Tulum is a stunning coastal beach destination in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico, attracting over 2 million visitors annually. When you visit Tulum, you can immediately feel the calm hippie vibe that the city gives off, and everyone seems to be happy, relaxed, and in vacation mode. You might wonder if Tulum is safe to visit, and you’ll be glad to know that even though it is a smaller town, it is safe for tourists to come and enjoy its natural beauty!
There are many things to see when visiting Tulum, including art installations, pristine white sandy beaches, and crystal clear cenotes that are perfect for an afternoon swim. Visitors and locals alike enjoy roaming the streets and visiting handicraft shops or checking out the happening local restaurant scene. Tulum is in a prime location to see some of Mexico’s other great attractions like the Tulum ruins, Chichen Itza, Gran Cenote, and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Adventure is abundant in Tulum! Spend the day hiking and swimming in cenotes, buzzing down zip lines, or biking down the streets of Tulum. Although these activities are a must-do, one of the best activities to do in Tulum is snorkeling! Just under the surface of the water, you can find the shores nearby that are teeming with plant and marine life. You can even spot a sea turtle or two! Check out this list of the best places to try snorkeling on your next Tulum vacation!
Best places to go snorkeling in Tulum
Akumal beach is arguably one of the best places to snorkel alongside sea turtles! During nesting season, female sea turtles head back to Akumal, where they were born, to lay their eggs. Nesting season is between May and October, but the turtles are present in the area year-round.
Sea turtle sightings areng a common occurrence at Akumalwhichat naturally draws in tourists. Many tour companies offer guided tours to see sea turtles at Akumal, but it is possible to do it for free. Legally all the beaches in Mexico are accessible to the public. Although in recent years, private companies have bought the beachfront land at Akumal (and many other coastal regions in the Yucatan). They often charge a fee to pass through their land to get to the beach.
When snorkeling alone, you need to stay within 150 feet of the shore, but it is still possible to see sea turtles at this distance! Look for the darker patches of water with seagrass on the ocean floor. This is where the turtles feed, so you will likely find them snacking there! It’s best to come to see them in the early morning before 9 am-10 am when all the tours arrive. The turtles live in a deicate ecosystem that can be easily disrupted. Many tourists flock to this area every day to see the turtles, so it would be helpful to try and have a minimal impact on the ecosystem. Please be respectful and keep your distance from the turtles, being mindful not to kick up dust or touch them!
Gran Cenote is a magical freshwater cenote 3 miles (4.9 km) away from Tulum. This cenote is excellent for swimming, relaxing, and enjoying a dip in the cool crystal clear water. It is easily one of the best snorkeling spots in Tulum. The cenote has a small entrance fee and plenty of lockers, life jackets, and snorkel gear for rent.
At Gran Cenote, it’s easy to spend the morning snorkeling the two caves, spotting exciting rock formations and even small turtles that call the cenote home. This cenote has two pools to explore. The second can be found by swimming through a cave system. Alternatively, there is a set of stairs that you can use to go around.
Gran Cenote is great for beginner-intermediate swimmers to try snorkeling due to the shallow areas. Intermediate swimmers and snorkelers will enjoy the deeper regions and snorkeling in the cave!
Cenote Dos Ojos is a popular spot for tourists to come and snorkel in Tulum. Dos Ojos means “two eyes” in Spanish, referring to the two openings to the cenote that resemble eyes. You can visit Dos Ojos on your own by renting a car or the small “colectivos” busses. There is a small entrance fee, and snorkel gear is available for rent.
At Dos Ojos, just below the surface, you can peer through the crystal clear waters and enjoy the unique effects the light causes. Although this cenote is quite popular for diving, you can still see some interesting limestone rock formations and small fish in the cenote. When the water levels are just right, it’s possible to swim through to a bat cave but keep in mind cave formations are fragile, so avoid touching anything in the cave.
This cenote is a beautiful, large cenote with a huge opening. It is easily accessible for swimmers and snorkelers of all levels. The picturesque beauty of the natural landscape makes it popular with tourists. The waters are a sparkling blue, hence the name, and feature the main swimming area and a couple of smaller pools full of fish that like to nibble your toes and other marine plant life. Above the water, there is also an abundance of birds and iguanas to spot!
Cenote Azul is great for snorkelers and swimmers of all skill levels. There are shallow areas for relaxing and deeper sections for those who want a challenge. You can climb up a cliff about 15 feet (4.5 meters) high and jump off the rock into the cool blue water if you’re brave enough.
This open-air cenote is a great way to cool off after snorkeling in the beating sun, but unlike other cenotes that offer lots of protection from the sun, Cenote Azul does not, so it’s essential to reapply marine-safe sunscreen while visiting. The cenote also provides facilities for its visitors, like a bathroom, change room, rentals, snack stalls, and fish food. Cenote Azul is also located very close to two other cenotes (Cenote Cristalino and Cenote Jardin del Eden), making it really easy to visit all three in one day!
