Between the crystal clear cenotes and the Caribbean Sea, it makes sense to wonder: what are my options for snorkeling in Tulum?
After staying 2 weeks in Tulum, I realized it was difficult to answer this question.
There is little information on the reefs accessible from Tulum’s beaches, and hundreds of tours all look the same—although some are terrible.
This Tulum snorkeling guide will save you the trouble of figuring out what to do. You’ll find a list of the best snorkeling spots and a detailed analysis of the best trips available.
Bring your mask, and let’s dive into it!
👉 Don’t hesitate to read our Tulum guide to plan your vacation and not make any more mistakes. You will find all our articles about this destination.
Dream makers 😎
Tulum snorkeling: The takeaway
- Snorkeling our your own from the beach in Tulum is complicated (and a bit dangerous). Besides, the reef is quite damaged.
- Snorkeling in the cenotes is an incredible adventure because of the transparency of the water (not for all cenotes!), but you will see little sea life.
- Go to Akumal if you want to swim with Turtles.
- Most tours include snorkel gear, but I recommend you bring your mask—if you have a good one.
- The seaweed season (March-October) can impact your snorkel experience near the coastlines (not in the open sea).
- I suggest you arrive at the opening time for the most famous places to avoid the crowd (especially in the high season).
Tulum Snorkeling: My top 3 tours
Map for snorkeling in Tulum
Where are the best snorkeling spots in Tulum
The Tulum shore is located on what is known as the great Mayan reef or the Mesoamerican reef.
Snorkeling from Tulum’s beaches
As I just said, the Tulum shores have some decent snorkeling spots because of the city’s location. You do, though, have to head to the proper beaches to ensure you can do some safe reef snorkeling and truly enjoy the local wildlife.
Playa Paraiso can be a perfect spot for people who have snorkeling gear and want to get in the water as soon as possible. The coral reef where most wildlife lives is relatively close to the shore (200-300m; you better be a good swimmer). It’s a public beach, even though some hotels have parts of it closed off. You can still get in the water and swim on your own if you’d like.
If you’re looking for a day trip experience that includes snorkeling and spending time at a private beach club, you can head to the El Paraiso Hotel. The area is near the Tulum ancient Maya ruins. Boats leave from Playa Paraiso and bring you right to the reef (for about 500 pesos)
Playa Coba / Bahia Principe
This particular beach was once upon a time super popular for snorkeling because it’s a lagoon with a reef filled with colorful marine life. Many people are now saying that tourists are not allowed to head out to the reef area, which is further out to sea compared to Playa Paraiso.
The popular beach club in the area is the Kay Beach Club. Playa Coba and the Bahia Principe are closer to Akumal bay, 30 minutes outside the Tulum downtown area. If you come from Tulum, you’ll want to plan a full day’s trip.
Soliman bay is home to some of the most colorful fish species on the Riviera Maya coastline. The problem is that the reef area where you can see all this is far from the beach. It may be a good idea to book a Tulum snorkeling tour.
You can head out to the reef area in a kayak and then put your gear on to explore the reef. Once there, the water is shallow.
Tankah Bay has its main snorkeling area right next to the shore, but it’s the most challenging beach to access. You have to be a guest at one of the resorts or rent a vacation home at one of the residential complexes on the beach.
Even though it’s close to the beach, novice snorkelers will want to be careful because venturing too far out can mean going into deep waters. On the positive side, you may find some green sea turtles in this beautiful reef.
The snorkeling spot at Xcacel is excellent for people looking for snorkeling sites with small crowds. The location is about 5 miles from Akumal, north of downtown Tulum towards Playa del Carmen. They charge about 100 pesos for entry.
This is not a spot where you’ll find beach clubs or anything like that. Just a pure snorkeling adventure where you can spot some sea life is what you’re getting.
Snorkeling in the cenotes around Tulum
Snorkeling in Tulum can also be done in cenotes, which are caves or rock formations with fresh water flowing through them. There are plenty of them in Tulum that are considered snorkeling spots.
