Very few places in the world can rival the excellent snorkeling and scuba diving adventure possibilities in Mexico’s sunny Cancun. This destination is a temple for all kinds of water sports. It’s also an incomparable location for snorkeling due to the perfect water conditions, the marine biodiversity and the superb underwater topography.
Snorkeling in Cancun is one of those activities that sea-lovers place on their lifetime bucket list. And it’s one that you will remember with fond memories for the rest of your life if you take the plunge and snorkel here.
Just imagine it. You’re sipping away on a drink on a private yacht, about to reach your next snorkeling spot, on a sunny Mexican day under a clear blue sky.
If you are looking for a complete guide to snorkeling in Cancun, look no further – you’re in the right place! Not only do we give you our top ten snorkeling spots in Cancun, we also explain the best time to snorkel, the water conditions, and what you will see.
But first, here’s why snorkeling in Cancun is such a must do activity:
An Expert Insight Into Snorkeling in Cancun
There are several reasons why snorkeling in Cancun should be on on your bucket list.
The sea around Mexico, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula where Cancun is located, is warm and almost always calm. Its waters are clear and filled with an abundance of marine life. For experienced and novice snorkelers alike, the area of Cancun has something to offer to everyone – especially as it’s packed with the most incredible creatures, corals and underwater treasures.
Snorkeling in Cancun is mostly done from a boat, but there are several options for shore snorkeling too. That make this destination perfect for snorkelers who don’t fancy a long boat trip or who easily get seasick.
However, the boat trips are strongly recommended as some of the most exciting encounters and best snorkeling sites happen a little offshore in the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Its spectacular beaches of fine, white, powdery sand are kissed by stunning turquoise waters and, most of the year, covered by a clear blue sky that all combine to offer awesome visibility and water clarity.
The weather itself is unique too, with very little rainfall even in the rainy season and a warm, bright sun. All of which creates the perfect conditions for snorkeling and some superb water visibility. (Related: The Common, Rare & Dangerous Animals in Cancun You Might Meet!)
What is the Best Season to go Snorkeling in Cancun?
It’s always important to cross check local weather information before leaving on any watersports trip. That’s because the adventure of a lifetime could be destroyed by bad weather. Although luckily, this almost never happens in Cancun!
The weather in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan Peninsula, really is incomparable and unique, and contributes to Cancun’s reputation as a snorkeling paradise.
Still if there are any times to avoid, the months between June and November are the peak of the hurricane season when weather can be a little worse. The months between December and April are considered the best for a holiday, and are the best for snorkeling in Cancun too. The weather is near to perfect during these months, and you can find cheap flights, transfers, excursions and room rates!
Our Top Ten Snorkeling Spots in Cancun
To help you choose the right snorkeling trips in Cancun, and to not miss any of the most spectacular underwater experiences, here is a list of what we consider the top ten snorkeling spots in Cancun!
1. Isla Mujeres
This is one of the top-rated snorkeling spots around Cancun, and for good reason. This colorful island on the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula has some gorgeous snorkeling.
The Lighthouse is a very nice spot where most snorkeling and party catamarans will take you. But don’t miss the huge coral reef called The Manchones. This reef is over 800 meters long and is mostly formed by stag horn and elk horn corals. That gives it its characteristic features, with some big sized brain corals, too.
The reef is extremely healthy and flamboyant, and lots of fish come to graze over it. Keep an eye out for wrasses, grunts, snappers, groupers, and also colorful parrotfish, butterfly and angel fish.
The sandy bottom surrounding the corals at the reef is a favorite for stingrays, eagle rays and, of course, nurse sharks. So you may have some exciting encounters here! A huge cross, the Cruz de la Bahia (the Cross of the Bay) has also been lying on the bottom since 1997. This is a must see when snorkeling in Cancun.
2. Cancún Underwater Museum
A special area around the bottom of Isla Mujeres deserves a special mention too. This area is particularly famous for the Manchones portion of the MUSA underwater museum, Museo Subacuatico de Arte. This art gallery of underwater statues aims to educate people while protecting and preserving the underwater beauty of the area.
Sunken sculptures, human figures and special installations are disseminated on the sea bottom around Cancun. At Isla Mujeres, the majority of these submerged statues can be enjoyed during a snorkeling trip, while others can be seen around the area of Punta Nizuc. The Blessings, the Vestiges and the Aquarium Family are amongst the most visited structures here.
3. Underwater Cenotes
These spectacular underwater natural structures – which are often large sinkholes and caves – are one of the top attractions in Mexico. And many can be seen while snorkeling in Cancun!
You can admire the architecture of the cenotes, the beautiful surroundings they’re in, and the abundance of fish that are magnetically attracted to them.
4. El Meco
This shallow reef – about 4 to 6 meters deep at its maximum – is the perfect spot for beginner snorkelers or for those that don’t want a long boat ride. El Meco is quite close to Cancun’s marina and has ideal conditions with little to no currents.
So what animals can you meet here? Well, luckily it’s not uncommon to come eye to eye with a number of gracious sea turtles!
5. Isla Blanca
This beautiful elongated, sandy stretch is about 20 km north east from Cancun, and can only be reached by boat or via a very uneven and unpaved road made of sand.
The trip is well worth it though as the transparency and turquoise water color at Isla Blanca is incredible. This is, in fact, considered the bluest and clearest water in the entire Riviera Maya region. Subsequently those wonderful water conditions make it a true paradise for snorkelers.
6. Isla Holbox
This is where you go when you are looking for whale sharks when snorkeling in Cancun!
The best time of the year to see these gentle giants is definitely June to August. And Isla Holbox happens to be one of the hot spots to see them at this time of the year.
Whale sharks are not only incredible, they’re also very friendly and gentle. The opportunity to snorkel beside them is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. (Related: Sharks in Cancun).
7. Isla Contoy
This small island, 30 kilometers off Isla Mujeres, is another ideal spot where snorkelers and divers can come in close contact with whale sharks during the summer season.
This gorgeous area is a National Park, and the mangroves that surround it create a unique environment with a very rich ecosystem. While whale sharks are the main attraction here, you might get the chance to see nesting turtles on the beautiful beach. If lucky young turtles can be seen swimming around the reef during your snorkeling trip.
With its breathtaking coves, cenotes, and ponds, this place offers one of the most amazing landscapes in Cancun and the wider Riviera Maya.
This snorkeling paradise is also packed with several other fun-filled activities. But the spotlight is definitely its colorful underwater landscape and the excellent reef conditions.
Many service providers will combine any snorkeling adventure at Xel-Há with a historical visit of the city of Tulum where you can see Mayan ruins. All of which makes for a very unique excursion and an unforgettable day.
9. Punta Nizuc
We briefly mentioned Punta Nizuc earlier, home to some of the 470 life-sized underwater statues that belong to the MUSA project. However, this area is not only famous for these scenographic installations.
Punta Nizuc, located on the southern tip of Isla Mujeres is one of the closest offshore reefs to Cancun itself. It’s well known for the presence of turtles, lobsters, crabs, rays and many tropical fish! You can observe those easily by taking a catamaran or a speed boat snorkeling excursion.
A little further, but definitely worth the trip, is Cozumel. It’s not only one of the best areas for snorkeling in Cancun, but also one of the best throughout Mexico!
Its shallow reef is composed of colorful healthy hard coral formations such as brain, labyrinth, and elk horn corals. Those create a variety of diverse and vibrant colors, hiding and sheltering all sorts of critters.
This colorful coral garden is the perfect destination for a full day trip on a speed boat or a catamaran!