Below the majestic calm of Mexico's blue waters, tourists can find one of the country's most famed treasures: its marine life. Snorkeling is one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to enjoy some of Mexico's hidden beauty. An activity fit for most ages, snorkeling provides even the novice water explorer a chance to enjoy the sites below the ocean's surface.
Whether exploring the east or west coast, Mexico boasts an array of superb snorkeling locations across all of its tourist hot spots. The Caribbean coast is known for its vibrant, ultramarine waters and white sand beaches that combine to create clear views of the vibrant coral reefs and brightly colored tropical fish. The Pacific coast offers a distinctly different experience, catering to the adventure seekers who want to get close to the ocean's more elusive creatures.
Snorkeling in Mexico's Caribbean Coast
Situated several miles off Mexico's mainland, Cozumel is consistently named among the top 10 best snorkeling spots in the world by travel experts. The clear waters and many reef walls surrounding the island's coasts offer an ideal spot to spy colorful species including coral, angelfish and parrot fish. The Santa Rosa Wall and the family-friendly Chakanaab Park on the west coast of the island are two popular snorkeling spots to visit in Cozumel.
Head back toward the mainland, the Great Mayan Reef bridges the division between Cozumel and Cancun and is known as one of the best spots to snorkel in Mexico. The coral reef is the largest in the Western Hemisphere, spanning a near 600-mile area from Mexico to Honduras, and is the second-largest coral reef in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Also known as the Mesoamerican Reef, the area is home to over 70 species of coral, 500 species of fish, and has one of the world's largest populations of manatees. Akumal and Playa del Carmen have several eco parks and other snorkeling locations that are frequented by tourists.
For a more unique snorkeling experience, ocean lovers can take a quick boat ride from Cancun to the Isla Mujeres. The calm surf and good visibility create the perfect locale for a leisurely family snorkeling trip, and friendly ocean fixtures including dolphins often come out to play at Banderas Reef and Garrafon Natural Reef Park.
Snorkeling in Mexico's Pacific Coast
Located on Mexico's southwest coast, the bay in Zihuatanejo is a popular destination for the flipper-donning set. Among the more famous meccas: Playa Las Gatas – which translates into English as "Cats Beach" – was actually named for a small species of shark that once owned its waters. Today, tourists flock to this snorkeling locale to catch glimpses of rare wildlife and mythical sea urchins, including seahorses and guitarfish.
Further up the coast, the Bahia de Banderas encapsulates an of-visited haven for snorkelers, including the latitudinally ideal beaches of Puerto Vallarta that provide year-round tropical temperatures and limited precipitation. The calm waters attract diverse ocean life including manta rays, starfish and puffer fish. Puerto Vallarta is also home to many natural coves that offer more unique snorkeling opportunities like swimming with sea lions at Las Caletas.
Mexico's west coast is also home to the famous Sea of Cortes, which divides the skinny Baja California Peninsula and the country's larger mainland. This massive body of water is a go-to destination for the more experienced divers and snorkelers, as its murkier waters and collection of larger mammals lure thrill seekers. Hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, and several large species of octopus and jellyfish are known to inhabit different pockets of the Sea of Cortes, including La Paz.
No matter which coast snorkel enthusiasts choose, an affordable underwater adventure awaits as Mexico's vast waters offer plenty of excitation from the Caribbean coral reefs to the playful Pacific inlets.