Cozumel Snorkeling

The Caribbean island of Cozumel is surrounded by the second largest reef system in the world. It’s a great location to go snorkeling, because the oceans are usually calm and clear, and the reefs start shallow and close to the shore.

While snorkeling in Cozumel you can expect to see an abundance of tropical life, including angelfish, stingrays, moray eels, pufferfish, crabs, lobsters and shrimps. If you’re lucky you might spot turtles, eagle rays, nurse sharks, or even dolphins.

The reefitself is made up of numerous different types of coral which vary greatly intheir beautiful forms and colors.

Those with a really sharp eye might even beable to find a seahorse, frogfish, or splendid toadfish hiding amongst the reef.Cozumel is actually the only place in the world where the splendid toadfish isfound so it’s very special to be able to see one!

Of course, snorkeling and diving aren’t the only reasons people come to Cozumel. The island has a lot more to offer, including Mayan ruins, a historic lighthouse, several museums, sailing excursions, a golf course, and world-class shopping and dining.

A guide for Best snorkeling places in cozumel mexico
Cozumel Mexico

Those who want to venture into the jungle can try a horseback, jeep, ATV or dune buggy tour. And if that’s not adventurous enough there’s also the possibility to try zip-lining, surfing or parasailing.

If the weather disappoints, there are plenty of different tequila tasting venues, as well as souvenir and duty-free shopping malls and even a movie theatre with showings in English. At night, there’s a huge variety of bars and restaurants to choose from and also a planetarium for budding astronomers.

And if all you want to do is relax in a beautiful setting, there are a plethora of beach clubs and resorts to choose from where you can enjoy a massage or cocktail while gazing out to sea.

Best Places to Snorkel in Cozumel

There are many different places to snorkel in Cozumel but the following suggestions come highly recommended.

For the organized boat trips mentioned you’ll need to bring swimwear, a towel, reef-friendly sunscreen, and a bit of extra cash to pay for the Marine Park fee and tip the captain and guide.

For the beach club locations, you’ll be expected to buy some kind of refreshment in return for using the facilities.

1.     Alberto’s Beach Club

There are three different locations around the island, all of which offer snorkeling tours in glass bottom boats. This is great if you have any members of your group who don’t want to get in the water as it means they won’t miss out on seeing the underwater world.

The tours usually last for about two hours and cost around $30 per person. Snorkel equipment, life vests, soft drinks and beer are all included, as well as a bilingual guide.

The boat usually makes three stops for snorkeling, at Paraiso, Villa Blanca and Dzul-Ha although this is subject to change due to conditions.

The captain and guide will make sure the reefs chosen on the day are suitable and that the current isn’t too strong. They also brief everyone about the what the plan is for the trip, how to use the snorkel equipment, etc.

Safe Tours Cozumel

This company offers lots of different options for snorkeling tours, including glass bottom boats and sunset tours, departing at several different times and a few locations around the island.

Their luxury snorkel tour is six hours long and includes a stop at one of the most famous spots in the Marine Park, Colombia Reef. Here you have a good chance of seeing turtles, rays and huge lobsters as well as many colorful reef fish.

The cost of around $65 includes a guide, snorkeling equipment, soft drinks, snacks and a free bar (beer and cocktails) after the snorkeling.

The tour finishes off at the stunning area of El Cielo at the southern tip of the island where you’ll be able to admire the many starfish that reside there.

Fury Catamarans

This company offer similar trips to the above in their fleet of catamarans with two or three snorkeling stops at reefs such as Colombia and Palancar.

Depending on which option you choose the price starts from around $50 per person and might also include sunset on the ocean or an afternoon stop at a beach club.

The trips last between five and six hours and usually leave around lunchtime. As with most boat tours, all snorkel equipment is included along with a knowledgeable local guide, refreshments and life vests.

Chichi Charters

This is a great choice for groups as they offer private charters so not only can you choose your departure time but you can also have a bespoke tour, depending on the reefs you would like to visit.

They are based in the Fonatur Marina which is easy to find, between town and the cruise ship ports.

Hiring a boat for four hours with a captain, guide, snorkeling equipment, snacks, soft drinks and beer starts at $350.

Tikila Bar

This is a great choice for those who don’t fancy getting on a boat or sticking to a schedule. There is snorkel equipment to rent and the possibility to go out with a guide or on your own.

There are steps leading into the ocean, lockers, a shower to rinse off afterwards, and reasonably-priced food and drink.

You can expect to see small areas of coral reef surrounded by sand, plenty of small tropical fish, lobsters, sea urchins, yellow sting rays, flounders and lots of crabs.

Money Bar

Another great location for snorkeling from the shore, on the doorstep of Dzul-Ha reef. This is a larger venue which often has live music at the weekends.

The facilities are similar to Tikila bar however a little more upmarket and you can also choose to pay extra and go snorkeling from a boat.

There are paddleboards and kayaks to rent as well. It’s a great place to enjoy the beautiful sunset with a happy hour cocktail after snorkeling.

Sky Bar

This is another beach bar which caters for snorkelers and claims to have the best shore snorkeling in Cozumel.

