East of Mexico City off the Yucatan Peninsula, the snorkeling off Cancun is well known for its numerous snorkel dive sites. The Cancun waters are exceptionally interesting since the shallow Great Mesoamerican Reef makes a close approach to the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. The shore dives are known for good marine life and the boat-accessed dive sites are known for underwater sculptures and whale sharks.
The most popular Cancun snorkeling dive site is at Punta Cancun in the waters off the Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort. During Punta Cancun snorkeling, you will hopefully encounter the well known very large parrotfish.
On the north side of Punta Cancun, there are three snorkeling dive sites. These dive sites had been quite popular in the early 1990’s, but Hurricane Roxanne in 1995 smothered the coral with a couple inches of sand killing most of the large coral formations. Since then, there has been some coral regrowth over the large dead formations. The best dive is off the northeast point of Punta Cancun at the Cuevenos snorkeling dive site. There is good coral regrowth providing habitat to filefish, grunts, snapper, angelfish, yellowtail and moray eels. With water depths from 15 to 30 feet, this site can be accessed by shore or by boat. On the west side of the same cove, the Chintales snorkeling dive site has some elkhorn regrowth and sea fans in waters from 5 to 25 feet deep. This is usually a shore dive but can be accessed by boat. There are some strong currents on the outside of the reef. During Chintales snorkeling, you may encounter grunts, tangs, snappers, and yellowtail. Lastly, a little further offshore, the El Bajito snorkeling dive site is a boat-accessed destination. If the conditions are super calm, you could swim out the long distance, but make sure to take a diver-down flag. With the strong currents off-shore, this is usually a drift dive in 5 to 15 foot deep waters. It is not known for good coral health, but it is teeming with marine life.
At the south end of the Cancun tourist zone, the Punta Nizuc Reef approaches the shore at Punta Nizuc off the east side of the Club Med Cancun resort. While this snorkeling dive site is known for its waves and wind, if you find a calm morning, it can be a scenic dive with plenty to see. The water depth ranges from the shallows to around 35 feet. The shoreline, especially on the west side of the point near the resort, can be very crowded with tourists. Many divers really enjoy exploring the reef by a boat-accessed dive tour. During a Punta Nizuc Reef snorkeling dive, you may encounter grunts, snapper, blennies and an occasional turtle.
The most unique Cancun snorkeling dive site is off the southwest tip of Isla Mujeres, a popular day trip from Cancun, where there is an underwater sculpture park known as Museo Subacuatico de Arte. This underwater museum of 400 life size sculptures. This boat-accessed underwater art show in the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) covers about 1,000 square-feet. Also out on Isla Mujeres to the northeast of Cancun, the Garrafon Natural Reef Park is a popular destination for snorkeling. There is a half-hour boat ride from Playa Tortugas in Cancun out to Isla Mujeres. At Isla Mujeres, there are beautiful reefs to explore that are teeming with marine life.
In addition to the typical dive sites, another popular snorkeling attraction to Cancun are the boat-accessed snorkeling with whale sharks. Annually, up to 1,400 whale sharks migrate throughout the coastal waters to feed on plankton off the Yucatan Peninsula. The best time of year for a gentle whale shark encounter is mid-May through mid-September.
To reach the snorkeling in Cancun by air, you will need to fly into Cancun International Airport (Aeropuerto de Cancun - CUN). Many of the high-end beach resorts have an airport shuttle van, otherwise it is recommended to take a taxi. Renting a car to drive around can be hazardous do to the potential for unwarranted police stops resulting in required immediate cash payments.
Overall, Cancun is the 3rd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in Mexico.