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.
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.
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.
More than 220 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
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Unmissable in Akumal Bay seagrass meadows; frequently sighted in Puerto Morelos; rare elsewhere
Unmissable in Akumal Bay seagrass meadows; occasional sightings along the Mayan Riviera
Massive and healthy colonies at Puerto Morelos reef
Frequent on all reef spots of the Caribbean coast
On all the spots of the Caribbean coast, but uncommon
Common on sea fans, particularly in Playa del Carmen, Akumal Bay, Xcacel and Puerto Morelos
On all the spots of the Caribbean coast, commonly in large schools
On all the spots of the Caribbean coast
Shallow seagrass beds with turtles and stingrays
Freshwater pools and caves
Freshwater pools with rocks, algae and fish
Marine reserve with vibrant coral reef, rays and turtles
Small reef with colorful fish
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