Located off the shores of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo, which is also home to Cancún, the Riviera Maya and Tulum, Cozumel offers ideal snorkeling sites with pristine coral reefs teeming with abundant marine life. The clear, marine life rich waters attract visitors from all over the world to discover the place that even the famous oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau mentioned as one of the best places to dive. If you decide to come and explore this destination, here we tell you what the best places are for snorkeling in Cozumel where turtles, stingrays and sea stars are awaiting you.
Table of Contents
Famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau declared it “one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas in the world.” The water is clear & fifty shades of turquoise, with visibility up to 200 feet. You can also learn to scuba dive in Cozumel…there are tons of instructors & dive shops. Or, if that doesn’t sound appealing, take a Cozumel snorkel tour or simply grab some gear & jump in!
Snorkeling conditions in Cozumel
Before starting, please note that the currents in Cozumel can be very strong, it’s HIGHLY advisable that you rent fins for your snorkel adventure. Currents can change in a moment, & you ALWAYS want to be able to swim back to shore. If you have kids with you, rent a life vest & use a brightly-colored surface marker buoy.
Cozumel is a paradise island with a wonderful coastline, but to locate the best snorkeling beaches, it is good to learn a bit about the island’s geographical features. The east and northern sides don’t have good snorkeling due to the often rough waters and strong undersea currents. The best spots for snorkeling in Cozumel can be found on the west and south-west, wind and wave protected side of the island. The snorkeling beaches here have usually shallow and calm water with ideal conditions for beginners and kids too.
Best snorkeling spots in Cozumel
1) El Cielo
El Cielo means “heaven” in Spanish & if you love starfish, sting rays, & insanely turquoise waters, then it will be heaven for you! El Cielo is only accessible by boat, and is about a mile off Cozumel’s shoreline. So, unless you know someone with a boat, you’ll need to take a tour there, which costs around $45 (around 900 pesos mexicanos). Most tours leave from Cozumel’s main dock, right in San Miguel. The ride takes about an hour. The water at El Cielo is about waist-deep, perfect for kids or novice snorkelers! The best snorkeling in Cozumel.
Tips: If you want to see starfish & sting rays, GO to El Cielo! Also good for kids & beginners. Cost: $40-45. Most of the tours take you to 3 reef (palancar, colombia and El Cielo). Book your tour online or directly in Cozumel. You can also contact our local partner who has good price and EXCELLENT service.
El Cielo Cozumel
2) Dzul Ha
The Money Bar is a local’s favorite restaurant & bar, located right on the beach, about 10-minutes south of town (via taxi). This is a great place to spend the day: you can get drinks, lunch, & snorkel all in one afternoon! There are lots of tables, a bar and longchairs where you can laze on the waterfront. Access for snorkeling in Cozumel is via a ramp or ladder into the ocean. You’re likely to see many tropical fish here, manta rays, & sea turtles. But the best thing is: there’s no “minimum” food purchase here, unlike other waterfront spots (with most charging $49). So, for the cost of a $10 drink, you can enjoy snorkeling at the Money Bar, making it one of the most cost-effective snorkel spots. Without a doubt, Dzul-Ha is one of the best places to snorkel in Cozumel. Its calm waters, the color of corals and fish, everything is relaxing and pleasant. Your stay on this island will undoubtedly be unforgettable.
Tips: If you want to drink, dance, eat, & snorkel, head to the Money Bar. Good for adults & kids. Cost: $10+
3) Palancar Reef & Columbia Reef
Palancar & Columbia are two of the most famous reefs for snorkeling in Cozumel. They’re both located on the south end of the island (about 45 minutes from San Miguel) and are best accessed by boat. It’s totally do-able to hit El Cielo, Palancar, & Columbia all in one day. Columbia Reef is a great place to look for sharks & spotted eagle manta rays.
Palancar is great for snorkeling OR diving. Palancar features caves, ledges, & massive reef drop-offs. You’ll also find a huge diversity of animals, including turtles (we saw two), exotic fish, eels, sharks, & even barracudas!
Tips: Two of the best reefs on the island; better for advanced swimmers & divers. Cost: $45 (if on boat tour)
4)Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
Punta Sur is not only one of the places to snorkel from the shore in Cozumel, but it is a nice spot to enjoy nature, amazing view and see herons and flamingos. Moreover, it is less popular than the beaches near the cruise port, however a rental car (or taxi) is needed to get to this park because it is on the southern tip of the island.
