Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel

Cozumel is one of the best places in the world to dive & snorkel.  It’s a water-lover’s paradise.  Famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau declared it “one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas in the world.”  The water is clear & fifty shades of turquoise, with visibility up to 200 feet.  You can also learn to scuba dive in Cozumel…there are tons of instructors & dive shops.  Or, if that doesn’t sound appealing, take a Cozumel snorkel tour or simply grab some gear & jump in!  This post covers the best snorkel spots in Cozumel, that I discovered after a month spent on the island.

Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel, Girl Who Travels the World

I went to Cozumel & planned to stay three days….but stayed a month instead!

***Author’s Note: Please note that the currents in Cozumel can be very strong ~ & it’s HIGHLY advisable that you bring fins for your snorkeling adventure.  Currents can change in a moment, & you ALWAYS want to be able to safely swim back to shore.  If you have kids with you, rent a life vest & use a brightly-colored surface marker buoy. 

Article updated in December 2023.

Map of Cozumel Snorkel Spots

The map gives an overview of the best snorkel spots in Cozumel.  If you’d prefer to stay in a hotel with snorkeling on-site, try Hotel Cozumel ($140+), the Cozumel Palace All-Inclusive Resort ($274+), or the Coral Princess Hotel & Dive Resort ($94+). 

They all offer snorkeling right on-property, & Cozumel Palace is actually located right by the Palancar Reef!

Villablanca Hotel

Secrets Cozumel

Cozumel Palace

The Money Bar

El Cielo


Hotel Cozumel

Columbia Reef

Where to Snorkel in Cozumel

Discovered by Cousteau, Cozumel boasts the second largest coral reef in the world: the great Meso-American Barrier Reef.  Along with this comes near-perfect diving conditions ~ with sea turtles, sharks, manta rays, starfish (especially at El Cielo), & all kinds of marine life.

Here’s the general rule of thumb for finding the best snorkel spots in Cozumel: if it’s a white, sandy beach ~ the snorkeling won’t be good.  If it’s a rocky, dark shore ~ chances are, it will be great for snorkeling.  If your feet are sensitive (or you’ve got kids), bring waterproof booties for easier walking along these rocky shores. 

White, sandy beach = BAD for snorkeling! 

Dark, rocky beach = GREAT for snorkeling!

Also, please note: DON’T swim, snorkel, or dive on the EAST side of the island!!  Though it’s beautiful & wild, the current on the east side is extremely strong & can have very dangerous rip tides.  And visibility is NOT good, as the ocean is so rough.  Check it out over there ~ but plan to bike or walk along the ocean path…NOT swim!

Cozumel Guide

The east side of Cozumel is beautiful ~ but not good for swimming or snorkeling due to dangerous currents.

Cozumel Guides & Gear

Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel

The Cozumel snorkel spots listed below are ranked in order of popularity.  Meaning El Cielo, ranked at #1, is the most highly recommended snorkel spot by locals.  

1) El Cielo

El Cielo means “heaven” in Spanish.  And if you love starfish, sting rays, & insanely turquoise waters, then this will be heaven for you!  El Cielo is only accessible by boat, & is located about a mile off Cozumel’s shoreline.  So, unless you know someone with a boat ~ you’ll need to take a tour there, which costs around $45 (I paid $42).  Most tours leave from Cozumel’s main dock, right in San Miguel.  Take a glass-bottom boat or speedboat, & the ride takes about an hour (bring a jacket, it gets cold)!  The water at El Cielo is about waist-deep ~ perfect for kids or novice snorkelers!

Bottom Line: If you want to see starfish & sting rays, GO to El Cielo!  Also good for kids & beginners.  Cost: $40-45 

Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel, El Cielo, Starfish

El Cielo is the one of the best snorkel spots in Cozumel ~ with TONS of starfish!!

Closest Hotel to El Cielo: Occidental Cozumel All-Inclusive Resort

 2) The Money Bar at Dzul Ha

The Money Bar is a local’s favorite restaurant & bar, set right on the beach, about 10-minutes south of town (via taxi).  This is a great place to spend the day: you can get drinks, lunch, & snorkel ~ all in one afternoon!  There are tons of tables, a large bar, & chaise lounges set on the waterfront.  Access for snorkeling is via a ramp or ladder into the ocean.  You’re likely to see schools of tropical fish here, manta rays, & sea turtles.  But the best thing is: there’s no “minimum” food purchase here, unlike other waterfront spots (with most charging $49).  So, for the cost of a $10 drink, you can enjoy snorkeling at the Money Bar, making it one of the most cost-effective snorkel spots. 

Bottom Line: If you want to drink, dance, eat, & snorkel ~ head to the Money Bar.  Good for adults & kids.  Cost: $10+

Where to Snorkel in Cozumel, Best Brunch Spots in Cozumel, Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

The Money Bar is more than just a restaurant: you can also lay out, swim, & snorkel here on their sprawling beachfront property.

Closest Hotel to Money Bar: Landmark Resort of Cozumel (literally across the street)

3) Palancar & Columbia Reefs

Palancar & Columbia are two of the most famous reefs in Cozumel.  They’re both located on the south end of the island (about 45 minutes from San Miguel), & are best accessed by boat.  It’s totally do-able to hit El Cielo, Palancar, & Columbia all in one day.  Columbia Reef is a great place to look for sharks & spotted eagle manta rays.  

Palancar is great for snorkeling OR diving, & it’s a fantastic place to free-dive.  Palancar features caves, ledges, & massive reef drop-offs.  You’ll also find a huge diversity of animals, including turtles (we saw two), exotic fish, eels, sharks, & even barracudas!  I personally found Palancar more exciting & diverse than El Cielo, & highly recommend seeing both on the same tour.

Bottom Line: Two of the best reefs on the island; better for advanced swimmers & divers.  Cost: $45 (if on boat tour)

Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel, Palancar Reef

Palancar Reef in Cozumel is one of the best places to dive AND snorkel!

Closest Hotel to Palancar: Allegro All-Inclusive Resort Cozumel

Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel

4) Hotel Cozumel & Resort Beach Club

For great snorkeling right in town ~ head to Hotel Cozumel & Resort.  We spent many great afternoons here, & it’s also a phenomenal place to watch the sunset.  They’ve got a good lunch buffet for around $15, & a wide oceanfront with lounge chairs, hammocks, lockers for divers, & GREAT snorkeling!!  You’ll enter the water here via a ladder on their dock (easy in & out).  As soon as you dip in, about 20 yards away is an underwater Chichen Itza!  No one told us about it, & it took our breath away.  Beyond that, follow the shoreline to the left for spectacular snorkeling.

Yucatan Travel Guide, Best Cozumel Sunsets

Snorkel & watch the sunset at local Cozumel hangout Jeannie’s…

Another Great Walk-able Snorkel Spot in Cozumel = Jeannie’s (pictured above).  This mediocre restaurant has tables overlooking the ocean, but if you walk down the right side of the restaurant, you’ll find a great, sandy beach with phenomenal ocean views.  Snorkel here for the price of a drink!  And their sunset views are phenomenal….

5) North of the Cozumel Museum on the Ocean Side

Find Cozumel’s museum ~ Museo de Cozumel.  Keep walking north towards the airport, along the ocean side.  You’ll start to see several restaurants with palapa roofs; some have rocky shores with great secret snorkel spots.  The best I found was north of all the restaurants, on a large rocky shore.  I saw several people snorkeling there, so I locked up my bike & ventured out.  It ended up being one of my favorite snorkel experiences in Cozumel, & was totally FREE.  There were great reefs here with tons of fish, & further out, a wild, vast kelp forest.  It was breathtaking.  

Bottom Line: If you dislike masses of cruise ship tourists & prefer independent adventures, head north of town & look for rocky shores.  Cost: FREE!!

Honorable Mentions…

Sky Reef Cozumel is a popular place to snorkel (especially for cruise shippers) ~ & it’s about 25 minutes south of town.  You can tequila taste or enjoy a massage on the beach here.  Similar to the Money Bar, you’re expected to buy food or drink in exchange for accessing their snorkeling area.

Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel, Girl Who Travels the World

My hot pink ride outside of the Sky Reef in Cozumel. When I visited, there was a $49 entrance fee ~ but folks now say it’s more like $18.

Not So Honorable Mentions…

Another popular place to snorkel in Cozumel is the Disneyland-esque Chankanaab Reef.  It’s also popular with cruise ship tourists ~ but less with locals.  They’ve turned it into a mini-Sea World, with hefty entrance fees, dolphin shows, & an opportunity to swim with dolphins.  Any place that keeps dolphins in confinement as “entertainment” for humans, unfortunately, is no place I can personally recommend.  It’s also why I’m not a fan of Dolphinaris in Cozumel, which keeps dolphins confined in small pools while charging tourists $300+ for photos with them.  Save your money & spend it elsewhere. 

***For more reasons why NOT to swim with dolphins in Mexico, read this article.

Where to Snorkel in Cozumel

I hope this guide has helped you find some of the best places to snorkel in Cozumel!  Don’t forget to bring your best underwater cam to capture your adventures, as well as fins to keep you safe in any strong currents.

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: Best Breakfast Spots in Cozumel


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Best Places to Snorkel in Cozumel, Girl Who Travels the World

Where to Snorkel in Cozumel, Girl Who Travels the World