Diving experience.
The Los Muertos Pier, departure point for my Discover SCUBA Diving experience.

This was the part of the Discover SCUBA Diving experience that I was most looking forward to!

The next morning, Silent World picked me up at the end of the Los Muertos Pier, near my hotel. Their boat was big enough to hold the five of us students, two dive masters and the captain with plenty of extra space. There was also a tiny bathroom.

Our instructors, Andres and Rodolfo, were wonderful. They handed out our wet suits and gave us advice on wriggling into them. We motored past spectacular mountains — our teachers pointed out a hiking path — to a cove called Majahuitas. Here, they helped us into the gear. Once it was all on, it felt so heavy that walking to the edge of the boat was difficult! I sat on a platform on the side of the boat, as instructed, and fell backwards into the water. Once I was bobbing in the waves, the feeling of heaviness disappeared. My inflated vest kept me afloat.

During the dives, one of the instructors held my hand at all times. For the first descent, I was supposed to deflate my vest while lowering myself hand under hand down a rope. I kept popping back up. Rodolfo informed me that I was inflating, not deflating my vest. Oops!

Once I got that right, we slowly descended to the sea floor. Holding hands, we paddled around, peeping fish and other animals. Rodolfo would point to them to make sure we saw them. I remembered to equalize my ears every few minutes as instructed, and to keep breathing. After about half an hour, Rodolfo guided me in slowly ascending to the surface.

Back on the boat, we motored to another area called Las Caletas. You could see people having fun on this private beach, which is only accessible by boat. We didn’t go to shore, but waited on the boat for some other divers to finish.

All day I had been mildly seasick, but when the boat sat in one place, I started to feel really nauseated. Andres saved me by putting drops of peppermint essential oil in my palms. He told me to put them to my nose and breathe deeply. This helped more quickly than any motion sickness remedy I’ve ever tried!

On the second dive, we saw more fish. I was enjoying the calm feeling of being deep under the water, and especially that there are no waves at the sea floor. I found the equipment easy to use, especially with the constant supervision from Andres and Rodolfo.

There was one moment that I felt a little frightened: When Andres stopped our explration and floated in place. He inflated a dive buoy, which I had never seen before. He let the buoy float up to the surface, and then we slowly ascended. I only felt a little nervous because I couldn’t tell at that moment if we were having an emergency or if everything was fine. Of course, we can’t talk to each other under water, although the instructor probably had given me a reassuring thumbs up. Despite that one moment of nervousness, I felt safe and cared for throughout the dives.

After the second dive, the boat ended the day at the Los Peines Marina, which is several miles from where I was staying. The other divers had started their day there too. Silent World was nice enough to pick me up at the Los Muertos Pier because it’s on the way. I took the bus back to the Zona Romantica, which probably took me about an hour.

Why I recommend Silent World Divers Puerto Vallarta for your Discover SCUBA Diving experience

Woman smiling after her first SCUBA Discovery diving experience.
I was pretty happy after my first SCUBA Discovery dive experience.

I researched online before I went to Mexico. The dive masters at Silent World were highly recommended on Tripadviser and elsewhere. Other dive trips I saw advertised by other companies for non-certified divers did not include a pool session. Instead they gave divers a quick lesson on the dock. I felt that the two-day approach by Silent World would be more thorough.

When I reached out to the shop before my trip, they were very responsive and helpful.

At the shop, in the pool and in the ocean, the instructors at Silent World Divers were professional, friendly and pleasant. They gave me all the safety info I needed without scaring me. Andres is even a marine biologist! So he was able to tell us cool information about the animals in the Bay of Banderas.

How much does Discover SCUBA Diving cost in Mexico?

The cost for my two-session SCUBA Discovery course was $3,300 Mexican pesos, or about $194USD. If you go on to take the Scuba Diver or Open Water Diver certification from Silent World, they’ll credit that fee toward those courses.

I also gave the various instructors and boat captain about $40 total in tips, which are optional.

The price seems fair, perhaps a little cheaper than the same class and trip would have been in the United States.

Time saving tip: You can take your Discover SCUBA Diving class at home

I didn’t know this before the trip, but because PADI is an organization with standardized courses, I could have taken the swimming pool training at home before going to Mexico, then proceeded right to the dive in Puerto Vallarta.

After my Discovery dive, will I get SCUBA certified?

Before my Discover SCUBA Diving experience, I thought it was likely that I would go on to get SCUBA certified. However, after the experience, I think I will stick to snorkeling.

It’s not that I didn’t love trying SCUBA. I loved the dives! I’m really glad I went out with Silent World Divers to discovery the sea life in the Bay of Banderas.

However, I just didn’t find SCUBA so much better than snorkel that I want to spend the time getting certified. I’m not a big gear person, and SCUBA obviously involves a lot more gear than snorkeling. I think if I’d had a mind-blowing SCUBA experience, I might have decided it would be worth it to learn the ins and outs of the equipment. But on my dive, what I saw at the sea floor was no more exciting that what I’ve seen snorkeling in Hawaii, Australia, Mexico and Thailand. In fact, I’ve seen a lot better and more exciting things snorkeling. So I will probably just stick to snorkeling instead of SCUBA diving from here.