Tips: Don’t be surprised if you find nothing but sand near the shore within the designated swimming are; the reef is about 0.3-0.5 mile/500-800 m near the buoy line. People who don’t swim beyond the buoys say that Punta Sur is not a good place for snorkeling in Cozumel, don’t believe them and check it out for yourself! Cost: FREE
One of the most popular snorkeling in Cozumel spots since it lies only about 4 miles south of the cruise port. The current is mild, water is shallow so this is an excellent place for beginner snorkelers and for families with kids. You can get into the water easily through stair ladders. The best part of the reef is about 300 m from the shore and this is where the marine life is the most abundant. You will see some of the most colorful caribbean fish species like angelfish, snappers, anemonefish besides other creatures such as morays, eels and sea urchins.
Tips: There is an entrance fee, approx. 20-25 USD which doesn’t include equipment rental so bring own snorkel gear!
6)Hotel Cozumel & Resort Beach Club
For great snorkeling in Cozumel right in town, head to Hotel Cozumel & Resort. They’ve got a good lunch buffet for around $15 and a wide oceanfront with lounge chairs, hammocks, lockers for divers, & GREAT snorkeling!! As soon as you dip in, about 20 yards away is an underwater Chichen Itza! No one told us about it, and it took our breath away. Beyond that, follow the shoreline to the left for spectacular snorkeling.
Tips: If you want to snorkel right in Cozumel and discover an underwater Chichen Itza, go to Hotel Cozumel & Resort! Best suited for stronger swimmers. Cost: $15+
Things to do in Cozumel
Reasons to snorkel in Cozumel
1. No need of a lot of equipment
All you need is a mask, a snorkel and fins! If you go on a tour, they will provide you all the snorkel gears but we highly recommend to bring your own.
2. Accessible to everyone
Snorkeling in Cozumel is accessible to anyone, even young children. We just need a short demonstration and confidence being in the water. You really don’t even have to know how to swim if you wear a life jacket.
3. Cozumel is home to the second largest barrier reef system on Earth
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest barrier reef system in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, is located right off the shores of Cozumel. This is why snorkeling in Cozumel is so good!
4.You can do it during a day trip from Playa del Carmen or Cancun
You don’t have to stay in Cozumel to go snorkeling there. Those staying in Cancún, the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen or Tulum can visit the island for the day to go snorkeling.
5. It’s a healthy pastime
Snorkeling is good for you and your health. It improves breathing, cardiovascular health, joint mobility and overall fitness, yet isn’t tough on your body. Connecting with nature and exercising can also improve your mood.
6. It’s safe
If you follow the basic snorkeling instructions and rules, it’s a very safe activity. It’s important to stay hydrated, protect your skin, and never venture out on your own. It’s also a great introduction to those who are considering learning how to scuba dive.
7. Your whole family or group can do it together
Snorkeling in Cozumel is the perfect activity for families, couples or groups, since it is pretty much accessible to anyone. It’s a shared experience that creates memories that will last a lifetime.
Snorkeling in Cozumel
Find the best snorkeling tours in Cozumel
3 days in Cozumel
Book your trip
Are you ready to book your trip? .Here are the websites you can use to book your trip, get inspired with the best things to do in your destinations and travel smarter.
- Kiwi.com– A great website to book your flights. It has good airfares but you need to search regulaly as the prices are constantly changing
- Booking.com – The best website to book your accommodation, you can book and cancel free up until a certain point, especially when your plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – You can get some really nice places to stay here. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hotel.com – Huge choice of hotels with free cancellation up until a certain point. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Agoda – Agoda is very good if you are searching hotels, resorts, houses. They always have attractive promotions.
- Get your Guide – It is a platform where you will find tours and excurtions in Cozumel and every part of the world.
- Xcaret Group – Xcaret Group is the most famous theme park in the Riviera Maya. If you visit Cancun, check their prices here to get good discounts.
- Viator – If you need to find inspiration about things to do in Cozumel, check on Viator to see the tours they offer for diving and other activities
- Rental Cars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Yacht Rental – If you are thinking of spending time in a paradise beach destination with friends or family, this is a good option to enjoy the beach life.
- Sailing Trip – For cruising holidays, book a sailing trip, they have many trip destinations, lehghts and standing.
- Dive the World – If you are a diver, book a diving trip with them. They have dive packages everywhere in the world with very attractive prices.