Open cenotes are like large deep pools with plenty of tropical fish. One of the biggest advantages of open cenotes for snorkeling is that the natural light makes it easier to spot wildlife.
This cenote is about 7 miles outside Tulum, on the road connecting the town and Playa del Carmen. It’s also known as the Cenote Manati. You want to start day trips to Casa Cenote early before the big groups arrive.
In this cenote, you get a mixture of fresh and saltwater since it connects to the ocean. For this reason, this is not a spot you want to visit when the sea is rough. The currents can get very serious.
I could argue that you get the best of worlds in a semi-open cenote. You’re inside the rock formation, so you get that whole experience of swimming in a cave, but with the natural light, you can see a lot better.
Dos Ojos is a cenote 12 miles north of Tulum. This specific cenote has two sinkholes that you can explore almost entirely. The water is usually warm and perfect for swimming in.
If you’re staying within Tulum and want to add cenote snorkeling to your trip activities, this may be the spot you want to head out to. Gran Cenote is only 2 and a half miles from some of the main Tulum hotels. That’s one of the reasons why it gets a lot of visitors—come at the opening hour (8 am).
You pay 500 pesos per person to be able to get access to the area. There is a nice circuit of about twenty minutes (start on the right), and you will see many mesmerizing rock formations, turtles, and catfish—the water is crystal-clear!
Cenote Taak bi ha
This is one of those experiences that may only be for some. The spot is beautiful, with a large cave with turquoise blue waters. The problem is you won’t find sea turtles or other animals—just surprising crystal-clear water.
It’s 350 pesos to access the area. The cenote is inside Dos Ojos Park, on the road near Xel-Ha park.
Cave cenotes are fully enclosed in a rock formation. Many of these cenotes are deeper and, therefore, better for scuba diving. Since you’re not getting natural light, you’ll need extra equipment to see better inside the cave.
Aktun Chen Cenote
There’s an entire mini park in place at this cenote. It has many things going for it; you can buy a ticket to a guided tour of the caves, a zipline, an animal exhibit, and the underground river. The ticket to all of the activities costs about 106 dollars per adult.
The price can seem steep for some people, but the cost represents a full day of activities. The park is right on the Cancun-Tulum highway, located near Bahia Principe. It’s one of the easiest underground rivers to access on your Tulum trip.
This is one of the most incredible cenotes in all of Tulum. It may be better suited for scuba diving than snorkeling since you want to explore the underwater caves in depth.
You want to be very careful, though, with wannabe tour guides lurking in the area. There are usually a lot of “tour guides” on the road asking for money. Not all of them are official guides; they may rip you off. Book at the official entrance directly (about 650 pesos with guide and equipment). This cenote is at the end of Dos Ojos Park.
Snorkeling with turtles in Akumal
If the entire reason that you’re snorkeling in the first place is to see a sea turtle in its natural habitat, then Akumal is where you want to go. Akumal is about half an hour north of Tulum, Mexico, on the road that leads to Playa del Carmen. You will have to follow stringent guidelines if you want to do some snorkeling in the area.
These days you can only snorkel with a certified tour guide that will take you out to the barrier reef area. Snorkeling to the coral reefs and the turtle area is forbidden on your own.
The “classic” snorkeling tour costs about 40 dollars per person.
Snorkeling in Caleta Yalku
For people looking to find a kid-friendly Tulum snorkeling tour or even for beginners, Yalku Lagoon may be the spot. It’s located towards a residential area past the main Akumal beach area.
You’ll find a shallow natural pool that people of all ages can enjoy. The spot, a mix of salty and fresh water, is a hotbed for marine life.
Admission prices are 14 dollars for adults and 10 dollars for kids. You can rent out all the equipment you need to snorkel for an added cost right then and there. Getting there early is a must to avoid the crowds and ensure gear is still available when you arrive.
Snorkeling in Sian ka’an
Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO World Heritage Site ideal for an off-the-beaten-path Tuluum snorkeling trip. The biggest problem is that it’s far from everything.