The reef is really pretty with plenty of life and colors, and the access is easy from their wooden decking area.

Their welcome package includes snorkel gear, a drink, a 5-minute massage, and a group photo for $18. Or you can pay $65 if you want all of that as well as unlimited food and drink.

Best Reefs

The island of Cozumel is surrounded by beautiful reefs but there are some areas in particular that are especially of interest:

Palancar Reef

To visit this reef you can either go on a snorkel tour that stops here, or get a taxi to Playa Palancar where there is a beach club.

Here you can rent snorkeling equipment as well as book a guided boat excursion.

This reef starts at around 30 feet deep and is known for its stunning coral formations and colors, for instance huge orange and purple sponges.

The fish are just as colorful and you will see lots of parrotfish, angelfish, damselfish and butterflyfish.

Paradise Reef

This is located near to where the cruise ships dock and is a shallow reef popular with snorkelers and divers alike.

Most visitors get here by boat but it’s also possible to swim out from the shore, however be careful to stay well away from the cruise ships.

You’ll get to see chunks of healthy coral surrounded by areas of sand. Schools of fish, such as snapper, grunts, angel fish and sergeant major are common to see around this reef which is about 30 feet deep.

Sky Reef

This is a popular reef accessed from the beach bar of the same name mentioned above.

The reef is very shallow, starting at a depth of around 10 feet, and you can expect to see plenty of small tropical reef fish, crabs, lobsters and yellow stingrays.

Santa Rosa

You’ll need to be on a boat to visit this reef which starts at around 45 feet and can have a strong current so is best for more advanced snorkelers.

You’ll have the chance to see lots of sea life including turtles, eagle rays, large groupers and nurse sharks. The reef is known as a wall reef as it drops off sharply into the deep which is fantastic to see.

Las Palmas

Starting at around 40 feet deep, this reef is a great place to spot turtles, cowfish, parrotfish and angelfish. There will also likely be a huge lobster or two poking out from one of the impressive brain corals or huge sponges.

Columbia

 A lot of snorkel tours stop here due to the beautiful shallow section where huge coral structures can be seen, along with the odd turtle, plenty of fish and maybe even a reef shark although they tend to hang out a little deeper.

El Cielo

There isn’t much in the way of coral here, just pristine white sand and turquoise waters. You won’t be able to miss the brightly-colored starfish dotted all over, and you’re also likely to see stingrays gliding along the bottom. It’s a great last stop after snorkeling deeper reefs where you can relax in the water with a drink after the day’s exertions.

Best Beaches

The island is known for its beautiful golden sand beaches and here are some of the favorites, as well as some lesser known spots:

Playa Casitas

This stretch of beach is north of town, just before the airport. It’s a good place to go for those who want a more rustic beach experience and it’s one of the local’s favorites at the weekends.

There are a couple of bars but also plenty of space to throw your towel on the sand and there’s a store nearby where you can buy soda, beer, sunscreen, etc.

Playa Azul

 If you venture even further north, past a few big hotels, almost as far as the golf course, you’ll reach Playa Azul.

This beach has wonderful soft golden sand, sun loungers, a shower, and two restaurants to choose from. There’s also a wooden pier you can jump off into the water.

Playa Chen Rio

On the east side of the island the beaches are more rugged and the waves are sometimes big enough to surf. There is a scattering of bars along the coastal road but this is one of the nicest spots with a wide sandy beach to laze on.

Playa Uvas

This is a great option for cruise ship passengers as it’s only a five-minute taxi ride away from the main dock and there are great facilities and a large sandy beach with plenty of loungers.

 Best Shore Snorkeling Spots

The beauty of Cozumel is that there are great places to snorkel from shore all down the West side of the island.

However, the East side is a little more rugged and the waves are bigger so it’s not great spot to go snorkeling.

 If you rent a car for the day and some snorkel equipment there are no ends to the possibilities as you can pop in and take a look wherever you fancy stopping along the coast.

Tikila Bar, Money Bar and Sky Bar have already been mentioned above as great places to shore dive, but here are a few more great suggestions:

La Monina

Not only does this beach bar do great food and cocktails, it’s also got a lovely sandy beach and is a short walk north of town.

There are plenty of fish to look at and if you’re a good swimmer there are also two shipwrecks located about 1200 feet from the shore and 30 feet deep. From here it’s possible to see groupers,

Playa Azul

At the north end of the island, near the golf club is a lovely stretch of beach called Playa Azul. There’s a nice hotel of the same name on one side and a cheaper beach bar on the other. There’s also a dive shop where you can rent snorkeling equipment and book a boat tour if you choose.

It’s important to be aware of the current as it can get pretty strong at this part of the island. You can expect to see schools of sergeant majors and other tropical fish as well as the odd barracuda.

Playa Corona

For no-frills facilities but fantastic snorkeling, head to Playa Corona, on the west strip of the island.

There’s a rustic beach bar with a simple menu. This makes a great choice for those on a budget who are more interested in what they can see underwater than going to a fancy beach club.

