Cozumel island is known for its crystal clear turquoise water and vibrant coral reef, and was declared “one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas in the world” by world-famous adventurer and diver Jacques Cousteau. That translates into amazing snorkeling as well! The question is, where do you go and how do you get there?
Opinions of visitors and locals on this question vary, so we will provide you with a brief overview of a few top options.
Probably the #1 snorkel location in popularity with the locals. El Cielo, when translated, means “heaven.” With the beautiful blue sky reflecting off the white sandy sea floor, creating gorgeous turquoise colors, it’s easy to see that the name is well-deserved. The water is roughly waist-deep, making it an excellent location for beginners, families with kids, and those who want to chill as much as snorkel. You will see starfish, rays, and stunning turquoise water all around you. El Cielo is only accessible by boat, so in order to get there you will have to pay for a tour (around $40-$45 USD per person). Along with El Cielo, many tours also include a second snorkel site on the famous Palancar reef.
The Money Bar
For “bang for your buck,” this might be the best snorkel/hang-out spot on the island. It’s a local favorite, a restaurant & bar that is right on the beach, located south of town. There is a ton of space to spread out, with chaise lounges set out on the beach. You can access the water from the pier with a ladder or take the stone steps directly off the beach. The nice thing about Money Bar is that there is no minimum consumption to stay all day. So you can eat, drink, and snorkel all afternoon and it may only cost you $10 or $15 dollars. Relax at your leisure with no need to pay for a tour. The snorkeling is awesome as well, you will see tons of fish, manta rays and turtles.
Palancar is where you’re most likely to find the best variety of marine life. There is so much to see teeming in and around this stunning reef. It’s one of the most popular locations for wall reef diving on the island, because its many ledges and drop-offs make it an ideal habitat for so many creatures. Columbia Reef is also a very popular site to visit and is highly rated. If you are a bit more adventurous and like to freedive a little, there is so much to see! You can include this in the same tour as El Cielo if you like, and is best accessed by boat (cost is about $40-$45 USD). However, many of the guided tours like this can often feel rushed. Your guide will tell you to follow, so chat up your guide and tell him or her that you want to linger if you find a spot you really enjoy.
Amazing snorkeling is not limited to these locations by any stretch, there are many places that are free and you can just jump or wade in and start snorkeling. One word of caution: please do not snorkel on the east side of the island! It is tempting and beautiful, but the currents are very strong!
Visit the island, talk to the locals and find out what works best for you. Have fun and be safe!
By Brad & Kelly Storhaug