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Cozumel Snorkeling On Your Own -- Shore Trips

 
 
 
 
 
 

You don't need to fork out the dough for a boat trip tour to enjoy great snorkeling on Cozumel. In fact, the typical $40/person snorkeling boat tour will likely take you to the very same spot you could reach just as easily from shore.

 

LEFT: Stair Steps cut into the Rock Make an interesting snorkel put in at Dzul Ha

Here's the straight skinny from our Cozumel snorkeling experts on the best put-ins for a private, do-it-yourself snorkeling experience from shore.To get to any of these spots all you've got to do is grab a cab or rent a car -- both considerably less expensive
options than signing up for a group boat tour.

Shore Snorkeling on the North End of the Island (Coral Princess, Melia, Playa Azul, Cozumeleño, etc.)

The North End of the island is recommended snorkeling only for strong swimmers with advanced skills. This is because the currents can be strong here as well as unpredictable.

We took a check out dip in front of the Coral Princess, where we'd heard rumours that the snorkeling was good. We estimated the current close into shore to be around 2 KNOTS 1 mile per hour.

However, when we swam south against the current and around a little point we found ourselves caught between two currents that made it difficult to move either north or south. So we pushed out to sea 30 yards or so and caught yet another current coming back to the Coral Princess that was at least 2-3 KNOTS miles per hour.

Snorkelers on the north end of the island should also be aware that the currents here will always be pushing out into the channel towards Cancun --not towards land as they do on the south end of Cozumel.

Our dip at the Coral Princess led us to decide not to recommend this area for your average snorkeler -- and most certainly not for children. For this reason, we didn't sample other spots on the north end where conditions would have been similar.

For strong, experienced swimmers who want to try their luck here, there's a nice wall close into shore with lots of sponges and schools of fish. Out a bit further where you'll see purple under the water, you'll find grass instead of coral. If you know how to look into grass for the critters and can deal with the currents at the same time, you may enjoy this trip.
Otherwise, we'd recommend heading south.

Southern Shore Snorkeling

There's good snorkeling from Plaza las Glorias on the southern edge of downtown all the way to Playa Corona beach club which perches near the fringe of Little Yucab reef.

Currents are a factor on the south end of the island as well. But they will tend to be much gentler than anywhere else on the island.

Unlike on the north end, where forces tend to pull you out to sea, on the south coast of Cozumel you'll be pushed back towards the beach.

For this reason, this whole corridor is recommended for beginning through intermediate snorkelers. But any level of skill will enjoy these trips.

Here are some easy put-in spots for checking out the underwater scenery south of town:

PLAYA CALETLA/SNORKEL CENTER/SAND DOLLAR ENTRANCE AREA

This stretch of coastline beginning just a little south of the lighthouse
and the pretty little beach area there called Playa Caletita and ending at The Snorkel Center is a good place to check out. Where you put in here will depend on the direction of the current. Once you've figured this out and decided whether to start at the south end and float north or vice versa, you can do the snorkel then hop out and walk back to your starting point down the pretty, oceanside promenade.

Playa Caletita can't be missed, about ½ mile south of Plaza las Glorias. When you see the lighthouse, you're almost to the parking lot.

The snorkeling isn't good right at the Caletita beach. B but there's a nice little sandy put in right next to the lighthouse. So if the current is going south, you can put in here, and drift the .6/10 of a mile down to the Sand Dollar put in (see below). If you're pooped out, you can get out right here and walk back along the sidewalk to where you started. