Best Snorkeling in Riviera Maya, Mexico

A world class snorkeling experience awaits you in a spectacularly beautiful area of the world, the Riviera Maya. Located on the Caribbean coast on the eastern section of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Riviera Maya offers many fantastic locations for the beginning snorkeler on up to those who have been snorkeling for years. The underwater world beckons you to view the hundreds of multi-colored fish species and amazing coral reefs. The world's 2nd longest barrier reef system, is a must see for all snorkeling enthusiasts.

We chose to write about the Best Snorkeling in Playa Del Carmen & Riviera Maya because it has been quite popular with the midwesterners. Please sit back and enjoy our article and if you have the chance to visit, rent a car and do a snorkeling tour.


There are many great snorkeling locations in the Riviera Maya, beginning with those near Playa del Carmen. One of the best snorkeling in Playa del Carmen is Moche Reef. A guided tour is probably the best option to visit this location as a short boat ride is needed to get to the reef. The reef has much to offer, tropical fish and other marine life are abundant. The water is usually calm and clear, allowing for great views of the multicolored coral. The tour guides will help you spot elusive sea creatures such as the moray eel and the spotted eagle ray. Tours usually last around 2 hours. Another interesting snorkel spot is Inha Reef. Located 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen snorkelers will see Dog Face Puffer fish and sea turtles. After snorkeling you are taken to a deserted beach where you can relax and enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty of Mother Nature.

North of Carmen del Playa is Puerto Morales, the world's second largest reef and a protected natural area. It is recommended that you take a guided tour of this area. Guides will be able to give you instruction on what you can and cannot do while snorkeling at the reef. The coral formations are spectacular and you will see eels, parrot fish, bull fish as well as beautiful flora. Another reef that should be on your to see list is Cerebros Reef. The reef offers narrow canyons that are swimmable and an abundance of marine life to view.


You cannot visit the Riviera Maya and not snorkel in Akumal which is located down the coast from Playa del Carmen. If sea turtles are your thing a visit to Akumal Bay is a must. Here you can snorkel with sea turtles and swim alongside them. These tours usually last about 4 hours and lunch is usually included. Akumal also offers other snorkeling options. For the advanced snorkeler a great trip is Yalku-ito. This area is an exit point for freshwater that flows out to the ocean underground. The mixing of the fresh and freshwater creates a halocline. The freshwater forms a layer over the denser saltwater. This unique blend of waters attracts schools of fish and often acts as a nursery ward for new fish. Yalku-ito is a unique snorkeling tour that is not to be missed. Night snorkeling tours are also an option at Akumal. You read that correctly. Bring your underwater flashlights as a very experienced guide helps you look for elusive sea creatures. Akumal is known for an unusual occurrence called the "Wall of Fish". If you are fortunate you just might see thousands of silver looking fish swimming in a dense circle that resembles a bagel. In the middle of this is usually a barracuda.


The Riviera Maya has many inland snorkeling areas called cenotes and is a deep, natural sinkhole that connects to underground sources of water. Some of the more popular are at the Kantun Chi Eco Park. Others to see are Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote and Actun Ha. Explore these underground caverns and witness the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites in this immensely clear water. Sailfin Molly's and Mexican Tetras are in abundance. Some of the cenotes allow you to zip line or rappel into them. The less adventurous can use the stairs for entry. It is good to visit the cenotes on days when the weather adversely affects the normal snorkeling excursions.


Another noted snorkeling spot is Xel-Ha, which is located just south of Akumal. Xel-Ha is an eco-park that caters to first time snorkelers and children. A large, centrally located natural lagoon serves as the main snorkeling area. However, snorkelers can swim and snorkel down the natural river that flows toward the lagoon and ocean. Here, like Akumal, the fresh water mixes with the denser saltwater, creating the unique visual of a halocline. The park also contains two cenotes, Paradise and Adventure that are good for exploration. In addition to the snorkeling Xel-Ha offers, activities such as exploring lush jungle, jumping off cliffs into the river or just relaxing in a hammock on the beach are available. You can bring your own snorkeling equipment; however snorkeling equipment is included in the ticket price.

Snorkeling is the easiest way to view the underwater world. The professionals running the excursions hold safety in the highest regard and seek to insure your experience exceeds your expectations. Snorkel on your own or join a tour; bring your gear or rent it here. All that's missing is you. We hope you enjoyed the best snorkeling in playa del carmen & the Riviera Maya area article.

By Roy Jamason

Written March 19, 2015

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