You must get to Punta Allen, a town in the Sian Ka’an biosphere. Depending on your chosen tour, you can make the whole trip by jeep on a dirt road in poor condition or do a large part of it by boat through the mangroves (I recommend this last option, as it is more comfortable and fun).
Or you can go on your own by colectivo or by boat from this point.
Once in the water, you can expect to see sea turtles, dolphins, and all sorts of fish.
Snorkeling in Xel-Ha
The last Snorkeling Tulum spot on my list is Xel-Ha park. Your ticket includes unlimited snorkeling in the multiple spots that the park has to swim in. You can explore a lagoon-like area, a cenote, or the Caribbean Sea.
It costs 89 dollars to buy the unlimited pass. That means you can eat and drink anything you’d like during your stay at the park. You can swim all day since it’s open from 8h30 pm to 6 pm. Note there are a lot of premium experiences not included in this pass (extra cost).
Compare the best Tulum snorkeling tours
Snorkeling tours are a great way to explore multiple spots in Tulum. You’re also less likely to fall victim to tourist scams around snorkeling. Here are some of the best tours to look into.
1# Best private snorkeling tour overall
This tour takes you to the most popular snorkeling spots near downtown Tulum Mexico. It covers Casa Cenote, Tulum bay and the Cenotes Sac Actun.
You meet with your tour guide at a spot within the Tulum downtown area. From there, they provide all the transportation to the different beaches and cenotes. The tour starts at 8:30 am, which may only be ideal if you’re a morning person. The earlier you start, the fewer people you’ll encounter at the different spots. Since it’s a private tour, the guide can assist everyone in your little group.
✋ It’s a great tour to do some reef snorkeling plus swimming in a cenote on the same day.
- Max Pers: Private tour, up to 6
- Price: Approx. 220 USD/pers
- Starting time: 8:30 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Tulum Bay, Casa Cenote, Cenotes Sac Actun
- Duration: up to 7 hrs with 3 stops (2-hour Driving time)
- What’s included: Transportation (no hotel pick up). Snacks, entry fees to the diving areas, one guide per group, and snorkeling gear
- Difficulty: 2.5/5
2# Best cenote group tour
A couple of things about this tour are appealing to people. The tour visits the famous Gran cenote, the Taak Bi Ha Cenote, and a private cenote called the Temple of Doom.
The guides on this particular tour are very active when taking pictures of the group or giving explanations. Also, the company offers to pick you up at your hotel—at extra cost if you’re out of Tulum. Overall, it’s a pretty long tour lasting around 6 hours. You get snacks and water along the way, and all for 130 dollars. It’s one of the best deals that you’ll find out there.
✋ The best deal if you’re a cenote fan.
- Max Pers: 10
- Price: Approx. 130 USD/pers
- Starting time: 7:30 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Grand Cenote, Taak Bi Ha Cenote, and Temple of Doom
- Duration: 6 hours (2:30 driving Time)
- What’s included: Pick up at the hotel, snorkeling gear, water, snacks, lunch
- Difficulty: 1.5/5
3# Classic Tulum reef snorkeling tour
If you’re looking for a quick way to do some snorkeling in Tulum to get it out of your system, this may just be the tour for you. And you’ll have a closer look at the Mayan ruins near Tulum from the sea. The experience starts at the Pocna Tulum hotel.
With boat tours like this, you’ll want to pick the perfect day. The tour is done on a sailboat with nothing but the wind pushing it forward. Since it’s a quick sail out to the ancient Mayan ruins, they have a lot of departure times!
✋Ideal for a quick and easy Tulum snorkel tour.
- Max Pers: 10
- Price: Approx. 55 USD/pers
- Starting time: 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:30 pm, 5:00 pm
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Main Tulum Beach
- Duration: 1.5 hours (driving depends on how far you are from the main Tulum beach)
- What’s included: Snorkeling equipment and snacks, may have to purchase a ticket to get closer to the ruins for 60 pesos.
- Difficulty: 2/5
4# Best Private snorkeling tour to see the turtles
As I said, one of the best things about booking a tour is that you don’t have to worry about individual tickets and even driving out to the place. This particular private tour really leans into that.
They’ll pick you up at your hotel and take you to two snorkeling spots, plus lunch. The tour allows you to snorkel in Akumal Bay, one of the best places to spot sea turtles. You also get your cenote snorkeling fix at Cenote Taak Bi Ha. It’s a great tour if you’ve limited time in Tulum (5 hours).
✋Ideal to skip the crowd in Akumal and be carefree.
- Max Pers: Private tour
- Price: Approx. 170 USD/pers
- Starting time: 7 am or 8 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Akumal Bay and Cenote Taak Bi Ha
- Duration: 5 hours (including 3 hours driving)
- What’s included: snorkeling gear, transportation, lunch, and access to the diving spots.
- Difficulty: 2/5
5# Best snorkeling group tour to see the turtles
Here’s another tour that heads out to Akumal. As I just said, it’s one of the best spots to find a sea turtle or two near Tulum. The other stop on the trip is at XTun Caverns. It’s undoubtedly one of the more popular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.
The agency running this tour offers pickup and drop-off everywhere in the Riviera Maya. It’s a much cheaper option than the one I discussed above, and you go to similar spots.
✋ Ideal to swim with turtles for “cheap.”
- Max Pers: 15
- Price: Approx. 99 USD/pers
- Starting time: 9 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Akumal and XTun Cavernas
- Duration: 5 hours (including 2 hours driving)
- What’s included: snacks, pastries, bottled water, snorkeling equipment, and a guide.
- Difficulty: 3/5
6# Best snorkeling + Paddling tour
Stand-up paddleboarding, plus snorkeling, is what you’ll be getting out of this tour. You meet Mauricio in the Tulum downtown area, and from there, he’ll drive you to Casa Cenote. It’s not the most extreme experience out there, but you do have to be in decent physical shape to enjoy it. Don’t worry about getting lost. Your tour guide is going to be with you through the journey.
Very rarely do people talk so fondly about a tour guide. Yet, I can’t find anything but good things people say about Mauricio. Even if you’re not an expert at paddleboarding, you should be ok to take this tour.
✋ Ideal for travelers who like taking their time.
- Max Pers: 5
- Price: Approx. 110USD/pers
- Starting time: 8 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Casa Cenote
- Duration: 4 hours (including 30 minutes of driving)
- What’s included: Paddleboard, snorkeling gear, ride to casa cenote, entrance to cenote, and tacos
- Difficulty: 3.5/5
7# Best private snorkeling tour + Tulum ruins
For people who want to get an up close and personal look at the famous ruins near Tulum, this is the perfect tour. The first part of the tour is a 2-hour walk in the ruins area. From there, the journey continues to Cenote Xunaan Ha. This is a cenote that features a diving area from the rocks. Finally, the third stop is at Cenote Taak Bi Ha. All in all, it’s about a 6-hour journey, 4 of which you spend on different activities. The tour doesn’t include lunch or snacks, but you can stop at a nice restaurant (or bring something to eat).
✋ Ideal to skip the crowd at the Tulum ruins & snorkel in 2 less-visited cenotes
- Max Pers: Private Tour
- Price: Approx. 170/pers
- Starting time: 7h30 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Cenote Xunaan Ha & Cenote Taak Bi Ha
- Duration: 6 hours (including 2 hours driving)
- What’s included: Transportation, bottled water, snorkeling equipment, access to cenotes & ruins
- Difficulty: 2/5
8# Best snorkeling group tour + Tulum ruins
This is the tour for early risers who want to get a chance to explore the Tulum ruins area without the crowd. The tour starts at 6 am, with a pick you up at your local hotel or Airbnb. The first stop is the archeological site, and from there, you head to the Caribbean sea to swim with colorful fishes (and maybe turtles!).
The final stop (3h) is at the XTun Caverns area. The cavern part of the tour is where you will spend most of your time. This tour is less focused on the snorkeling experience.
✋Ideal for travelers who want to enjoy a bit of everything
- Max Pers: 12
- Price: Approx. 109 USD/pers
- Starting time: 6 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: Playa Maya, Xtun Caverns
- Duration: 8 hours (including 2 hours driving)
- What’s included: A guide, transportation, bottled water, lunch & snorkeling gear
- Difficulty: 2/5
9# Best Freediving tour
A free dive expert will give you a class on free diving before your tour—everything is about breathing and mindset. This same guide is going to be with you throughout your entire journey. All of the equipment that you need is included in the final price.
You’ll get a chance to practice freediving in a beautiful cenote. I did it in El Pit, and it was mind-blowing!
✋ Ideal for travelers who want to become fish.
- Max Pers: 4
- Price: Approx. 278USD/pers
- Starting time: 8:30 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: El Pit or Kaan Luum
- Duration: 4 hours (including a half hour driving)
- What’s included: Full freediving gear: mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, weight belt and weights private transportation, all fees and taxes.
- Difficulty: 5/5
10# Best tour to Sian ka’an & Punta Allen
You could argue that this is more of a boat tour or day trip experience. Still, you could have one of the best Tulum snorkeling trips on a good day. There’s a 40-minute drive to reach the dock. Then, you take a boat to explore the jungle area of the biosphere, which is an experience within itself, to get to Punta Allen.
It’s not just sea turtles that you’re going to be able to encounter here; there are actual dolphins, a nice barrier reef with crystal clear water, and many fish species.
Depending on the weather condition, you won’t be able to snorkel. Ready to take the risk?
✋Ideal for travelers who want an exciting off-the-beaten-path adventure.
- Max Pers: 10
- Price: Approx. 189 USD/pers
- Starting time: 7 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an
- Duration: 10 hours (including 2.5 to 3 hours driving)
- What’s included: Hotel pickup and drop-off in Tulum, a guide, snorkeling equipment, fruit, snacks, and lunch
- Difficulty: 2/5
11# Best snorkeling + Kayak tour
If you want a more “active” tour of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an, this is your option. This tour takes you to a lagoon within the Sian Ka’an reserve. You’re exploring a different area than the tour previously mentioned.
You get snacks and food along with all of the equipment. One of the things that could be better about this tour is that transportation is not free. You can take your car if you like. This area is almost an hour and a half away from downtown Tulum.
✋ Ideal for travelers who like sporty vacations.
- Max Pers: 13
- Price: Approx. 230 USD/pers
- Starting time: 1h30
- Where are the snorkeling spots: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an
- Duration: 6 hours (including 2.5 to 3 hours driving)
- What’s included: kayak equipment, snorkeling gear, snacks, lunch, and pictures & video
- Difficulty: 4/5
12# Whale shark tour
Swimming with Whale sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable activities in the Mexican Caribbean. This is one of the best tours to do just that.
They can pick you up anywhere in the Riviera Maya to take you to Cancun, where the tour begins—from Tulum, the car ride will take 2-3 hours, 1 way.
Then you go out on a boat in search of whale sharks. Once you find them, you can swim with these massive creatures for several minutes. And don’t worry. These animals are peaceful!
It’s better to stay in Cancun if you plan to do this tour—only from May to September.
✋ A once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Max Pers: 10
- Price: Approx. 209 USD/pers
- Starting time: 5–6 am
- Where are the snorkeling spots: North Beach Isla Mujeres
- Duration: 10 hours (including at least 4 hours driving from Tulum)
- What’s included: full breakfast, lunch, all the gear you need, boat ride, and transportation.
- Difficulty: 4/5
Snorkeling Tulum tips
Snorkeling in the Mexican Caribbean is simple to organize. Still, to make your experience more enjoyable, you’ll want to follow these quick tips.
If you decide to take a tour
Do some additional research on the areas you’ll be visiting. This will let you know what to expect. Also, try to book a tour that leaves early from Tulum. You won’t be able to enjoy the cenote as much if you have to swim through tourist traffic in the water. Plus, having a lot of people in the water scares fish away.
Your snorkeling equipment
Most guided Tulum snorkeling trips include all the gear you need. Still, bringing your snorkel if you plan to do a lot of swimming will be better. There’re many things to see underwater in the Riviera Maya—make sure you try it first at home.
