Snorkeling in Cozumel: Everything you need to know before you go
Best Snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico
The Island of Cozumel is a beautiful piece of paradise off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Snorkeling in Cozumel is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is known as being one of the best snorkeling destinations imaginable because it’s part of the Mesoamerican Reef which is the second-largest reef in the world.
It’s the perfect place to experience marine life of all sizes and colors.
Cozumel is known for its tropical landscape and beautiful scenery. It’s mainly undeveloped which creates more access to remote and unique spots for exploring and snorkeling.
It’s the perfect day trip or vacation spot for adventure seekers. You can expect the water to be roughly 80 degrees year-round with very high visibility than can reach up to 250 feet.
The best time to visit would be from March to June when the weather conditions are best.
What to Expect When Snorkeling in Cozumel
When snorkeling in Cozumel, you are bound to see colorful fish, unique sea animals, rays, turtles, and more! It’s an exciting location for exploring uncharted marine life.
The reefs are maintained and preserved by the government to ensure their stability and beauty lives to be seen and explored by visitors.
The Caribbean ocean is as clear, crisp, and turquoise blue as you could imagine.
Just being on the island of Cozumel will bring out the relaxation and adventurous side of all travelers who visit. Snorkeling is a must, especially since this destination is highly known for this activity. Consider adding this underwater heaven to your list of must-travel locations.
When choosing a place to snorkel, consider the fact that the best snorkeling can be found on the west and southwest side of the island.
This side is great for beginners and families because the water is much more shallow and calm. The north and east sides have rougher conditions and strong undersea currents so they do not make for the best snorkeling adventures and are not the safest options.
What To Bring for Snorkeling Gear
Snorkeling is an exciting adventure because it allows you to experience and swim with underwater life. The only thing is you’ll need gear for this activity.
At the very least, you must have goggles and a snorkel breathing tube. Oftentimes, snorkelers also use a floatation device and/or fins to make it easier to swim.
Are you just like me and hate using an actual snorkel? These days they have snorkel masks that go over your whole face, not only does it make it easier to see when you are underwater, but you no longer have to worry about inhaling water through your snorkel or having a weird piece of plastic in your mouth. They really are amazing : )
Now back to snorkeling in Cozumel.
Some resorts will have free rental gear for those staying in their hotels, but if you are like me and don’t want to be using the same snorkel strangers have used. I would suggest buying some as you can pick it up cheap, like the snorkel masks I mentioned earlier.
That way you have your own and don’t have to worry about using anyone else’s snorkel as well.
However, if you don’t want to carry one around and don’t mind renting one, be sure to check-in ahead of time with your hotel, as they might rent them for free.
It’s good to come up with a plan ahead of time so you can decide on if you’ll rent or bring snorkel gear.
You’ll also have the option to buy gear while in Cozumel from various shops or tour companies if you don’t want to borrow used gear., but be aware that it will be marked up for tourists.
Best Snorkeling Spots in Cozumel
Cozumel is situated on the Mesoamerican reef which is the second largest reef in the world so there are many different spots to choose from.
There are both off-shore snorkeling options where you can swim out from shore to reefs that aren’t very far from the coastline. There are also, of course, large reefs further out in the ocean that you can access by boat. Snorkel tour companies will take you out to these reefs by boat.
Off-shore Snorkeling Options
Off-shore snorkeling is a very easy and hassle-free option. You can pay to visit a beach club or park where you can snorkel right from the beach, borrow gear and have access to other activities. You also can choose to snorkel from a public beach where you can swim out to a reef just off the shore and spend as much or as little time as you’d like swimming with the fish of the Caribbean Sea.
1. Chankanaab Park
This park is very popular because it’s only about 4 miles from the cruise port so many tourists visit this location. The water is shallow with a mild current so it’s an especially great spot for beginners and families.
Just 0.2 miles from the shore, you can access the vibrant, colorful marine life of the reef. Some of the sea animals include eels, morays, sea urchins, angelfish, snappers, among many others. The most exciting part about this location is the underwater statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. There are also other activities in this park including swimming with dolphins and scuba diving but just note that there is a fee to get into this park.
