Cancun, Mexico, is one of the most popular vacation destinations in North America, and given its tropical climate, there's some great snorkeling to be had in Cancun as well! A lot of the best snorkeling spots in Cancun may not be in Cancun itself, but rather, somewhere else very close by. For example, Puerto Morelos is a very popular snorkeling spot in Mexico, due in large part to the massive coral reef found in the area, as well as other aspects that are discussed below.
Nevertheless, there are some fun spots to snorkel in the heart of Cancun, but most other snorkeling destinations have pick-up in or around Cancun, where you may end up taking a shuttle from there (or your hotel) to somewhere else, depending on where you want to snorkel.
Our review below is meant to highlight some interesting places to snorkel in and around Cancun. That being said, there are so many great spots to snorkel in that area, that you can even potentially find a great spot on your own that isn't on our list. However, our guide will serve as a nice starting point, and we will also highlight snorkel tours that can help get you the most out of your snorkeling adventure.
Snorkeling Puerto Morelos Reef National Park
Located about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen (about 12 miles South of Cancun), Puerto Morelos is a known as a great town for diving, fishing, and relaxing resorts. The area is now a protected national marine park, largely due to the incredible biodiversity in the area, so right away you know there's potential for some awesome snorkeling.
Given that the majority of the area is a protected marine park, it should go without saying that you cannot damage the coral reefs, whether it's intentional or not. Therefore, the government has imposed rules that do not allow you to snorkel on your own. This may sound like a bummer, but actually, it can help ensure that you get the most out of your trip, as only accredited companies can take snorkelers out for tours. These companies are generally very knowledgeable and can provide some useful local advice.
Puerto Morelos is home to the second largest barrier reef system (second to the Great Barrier reef in Australia), which provides an incredible opportunity to explore something that most people on the planet will never have the chance to see. Furthermore, depending on where you are located, it could be much more convenient (and cheaper!) to travel to the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park than to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Any coral, but especially reefs that are this massive, provide a great home to lots of underwater creatures. In this case, there is an abundance of lively colorful fish, different types of coral to check out, lots of plant life, and other really cool creatures like seahorses, eagle rays, sea turtles, lobsters, and more!
As we briefly mentioned previously, this is a protected area and in order to explore the coral you must be with an accredited charter company that provides transportation to designated snorkeling spots. Below is summary of some of the more popular and well-reviewed snorkeling tours that you can use to experience the biodiversity that Puerto Morelos has to offer.
Puerto Morelos Reef National Park - Snorkel Tours
One of the more popular snorkeling tours in the area, they offer morning, afternoon, or full-day snorkeling tours.
Cost ranges from $38-74 USD per adult (afternoon tour is shortest and cheapest, full-day tour is most expensive) and $34-40 per child.
Snorkeling tour may include multiple locations. One common location is Punta Tanchacte (about 500m away from Puerto Morelos Reef National Park) where guides will assist you in exploring the deep water with schools of fish and really cool coral formations. From there, the second location is often somewhere shallower, where the marine life lives closer to the surface.
Includes round-trip transportation, bilingual guide, all necessary snorkeling equipment, and depending on the tour you could also take advantage of a free buffet lunch and open bar!
Email: Available on their Contact Us page
Founded by a local over 20 years years ago, this tour is unique in that it's not about the profit, but rather, the education about , and protection, of the reef.
Snorkeling trips are usually about 90 minutes in duration.
Cost: $25/person, $50/person for night snorkeling (min 4 people), and $60/person for Cenote snorkeling. Add $5 per person for private round-trip transportation from Playa del Secreto Vacation Villas.
Rates include all necessary snorkeling equipment.
Email: Click here to fill out form
WET SET ADVENTURES
This company offers a lot of different types of tours depending on what you're most interested in. Another benefit of multiple tours is that if one is full when you want to go, then there are lots of others to choose from as well.
An excellent alternative to the hotel tours. This company specializes in diving tours and can offer private transportation from your hotel and they maintain competitive prices.
Cost for tours range from $30-180 depending on the one you select. The cheapest snorkeling tour is the classic reef snorkeling tour and the most expensive snorkeling tour is an all-inclusive full-day private tour of the cenotes and caverns.
Includes all necessary equipment as well as a wetsuit to protect from cold water or prolonged sun exposure. Some tours offer lunch, snacks, and drinks as well.
Email: Click here to fill out a form.
Snorkeling Cancun - Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is another famous snorkeling destination in Cancun. While it is not as accessible as many of the public beaches (see below about for info on public beaches) and you will require a shuttle boat to get you there, it can certainly be well worth the trip. Two things that really stand out about this location are: 1) You can swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery, and 2) In the summer months, you can swim with whale sharks in their natural habitat. The latter is definitely a favorite among snorkelers who arrive at the right time of year!
Isla Mujeres is also home to the world's largest underwater museum. The museum serves two purposes. First, it's designed to awe underwater visitors with incredible works of art, mainly in the form of large sculptures. Secondly, and most importantly, they are intended to help maintain the environment while we enter a dangerous phase of global warming.
The long term goal is for these statues to become the bases for coral and other marine life to grow and develop. Therefore, by experiencing the underwater museum, you're not only seeing something that is cool for a tourist to check out, but you're also witnessing unique environmental protection first-hand.
Aside from these incredibly unique snorkeling opportunities at Isla Mujeres, the snorkeling in general is excellent. There are lots of calm spots that tours can take you to, the water is extremely clear, and the diversity of coral, fish, and other marine life certainly makes for a great snorkeling adventure.
As we mentioned previously, you will need to get to Isla Mujeres by boat. One of the most efficient ways to do this, especially if you are keen on snorkeling, is to hop on one of the many snorkel tours that leave from various points of the mainland. This way, not only will you have equipment conveniently supplied, helping guidance from knowledgeable tour guides, and access to the best snorkeling spots in Cancun, but you may also be able to gain insight about cool things to do on the island (on land).
Below we will summarize some of the best and most popular snorkel tours on Isla Mujeres, but feel free to explore beyond this, as there are many tours operating in this area.
Snorkel Tours on Isla Mujeres
All-inclusive excursion departing from Cancun (usually from Excellence Playa Mujeres Cancun Resort).
Cost: $73/adult, $37/child. All snorkeling equipment included.
Departs at 9am, drinks and bottled water are served.
A morning snorkel tour allows you to check out the colorful coral, fish, starfish, and even turtles.
Lunch takes place on a beach on Isla Mujeres, where you can lounge, drink, and relax.
After lunch, the group goes downtown to check out the market, silver stores, and other souvenir shops until about 4pm.
The boat will return to Cancun and you can relax, or drink and party on the upper deck.
Email: Click here for contact form.
This company offers a variety of different types of snorkel tours.
Available Tours: Full day, 1/2 day, 2 hours, or private tours.
Cost: Wide range. From $35/person (2 hour tour) to $1300/group (private tour - up to 10 people).
All tours leave from the Pemex Gas Dock on Isla Mujeres.
Although private tours are expensive and you need a large group, they can be great for avid photographers who want time to set up the best shot. For smaller groups like families, one of the other snorkeling tours may be more ideal.
All snorkel tours include multiple destinations and equipment rental. Lunch, drinks, and snack are also provided on applicable tours, but sometimes there is a small additional fee.
Two different snorkeling tours available: 2 hour trip or 3 1/2 hour trip.
2 hour trip goes to Lighthouse Reef (El Farito) and Sac Bajo Reef.
3 1/2 hour trip goes to Lighthouse Reef (El Farito), Sac Bajo Reef, MUSA (the above mentioned underwater museum), with Tikin Xik (grilled fish) for lunch at Playa Tiberon (drinks not included).
