Between its powder-white sands, ancient ruins and sparkling sea, Tulum is easily one of Mexico’s favourite beach destinations. Add to this year-round sunshine, dozens of secretive cenotes (sinkholes) and a cluster of nearby 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. Looking for the best places for snorkeling in Tulum? From secret cenotes to natural underwater parks, we’ve selected seven of the best places for snorkeling in Tulum.
Where are the best places for snorkeling in Tulum?
1. Tulum Ruins
You don’t need to travel far for epic snorkelling; if you’re staying in Tulum this archaeological site will be right on your doorstep. The waters here are clear and calm, and you don’t need to hop on a boat or kayak to bump into marine life either.
The Tulum reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System that stretches over 1000 km from Isla Contoy to Belize. Along the main beach stretch, there are barracudas, surgeonfish, sergeant majors and blue tangs. You might be able to spot rays too. To make the most of the trip, it’s worth booking a tour with a local agency.
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. Plus, it’s only a 20-minute drive from Tulum.
Definitely one of Tulum’s more unusual snorkeling spots, Xel-Ha is a natural water park in the heart of the Riviera Maya. The park is open all day 365 days a year and ticket prices include unlimited snorkeling, food and drinks. The protected cove is home to a wide variety of species, including parrotfish, angelfish, pufferfish, surgeonfish, sergeant major and snapper. Alongside snrokeling, you can also float down the Xel-Ha River in a tube and explore natural caves too.
A short and easy 25-minute drive from Tulum is Akumal, 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.
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.
5. Casa Cenote
This cenote is particularly popular with underwater photographers thanks to the quality of its natural light. It’s less than 10 km north of Tulum too, so extremely easy to reach. The pool stretches around 250 metres from the ocean into the jungle, with varying depths. It encompasses several natural caves, as well as mangroves home to huge nurseries of newly-hatched fish.
Cozumel is an easy 2.5-hour drive from the heart of Tulum, and well worth the effort. 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 coast 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. We’re not the only ones who think Cozumel Island offers epic snorkeling either, the famous oceanographer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, named it one of the best places in the world to dive too. The Chankanaab Park also boasts the world’s only inland reef.
It’s just under a two-hour drive to MUSA, the world’s largest underwater museum, but if you’ve got the time you won’t regret making the trip. There are more than 500 sculptures scattered across the park, with works from prominent artists from Mexico and around the world. The statues are made from coral-friendly materials and help stimulate coral growth and reduce the impact of visitors to other prominent dive sites. Punta Nizuc forms part of the museum too.