2. Villa Blanca Reef
This reef is located on the west coast of the island and not too far from the ferry port. It’s a popular spot among tourists because it’s great for all levels of snorkelers and can be accessed from the beach.
It’s a shallow reef that only reaches up to 40 feet deep and also makes a great night snorkeling spot. There can be strong currents and many boats in the area so it’s important to stick to the snorkeling guide provided.
There are many amazing sea animals to see in the concentrated area including sea sponges, squirrelfish, moray, eels, and gorgonians.
4. Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
This beach park is a bit further from the ferry port so it’s not quite as busy and a great place to snorkel from shore.
In general, Punta Sur is a beautiful natural place where you’ll find exotic birds and crocodiles in their natural habitat. The Chunchacab Reef can be accessed about 0.3-0.5 miles offshore and is a great spot to explore. The park has a $14 admission fee but besides snorkeling, there are restaurants, showers, and beach chairs to use within the park.
5. Snorkel Options by Boat
Many tour companies on the island will take you by boat to explore larger reefs a bit further from shore. Oftentimes, you can see a larger variety of marine life but tours can get costly and usually are long day trips. Some tours will take you to different locations on the island to see diverse reefs and sea animals, others will take you to a single reef to spend a few hours. Boat snorkeling tours are very practical and easy as you can jump on and off the boat to enjoy the experience rather than swimming a good distance to access a reef.
6. Palancar Reef
This reef is located on the southwestern part of the island. The visibility is very high which makes it arguably one of the best and most famous snorkeling spots on the island.
Many tour companies will take you by boat for roughly $45 to experience the abundance of marine life in the area. At this reef, you’ll see features such as caves, ledges, and large reef drop-offs. Some of the animals to see here include sea turtles, butterflyfish, and eels. You could explore this reef in 1-2 hours.
7. Columbia Reef
This reef is just as famous and great as the nearby Palancar Reef on the south end of the island. It is best accessed by boat and many tours will take you there.
Marine life includes sharks and spotted eagle manta rays among diverse, colorful fish. It’s a deep reef but the visibility is high. It’s also a great spot for diving if that interests you.
8. El Cielo
Another popular snorkel destination is El Cielo which means heaven in Spanish because the waters are a beautiful turquoise blue with a white, sandy floor.
It’s very shallow so the visibility is superb. You can find starfish, stingrays, and vibrant schools of fish.
There are different tour options but expect to pay roughly $45.
Some of the boat options include glass-bottom boats and speedboats out to this reef. Once you arrive, the water at El Cielo is shallow so it’s a great spot for novice snorkelers and families to enjoy.
Tours That Include Snorkeling in Cozumel
Many tour companies will take you on a variety of adventures. If you’re looking for a snorkeling boat tour you’ll have many great options.
You can find companies that will take you on a variety of activities that include other adventures than just snorkeling. Some companies will take you on a trip around the island and bring you to unique and private spots to snorkel.
Others might take you by foot, jeep, dune buggy, or scooter through the jungle or around the coast. The main thing to note is that there are so many different options for exploring the island and finding the best snorkeling experience.
Another option is to join a beach club or go to a park for the day. There is an admission fee to visit one of these locations but you’ll gain access to a variety of activities.
You will usually be provided snorkel equipment to either borrow or rent along with additional activities such as waterslides, kayaks, and paddle boats.
Some of these parks or clubs will include guided snorkel tours if you’re interested and others will have buoy lines that direct you where to snorkel along the coast.
A few great spots to check out include Playa Mia Grand Beach Park, Uvas Beach Club, and Money Bar Beach Club but there are so many others on the island.
Cozumel is one of the most beautiful and unique islands to visit in the world.
Its location on the Mesoamerican reef makes it one of the most sought-after snorkeling destinations.
Avid snorkelers should add Cozumel to their bucket list of destinations. Whether you travel for a day trip or spend a few nights, you’ll be happy you made the trek to the small, yet serene island.
There is much to see, experience, and love about the place. After snorkeling in Cozumel you’ll leave with a new appreciation for the underwater haven that calls the island home.