Snorkeling in Cancun
You glide over the reef, the cool water contrasting with the warm sun on your back. With your ears below the waterline, your head is filled with the gentle sound of your breath passing in and out of the snorkel.
A glimmer of color catches your eye - a blue tang darting out from behind a huge fan coral. You suck in a deep breath, and dive down to take a closer look.
No Experience Needed
Snorkeling is a simple activity that doesn’t require a whole lot of training or practice. Strap on your mask, pull on some fins, and hit the water! You’ll be exploring in no time. The snorkel lets you keep your eyes on the seafloor, and in Cancun’s clear waters there’s plenty to see - fish, coral, turtles, and other exciting finds just waiting for you to notice them.
The Best Spots to Explore
Snorkeling in Cancun can be as simple as taking your mask and fins into a swimmer-friendly stretch of water. But if you want to experience some of the more incredible sights, you’ll need to book a tour to one of the following spots.
The Underwater Museum
This man-made wonder is a sight to behold! Over 500 statues rise up from the seabed, each one slowly becoming part of the reef as its colonized by corals and algae. The Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA), as it’s officially known, was started in 2011, and is the largest underwater museum in the world. It’s an environmentally friendly alternative to the nearby Manchones Reef, which suffers from high levels of tourism.
Swim With Whale Sharks
If you’re in Cancun during the summer months (June through August), your visit lines up with the annual whale shark migration. Take advantage of this timing by scheduling a tour to dive in and swim alongside these gentle giants. The largest fish in the world, a whale shark can be as long and as heavy as a school bus. They’re slow moving filter feeders, making them ideal (though gigantic) diving companions.
This small fishing island sits at the edge of the Manchones Reef, a short boat ride north from Cancun. It makes an excellent home base for your snorkeling adventures, with the reef being just one attraction in its clear waters. Isla Mujeres is only a few miles long, so you can explore most of its ground in a single day. Who knows what memories you’ll make there!
The southern point of the Hotel Zone, Punta Nizuc is also home to some of the best free snorkeling in Cancun. Just be sure to bring a life jacket, as it’s required for swimming in the marine park. Punta Nizuc is also home to several of MUSA’s underwater sculptures, and makes an excellent point for exploring the Mesoamerican Reef.
The second-largest reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef is a true wonder of the natural world. Home to 30 types of coral, over 200 species of aquatic plants, and a hundred species of fish, it’s no surprise this beautiful reef is one of the top destinations for aquatic tourism.
These incredible natural swimming holes are one of the signature wonders of the Yucatan. Created eons ago when limestone bedrock sank into underground pools, Cenotes are essentially natural freshwater wells. You’ll be able to explore their cavernous depths, or simply gawk at the view of the forest as you look up from the cool fresh water. Note that exploring cenotes can be dangerous for the unfamiliar, so be sure to pay attention to your guide!
Planning Your Trip
While free snorkeling options (like Punta Nizuc) exist, you may want to consider booking a tour to see some of the area’s grandest sights:
Before You Go
Snorkeling is a low-impact activity, but it still involves a lot of time in the water! Be sure you’re ready to do a lot of swimming - and maybe plan a more relaxing activity for the other half of your day. Snorkeling also tends to have you spending a lot of time in the sun, so bring plenty of eco-friendly, waterproof sunscreen with you.
You Should Also Know…
Coral reefs are exceedingly beautiful - but also extremely fragile. Never touch the coral - not only can it damage the reef, but many corals are sharp enough to cause serious injury.
You’ll be able to rent snorkeling equipment with any of the professional snorkeling tours, but you may want to consider purchasing your own mask and fins to use at your leisure.
For a unique experience, consider booking a night snorkeling trip. Many fish are more active at night, and it’ll give you a whole new appreciation for the ocean.
Underwater cameras can make for some incredible photos. If you already have a favorite camera, you might want to consider adding a simple waterproof bag for your adventure.
Snorkeling & Water Tours