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Cozumel is an island located in the Caribbean Sea, just twelve miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It can be reached by flight or a short ferry ride from mainland Mexico. It’s 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 miles of ocean, starting at the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and extending down to Honduras. Over 300 species of fish reside throughout Cozumel’s waters. It’s truly a snorkeler’s paradise. Cozumel has a variety of snorkeling spots; some can be accessed independently and others will require you to join a tour. There are many dive shops around the island that sell/rent equipment but I recommend that you bring your own. I found it to be more time and cost-effective. You will also want to bring biodegradable sunscreen in order to prevent pollution of the delicate ecosystems you will be viewing. Continue reading to discover the best snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico:

Angel fish swimming at Dzul Ha Reef

Best Snorkeling in Cozumel:

Money Bar

Many of Cozumel’s best snorkeling locations require a boat ride but the Dzul-Ha Reef is an exception. The Dzul-Ha Reef is an excellent spot for off-shore snorkeling. The area is shallow and it is a great place for the beginner snorkeler. The locals refer to the area simply as Money Bar. It’s 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 offers locker and snorkel rentals. You can expect to pay roughly $10 USD for two chairs and a locker. Money Bar is an incredible spot that requires minimal effort. The majority of the fish stay right next to the shore. You can expect to walk into the crystal clear waters and instantly be surrounded by large schools of tropical fish. Sea turtles can also occasionally be spotted here. Jellyfish and sea urchins are sometimes present, especially during warmer months, so be aware of your surroundings. I recommend bringing swim shoes as to not step on an urchin.

Money Bar Beach Club in Cozumel Mexico

Las Casitas

If you are interested in doing some exploring and would like to get off the beaten path, then Las Casitas is your spot. Las Casitas is a beautiful stretch of water that is 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. I would recommend this spot to a more advanced snorkeler. Las Casitas is located directly offshore but the waters are much deeper than those at Money Bar and are rougher due to boats coming and going in the area. The area is also very 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. It can be found by traveling north from the ferry on Avenida Rafael E. Melgar. You will eventually see the naval barracks on your right and will continue until you reach Avenida Antonio Gonzales Fernandez (Airport Road). You will go slightly past Airport Road and will then 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. If you are looking for fewer rocks and more sand, head back to Airport Road and go south for a short distance. Playa Las Casitas is a popular stretch of beach that offers some additional snorkeling as well as some restaurants if you would like to grab a bite to eat.

Snorkeling at Las Casitas in Cozumel

Cozumel Snorkeling Tour

Many of the best snorkeling destinations in Cozumel are only accessible by boat so it will be necessary to book either a group or private tour. After doing some research, I chose to book a group tour with Cozumel Cruise Excursions, which I highly recommend. The tour included a visit to the two most famous reefs, Palancar and Colombia reefs, as well as the El Cielo sandbar. Our guide was professional, knowledgeable and I felt safe at all times. The tour was roughly four hours long and included snacks, drinks and the use of a mask and fins. Tour cost is $50 USD.

Palancar Reef

The Palancar Reef is a large coral reef on the southwest side of Cozumel and is a favorite of island-goers. It’s about three miles long and is made up of multiple dive and snorkel sites. The waters vary in depth and range from 50 to 115 feet. Our group didn’t spend a lot of time here since the conditions weren’t great on our tour day. The water was choppy and the visibility was somewhat poor. I did see quite a few beautiful tropical fish but it was somewhat disappointing. I would really like to return to this is a site under better conditions since it is such a talked-about location. Palancar may be a better site for divers, as many of the bright, colorful corals are deeper down.

Best snorkeling in Cozumel: Fish at Palancar reef

Columbia Reef

The Colombia Reef has a gentler current and is a somewhat more shallow reef than Palancar. It’s incredibly biodiverse and is a great place to snorkel. It is one of the farther reefs to reach and because of this, it is less disturbed than other locations. 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

El Cielo, meaning “heaven” in Spanish, is a sandbar with the most magnificent blue water. It is only accessible by boat and it alone made the tour worth it. The deepest point is only about five-feet and the sands are soft, white, and powdery. It’s an absolutely 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 all the beautiful starfish and the occasional stingray. It was a great way to end the tour.

Starfish found snorkeling at El Cielo

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 conveniently located about five 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 and all meals and drinks are 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 really get away from it all. It has an incredible spa, swim-up bars, and it’s own private beach.

The above-mentioned snorkeling locations are just a small taste of what Cozumel has to offer. It’s an incredible island and I left wishing I had more time there.

Do you have a great location to add to this list? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Looking for other amazing snorkeling destinations? Discover the beautiful Exuma in my post “Six Fun Things to Do in Exuma, Bahamas.”

Planning a trip? Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. I recommend World Nomads. For more of my favorite travel planning resources, click here.

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