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Surrounded by shallow reefs, calm clear waters, and rugged limestone, Cozumel Island is located off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, just a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen on the Mexican mainland.
An underwater heaven on earth, Cozumel is home to some of the world’s most spectacular snorkeling spots in the Northern Hemisphere. Every year thousands of savvy snorkelers travel to Cozumel to take advantage of the island’s bath-like waters, magnificent climate, and abundant marine life.
Cozumel is located 86 km (53 mi) or 2 hours and 12 minutes from the Cancun International Airport. While private planes now shuttle visitors directly to the island, the most common way to reach Cozumel is by ferry. Leaving from Playa Del Carmen, ferries operate 365 days a year and run every hour on the hour.
Ferry ticket prices:
USD $7.00 adults/ $3.50 Kids
Peso 135 adults / 69 kids
The island has a temperate and humid climate with abundant rain in the summer. Hurricane season is between August to October, with September being the worst. With an average annual temperature of 80 degrees F/ 25.5 C, the best time to visit Cozumel is after Christmas and before Easter, when the weather is ideal and the crowds are sparse.
There are two ways to snorkel in Cozumel – either right from shore or by taking a short boat tour.
While the white sandy beaches are amazing for relaxing, enjoying the sun (and taking great photos), they aren’t the best spots for snorkeling on Cozumel Island. Marine life is most abundant around the corals and rocky areas, always crawling with tropical fish, corals, sea urchins, eels, octopus, white sharks, and lobsters.
The reef in front of the popular Money Bar is a popular destination for both experienced snorkelers and beginners. Filled with sea fans, colorful fish, and manta rays, this reef is in pretty shallow waters, about 3-5m deep (10-15ft), making it enjoyable for snorkeling adventurers of all ages and levels.
Palancar Reef is part of the protected marine ecosystem and a haven for marine explorers. One of the reef’s most healthy and popular snorkeling spots, Palancar Gardens, has a visibility of 30m (100 feet). It is incredibly colorful, vibrant, and filled with angelfish, groupers, moray eels, barracudas, parrotfish, jacks, and nurse sharks. Dotted with starfish, Palancar Gardens is rich with reef life that can be seen for miles due to the clear, calm waters.
A hidden gem, Playa Corona is very popular among locals. Some say this beach is not as widely known to tourists because some of the better coral clusters sit a little bit further offshore. For this reason, Playa Corona is better for more experienced swimmers, or at least those that have already gotten their “fins” wet.
An excellent snorkeling spot for families and first-time snorkelers, Chankanaab Beach Park is a well-equipped park run by the municipality of Cozumel. Home to major events like the annual Ironman swimming portion, the Park is the place to swim with the dolphins.
Entrance fee: $23 US
If you’re looking for a great day of beach fun, Punta Sur is the place. Snorkelers can expect to get very close to prized coral reefs along the southern edge of the Park, where thousands of sea turtles nest each year. It’s not uncommon to snorkel alongside juvenile green sea turtles or loggerheads.
The area in front of Casa del Mar Hotel beachfront and dive-boat pier is a great place for snorkeling. Easily accessed from town or by any of the cruise ship piers, this house reef area has a nice low ledge of coral at about 25-30 feet deep. This small wall of coral is a great nursery area for juvenile fish, small eels, huge queen conchs, and invertebrates.
Power snorkeling uses the aid of a powered propeller device that carries you through the water up to 5 times faster than swimming alone, bringing you closer to the action.
While the western side of the island typically has calm waters without waves or great tidal shifts, making it a safe and fun place to snorkel and swim, snorkeling in the eastern part of the island, which gets hit by large waves, strong currents, and dangerous rip-tides, is not advised.
There's an abundant underwater world of mesmerizing beauty in Cozumel, so when you head to this star-fish studded island, don’t forget your underwater camera!