With a 19 km stretch of powder-white sands and sparkling sea, Cancun is easily one of the world’s favourite beach destinations. Add to this year-round sunshine, dozens of secretive cenotes (sinkholes) and a cluster of remote islands, and it isn’t hard to understand its popularity as a snorkeling destination too. Snorkeling in Mexico is a good idea most of the time, but the best action is between October and April. The Yucatan Season’s rainy season is June to October and accounts for 90% of the annual rainfall. Looking for the best places for snorkeling in Cancun? We’ve cherry-picked the best of the best below.
Where are the best places for snorkeling in Cancun?
1. Punta Nizuc
You don’t need to travel far for epic snorkelling – Punta Niztuc is conveniently located in the Cancun hotel zone. It’s part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second-largest reef too. It features more than 30 different types of coral and 37 types of soft corals, over 230 different aquatic flora, more than 100 species of fish, four types of sea turtles ad 43 different kinds of molluscs. It’s also home to a handful of the MUSA’s sculptures, including ‘Understanding’ by Elier Amado Gil and ‘The Gardener of Hope’, by Jason deCaires Taylor. There’s a floating platform which you can use as a base while exploring too.
It’s a popular stop-off for Caribbean cruises, but despite its popularity, it’s easy to avoid the crowds. Head to the south and west coasts for the best snorkeling conditions as the northern and eastern shorelines tend to have rough waters and stronger undersea currents. On an average day, you should bump into turtles, stingrays and sea stars. Jaques Cousteau, the famous oceanographer, named it as one of the best places in the world to dive too. The Chankanaab Park also boasts the world’s only inland reef.
3. Isla Mujeres
Another popular island, Isla Mujeres is just five miles long and half a mile wide so it’s easy enough to see the best of it on a day trip. It’s also only 20 minutes from Cancun, so you can come back more for more if you can’t get enough. Garrafon Park offers some of the best snorkeling since it sits on a section of the longest coral reef in the northern hemisphere. El Farito is another popular snorkeling spot, featuring hundreds of colourful corals and darting fish.
MUSA is the world’s largest underwater museum. Opened in 2009 in Quintana Roo, it’s a short 25-minute drive to the site from Cancun. There are more than 500 sculptures scattered across the park, with work’s from prominent artists from Mexico and around the world. The statues are made from coral-friendly materials and actually help stimulate coral growth and reduce the impact of visitors to other prominent dive sites. Punta Nizuc forms part of the museum too.
Akumal is a popular spot on the Mayan Riviera because it’s one of the best places on the coastline to swim with green turtles and stingrays. The area is split into two sections: the seagrass beds (where you’ll find turtles and stingrays) located close to the beach and the barrier reef located 250 metres from the shore. The seagrass beds are particularly popular with turtles and you’re almost always guaranteed to spot a handful of them if the conditions are right. You’ll need to keep at least a three metres distance from the turtles though since this is where they come to rest and feed. You’ll also need to snorkel with a guide here.
If you choose to snorkel along the reef, you’ll get to see shoals of grunts, blue tang, parrotfish and butterflyfish, as well as yellow stingrays and spotted eagle rays.
Cancun’s sparkling coastline gets all the attention, but if you’ve tired of the sea there are hundreds of secretive cenotes worth discovering. Cenotes dos Ojos is one of the most popular and ripe for underwater adventures. It comprises two pools or ‘eyes’ (Ojos) averaging 24°C (75°F) all year round. Divers will need to be fairly experienced as the caves require fairly technical skills, but it’s an easy place to snorkel. Plus, the water visibility is some of the best in the world and boasts spectacular light effects that bounce off the cavern walls.
7. Isla Contay
Located a few miles off the coast of Cancun, Isla Contoy is a small island that offers the best chances of snorkeling with nurse sharks in the region. It’s a protected natural habitat and accessible only by boat. Make sure you book ahead as the island caps numbers at 200 visitors per day to control the impact of tourism on the ecosystem. It’s home to 152 bird species, three endangered species of sea turtles and thousands of tropical fish. January to April is the busiest time to visit but offers the swimming conditions. All boat trips usually include a buffet lunch and snacks too.