Best Hotels/Resorts

If luxury is what you’re after as well as snorkeling you might want to consider one of the following hotels/resorts where you can purchase a pass and enjoy the facilities all day long.

Palace Resort

This is a convenient place to base yourself for the day because not only is it a short walk to town, it’s also close to the cruise docks.

The day pass is one of the more expensive, at £100 for adults and $50 for kids but it includes a lot of free activities, food and drink and also Wi-Fi. The snorkeling is top notch as the famous reefs of Palancar are right on this hotel’s doorstop.

Allegro Resort

This is a beautiful hotel and beach on the south end of the island. A day pass will set you back $60 (or $30 for kids) and includes all sorts of activities such as kayaking, sailing and windsurfing, snorkeling equipment, three swimming pools, steam and sauna room.

It also includes buffet meals and snack and all alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Hotel B

 More of a boutique resort, Hotel B is a great place to escape the crowds. Their day packages start from as little as $40 per person which includes snorkeling, swimming pools, and access to all other hotel amenities. Packages from $50 include food and drink options.

Hotel Cozumeleño

Situated at the north of the island, this sprawling hotel has a huge oceanfront pool, excellent snorkeling, a mini-golf course, and a fitness center.

Day passes cost around $70 ($40 for kids) which includes brunch, lunch, snacks, and whatever you choose to drink at the swim-up pool bar.

Snorkeling in Cozumel near the Cruise Ports

There are two cruise ship docks on the island. Punta Langosta is a few minutes walking distance south of town, and Puerto Maya is a ten-minute taxi ride south of that. If you arrive to Cozumel on a cruise and are looking for somewhere convenient to go snorkeling, the following spots are your best bet:

Hotel Barracuda

 As mentioned above, this hotel has a sheltered bay for snorkeling which means it’s great for beginners.

It also has sun loungers, a pool and a restaurant so it’s a perfect location for an afternoon off the cruise ship and you’ll only have to walk about seven minutes from the Punta Langosta cruise ship terminal.

El Cid La Ceiba

This is another hotel with good facilities and steps leading down into the ocean for easy snorkeling access. It’s only a seven-minute walk from the Puerto Maya cruise ship terminal. You can also choose an all-inclusive package for around $65 which includes all food and drinks.

Jeannies

With a menu bursting with tasty treats for all tastes, you certainly won’t go hungry at Jeannies. Located within a few minutes’ walk from Punta Langosta, this restaurant and bar has direct access to the water and also offers free lockers, showers and Wi-Fi.

Even though the two locations mentioned above are probably the closest, Cozumel isn’t a big island so any of the snorkeling spots mentioned in this article are at most a 20-minute taxi ride away from either of the two cruise ports. This is another reason why Cozumel is such a great place to go snorkeling.

Cozumel vs Cancun vs Playa del Carmen vs Isla Mujeres

Cancun and the Riviera Maya are known for pristine turquoise waters and the impressive reefs beneath. But how do the different locations compare when it comes to snorkeling?

Although Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres all have fantastic snorkeling, Cozumel really can’t be beaten due to the number of fantastic different options available for both shore and boat snorkeling.

Cancun

There are several options in Cancun for snorkeling from the shore around the hotel zone. Swim out from the beaches of Club Med and you will find beautiful clear waters full of fish.

Playa Lagarto behind Coco Bongo is another good place to see bigger species such as turtles, sting rays and barracuda.

At the south end of the hotel zone, Punta Nizuc is another great place to go snorkeling from the shore.

Boat snorkel trips will often stop at the underwater museum which had hundreds of statues with coral starting to grow over them.

Playa del Carmen

 Here the options for snorkeling from shore are limited but the beach next to Punta Esmerelda is a good option on a day when the sea is calm.

Boat trips will often take you to Chunzumbul reef which although a little too far to swim out to for most people, is only 10 to 15 feet deep in places so is a great chance to get close to the corals.

There are also many cenotes (limestone sinkholes filled with fresh water) around Playa del Carmen. Snorkeling in these is refreshing and beautiful as many open into caves with beautiful formations.

Isla Mujeres

This tiny island near to Cancun offers some beautiful shore snorkeling from Garrafon Park on the east of the island.

Boats will often take you to Manchones reef, only a ten-minute journey away where the reef starts at about 40 feet and the coral formations and variety of fish are exceptional.

In Between the months of July and September it’s also possible to snorkel with whale sharks which frequent the waters during this period.

Cozumel

 It’s difficult to beat the quality of the snorkeling in Cozumel so even if you’re not staying here it’s worth booking a daytrip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

You can usually expect to pay around $100 per person which will include all transport, food and drinks for the day as well as three snorkeling stops by boat and some free time to explore the island.

Reviews

Visitors to Cozumel are rarely disappointed with the snorkeling that’s on offer. Any negative reviews are usually due to circumstances or disappointing tour operators which is why it’s important to always go with a reputable company.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing to be done about weather or sea conditions! Seven of the top-rated things to do in Cozumel are different reefs and beach clubs which shows how popular the underwater activities are here.

For Santa Rosa, Palancar, Colombia and El Cielo are all featured as some of the best things to see and do in Cozumel.

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