Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Are you wondering where you can go snorkeling in Playa del Carmen? In this post, we have put together the best snorkeling spots, including how to get there. Playa del Carmen may not be the best place for snorkeling in the Riviera Maya, but if you know where to go you can find some great places to snorkel.
Snorkeling in Playa del Carmen - South of Playacar
Although you can put on your snorkeling gear and snorkel anywhere in Playa del Carmen, there really isn’t much to see along most of the coast. The one exception is to the south of Playacar. You will need to go right to the end of the beach where it gets rocky and swim out. We would not recommend doing this with children or if you are not a strong swimmer. It is also highly recommended to go always with a buddy (at least one other person) and have a buoy with you. Stay close to the shore, because boats are passing by.
What can you see?
Right in front of Playa del Carmen, the coral reef (second largest in the world) is laying roughly 150 - 200 meters offshore at a depth of 10-15 meters. That is why snorkeling there is not the best experience due to the depth and distance to the beach. When going south of Playacar more rocks will appear which are a natural habitat to many tropical fish, Caribbean spiny lobsters octopus, crab and you might encounter stingrays.
Do not walk on the rocks since they are sharp and also partially full of surgeons. We don’t want you to get a bloody toe or worse.
How to get to the snorkeling spot in Playacar
To get here can be tricky. You can either get a taxi to take you into Playacar and then right to the end. Or you can go by bike. Enter through the main entrance at the end of 5th Avenue and then cycle right along. The third option would be walking down the beach starting at the ferry terminal at Parque Fundadores in Central Playa del Carmen.
The Best Snorkeling Near Playa del Carmen - Puerto Morelos
If you have the time to travel then the best snorkeling near Playa del Carmen can be found in Puerto Morelos. You have two options here, you can do a tour, or swim out to the reef in the swimming area yourself. Please inform yourself about the restricted areas and the strict rules of the Marine Park of Puerto Morelos.
If you want to take a tour you will easily find a company to take you if you just make your way to the dock. Most tours cost $25 USD and for that, you will be provided with a mask, snorkel, fins and a life jacket. They will take you to two different locations on the reef and a professional certified (we and the local guides take courses) tour guide will guide you along the reef pointing out anything exciting he or she sees.
If you prefer to ‘do-it-yourself’ then the only place you can access the reef is by heading to Ojo de Agua. From here you can swim out to a part of the reef. You will need to be careful not to swim out of the cornered off swimming area though as it can be dangerous due to the passing boats.
What makes the snorkeling in Puerto Morelos so special is just how shallow the reef is. You can float right over the top or snorkel alongside it and have excellent vision, without having to dive down. The water is often dead calm, making it great for anyone who is nervous about swimming in open water. When snorkeling life jackets are mandatory.
What can you see snorkeling in Puerto Morelos?
Well, there are over 669 species of marine life living there. It is very common to see stingrays, turtles, permit fish, queen shell, groupers, lobsters and barracudas.
How to get to Puerto Morelos from Playa del Carmen
To get from Playa del Carmen to Puerto Morelos you can take a taxi, ADO bus, or a Colectivo from Calle 2 heading to Cancun. Puerto Morelos is the stop in between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. When you exit the bus or colectivo you will need to turn right onto the main road leading into the town and here you will see taxis. A taxi will cost you $35 pesos and walking will take you roughly 20 minutes.
Other places to snorkel near to Playa del Carmen
Xpu-Ha beach is just 20-minutes from Playa del Carmen and one of the nicest beaches you can go to. It has great beach clubs and the beach is one of the cleanest and most underdeveloped in the area. It’s a great beach to spend the day chilling out with the family and doing some snorkeling.
The coral formations are in patches here separated by sandy stretches. So there is plenty to explore. You will need to be careful not to swim in the shallow coral parts as you run the risk of touching the coral, and also potentially hurting yourself. There is ‘fire’ coral here which is going to hurt if you come into contact with it.
What can you see?
As well as colorful fish there is a good chance of seeing sting rays and even the occasional turtle here.
How to get to Xpu Ha
To get to Xpu Ha from Playa del Carmen it couldn’t be easier. You can either take a colectivo from Calle 2 or alternatively, you can take a taxi. If you take a colectivo you will have to walk down to the beach from the main road.
Cozumel is the number 1 diving spot in the Riviera Maya, but it is also great for snorkeling. You have 2 options here you can take the public ferry over and then head to one of the beach clubs from which you can swim out to the reef or you can do one of the Cozumel snorkeling tours from Playa del Carmen.
If you are going over to Cozumel just to snorkel then we would recommend booking a tour before you go (it can get a bit overwhelming when you get bombarded with salespeople getting off the ferry) to save stress. If you want a relaxing day at a beach club and to be able to just swim out on your own then the best place to go to is Money Bar. From here you can swim out to the reef, just look for the other snorkelers.
If you do decide to go without a boat you will need to be a confident swimmer and also take some kind of marker so the passing boats can see you. We recommend a colored dry bag that you can swim with.
If you want the best snorkeling in Cozumel we would recommend taking a tour though as the boat will be able to access far more places than you can swim to, and the captain and tour guides will keep you safe. Cozumel is well known for its strong currents (drift diving) so please be very careful in the water. If in doubt ask a local.
What can you see?
In Cozumel, you will always see a lot of very bright and colorful fish. But other things will depend on the season, what part of the reef you are snorkeling on, and a bit of luck. Cozumel is regarded as one of the best diving spot in the world thanks to its excellent visibility. During December to March it is eagle ray season, the rest of the year you are very likely to see turtles.
How to get to Cozumel
From Playa del Carmen you can take a snorkel tour with us and we will arrange everything for you. Alternatively, you can simply hop on the ferry from Playa del Carmen. The journey lasts around 40 minutes and you can find the timetable here. Once you get off the ferry take a taxi to the Money Bar. Don’t pay more than $150 pesos the fair should be $110 pesos, but the taxi drivers sometimes like to take advantage of tourists not knowing the correct fares.
In Tulum, you will find the reef about 300 meters from the shore. You will need to book a Tulum snorkel tour. The boat will take you out to the reef and you will get to snorkel in two different areas.
What can you see?
As the reef in Tulum is part of the Great Mayan Reef system you can expect to see a lot of colorful fish, huge barracudas, and if you are lucky you might even see a turtle or two.
How to get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
From Playa del Carmen you can take a Taxi, ADO bus or a colectivo from Calle 2. You can ask the taxi to take you directly to the beach where you can book a tour or swim out. If you take a colectivo or the bus they will drop you in Tulum Town. From here you will find plenty of tour agencies where you can book a tour and they will take you to the beach. Or take a taxi for $80 pesos. If you want to spend the day exploring Tulum the best way to do this is by renting a bike for the day. It will cost around $100 pesos for the day and you can use the bike to see the Mayan Ruins, Tulum’s beaches, and maybe even a cenote.
Snorkeling in Cenotes
An alternative to snorkeling in the sea is to go snorkeling in a freshwater cenote.
Not sure what a cenote is? Take a read of this post we wrote explaining exactly what a cenote is.
There are so many cenotes that you can explore in the Riviera Maya, you really will be spoilt for choice. Although some Cenotes are better than others for snorkeling. The Cenotes that we particularly recommend for snorkeling in are:
What can you see?
This really varies from cenote to cenote. However, you will see freshwater fish, possible freshwater turtles, incredibly underwater cave formations, and out of this world rays of light. Plus getting to snorkel in a cave is pretty awesome.
How to get to Cenotes
Most of the quieter cenotes you will either need to hire a car or driver to get to. Or even better take a tour. If you don't mind sharing the water with the masses though there are several cenotes accessible from the main road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum like the well known Dos Ojos. You can just take a colectivo from Calle 2 and tell the driver where you want to go.
GENERAL REMINDER WHEN SNORKELING: DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING - DO NOT TAKE SOUVENIRS - DO NOT STAND UP ON CORAL - USE LIFE JACKETS - DO NOT PUT SUNSCREEN ON BEFORE SNORKELING, THESE ARE VERY HARMFUL TO THE FRAGILE ECOSYSTEM - USE RASH GUARDS - SNORKELING IS A PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND OUT OF OUR EXPERIENCE MANY TIMES UNDERESTIMATED - DO TURNS OF 20-30 MINUTES AND GET REST - DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL.
We really hope you have found our best snorkeling around Playa del Carmen guide useful. Here in the Riviera Maya, we are truly blessed with some great snorkeling. As always, it would be our privilege to take you to any of these snorkeling spots mentioned, just use the chat function to ask any questions you may have, we are always happy to help.
If you are interested in a snorkel tour from Playa del Carmen we offer the following tours: