Millions of people flock every year to the white sandy beaches and turquoise blue Caribbean sea that has made Cancun such a popular beach destination. It is precisely this beautiful sea, stretching for miles in every direction, that is home to an incredible underwater world just waiting for you to discover and explore.
Home to legendary visibility and a variety of tropical fish, turtles, rays and other attractive species, Cancun is definitely the place to try your hand at snorkeling or scuba diving. In addition, shallow waters, nearby islands and warm tropical water offer make this region one that boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world.
Take a look at our list of the best locations for exploring this fascinating Caribbean underwater world.
1. Hotel Zone in Cancun
Cancun’s hotel zone is exactly what it sounds like: an area of the city dominated by hotels and resorts. All of these hotels are located on the beach, only steps away from the shore.
Generally speaking, the snorkeling in the hotel zone is good, just not as good as some of the snorkeling-specific spots that tours take you to. The water is really clear, and water conditions are usually pretty good.
Some spots of the beachfront will experience stronger currents, in which case this can make the water a little more cloudy and difficult to swim in. No matter where you enter the water, make sure to check any signage for information about currents, and if there are flags placed on the beach that you need to swim between it’s best to follow these rules.
If you are staying in the hotel zone and feel adventurous you may want to try a little snorkeling on your own near your lodging or accommodation. The best snorkeling is at the southern end of the zone, near Club Med and the Westin Regina hotels. Beaches here are public so crowds may affect the visibility by kicking up the sand, but otherwise the water is very clear.
2. Punta Nizuc National Park
This spot at the far southern end of the hotel zone presents a unique opportunity as it is home to the closest offshore reef accessible from the shore. The area is home to turtles, starfish, lobsters and many other species of marine life that live among the coral and algae.
Punta Nizuc is also home to 17 of Jason deCaires Taylor’s incredible statues, the second “hall” of the Cancun Underwater Museum.
3. Langosta Beach
At the northern end of the hotel zone this beach boasts white sand, clear water and very little motion in the sea. This makes for a great snorkeling and swimming location. While the snorkeling is not as good here as it is at the southern end, it is convenient if you are staying close by.
4. Cancun Underwater Museum
Founded in 2009, the Cancun Underwater Museum is divided into two sections and consists of over 500 life-sized statues in the ocean featuring masterpieces from famous English sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor.
The underwater statues are important for the environment and for the economy too. This unique underwater museum helps with the recovery of coral reefs as it draws visitors to this alternative site as well as benefits the community by attracting tourism. Sculptures are fixed to the seabed and are made of special material that promotes the rapid growth of coral
5. Manchones Reef
Manchones Reef is another great option. This is a very popular spot for guided Cancun snorkeling tours because it is a gorgeous plot of coral and abundant sea life, and because it is home to one of the underwater museum’s exhibit pieces.
Because of the high volume of visitors to this area it can get very crowded during high season and at certain times during the day. Try getting there, if possible, before 10:00 AM or after 3:00 PM to avoid the crowds.
6. Contoy Island
Every year between June and September, whale sharks and manta rays migrate into the waters off Contoy Island. These giant sea creatures are filter-feeders and come to the area to feed on plankton and fish eggs. Though they can reach a length of up to 30 feet, they are very placid, completely harmless and safe to snorkel with.
Boat tours out to the feeding grounds usually take small groups swimming with whale sharks and are heavily regulated with regards to any activities that involve these magnificent animals. Do some research before choosing your local operator and ensure that they do in fact follow the rules that protect these magnificent animals.
7. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres, or “The Island of Women”, requires a ferry trip or an organized tour if you want to snorkel in its protected, calm waters. It is definitely worth the trip as you can combine your snorkel adventure with a golf cart sightseeing trip around the island. Golf carts can be rented upon arrival at the ferry terminal.
Although you can literally swim out from any beach on Isla Mujeres and see some marine life, the most popular snorkeling spot on the island is Garrafon Reef Park. Built opposite the main stretch of the island’s coral reef, the park offers visitors the choice of exploring the reef independently or with a guide.
This is a great place for beginner or young snorkelers as the water is very calm, clear and trained staff are always nearby to help. The island is also well known for the numerous sea turtles that inhabit this region.
There are so many things to do in Cancun, yet snorkeling remains one of the most popular activities in this region. It is not hard to believe as the tropical Caribbean waters are teeming with brightly colored marine life and the water is incredibly transparent, calm and warm. If you are going to visit be sure to prepare yourself so that you too can enjoy an unforgettable snorkeling experience.