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Tulum snorkeling places and travel tips

Spectacular coastline, ancient Mayan ruins, magical underwater rivers… All these things make Tulum one of the most celebrated destinations in Mexico! On top of visiting historical attractions, discovering the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and the magical world of the cenotes are the main reasons why thousands of visitors choose this place as their vacation destination year after year. If you are keen on water activities, read on to learn what are Tulum best snorkeling places!

Anett Szaszi - Snorkel Around The World

Written by Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver, and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years of experience. She fell in love with the ocean while snorkeling in the Red Sea on a vacation to Egypt back in 2008. Since then, she has been traveling to discover the world’s best snorkeling spots and sharing her experience and tips to inspire others. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

Where can you go snorkeling in Tulum

The whole Riviera Maya coastline in the Yucatan Peninsula is a popular diving and snorkeling destination, but probably Tulum offers the best conditions for underwater explorers.

The Tulum reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System that stretches over 1000 kilometers from Isla Contoy to Belize and Bay Islands in Honduras and awaits visitors with colorful marine life, but exploring cenotes is also second to none.

Shore snorkeling in Tulum

If you check on Google Earth or on Wikimapia, you can see that the Tulum coral reef is not so far from the shore (about 250-300 meters) so if you are a good, confident swimmer, you don’t need to sign up for any boat snorkeling tour just simply swim to the reef.

On the internet, we read confusing information about the free shore snorkeling in Tulum. We were not sure if it is allowed or not, therefore we decided to check it out on the spot.

The main Tulum beach is long with several access points to the water, but we found Playa Maya Public beach the best to go snorkeling. Actually, there was no sign or information that you cannot swim out to the reef, so since the weather was ideal, bright and sunny with a light breeze, no waves so we decided to start the adventure.

 orange sea-slug - Caribbean Sea
Flamingo Tongue Sea Slug on the reef in Tulum

We swam about 300 meters until we reached the reef that is built up from different hard and soft coral species (mainly sea plume, sea fan, Caribbean Sea whip). The Tulum reef is part of the Great Mayan Reef and home to over 75 coral and 500 marine species.

Barracudas, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, sergeant majors and blue tangs you will see for sure on a Tulum snorkeling session, but if you are lucky you might spot rays and turtles too that regularly visit the shallow, protected waters.

If you don’t find turtles in Tulum, organize a day trip to Akumal Turtle Bay that is just a 30 mins drive away and home to a big population of sea turtles!

Yellow Stingray - Mexico Tulum
Yellow stingray in Tulum

Always stay on the inner side of the reef and pay attention to the passing boats! The traffic is quite big, so for your own safety always carry a surface marker buoy with you! For novice snorkelers, we recommend signing up for a Tulum snorkeling tour that are offered by many operators.

Tip: our hotel recommendations close-by are Kai Tulum and  Villa Pescadores.

Tulum snorkeling tour

Booking a snorkel trip in Tulum is as easy as ordering a pizza! Most companies offer Tulum snorkeling tour, you can book these in your hotel or in the city center. Of course, booking can be done directly at Tulum public beaches too.

Reef snorkel trips are often combined with a short trip to the ruins too where you can have a look at the archaeological site from a different angle, from the sea! The spot where the boat captain will let you jump into the water always depends on weather and sea conditions.

Tulum reef
Tulum coral reef

If you have special needs, book private a Tulum snorkeling tour! Tour operators can arrange for you any combination: visit different cenotes in one day or combine the Mayan ruins trip with swimming in cenotes! Obviously, private tours give you the most flexibility but are more expensive.

Tip: Another superb snorkeling spot along the Riviera Maya in Mexico is the Puerto Morelos reef. Although it is closer to Cancun but a day trip is manageable from Tulum or Playa del Carmen as well. If you have time, spend a few days on the small island of Cozumel too that is easily accessible by ferry and discover Cozumel best snorkel spots!

Cenote snorkeling near Tulum

Did you know that there is a whole underwater system in the Yucatan Peninsula? This hidden wonderland consists of caves, sunken labyrinths, and tunnels flooded with fresh water.

Since the system is still under exploration, most parts are open for professional cave divers only. However, you also have a chance to experience this beauty when visiting cenotes!

Cenote snorkeling -Tulum
Cenote in Tulum

These natural sinkholes can be found often in the jungle surrounded by lush vegetation with the chance of spotting iguanas and tropical birds too. Cenote snorkeling in Tulum is a not-to-miss-out experience that gives you the opportunity of discovering some of the most unique cave systems of the planet as well as observing rare freshwater fish species. On top of these, you might spot crocodiles too!

Best things to do in Tulum besides snorkeling

Year after year, more and more tourists choose Tulum as their holiday destination over staying in Cancun resorts. Most people think only about the famous ruins when it comes to Tulum.

Well, visiting one of these archaeology sites definitely needs to be on your bucket list, but there are plenty of other attractions in the region. This Tulum activities top list includes the best things to do!

Visiting the Mayan ruins

The dramatically situated ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea became the symbol of the whole area. Travel back in time and explore this ancient Mayan city!

Mayan ruins - Tulum
Mayan ruins in Tulum

Arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowd! Don’t leave your swimsuit at home in order to enjoy a relaxing swim just right in front of the ruins at Playa Ruinas, although it is not a snorkel spot because the waves are pretty big here.

Chilling on the white sandy Tulum beaches

Although most Tulum beaches belong to hotels, therefore, are open for hotel guests only, but the good news is that the public beaches are beautiful too!

Playa Ruinas Beach - Tulum
Playa Ruinas Beach

Las Palmas Public Beach and Playa Maya Public Beach are popular among tourists who want to escape the crowded Cancun beaches. Altough the Mexico sunscreen ban is not everywhere valid in the country, but respect the ocean and use biodegradable sun lotion that doesn’t harm the corals!

Discovering the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

With its rich flora and fauna, tropical forests, mangroves and preserved marine section Sian Ka’an is a place to visit for nature lovers. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to over 400 species of fish, 300 species of birds, 100 mammals and 40 amphibians.

Yoga and meditation

In this spiritually abundant town, you find many different retreat centers. Join their courses, workshops and get back to balance!

Tulum sustainable travel tips

The aggressive development trend has a very negative impact on the local flora and fauna, as well as on coral reefs. Local organizations put a lot of effort to stop mega-developments in Tulum in order to prevent this lovely Mexican town from becoming a mass-tourism destination. They are trying to protect it from pollution, stop illegal developments and urge proper waste management.

Tulum coastline
Tulum has such wonderful natural attractions – it’s our responsibility to preserve it

Traveling was never as easy as nowadays, and even the most remote destinations are facing serious problems as a result like plastic pollution and coral bleaching just to highlight the biggest one. Please, think about being sustainable on your trips! Read our tips on how to use less plastic tips and make taking care of the environment an everyday habit!

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Snorkeling in Tulum Mexico

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