Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, the world-famous seaside resort in Riviera Maya, is practically a must-see for visitors to the region. Its vast sandy beach and nightlife have made its reputation. Contrary to received opinion, you can do some snorkeling from the center of Playa del Carmen on a small reef lying about 150 yards from the beach. Here you will find a nice range of fish in surprisingly well preserved coral beds.
How to get there?

If you visit the Yucatan peninsula, it is quite likely that Playa del Carmen will be one of the places you stay (or perhaps your main destination) during your trip. This large town, about 40 miles (65km, 1 hour by road) to the south of Cancun international airport, is the main access point to the island of Cozumel and the seaside resorts of Riviera Maya.

Once you’ve arrived in the center of Playa del Carmen, head for the sea front. Walk north along the beach (to the left as you are facing the sea), until you arrive at a spot where a few dozen fishing boats are moored. This is about 0.6 mile (1km) north of the quay for ferries to Cozumel. The snorkeling spot is on the reef that you can see about 200 yards from the shore, beyond the mooring area. A good landmark to look for on the beach is the Reef Coco Beach Hotel, which is across from the snorkeling spot.

Water entrance

You enter the water from the sandy beach facing the mooring area. Swim between the boats towards the reef, keeping an eye out for boats sailing nearby. Keep alert and signal your presence until you reach the reef.

Aerial view


Don’t miss out on the area where the fishing boats are moored (↕3-6ft/1-2m), since the buoys have given rise to small islands of interesting marine life. Juveniles from many different species (surgeonfish, sergeant major fish or grunts) have found a home there.

Then swim towards the reef. As you move forwards, the sandy seabed gradually gives way to coral rocks covered in sea fans (↕6-10ft/2-3m). Stay on the inner side of the reef, which you move along at right angles to the beach.

Snorkeling Report Playa del Carmen Reef Mexico
Coral reef at Playa del Carmen

The coral covering is not exceptional but relatively well preserved for an urbanized area. Impressive shoals of grunts and surgeonfish move along the reef. You might see dozens of other species at this spot, particularly boxfish, needlefish, butterflyfish and, with a little luck, French angelfish.

The spot has surprisingly few visitors. If you stay alert (the boats being the main potential danger), you can explore it in complete safety. If you are staying in Playa del Carmen, don’t hesitate to pay it a visit, as this is a spot that is accessible, free, and anything but disappointing.

Restaurants & accommodation

In Playa del Carmen, there is a whole host of restaurants, snack bars, supermarkets and accommodation (for all budgets). But you should take your own snacks and drinks because the snorkeling spot is in a hotel area where choice is limited.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
    Intermediary level
  • Maximum depth
    10ft (3m)
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
  • Restaurants nearby
    Yes, inexpensive
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling Playa del Carmen

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
French angelfish
Pomacanthus paru
Sergeant major
Abudefduf saxatilis
Banded butterflyfish
Chaetodon striatus
Foureye butterflyfish
Chaetodon capistratus
Smooth trunkfish
Lactophrys triqueter
Doctorfish tang
Acanthurus chirurgus
Atlantic blue tang
Acanthurus coeruleus
French grunt
Haemulon flavolineatum
Venus sea fan
Gorgonia flabellum
Purple sea fan
Gorgonia ventalina
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You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?