This fun-filled marine eco-park has some of the best snorkeling in Tulum. Xel-Ha is a natural water park that offers snorkeling in a stunning inlet that flows into the Caribbean Sea. See many types of marine plant life and fish species as you swim around the park.
In addition to snorkeling, there are plenty of other things to enjoy at Xel-Ha, including zip lines, five-meter-high jumps, rope games, playgrounds, and more! After snorkeling, head on a real adventure through some cenotes and coves, hiking along the jungle path as you go. Admission includes breakfast and lunch, gear rental, life jackets, inner tubes, and more! The park has great facilities for changing and lockers for guest use.
This park is excellent for families with kids of all ages or snorkelers looking to explore in a safe and controlled environment.
Yalku Lagoon is the perfect snorkeling spot for beginners looking to get up close to nature in a very safe and reassuring environment. It is located near some of the best hotels if you are looking for where to stay in Tulum. This beautiful open-air cenote and lagoon are perfect for those who want to try snorkeling or get claustrophobic in traditional cenotes.
The crystal clear blue water is warm and inviting, making it great for kids. You can spot many fish species, like rainbow parrot fish, barracuda, and American rays, as you swim. Above the water, there’s always an iguana or two soaking up the sun on the rocks. There is also a lovely art garden to see before you head back to your hotel!
There are helpful facilities on site, like bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, lockers, and snorkel rentals. Yalku Lagoon charges a small fee to enter and has ample parking nearby.
Snorkle through stunning caves hidden in the Mayan jungle at Casa Cenote. The inviting emerald green warm waters call tourists from all over Mexico to snorkel. This cenote extends 250 meters into the jungle, which leads snorkelers to follow a natural route bordered by a net of mangrove trees carved out by the cenote.
Under the water, the mangrove roots create a natural filter home to thousands of newly hatched fish. The incredibly clear water makes it easy to see many species of fish, including platys, guppies, and mollies.
This cenote requires guests to enter through the water and charges a small fee to enter. They also offer life jackets and snorkeling gear rentals.
Otherwise known as the temple of doom, Cenote Calavera is a deep cenote, resembling something from an Indiana Jones movie. Two small openings resemble eyes, which is why it’s often referred to as the skull cenote or temple of doom. It is one of the closest cenotes, located just outside Tulum.
The cenote is excellent for swimming, but you can also grab your snorkel gear and explore the eerie scenes underwater. This cenote features lots of rock formations and some small fish. After you’re done snorkeling, you can try out the rope swing or jump in through one of the eye holes (if you’re brave!)
It is excellent for intermediate to strong swimmers as there is not much of a shallow area to rest while swimming. This cenote charges a small entrance fee and offers showers and a small relaxing picnic area. They don’t have snorkeling gear for rent, so be sure to bring your own!
Only a few visitors who come to Tulum realize there is a gorgeous coral reef just off the shore of the beaches in the Hotel Zone. The reef is about 150 meters from the shore, and it is recommended to go with a tour guide by boat. If you want to explore the reef on your own and are confident in your swimming skills, it is possible to swim out to the reef. Ensure you bring your snorkeling gear, life jacket, and whistle. Only venture out when the water and weather are calm and clear.
See an underwater scene teeming with life! The reef is filled with schools of colorful fish and bright and beautiful coral.
While in the hotel zone, check out one of Tulum’s best adult-only all-inclusive resorts! Most resorts have outstanding facilities and plenty of gear to enjoy out on the water!
Stay off the beaten path and enjoy the pristine turquoise waters without the hoards of tourists! Soliman Bay is a beautiful beach that is relatively untouched by tour companies and resorts. There are no facilities at this beach, so you will need to bring your own snorkel gear.
The water is safe and great for beginner snorkelers! Catch a glimpse of different fish species and plant life under the water. The fine silky white sand is an inviting place to rest after a day of snorkeling with the fish just offshore.
Best Tulum Snorkeling Tour
The Tulum ruins are a beautifully preserved historical site located in Tulum. This ancient Mayan settlement was once the hub of international trade for the region. Perched right on top of a cliff face, in the direction of the rising sun, is the main building at the site: The Ruins of El Castillo. As you walk amongst the Tulum Ruins, you might catch a glimpse of a sliver of beach at the bottom of the cliff.
Few people know that the stunning and relatively untouched Tulum reef is just offshore from the beach. Although you won’t be able to make it to the reef from the beach itself, there is another way to get there, by a tour boat! Enjoy a day of snorkeling in this Tulum Reef section by taking a tour boat.
On this tour, you can get closer to the marine plant life and fish that call the Mesoamerican Reef home. This reef touches the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras spanning over 700 miles (1126 km) from north to south. It is the second-largest reef in the world! Get one-of-a-kind views of the Tulum ruins and explore this incredible underwater paradise all in one day!
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a massive reserve, spreading across 2,039 sq mi (5,280 km2) of the Yucatan Peninsula, just south of Tulum. This biosphere reserve is home to beautiful mangrove forests, cenotes, lush jungle, and pristine, untouched coastline. In 1987 the area became a UNESCO world heritage site and was the 3rd largest natural protected area in Mexico. Due to how challenging it can be to get there on your own and its massive size, it is best to see Sian Ka’an using a guided tour.
This tour on Viator offers the best of both worlds at Sian Ka’an. The full-day excursion picks you up from your hotel in Tulum and provides meals during the tour. Your tour guide will drive you to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where you can spend the day exploring the lagoon. Snorkeling through the warm, inviting water, spotting turtles, dolphins, and many species of birds along the way. Later in the day, you can hike through the jungle to Muyil and discover the ancient pyramids dedicated to the goddess of fertility, “Ixchel.”
Note that Sian Ka’an Biosphere is also a great place for fly fishing. If this interest you, read more here: Sian Ka’an fly fishing.
Cenotes and Caves
One of the most interesting experiences you can have in Tulum is taking a guided tour that brings you through four beautiful limestone caves that go up to 600m deep! Your guide will tell you all about the geological formations that can be found all over the Yucatan. Snorkeling in the limestone caves is one of the most exciting experiences, but that’s not all. Head back to the Caribbean Sea to swim and snorkel with the marine life on the reef! Spot some squid, rays, lobsters, and dolphins or sea turtles if you’re lucky!
Your local guide will provide all the gear and wetsuits needed for your adventure and tell interesting stories about Mayan culture and history. Learn more about the biodiversity you can find in this region of Mexico. This tour is one of the best experiences in Tulum.
Best Snorkeling Day Trips From Tulum
If you are looking to take a day trip from Tulum, grab your snorkel gear and head to one of the region’s most popular islands, Cozumel. Cozumel is located 49 miles (79 km) north of Tulum, just outside Playa Del Carmen. You can reach the island by flight, but the most common way to get there is by ferry. Many tour guides will try to sell you tour packages while you board the ferry in Playa Del Carmen but be aware that you can also snorkel on the island for free. Many of these tour packages are significantly overpriced, and it’s best to avoid them. The people selling the packages can be extremely forceful and convincing, so it’s best to refrain from engaging with them.
This island is huge and can be explored either by bike or walking. The downtown core does have a reliable public transit system to help you get around. You can also catch a cab on Cozumel to many popular tourist destinations. The island is famous for its gorgeous white sand, turquoise waters, and laid-back island vibe.
There are many activities on the island, from shopping and relaxing on the beach to exploring ruins and cenotes. While visiting Cozumel, you must see the beautiful snorkeling spots and abundant marine life up close.
Grab your gear and head to one of these beachfront bars: Money Bar, SkyReef Cozumel, Buccanos Bar & Grill, Cozumel Hotel & Resort, Playa Corona, Tikila Beach Bar, Sunset Cozumel, or Turquoise to enjoy swimming with the fishes. These businesses allow you to snorkel for a small fee, with a day pass, or by purchasing food or drink. Some of them even have showers and lockers to use. Playa Azul and Punta Sur Cozumel also allow snorkeling in front of their property!
Isla Mujeres is another great snorkeling spot that is easily accessible from Tulum! Take a fun-filled day trip 91 miles (148 km) north of Tulum to Isla Mujeres, just off the shore from Cancun. You can fly there or take a ferry, which is the most common route. Catch your ferry from Gran Puerto Cancun and head off for a day of snorkeling fun on the island!
On the island itself, you can get around using a golf cart, bike rental, or by walking! The island is 1.6 miles (4 km²) and is very easy to get around. Snorkel at the beautiful beach of Playa Norte and spot tropical fish swimming just off the shore. The calm waters and warm sand are inviting places for a picnic day trip! Garrafon de Castilla is another great place that also offers a gear rental if you didn’t bring a set. The beach is rocky and a great place to see tropical fish in their natural habitat.
Although it isn’t free, one of the most extraordinary things to see in Isla Mujeres is the MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art). Many snorkeling options bring you through some beautiful underwater art exhibits created by Jason deCaires Taylor. This underwater museum that hosts 470 pieces of art serves as an artificial reef that helps to preserve marine life. It is a sight to see and one of Mexico’s most unique snorkeling experiences!
Tulum is a stunning beach town with so much to see and explore; from historical ruins to the crystal clear waters of the cenotes, it is packed with adventure. It is easy to spend weeks exploring Tulum and the nearby region if you are looking for an adventurous vacation or to relax on the beach. There are plenty of resorts, boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, and shops to be explored. You have to come to see Tulum and feel the magic for yourself!
If you like snorkeling, yachting with friends might interest you as well. Here’s where you can rent a yacht in Tulum for an unforgettable adventure: yacht rentals in Tulum.