Many of the masks and goggles at local pharmacies or on sale on the street aren’t great. The last thing you want is water getting in your eyes as you try to spot marine life.
Weather is one thing you will want to be on top of before your tour or just swimming out into the water. Choppy waters in the Caribbean Sea will make swimming in coral reefs much harder.
The best months of the year for Tulum snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea are from November to June (fewer rainy days, almost no seaweed). That means better visibility and fewer chances of having your tour canceled.
Bad weather will not affect your cenote expedition, although the scenery will be more beautiful thanks to the sunlight if it is an open cenote.
Water in the cave cenote is cold, and it will be uncomfortable if you stay more than 15-20 min without a wetsuit. Water temperature in an open cenote is fine. The sea is warm all year long (warmer between July and October)— 27°C. It will be a bit colder from December to March.
The high season in the Riviera Maya runs from December through March. You can also find large crowds through the summer from June to August, especially when the dates coincide with a Mexican holiday. Since it tends to rain a lot during the summer, you don’t typically get the Spring Break crowds you see in March.
If you want to snorkel during the high season, get to the most famous spots early (Akumal bay, Gran cenote, Dos Ojos, Tulum ruins). That’s going to help you avoid larger crowds. That allows you to have better viewing and more free swimming space. It’s why I recommend booking a private tour.
Some cenotes are only for Scuba Diving and Freedivers
Some cenotes like El Pit are only for experienced divers. They may even require a diving license to allow you to get in the water. The best way to access these spots if you are an experienced diver is through tours to these areas. That way, you can avoid the requirements hassle. Just get a tour company to take care of everything for you.
Seaweed from March to October. It can impact your snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, especially if you’re near the coastline. It’s not an issue in cenotes, though! You can follow Twitter accounts and sites to plan your trip around less-impacted areas.
Some cenotes may charge you more if you go with “Pro” underwater camera
You may be hit with extra fees you’ll need to pay in some cenotes if you want to take pro camera equipment. Ask your tour guide before you bring along your gear.
Be careful with boats
Many people look at the map and see that the Tulum reef is close to the beach. So they think it’s a perfect idea just to swim out there. Keep in mind that there can be quite a few boats around that area.
Taking off from the shore and trying to swim to the reefs can be perilous. Also, there can be choppy waters you need to deal with. Overall, it’s not something I recommend.
Respect the environment
Don’t try and touch coral reefs, or turtles, for that matter, when you’re out there swimming. Not only are you damaging the environment, but you can also hurt yourself by getting too close. There’s also a whole issue with not using sunblock near the reefs.
That doesn’t mean you have to risk getting the worst sunburn. Just make sure that you’re using biodegradable sunscreen while on your trip. An even better solution is to use diving shirts.
More snorkeling spots in the Riviera Maya
The cenotes and crystal clear waters in the ocean around Tulum are not the only spots in the region to snorkel. Many areas near other cities can be just as good or even better.
The small resort town of Puerto Morelos could be a great spot to snorkel without dealing with the big crowds of Tulum. You can snorkel a short swim away from the beach to the reef area. The water around the reef is usually very shallow. This allows beginners to explore the site easily. Puerto Morelos is only about an hour and a half away from Tulum.
Cozumel is one of the best snorkeling spots in the world. You have crystal clear waters and easy access to shallow reefs to explore. Punta Sur is one of the most famous reserves in the area.
You can get to Cozumel by ferry from other main cities in the Riviera Maya. You can even arrive directly at the airport on the island and craft your entire snorkeling-filled vacation there.
Your question about Snorkeling around Tulum
Here are some more common questions that I get about snorkeling in Tulum.
Can you swim to the reef at Tulum?
You can swim from the beach to the Tulum reef most days. There may be a lot of boats and things nearby, so swimming from the shore isn’t recommended.
Are there coral reefs in Tulum?
When you visit Tulum, you’ll see that the Mesoamerican barrier reef runs along the shoreline.
Free snorkeling tulum
Free snorkeling in Tulum is possible on some public beaches, as long as you have your own gear.