Just off the shores of Cancun, Punta Nizuc and Isla Mujeres lies one of the most unique museums in the world. MUSA (Museo Subaqautico de Arte) is the Cancun underwater museum that offers a very different experience for divers, snorkelers and art lovers.
What is the Cancun Underwater Museum?
The Cancun Underwater Museum project was founded in 2009. It was started by the former president of the Cancun Nautical Association and the director of the National Marine Park. The idea was to create an experience for divers that would divert traffic from the nearby coral reefs. This was needed because the reefs were being damaged by the more than 750,000 annual visitors.
British Sculptor, Jason de Caires Taylor, was brought on board to create life-sized sculptures and statues which would then be anchored to the ocean floor. The sculptures were formed of specialized materials. These material are not only safe for marine life but actually encourage the growth of new coral. The hope is that in years to come a whole new reef Eco-system will emerge.
As of now there are about 500 statues placed around three galleries covering 420 square meters. However, there are plans to eventually expand to 10 galleries with up to 1,200 sculptures!
Some of the surprising things you’ll see at the bottom of the clear blue Caribbean are a VW Beetle, a spooky house, and a man sitting on a sofa watching television with the name “Inertia.” Many of the real life models for the statues were Cancun residents. There is even a sculpture called “The Listener” which is made entirely of casts of human ears by local students.
Most of the displays have their own unique symbolism and meaning. For example, there is a group of businessmen in suits with their heads buried in the sand which is meant to symbolize capitalist greed. The Viccistude, dozens of people looking up and holding hands, is probably the most famous sculture. But the Last Supper, Man on Fire and The Phoenix are a sampling of other favorites.
How to See the Underwater Galleries
There are currently three galleries and also three ways to view the Cancun underwater museum: scuba diving, snorkeling and by glass-bottomed boat.
The Gallery of Manchones, just off Isla Mujeres, is the deepest of the three and so is suitable for scuba divers. This is where you will see the VW Beetle, “Man on Fore” and “The Dream Collector” among hundreds of others
The Gallery of Punta Nizuc, off the southern tip of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, and the Gallery of Punta Sam, in Cancun, are much shallower and so are best for snorkeling and the glass bottom boat. Here you may see the “Gardener of Hope,” “Inertia” and the “Giant Hands,” to name just a few.
Cancun Underwater Museum Price
Pricing of course varies depending on how you do it (snorkel, dive or boat), which gallery you visit and which tour provider you choose. Tours and entrance can be purchased through MUSA or through independent tour providers.
Be warned it is not cheap, but it is a very unique experience and most visitors find it to be well worth the cost. As with most attractions and tours around Cancun it’s a good idea to check a few providers for the best pricing.
To give a rough idea of what to expect, snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours start at $47 USD, scuba for certified divers starts at $90 and for non certified divers prices start at $115.
- The 500+ sculptures are spread out over a large area and are separated into three different galleries. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect to see all the sculptures in one visit.
- It takes many, many years for a reef system to form and attract marine-life so don’t expect to see lots of different species of sea-life. It is a unique underwater museum not a traditional dive spot.
- If you don’t want to get in the water, the glass-bottom boat is a good option. However, you will only be able to view the sculptures in the shallow galleries.
- The underwater museum was created as a conservation project to divert damaging diver traffic from the nearby fragile coral reefs. This is a great thing! Having said that, it is also a top tourist attraction so don’t expect it to be a big educational experience.
- As with diving or snorkeling anywhere in the world please be respectful of the fragile coral and Eco-system. Avoid touching or kicking anything and wear Eco-friendly sunscreen.
- Tours start from either Cancun or Isla Mujeres.
- There are jungle tours available which include a boat ride through the Nichupte Lagoon. This is a beautiful ride allowing for some great viewing of the jungle mangroves and lagoon pathways.
- For divers there is an option for a one tank dive or a longer two tank dive.
- Tour prices generally include all equipment, boat transportation to the galleries and bottled water.
- If you are not a certified diver there is an option to take a 90 minute course which will allow you to join a beginners diving tour.
- Plan a return visit in another 5-10 years to see how the reef has grown!