“This is the place to be if you’re going to be in the dive shop business,” says Lara Alasia, co-owner of Divers UnderGround in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. “It’s a well-known and uber-popular dive destination. The Caribbean water is much better than the Pacific. It’s warmer and clear most of the time, and more divers come here. More divers equal more income.”
Running from Cancún south to the little beach town of Tulúm, Mexico’s Riviera Maya has become one of the most popular dive destinations in the world. Scuba divers and snorkelers, by the tens of thousands, flock to this area each year to explore the world’s second-largest reef system and thousands of cenotes (water-filled swimming holes and underground caves). The 80 miles of palm-peppered beaches and abundant ice-cold margaritas are a bonus.
Lara and her partner, Camilo, know well the appeal of this laidback, tropical region. “Honestly, I moved to Mexico for the diving,” says Lara. “Plus, it was easy to get back to the U.S. from the Riviera Maya. We live only a short walk from a perfect slice of almost-unknown Caribbean beach in Xpu-Ha—a tiny hamlet near Playa del Carmen. I go to sleep and awaken to the gentle sounds of the surf every day. It’s magical.”
“With all the divers in the area, we stay busy,” says Lara. “We attract a lot of cave divers who want to dive the cenotes. We offer dives with humpback whales during the migration and do the annual sardine run, as well as take bi-annual excursions to Colombia’s Pacific coast.”
“Our clients pay from $89 to $350 per day. The lower cost is a basic day with two accompanied, open-water dives. The higher costs are for technical cave dives which require specialized equipment and training,” says Lara.
The couple’s initial investment in the business was around $15,000. They’ve since recovered that cost and are now seeing a regularly monthly profit. “We started our business with money we saved from guiding customers for other dive shops. We didn’t need to take out a loan or anything like that,” says Lara.
All business expenses, including rent, utilities, insurance, scuba tanks, car insurance, customer snacks, payroll for contracted diving guides, and telephone totals around 50,000 pesos monthly (about $2,500). With the overheads so low, she and Camilo enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in the Riviera Maya.
“Our home is in Xpu-Ha, a tiny beach community surrounded by jungle just south of Playa del Carmen. The beach is fabulous. And we rent a small house there that we’ve fixed up just as we wanted it. When we want a bigger slice of life, we just drive to Playa del Carmen up the road. Honestly, our life is simple. On our free days, believe it or not, we go diving. In the evenings, we love to watch Netflix movies with friends and enjoy some nice wine.”
“Camilo and I agree that the Riviera Maya offers us the best of everything for our personal and professional lives. We love the climate, the people, and the active business environment,” says Lara. “And, of course, there is the Caribbean.
“We just love diving and helping others see the amazing things we see every day. We can take nice trips a couple of times a year and enjoy dinners in excellent restaurants while we earn our living doing what we love in one of the world’s most beautiful locations.”
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