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Preserved and rather confidential Tankah Bay is an excellent alternative to the more touristic snorkel spots located along the Riviera Maya. It shares similarities with the more famous spot of Akumal while being less crowded and allowing free exploration. As it is protected by a coral reef, the bay boasts quiet waters and shelters a decent overview of Caribbean underwater life. However, access to the shore can be complicated except if you are staying at one of the bay’s hotels, as the shoreline is entirely privatized.

Smooth trunkfish at Tankah Bay
Smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) is commonly seen in shallow reef areas.

How to get to Tankah Bay snorkeling area?

Tankah Bay is located South of the Riviera Maya, about 15 kilometers south of Akumal and 10 kilometers north of Tulum. The easiest way to get there is to rent a car. Alternatively, public taxis running along federal road 307 stop at the crossing with the narrow, unpaved road leading to the bay (precise location here), but you will have to walk along the remaining distance to the shore (the closest access point being Pavo Real Beach Hotel, 700 meters from the crossing).

Tankah Bay is not an easily accessible spot, as there is no public access to the beach in the area. Those willing to snorkel here can stay at one of the numerous hotels and holiday rentals set along the beach between Pavo Real Beach Resort (the biggest hotel in the bay) and Tulsayab. It is also possible to book an excursion in one of two dive centers located in Tankah Bay: one is located inside Pavo Real Beach Resort, the other one (Tankah Divers Tulum) is located further North along the bay.

Once you are on the shore, you can walk to the 4 snorkel areas of the bay, but keep in mind that the whole beach from Pavo Real Beach Resort to Tulsayab is 3km-long. The neighboring spot of Casa Cenote, a gorgeous natural fresh water pool, is very close to Tankah Bay. Don’t hesitate to pay an additional visit there.

Tankah Bay snorkeling map

Entering the water in Tankah Bay

There are 4 different snorkel areas in Tankah Bay, each having its own access point:

  1. The small reef located in front of Pavo Real Beach Resort (zone 1 on the map) is directly accessible to the hotel guests. You can also walk there if you accessed the shore from another point. Since it is very close to the beach, this area is perfect for families and beginners.
  2. The two reefs located at the center of the bay (zones 2 and 3 on the map) are accessible from the numerous hotels and holiday rentals set around Casa Cenote. These sites are for experienced snorkelers, however, since they start 300 to 400 meters from the beach.
  3. Finally, you can also stay in Tulsayab (or walk on the beach from another access point) to access the small coral reef located north of the bay directly from the shore (zone 4 on the map).

Reefs 2, 3 and 4 can also be accessed by boat during snorkel tours (ask for information at the dive centers). As always, avoid using sunscreen and opt for an anti-UV rashguard instead, or buy a reef-friendly sunscreen so as not to harm coral.

Tankah Bay snorkeling tips and recommendations

Tankah Bay is composed of a great “lagoon” protected by a barrier reef cut by a few passes. Inside, water depth varies from 2 to 4 meters. The sea is generally calm and there are no currents. Be careful, however, around the passes where the sea can sometimes be rougher. Since numerous boats navigate in the bay, we advise to take a signal buoy along with you if you plan to swim away from the beaches and reefs.

French angelfish at Tankah Bay
The French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) is one of the most beautiful fish in the Caribbean. It is pretty easy to spot at Tankah Bay.

Several marine environments can be seen in Tankah Bay. Seagrass meadows are commonplace next to the beaches, often attracting sea turtles. Green sea turtles are especially present from August to November, when they come to the bay’s beaches to lay their eggs. Small barracudas, permits and trevally can also be spotted in the seagrass beds. Reef areas are mainly made of gorgonians, porites and salad coral. They attract numerous colorful species such as French angelfish, queen angelfish, yellowtail damselfish, blue tangs, filefish and Bermuda chubs going by in schools.

Green sea turtle at Tankah Bay
If you are lucky, you may spot green turtles when snorkeling Tankah Bay, especially in seagrass meadows areas.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Pavo Real Beach Resort is the main hotel in the area, it privatizes the southern side of the beach. About a dozen smaller hotels and holiday residences are also set along the shore.




 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Maximum depth15ft/5m
  • Water entranceFrom beaches or rocky shore
  • Potential DangersMany boats in the area.
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsStay in one of the bay's accommodation or snorkeling tour cost
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

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.