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Cozumel is a small island in Mexico, known for its beautiful white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and incredible reefs. The area is home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Meso-American Reef. It spans over 600 mi (965 km) of ocean, starting at the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and extends all the way to Honduras. Over 300 species of fish reside throughout Cozumel’s reefs. The island has a variety of snorkeling spots; some can be accessed independently and others will require you to join a tour. Continue reading to discover the best snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico.
How to Get to Cozumel
Cozumel is located in the Caribbean Sea, just 12 mi (19 km) off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It can be reached by flight or a short ferry ride from mainland Mexico. The easiest way to reach Cozumel is to fly directly into its airport, Cozumel International Airport (CZM).
If you can’t find a reasonably priced flight, then a flight into Cancun International Airport (CUN) is a great option as well. Cancun is the closest mainland airport and is located 51 mi (82 km) north of Cozumel. A shuttle can be taken from the airport to Playa del Carmen where a ferry can then be taken to the island. Ferries depart from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel daily. There are two ferry companies to choose from Winjet and the luxury ferry, Ultramar. The ferry takes about 45 minutes to reach Cozumel from the dock.
Best Time to Visit Cozumel
Cozumel has a tropical monsoon climate and generally sees a humid, rainy season from May to October and a cooler, dry season from November to April. The high season is from June to August and December to February. The island is the most crowded during these months and hotel rates are at their highest.
August to late October is the rainy season. Hurricanes are not unheard of and temperatures are in the 90s. If you’re willing to risk the weather, then you can find great deals on flights and accommodation during September and October.
The best time to visit Cozumel is from March to May. Children are still in school so crowds are fewer and the weather is pleasant. During this time, temperatures are warm and daytime highs are around 90° F (32° C).
Best Snorkeling in Cozumel:
Shore Snorkeling at Money Bar
Many of Cozumel’s best snorkeling locations require a boat but the Dzul-Ha Reef is an exception. The Dzul-Ha Reef is an excellent offshore snorkeling location and is some of the best snorkeling in Cozumel. The locals refer to the area simply as Money Bar. Money Bar is an incredible spot that requires minimal effort. The area is shallow and it’s a great place for beginners and kids.
The majority of the fish stay right next to the shore. You can expect to walk into the water and instantly be surrounded by large schools of fish. On occasion, sea turtles visit the area as well. Jellyfish and sea urchins are sometimes present, especially during warmer months, so be aware of your surroundings.
Money Bar is located on Cozumel’s west side, directly in front of the Money Bar Beach Club. The beach club has a restaurant, bar, and lounge chairs. It also has locker and snorkel rentals. You can expect to pay roughly $201 MXN ($10 USD) for two chairs and a locker.
Explore Las Casitas
If you wish to explore off the beaten path, then Las Casitas is your spot. Las Casitas is a beautiful stretch of water that’s tucked away off the main road. The area is quiet and much less touristic than other locations. The shoreside is rocky but it’s still a great place to relax and go for a peaceful swim.
Las Casitas is for a more advanced snorkeler. It’s located directly offshore but the water here is deep and can be choppy due to the boats in the area. It’s also secluded so I wouldn’t advise going alone. If you plan on spending some time here, you’ll want to bring your own snorkel or stop at a dive shop along the way.
Las Casitas can be a bit of a challenge to find. You will want to travel north from the ferry on Avenida Rafael E. Melgar where you will eventually see the naval barracks on your right. Continue until you reach Avenida Antonio Gonzales Fernandez (Airport Road). After passing Airport Road, you will see a block of residences on your left. The last one has a fence and a concrete path next to it that leads down to the water. A set of stairs is built into the rocks that can be used to enter the water.
I suggest checking out the nearby beach as well. If you head back to Airport Road and go south for a short distance, you’ll findPlaya Las Casitas. Playa Las Casitas is a popular stretch of beach with multiple restaurants and additional snorkeling.
Go On a Cozumel Snorkel Tour
Many of the best snorkeling destinations in Cozumel are only accessible by boat so it will be necessary to book either a tour or private charter. I recommend a tour that visits the Palancar and Colombia reefs and El Cielo sandbar. Many tours will also include drinks and lunch.
The Palancar Reef is a large coral reef on the southwest side of Cozumel and is a favorite of island-goers. It’s about 3 mi (4.8 km) long and is made up of multiple dive and snorkel sites. The water varies in depth and ranges from 50 to 115 ft (15-35 m). There are lots of beautiful fish in the area but many of the colorful corals are deeper down and only accessible to divers.
The Colombia Reef is a more shallow reef than Palancar and has a gentler current. It’s very biodiverse and is a great place to snorkel. It’s one of the farther reefs to reach and because of this, it is less disturbed. The reef is surrounded by a major reef line, a mangrove, and a beach. This natural barrier protects the reef and makes it less susceptible to damage by storms. You can expect to see a great variety of sea life and corals here.
El Cielo, meaning “heaven” in Spanish, is a sandbar with magnificent blue water. The deepest point is only about 5 ft (1.5 m) and the sands are soft and white. It’s a gorgeous swimming area. The warm, shallow waters and lack of current make it a great place to relax, float around, and enjoy the sights. The water is crystal clear and it’s easy to see the many starfish and occasional stingray.
Other Tips for Visting Cozumel
- Bring your own snorkel. There are many dive shops around the island that rent equipment but you’ll save time and money by bringing your own.
- Pack reef safe sunscreen. Prevent pollution of the ocean’s delicate ecosystems by bringing biodegradable sunscreen.
- Consider renting a car on the island. Taxis are available but can get expensive.
- Exchange money to pesos. Many places will take cards but there are still some shops and restaurants that are cash only. You’ll also get a better taxi rate when using pesos.
Where to Stay in Cozumel
Grand Park Royal Cozumel
Grand Park Royal is an affordable, all-inclusive hotel option. It’s a great value for the money and is conveniently located about 5 minutes south of the main pier. Grand Park Royal is a large resort with a central pool, two infinity pools, and multiple restaurants. There is a good selection of food with all meals and drinks included.
Secrets Aura Cozumel
Secrets is a luxury, adults-only resort that has locations all over the world. The resort is the largest all-inclusive on Cozumel and is fairly secluded. It’s great for those looking to get away from it all. It has an incredible spa, swim-up bars, and its own private beach.
Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa has a private beach, 2 outdoor pools, a fitness center, 2 tennis courts, and a variety of restaurants. The hotel offers snorkel tours to the above-mentioned reefs and even has its own dive shop on-site.
Do you have anything to add to this list of the best snorkeling in Cozumel? I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Looking for more things to do in Mexico? Continue to my post “The 3 Best Mayan Ruins Near Tulum.”
Planning a trip? Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. I recommend World Nomads. For more of my travel favorites, click here.