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Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities at many top beach destinations in Mexico. The waters off the country’s coastline are filled with all sorts of colorful marine life, but of course, there are some places that are better than others. If you hope to plan a trip focused around being in the water, these spots are the best of the best when it comes to snorkeling in Mexico.
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Cozumel is arguably the top spot for snorkeling in all of Mexico, internationally renowned for its crystal clear blue waters and proximity to the Mesoamerican Reef, home to 105 different types of coral and 262 species of fish. The island sits just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, accessed by flight or ferry, with hourly trips to and from Playa del Carmen. If you don’t have your own gear, there are plenty of places to rent equipment and swim out from the shore. Or, you may want to hire a guide to take you out, with snorkel gear often included. The underwater viewing conditions are particularly ideal at Punta Sur or Chankanaab National Park, which not only offers snorkeling and diving, but swimming with dolphins, walking trails, a restaurant and bar, and a lagoon with a large iguana population.
There are a number of fantastic opportunities for outdoor adventures in La Paz, including snorkeling in its crystal clear waters. The giant whale shark, the world’s largest fish, likes to feed here in the Sea of Cortez in an area that’s just 15 minutes by boat from the Malecón, or waterfront area. Whale sharks are frequently spotted – in fact, they can be seen every month of the year except June, although early winter to late spring is considered to be the peak whale shark season. The gentle fish mostly eat plankton and don’t seem to mind the small numbers of humans that snorkel nearby to marvel at the magnificent creatures. It is illegal for private vessels to visit the whale shark areas, which means you’ll have to join a tour. Authorized tour operators and snorkelers are required to follow strict rules to protect the sharks.
Isla Espiritu Santo
Another opportunity from the Malecon in La Paz is to catch a boat tour to Isla Espiritu Santo via Baja Sur Tours. Along the way, you just might spot a whale, a pod of dolphins, rays, a whale shark or all of the above. Isla Espiritu Santo and the surrounding islands are a designated national park and a UNESCO biosphere reserve which results in some of the best snorkeling opportunities around. The calm, clear turquoise-hued waters are teeming with a wide variety of colorful fish and sea lions. In fact, there is a sea lion colony with hundreds of animals that sometimes swim right up to snorkelers, turning somersaults and engaging in all types of play.
Cabo Pulmo National Park
Cabo Pulmo National Park is an exciting destination in Mexico, offering the very best snorkeling in the Cabo San Lucas area and home to some 800 varieties of tropical fish, invertebrates and marine mammals. It fronts a sparsely populated area of the coast and is home to the only hard coral reef on the North American continent. California sea lions are protected within this zone, as are endangered scallops and sea cucumbers. The park recommends snorkeling only with a guide, though you’ll have several different options. In the park, Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort is the only tour operator, offering two snorkeling tours each day. You can also join a tour from Cabo San Lucas, a good choice for those who don’t plan on renting a car as the park is a two-hour drive from the city.
Akumal Bay, located on the Riviera Maya between Playa del Carmen and Tulum facing a stunning white sand beach lined with coconut trees, is another excellent choice for snorkeling. Here you can swim with stingrays and green turtles that come to feed on the abundant seagrass beds. As the animals are used to a human presence and aren’t easily startled, you can often swim right alongside them. If you’re a beginner you may want to join a tour, otherwise it’s fairly easy to snorkel independently here, heading to the left when facing the beach to get close to the reef. Just plan to arrive as early as possible for a more tranquil experience as this is a very popular spot.
Cancun Underwater Museum (Museo Subacuatico de Arte)
In Cancun, you can snorkel in one of only a few underwater museums in the world. MUSA, which stands for Museo Subacuatico de Arte, features an artificial reef with nearly 500 sculptures, all sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor. The ever-changing environment of the sea alters the appearance of the statues on a continual basis. The sculptures require algae to provide a base for the fragile coral and food for fish, and some of them have already begun to display coral growth as the artificial reef helps to promote the growth and formation of natural reefs, protecting them from strong currents.
Huatulco is located on the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca and features a string of picturesque bays, a number of which are particularly pristine and unspoiled with a network of sandy beaches and coral reefs providing some outstanding snorkeling opportunities. The corals attract all types of sea life, from moray eels and starfish to parrotfish, sea horses and octopi. There are a variety of rays here too, that like to hang out in the sandy bottoms, while the rich plankton draw especially magnificent, large sea creatures like whale sharks, humpback whales and manta rays.
Cenote Dos Ojos, Tulum
There are a significant number of natural sinkholes on the Yucatan Peninsula, which are referred to as cenotes. These cenotes offer a unique snorkeling experience as most are filled with freshwater, which means you’ll discover all sorts of aquatic life that you wouldn’t find in the sea. Centos Dos Ojos is considered one of the very best for snorkelers, made up of two sinkholes that are linked by a long, narrow cavern – when the water level is high enough, you can swim through them. The water is crystal clear, and while there are few fish, you’ll be able to view other wildlife like bats, iguanas and birds as well as stalactites and stalagmites.