Travel n Tour

Becoming a Certified Mermaid in Mexico

Happy International Mermaid Day! Where we’re at: I’m sharing my journey in 2022, including this trip to Mexico in February.

Alright,, fellow fish-loving friends, trying to track my mermaid obsession over the years will bring us back. And I mean all the way. I was born in 1989, and Disney’s The Little Mermaid was released in 1989 – coincidence? I think not.

Things picked up a few decades later, actually. My twenties were filled with countless siren-themed Halloween shell vibrations, many annual Mermaid Parade pilgrimages to Coney Island, a mermaid-themed bachelorette for a fellow ocean addict, and memorable trips dragging family and friends to meet the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in Florida.

The last one is what really hooked me. (Get it? Sorry, the mermaid puns won’t lighten up anytime soon, so get onboard.) One year, after being totally transfixed by watching those glorious retro underwater artists do their thing in the Sunshine State, I thought – okay, I gotta get in on this! After scouring the internet for mermaid schools, I flew to the Philippines for three days, splashing around in a tail for my birthday. It was the early days of the mermaiding industry, and while the course itself was questionable, I was quickly addicted to Ariel-ing. Two years later, I couldn’t get tail time off my mind, so I brought my best girlfriends to Isla Mujeres for another mer-themed birthday at the famous Shell House.

That’s where I learned that mermaiding had come a long way since the world first sang along to Part of Your World — with Mexico being one of the epicenters of this unique form of diving.

Launched in December 2020, the PADI Mermaiding Program sought to bring the same safety standards, training consistency, and eco-minded values to the underwater world of Mermaid diving that it has brought to scuba diving and freediving for decades.

On a trip to Cozumel that same month, I met two of Mexico’s first PADI Mermaids –Julie Ferrara of Freedive Cozumel and Carmen Mantione of Tulum Mermaid. While I didn’t sign up for the certification then, I got my fins wet, trying mermaiding and freediving with them on the Cozumel reefs and in Tulum’s cenotes.

It was just a matter of time before I returned and made it official – which I got to do this February when I finally signed up for my PADI Advanced Mermaid Certification! Carmen, a once New York stylist turned Mexico mermaid with a passion for pole fitness, was the perfect fit for teaching my course and leading a day of mermaiding for the performers-in-training at my aerial retreat.


 Already in Tulum for my High Flying Aerial + Mermaiding Retreat, I couldn’t think of a better fit. What is the PADI Mermaid Program?

Mermaiding is for just about everyone – it’s a standalone course, so you don’t have to be a scuba diver or freediver to become a mermaid.

There are really so many directions one can take mermaiding. Still, many instructors prefer to swim down one path – one, the more athletic, freediving-based practice, others, the more costume-heavy, fantasy experience. Make sure you find an instructor who shares your interests! I feel connected with both and love that many options exist for expressing oneself underwater.

Once you do, there are four options in the PADI Mermaiding Program, in brief!

• PADI Discover Mermaid Experience: Similar to a DSD in scuba, this program introduces simple mermaid activities in shallow confined water.

• PADI Basic Mermaid Course: The certification courses kick off with Basic Mermaid, starting with a short and fun eLearning or classroom session followed by at least one session in a pool or pool-like conditions, giving you a first taste of mermaid swimming and breath-holding.

• PADI Mermaid Course: Mermaid builds on Basic Mermaid with another, more in-depth eLearning or classroom session and an additional water session, adding more dynamic mermaid skills.

• PADI Advanced Mermaid Course: Advanced Mermaid adds to the previous courses, this time adding a thorough eLearning or classroom sesh followed by two additional mermaid sessions in open water.

I had already decided to go all in and take Basic Mermaid through Advanced Mermaid in one shot – a popular, three-day option. This allowed me to visit three different aquatic environments in Tulum: two cenotes and one ocean reef!

Day One: PADI Basic Mermaid

Basic Mermaid is where it all begins — a one-day course that teaches the origins of mermaid history and culture, which goes way beyond the famous red-headed Mermaid so many of us know! In fact, the earliest known stories date back to about 1000 BC, in Mesopotamia or the modern-day Middle East. Many were full fish with human faces, a departure from the upper human body and lower fishtail bodies we know well today!

