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Best places to do snorkel in Tulum

Updated: Jan 23, 2023



Where to snorkel in Tulum

Spectacular coastline, ancient Mayan ruins, magical underwater rivers… All these things make Tulum one of the most desirable destinations in Mexico! Visiting historical attractions, discovering the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and the magical world of the cenotes are the main reasons why so many visitors choose Tulum as their vacation destination year after year. If you are keen on water activities, read on to find out where are the best spots to snorkel in Tulum!


Shore snorkeling in Tulum

Using Google Earth or Wikimapia, you can see that the Tulum coral reef is not too distant from the shore (about 250-300 meters). If you are a strong, confident swimmer, you will think it is possible to swim out to the reef. Be advised that while this is possible on calm days, you must always be very wary of the current which can often be deceptively strong. However, the biggest risk are boats. Particularly on the northern stretch of the public beach (Playa publica), there is a lot of boat traffic, and this makes it very dangerous for swimmers. For this reason, we do not recommend swimming from the shore to the reef. On the southern end there are less boats, but you must make sure to have good gear including a buoy & long fins. That said, it always best to contract the services of the fishermen on the beach who take you on a quick trip out as far as the reef. You can reach Tulum public beaches by foot, bike, scooter, or car.


The beaches of Tulum are ideal for snorkeling thanks to the shallow depth of its waters and the protection provided by the reef that runs along the entire coast, giving us the opportunity to get to know a little piece of the ''Great Mayan Reef'' the second largest in the world, which covers the coasts of Quintana Roo, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.


Among the species you can spot are Barracuda, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, sergeant majors and blue tangs, and if you are lucky, you might even spot an eagle ray, stingray, or even a sea turtle, that also regularly visit the shallow, protected waters.


Although most of the flora and fauna of the reef is harmless, some species of coral can sting or scratch you (Stathern coral, fire coral, sea urchin) and do not try and touch the fish as some of them can bite or carry venom darts (barracuda, lionfish, stingray). These organisms do not represent a hazard to swimmers if you are respectful of them and alert to the life around you.


Please do not touch them, just admire them and swim slowly without splashing or moving too quickly. Finally, be very careful not to stand or rest on any part of the reef. It is an extremely delicate ecosystem that we must respect and protect while interacting with it. This way, you will also see more animal life, as the fauna will not hide or swim away if you move slowly and keep your distance. Discover our responsible travel tips.


Another important consideration is to reduce the amount of chemicals or products you put on your skin before entering the water. We recommend the use of a rash vest or swimsuit that protects the body from the sun, rather than using excessive sunscreen. Biodegradable sunscreen is available too, and is better for the environment. Never put on insect repellant before swimming as it is highly toxic and will wash off in the water anyway. We also advise visitors to not use make up, deodorant or perfume before swimming as these products are also toxic to the underwater environment. If you do, please have a shower, and rinse off before entering the sea, cenote, lake, or lagoon.


For novice snorkelers, we recommend signing up for a Tulum snorkeling tour that is often combined with a trip to the Tulum ruins or cave exploration and swimming in a cenote!


Our qualified guides and captains will take you to the best spots on the coral reef, which we have carefully selected. These spots allow you to explore the reef where there is abundant wildlife and are far removed from the crowds that splash around the reef elsewhere.



And of course, your guide knows the coral systems like the back of his hand, seeking out species of interest and knowing where to find some hidden gems, helping you spot things you wouldn’t find by yourself. All the while both captain and guide are always ensuring your safety, taking care of the weather conditions and other boats.



Cenote snorkeling near Tulum

Did you know that there is an underwater aquifer in the Yucatan Peninsula? This hidden hydraulic system consists of caves, sunken labyrinths, and tunnels flooded with freshwater which create the largest explored underground river network in the world. Two of the largest rivers are flowing right under your feet in Tulum, named Sac Aktun and Ox Bel Ha. Although discovered in the 80s, endless sunken corridors are still being explored and mapped today. Hundreds of cenotes have been discovered as forming entranceways into the river, allowing access not only to cave divers but to the fauna of the forest who visit cenotes to drink freshwater of hunt for other animals nearby.


The abundance of freshwater means that many other species, like tropical birds and reptiles are also regularly seen nearby. Some of these cenotes are spectacular underground caverns or chambers, while others are beautiful open air sinkholes surrounded by lush jungle. To swim and snorkel in a cenote is an absolute must when visiting Tulum or the Yucatan. All in all, there are thousands of cenotes registered in the region, and while it is impossible to visit them all, the nearby Sac Aktun system contains some of the most spectacular cenotes that exist in the peninsula.


They are flooded with rainwater which makes them so special: the color & clarity of the water is phenomenal, creating reflections, light effects and even a mystical feeling that you will agree is completely unique. You will agree that these are very special with an incomparable atmosphere, explaining why the Maya culture chose the caves as sacred spaces to perform rituals and ceremony, often celebrating fertility, evolution & life. Cenote snorkeling in Tulum is a must-do experience that gives you the opportunity to discover some of the most unique cave systems on the planet, as well as observing rare freshwater fish species and sometimes even turtles.


Cenote Snorkeling: Best Sites For Cenote snorkeling in Tulum, Mexico


The best thing about the cenotes? Each one is unique. You will never find two alike. When people ask me which is the best cenote my answer is always the same: the one you find all to yourself! Our advice is: always arrive early in the morning before it gets busy.


You can get to cenotes by car, scooter, bike or colectivos (public transport that you will find on Tulum main street); have a look at the maps, photos and reviews and decide which ones you want to visit. Alternatively, take The Cenote Adventure tour with us for 3 completely different cenotes, giving you a great taste of the variety of caves and sinkholes, while keeping you away from the crowds.


Or, if you like to keep active, join our Cenote Trail bike tour, where we ride Mountain Bikes around the outskirts of Tulum to visit 3 cenotes, again avoiding crowds and busy roads, taking jungle trails even locals don’t know about!


Here are some recommendations :


1. PARQUE DOS OJOS

Fifteen minutes north from Tulum by car, the Dos Ojos Park has about 30 cenotes that are part of the Sac Aktun system. Among them, check out these 3:


CENOTE DOS OJOS

Dos Ojos cenote itself, where the water is so clear that you can observe all forms of life and underground rock formations. One of the most well-known cenotes of them all.



CENOTE NICTÉ-HA

Nicté-Ha, which means water flower in Maya, is an absolutely beautiful open cenote, full of water lilies and local legends. The myth says that two lovers who were forbidden by their families to get together, having died for their love, took the form of a red cardinal bird and a water Lily. Legend says that every morning at dawn you can see a red cardinal singing in front of the beautiful water lily flowers.


CENOTE TAAK BI HA

Taak Bi Ha, unlike the others, is a closed cenote, where speleology enthusiasts will find their happiness. You will be impressed by the amazing rock formations hidden in these underwater caves.


Mainly made of limestone, they form columns of stalactites and stalagmites. To make a quick point and avoid confusion, stalactites are created from the ceiling and stalagmites from the floor. This formation process takes thousands of years, so it goes without saying that the ones you will see will be over 15,000 years old.


2. CENOTE JARDÍN DEL EDÉN

Also known as the Ponderosa cenote, this semi-open cenote is known for the sun's rays that pierce the transparent water, reflecting the intense light on the rocks and aquatic plants.


These light beams will amaze you and you will feel in another universe.

This is the perfect place to disconnect and relax on a sunny day.


Semi-open and connected to the Sac Aktun system, the water surrounds an area of vegetation.


You swim around this platform; the water is beautiful and you meet a lot of wildlife residents. Catfish, turtles and bats will be part of your experience. It is located at the exit of Tulum in the direction of Cobá (5 min by car, 15 by bike).


4. CENOTE ESCONDIDO

Just outside of Tulum on the road south, these two open cenotes are ideal to spend the afternoon cooling off in freshwater. It is a perfect combination to relax in a hammock and have fun with the swing ropes and the jumping platforms.


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