Cost: $25/person for 2 hour tour, $35/person for 3 1/2 hour tour.
Includes snorkeling equipment, life vests, soda, water, National Park Fee, and the grilled lunch on the longer tour.
Departs from Isla Mujeres Pier 7.
Email 1: [email protected]
Email 2: [email protected]
Snorkeling in Cancun's Hotel Zone
While snorkeling in Puerto Morelos requires little transportation time and is generally considered fairly convenient, some may prefer to simply wake up in the morning and head down to the water for some casual snorkeling. If you're staying at a hotel in Cancun, this is definitely possible.
Before discussing the specifics of snorkeling in this area, we should remind those who are interested that the snorkeling in Cancun's hotel zone typically is not as good as the snorkeling in specific areas that you need to commute to. However, that's also a matter of perspective and preference, as snorkeling can be fun anywhere in and around Cancun.
Cancun's hotel zone is exactly what it sounds like: an area of the city dominated by hotels and resorts. All of these hotels are located on, or steps away, from the water. Technically, the entire beach front along this stretch is considered public; however, not everywhere is easy to access. Some hotels attempt to provide a private "feel" by not providing public access to the beach through the hotel itself (hotels can be private property).
The increased difficulty in accessing a particular beach often prompts visitors to check out a more publicly accessible beach. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the beach front is continuous and it's a nice beach everywhere, but it may be a little more crowded in your area depending on where you're staying and what beaches you want to check out.
Generally speaking, the snorkeling in the hotel zone is good, just not as good as some of the snorkeling-specific spots that tours take you to. The water is really clear, and water conditions are usually pretty good. Some spots of the beach front will experience stronger currents, in which case this can make the water a little more cloudy and difficult to swim in. No matter where you enter the water, make sure to check any signage for information about currents, and if there are flags placed on the beach that you need to swim between, it's best to follow these rules. The flags are there for a reason.
However, the main factor that would affect visibility is number of people in the water. You can usually find a clam enough spot to happily snorkel around, but it may take a little bit of walking first to find a spot that you are keen on. Furthermore, crowded waters are not very inviting for fish and other colorful creatures, so you're more likely to see some cool stuff in less crowded areas.
Below are some of the best public-access beaches in Cancun's hotel zone, as well as some information about equipment rentals.
Cancun Hotel Zone Public Beaches for Snorkeling
Located around km 4 of Cancun's hotel zone.
Great for swimming and good for snorkeling. Snorkel tours located close by. Close to downtown.
Public shuttles available at the dock to take you from Playa Linda to Isla Mujeres, where you can find even better snorkeling (a snorkel tour may be required).
For more information about the snorkeling at Isla Mujeres, please click here.
Located between km 6-7 of Cancun's hotel zone.
Great swimming, and people really like it for water sports. It's not the best for snorkeling,but it's a good place to practice or try out equipment since the water is so nice for swimming, particularly on calmer days.
Lots of amenities close by, such as bars and restaurants.
Similar to Playa Linda, the dock here also has public shuttles going to Isla Mujeres.
For more information about Playa Tortugas, please click here.
Located around km 5 of Cancun's hotel zone.
There is excellent swimming here, and the shallow water makes it a nice place for snorkeling as well.
The beach faces Bahia de Mujeres, which is a pretty cool, calm area.
For more information about Playa Langosta, please click here.
There are tons of other great public beaches stretching along Cancun's hotel zone. The main reason we picked the three above are because they tend to have calmer water, aren't too far down the hotel zone, and have access points to other renowned snorkeling locations.
If you are interested in exploring other beaches, go for it! Just be careful, as the surf and currents at one beach can be drastically different at another beach, so always make sure to follow the proper safety rules (e.g. stay between flags) and look for any signage that provides information about the water and beach conditions.
Cancun has tons of coastal area both on the mainland and in the form of smaller islands. If you find a hidden gem for snorkeling that you would like to share with, please let us know!