Even my beloved Weeki Wachee Springs got a shoutout in the history lesson, meant to show that looking back at the 3,000-year history of mermaids, this is not a passing fad, but an enduring tale told in cultures across the globe. Mermaid diving is just the next evolution.

The course introduced the basic concepts of mermaid safety, mermaid equipment, being an environmentally friendly mermaid (choosing makeup safe for aquatic environments, for one!), and outlining the basic mermaid entries and floats.

One of my favorite facts from Basic Mermaid? In many Asian languages, the translated term for Mermaid is human fish, with no gender reference. Thus, the time was chosen by PADI to be an inclusive, gender-neutral term that applies equally to all. I make love that eLearning can be completed anywhere! Each three-day eLearning section took me about an hour, but I needed to work hard and take notes – it might take less for many. My rooftop poolside classroom location didn’t inspire me to rush, either.

Later, we got right to the fun stuff (um, in case you couldn’t tell, for me, eLearning was also the fun stuff, haha) at Cenote Cristal in Tulum. It was my first time at this cenote, and I instantly loved the colorful hammocks, jumping dock, and clear blue waters. Not cenotes are created equal – in fact, some in Tulum don’t even allow fins, making it impossible to Mermaid in them. But Cenote Cristal is great because it has two long lines running across it, great for resting or watching your instructor complete a skill.

After a topside warm-up and gear-up, we worked on mermaid floats, surface swims, treading water, duck dives and dynamic swims, and basic safety skills. I felt totally refreshed after being out of a tail for some time!

On its own, PADI Basic Mermaid is a great course for someone a little curious about mermaiding but not quite ready to commit to kissing their feet goodbye for more than one day. Personally, I definitely left craving more.

Day Two: PADI Mermaid

Right away, I could tell the PADI Mermaid course goes deeper. Over ten modules, I studied things like the physics of water and air and equalization and how pressure affects the body – for scuba divers, this will be a nice refresher with a mermaid twist!

I found it interesting that buoyancy in water reduces directional cues from gravity, and changes in your body position can affect your sense of balance (duh! I know this from yoga!), but that is why we can sometimes get disoriented when swimming upside down in mermaiding.

This course also gets into safe breathing, also known as apnea, where freedivers will start nodding along. I loved really being introduced for the first time to the science of breath holding and how it can be affected by digestion, training levels, relaxation, and beyond. Can I tell you how pumped this section got me to take PADI Freediver someday?!

Finally, the course details mermaid equipment and care, unique mermaiding skills (yes, please, unit on blowing underwater kisses!), and emergency procedures.

Still, perhaps my favorite aspect of the PADI Mermaid eLearning was the recognition that mermaid diving adds this creativity, art, and performance that isn’t a specific aspect of diving. While scuba diving is so much about exploring the underwater world, freediving is about exploring the self and pushing past our mental limits. Mermaiding then introduces these new elements of play, artistic expression, and collaboration. I want them all!

For our water sessions, we headed to Tulum’s Yax-Xen Cenote. The hotel and restaurant we used as our base, Manglex Eco Hotel, has a small pool where I completed my static breath hold session. In this practice, you submerge in water and time how long you can hold your breath, considering everything you just learned about the body’s experience in apnea. This is something I can’t wait to keep learning and focusing on.

Then, we headed out to the shallow canal of the cenote to complete even more mermaid skills – those underwater kisses, pin-drop descents, upside-down swims, longer dynamic dives, underwater turns, rescue drills, maskless swims, tail removal, and more!

Carmen’s tail collection is endless – in addition to a wide supply of popular brands, she hand makes many herself, meaning each day of the course, I got to play in a different look. If you’ve ever felt shamed geeking out over the color of your dive gear – first of all, girl, come on a Wander Women Dive Retreat – and second, know that in mermaiding, it’s a celebrated part of the fun! I won’t lie – this may have been one of my favorite parts of the certification.

Day Three: PADI Advanced Mermaid

Okay, PADI Advanced Mermaid is where you move from training mode to real life – or whichever version of reality mermaids exists. It’s day three of mermaiding now, and you move from confined water into open water! What’s that, you ask? PADI uses these terms for all its dive programs, and what they mean varies in different marine environments worldwide. But, in general, confined water is intended to be a pool or replicate the conditions of one as much as possible, like a shallow bay, and open water is something like the open ocean, a lake, a purpose-built quarry, etc.

