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Tulum is mostly famous for its picturesque archeological park, a set of Maya ruins built upon a cliff over the turquoise Caribbean. However, few people know that a nice snorkeling spot is located a couple of hundred meters from there, in front of Tulum main beach. On this spot, known as “Tulum Reef”, you will get an interesting overview of Caribbean reef life.
Tulum is located on the southern part of the Riviera Maya, about 40 miles/60km south of Playa del Carmen and 80 miles/130km south of Cancun. All the group taxis (known locally as vans or “collectivos”) and ADO buses that travel non-stop along federal route 307 stop in this city. Once in town, take a taxi to the beach. If you are driving your own car, turn left at the first crossing before entering the city (Coba Avenue).
For reaching the spot, you have to book a snorkeling tour with a local agency. Boat tours (approx. 1 hour) usually start with a short sail to the north of the lagoon, to enjoy one of the most stunning view on Tulum ruins. On the way back, your boat will stop on the reef for a 20 to 30 minutes snorkeling session.
The area to explore is enclosed by the beach and the barrier reef, which are distant of 200 to 300m in this part of the lagoon. It covers sandy, grassy and coral seabed, relatively rich in underwater life. Some areas have been colonized by sponges and purple sea fans swaying in the current.
The coral area, close to the barrier, is the richest in fish, with schools of doctorfish tang, sergeant major, several species of grunts, butterflyfish, parrotfish, and some impressive barracudas waiting their next prey under the surface. If you are lucky, you could spot a sea turtle, a stingray, or a spotted eagle ray. Nevertheless, if you want to be sure to swim with green sea turtles, head to Akumal, where turtle encounters are guaranteed.
Always watch out for boats sailing in the area, and don’t try to go to the other side of the reef.
There is a wide range of restaurants and snack bars are dotted on the beach and the area alongside it, so you can get something to eat and drink at low prices.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.