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