Cozumel is a popular stop-off for Caribbean cruises, but it’s easy to avoid the crowds underwater. Floating a few miles off the Quintana Roo mainland, this Caribbean jewel offers superb snorkelling territory. It’s a tiny island, but the surrounding waters are teeming with marine life, including manatees, turtles and rays. The iconic oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, famously revealed that it was one of the best places to dive in the world. From the world’s only inland reef to the world’s second-largest coral formation, we’re rounded up seven of the best places for snorkeling in Cozumel.
Where are the best places for snorkeling in Cozumel?
Thanks to its tropical climate, snorkeling conditions in Cozumel tend to be quite predictable – which makes it easier to plan your snorkeling trips. There’s little difference in water temperature throughout the year, but keen snorkelers will want to avoid the rainy hurricane season, which obscures water clarity. January to April is the most popular time of year to visit, but for fewer crowds and excellent snorkeling conditions, consider a trip between November and December.
Stretching 9 km across the south coast of Cozumel, Chankanaab was decreed a protected national park in 1980. The word Chankanaab comes from the Mayan word for “small ocean” or “small sea” and refers to the lagoon located inside the reserve. There’s no shortage of things to do inside the park; there’s a swimming pool, zipline, tequila tasting, sea lion performance and a Dolphinarium. But it’s the snorkeling here that really draws the crowds. As well as colourful corals and tropical fish, there are underwater sculptures to explore too.
Also located on the southwestern coast of Cozumel Island, Palancar Reef offers excellent visibility and an abundance of marine life. It’s a diverse underwater ecosystem too, encompassing caves, ledges and some pretty steep drop-offs. In fact, the reef is part of the Great Mayan Reef, the second-largest coral formation in the world. The waters here are teeming with butterflyfish, eels and local sea turtles. To reach the reef, you’ll need to book a boat tour which usually costs around $45.
Set on the wilder west coast of the island, Villa Blanca Reef is one of the most popular places for snorkleing in Cozumel. The currents are stronger here but the shallow reef only plunges to around 40-ft deep, which means it’s an excellent spot for all snorkeling abilities. Night snorkel excursions are popular here too. As well as moray eels, honeycomb Trunkfish, turtles and white spot triggerfish, the waters are brimming with basket and barrel sponges.
There are Scrawled Filefish, spotted moray eels, honeycomb Trunkfish, and some white spot triggerfish, as well as a few Turtles.
4. Dzul Ha, Money Bar Beach Club
Accessible only through the Money Bar Beach Club, Dzul Ha is one of Cozumel’s best-loved beaches. You can enter the water from the righthand side of the bar, moments from the reef. The current is usually minimal and the waters are usually always bursting with schools of sergeant majors, eels, morays, crabs and colourful parrotfish.
5. Playa Corona
This tiny beach is a favourite with locals because it’s one of the best spots on the island for snorkeling from the shore. There’s no entrance fee, but it’s worth bringing cash to support the local restaurant. The waters are calm and clear, and bursting with tropical fish and the occasional eagle ray. You can rent snorkel gear from the beach shop too.
6. Punta Sur Eco Beach
Punta Sur Eco Beach is set right on the southern tip of the island. The sprawling reef stretches across an eye-popping 106-metres (roughly 350-ft), so you’re guaranteed to spot something exciting. The closest section of the reef is just 0.3-miles from the shoreline, so it’s easy to access too.
7. El Cielo
To reach El Cielo reef, you’ll need to hop on a mile-long boat ride, but it’s worth the extra effort. The waters here are shallow, averaging between 0.9–1.2 metres (under four feet). These shallow waters, combined with a sandy bottom floor, make it a popular option for families and first-time snorkelers.