With 6 000 miles (10 000km) of coastline on the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, on one side, and on the Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortez) and the Pacific Ocean, on the other, Mexico introduces visitors to an extraordinary diversity of underwater environments.

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The hotspots for snorkeling in Mexico are the Gulf of California (which Jacques-Yves Cousteau called “the world’s aquarium”), all the islets and reefs opposite Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico (known as the Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano), and above all the Yucatan Peninsula with its 180 miles (300km) of coastline (the “Riviera Maya”) bathed by the Caribbean Sea. This is part of the vast Mesoamerican barrier reef system (the second biggest coral reef in the world, after Australia’s, and the biggest in the northern hemisphere), which runs for over 600 miles (1 000km) along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

Snorkeling Report Mexico
Brain coral, yellow stingray at Akumal Bay and Tulum archeological site

The Riviera Maya has the best snorkeling spots in Mexico, including the most famous, such as Akumal (an exceptional site for observing green turtles and stingrays), Puerto Morelos (with a wonderfully well-preserved coral reef), and some of the spots on Cozumel Island. Holbox Island is famous as a site to see whale sharks, which arrive in large numbers between 15 May and 15 September. And if you’re looking for a unique experience, explore a cenote (for example, Casa Cenote), a mythic natural pit hidden in the jungle and leading to underground caves. With their crystal-clear fresh water producing extraordinary light effects and their unusual fauna, they will leave you with unforgettable memories.

While there is a fair amount of coral on Riviera Maya, it is not at the same level as the best sites in the Caribbean (such as Belize or Roatan). Crowds can be big at certain spots, particularly at the height of the tourist season (the coast has some of the highest visitor numbers in the world). Some spots that were once freely accessible have been privatized and transformed into “amusement parks” with entrance fees ranging from very high (Xel Ha, Xcaret) to more reasonable (Yal Ku Lagoon). The tendency to make a lifejacket obligatory in protected areas (thus ruling out freediving) could also be a source of frustration for snorkelers used to complete freedom.
When to go to Mexico?

The best season for snorkeling in Mexico is between October and April. In the Yucatan peninsula, the rainy season (from June to October) accounts for 90% of the annual rainfall. The coolest period goes from November to January (72-79°F/22-26°C, water at 79°F/26°C on average) and the warmest from June to August (79-86°F/26-30°C, water at 84°F/29°C on average). In the cenotes, the water temperature is at a constant 75°F/24°C. On the coasts of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, cyclones are common in September and October.

CDC Mexique EN

Where to spot them?

Green sea turtle

You can't miss them at Akumal. You can also take your chance at Puerto Morelos

Southern stingray

You can't miss them at Akumal, frequent on many other spots of the Caribbean coast

French angelfish

Frequent on all the spots of the Caribbean coast


On all the spots of the Caribbean coast, but uncommon

Atlantic blue tang

On all the spots of the Caribbean coast

Smooth trunkfish

On all the spots of the Caribbean coast

Foureye butterflyfish

On all the spots of the Caribbean coast

Flamingo tongue snail

Common on sea fans, particularly at Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Puerto Morelos and Xpu-Ha

Bluestriped grunt

On all the spots of the Caribbean coast

Elkhorn coral

Beautiful at Puerto Morelos