The Advanced Mermaid eLearning describes open water environments and conditions like the differences between salt versus fresh water, tides, currents, and waves (I enjoyed learning some science behind these mysteries of the sea!) and how to assess conditions.

It then built upon the previous courses, adding more weighting techniques, rescue procedures, aquatic life interaction tips, and a lengthy section on making mermaids ambassadors for the underwater world – a cause very near and dear to my heart.

Carmen arranged a real treat for this day’s open water sessions – a trip to the Tulum reef! Tulum is mostly known for its magical cenotes, but the ocean’s call, for me, is always strong. We met on the beach, hopped in our boat for the day, and first took a short ride up to the Tulum Mayan Ruins, which are already some of the most stunningly located ancient ruins on the planet. But seeing them from the sea, with the Caribbean waters lapping against their shores? Wow, it was one of the pinch-me moments of the course.

We slipped into the salty waters at the reef and marveled at what felt like a stingray convention beneath our tails. Between diving down and blowing kisses at them, we checked off skills like rescue simulations, more advanced breath hold techniques, and getting comfortable in more variable conditions open water can bring.

Back on shore, Carmen and I toasted with fresh coconuts bought from a beach vendor to my newest PADI certification – my lifelong dream came true, and I was a mermaid, for real!

In Conch-caution

Honestly, the PADI Mermaiding course really blew me away. As someone who had already spent a lot of time in a tail, I expected it to be a formality. It was not! I learned so much from the eLearning every day, and it really kicked up the urge I’ve had for a while to get my freediving certification next, too.

And I really enjoyed the skills! Putting a name to and practicing various movements and actions I’ve seen mermaids take was empowering. While I hope I’ll never have to use any safety skills I practice in dive training, they make me a better citizen of the underwater world.

And as always, I appreciate PADI’s commitment to using every opportunity to spread a message of love and conservation for the waters that make up this planet!

I know many will ask, as I did, is this something we need a certification for? And having had a few mermaiding experiences before this, I surprised myself with how vehemently I now think yes – the PADI Mermaid program brings structure, safety, environmental consideration, and consistency to the mermaid industry that I think needed.

Okay, so if you’re thinking, less talk, more tails – how do I sign up?! You can find the growing list of PADI Mermaid Centers around the world here, and read on for a bit more inspiration if you’re intrigued!

The Best Places in Mexico to Mermaid

My Mermaid Inspiration

• Splash: The ultimate mermaid movie, in my opinion! I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks hit formed many of my adult ideas about love and women’s hairstyles.

• The Mermaid Podcast: I’m hopelessly hooked on podcasts, and this is a fun one to listen to en route to a mermaid trip or while editing underwater footage from one!

Mermaid Packing List

• A Mahina Mermaid Fin: A woman-owned, sustainable small business making the best biz fins! I’m proud to own one in black and teal! Mahina was one of the first professional mermaids in the world – she knew what she was doing.

Mermaid Tails: Cape Cali makes some of the most well-respected tails out there, designed to fit Mahina fins and manufactured with material produced from recycled fishing nets, demonstrating their 100% commitment to ocean conservation. They also have the biggest selection I’ve seen of land-based mermaid gear!

• Stream2Sea Sunscreen: The name says it all – these products are made to safely make their way from streams to the sea, as all products we put on our bodies should! Another small, female-owned business you can feel good supporting.

• Mermaid Straws: Not just straws but mermaid-plated cutlery, drinkware, apparel, and accessories! A small business that donates a percentage of sales to Plastic Bank organizes beach clean-ups and creates products that reduce polluting waste.

• Fin Pins: The holographic mermaid stickers by this brand are just begging to go on your laptop – and are created by two female biologists who donate proceeds to research and ocean conservation. Do they ship plastic-free Bonuses?

Any questions about the PADI Mermaid course, mermaiding in Mexico, or more? Fire away in the comments; I’m here to share!

Albert L. Davis

My name is Albert, and I am a full time blogger by passion. I write about things that I am passionate about, and I have been lucky enough to find a career that fits me so well. I love being able to come home from work and spend my day doing what I want to do. I enjoy sharing tips and tricks to help others live a more balanced life, and I am grateful every day for the chance to share my knowledge with people all over the world.
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