Don’t find it the hard way: not all places in Tulum are good for snorkeling. I love snorkeling and the underwater world, so I was very excited to visit Tulum, on the Riviera Maya that has the second biggest barrier reef on Earth along its coast: the Mesoamerican Reef. But snorkeling in Tulum is not as easy as taking your mask and snorkel and go in the water from the beach. I have researched and selected places reputed to have the best snorkeling in Tulum and nearby.
I didn’t have time to try all of them, but the places I visited for snorkeling in Tulum (or scuba diving) were fun, and each provided a different experience!
I have listed below the sports for snorkeling in Tulum and also other destinations that are a bit further away but worth considering for a day trip.
Snorkeling in Tulum
Snorkeling in Cenotes
A cenote is a sinkhole filled with fresh water from the underground rivers and streams. They can be found all around the Yucatan Peninsula, and some are better than others for snorkeling.
One cenote can look very different from another. Some are completely underground; others are semi-opened like caves or even entirely opened like a river. The water clarity was their common point: in all the cenotes, the visibility was incredible.
When in Tulum, snorkeling a cenote is a must- do. Or even better, you could do scuba diving in a cenote.
Learn more about the best cenotes for snorkeling here or click here to join a tour that will take you to three cenotes* for snorkeling, from Tulum.
Snorkeling in Sian Ka’an
I loved our tour around Sian Ka’an Reserve. It’s the best place to go if you want to reconnect with nature in Tulum. We didn’t choose the snorkeling option for our tour, but it’s an excellent opportunity to do snorkeling in Tulum on the Mesoamerican reef. From the comments I heard, the reef was more beautiful there than in Akumal, but not as impressive as Cozumel.
You can click here to book a tour* that will take you around Sian Ka’an reserve and to a snorkeling spot on the reef. You may also be interested in reading more about our experience in Sian Ka’an Reserve.
I prefer pure nature than a theme park, even if it’s a natural one, so we chose not to visit Xel-Ha. Plus, I’m not sure how it can be an eco-park when it offers the activity to swim with captive dolphins so I wouldn’t give them my money. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recommend reading these facts about dolphin captivity.
However, I could not keep Xel-Ha off the list. The cove of Xel-Ha is a reputed spot for snorkeling in a cenote and on the reef at the same place, with the opportunity to see a high number of beautiful fish and fish species.
You can click here for more information and to book your ticket*. And if you do visit Xel-Ha Eco-Park, please think about leaving feedback on the negative image of dolphin captivity. You can read more about what to expect at Xel-Ha here.
Snorkeling near Tulum (day trips)
Snorkeling in Akumal
Akumal means turtle in Maya, so I let you guess what you can see there…! But it’s not only about turtles. At the end of Half Moon Bay, in front of La Buena Vida, you can see coral reefs. It’s not the best snorkeling I’ve done, but it will please those who dream of seeing a sea turtle for real.
If you want to go there by yourself, check out this map of the snorkeling sites, and read about our experience in Akumal here. If you don’t have a car, you can catch a Collectivo from Tulum to Akumal, get off at the entrance of the town and walk to the beach.
Alternatively, you can book a tour from Tulum*.
Yal Ku Lagoon is another place in Akumal reputed for snorkeling. I haven’t been there, but the photos reminded me of Casa Cenote in Tulum. If you don’t have a car, it’s a long and not particularly nice walk from the colectivo (Google Maps says about 25 minutes), so you probably want to take a taxi.
Snorkeling the Reef in Cozumel
Cozumel was one of my best coral dive ever. This place is incredible. So if you love snorkeling (or scuba diving, it could be a great place to try it – check this out*!), you should make an effort to go to Cozumel even if it’s not in Tulum.
You can reach Cozumel by a catching a ferry in Playa del Carmen. We rented a car to go there from Tulum, but you may prefer to catch the colectivo or the ADO bus. The ferry station is only a short walk from the bus stops. Or if you don’t want to bother with organising transportation, you can join a tour* that will pick you up at your hotel in Tulum and arrange everything on Cozumel (click here for more info*).
Once on Cozumel, you can snorkel from shore or join a boat tour. Both have advantages. If you’re a beginner, I recommend booking a tour even if you swim from the beach. A local guide will be helpful to help you find the best places and creatures to see underwater and will provide an extra layer of safety.
Snorkeling from shore is cheaper than joining a boat, and it’s sometimes better as you may be in shallower waters. There’s a beautiful wall not too far from shore on the north side of the island, but the current pushes you out to the sea so only experienced snorkelers should try it. The south of the island will be easier for beginners as the current pushes back to the beach. These places are often listed in the best places where to snorkel: Dzul Ha, Chankanaab Park, and Corona Beach.
To compare the boat tours, I recommend asking these questions:
- How many people are on board?
- Is the boat a catamaran (less movement)?
- How long is the ride to the reef and are there extra stops on the way to pick up more people?
- Are there any additional fees like the conservation tax?
- Are food and drinks provided?
If I had to pick a boat tour, I’d opt for a small sailing catamaran like this one*.
Snorkeling the Underwater Museum in Cancun
Diving the underwater museum in Cancun was a very original experience. There are a few galleries that are open only for snorkeling. Click here for more information about the Underwater Museum.
You’ll likely fly from and out of Cancun when you visit Tulum, so it would be best to organise your snorkeling trip when you’re in the north of the region. Otherwise, it takes less than two hours to drive from Tulum to Cancun, or the ADO bus will take you up there.
Snorkeling with whale sharks
The whale shark season is during the warmest months, from June to mid-September. Swimming with whale sharks – the largest fish in the ocean – is a bucket-list item for many travelers. So if you’re traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula at that time, you should consider seizing the opportunity!
The whale sharks can be found in the north of the coast, around Isla Mujeres, Contoy, and Holbox. You can travel to Cancun and take a tour from there, or directly book a tour from Tulum (click here for info*).
The best time for snorkeling in Tulum
The best time for snorkeling in Tulum, and anywhere else, is when there is no wind. Statistics from the Tulum region show that the probability of wind is higher during the first semester of the year, but wind can happen all year round. It can change from one day to another, or even during the day. Cozumel could still be protected during a windy day.
If I were traveling to Tulum and wanted to do snorkeling as a priority, I would choose to go there during summer for the whale shark season.
Have you done snorkeling in Tulum? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Tulum?
Tulum is a town in the Yucatan Peninsula, on the East Coast of Mexico. The closest airport is Cancun, and it takes just under two hours to get there.
We stayed for a short week in Tulum during our two-week holidays in the Yucatan Peninsula.
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.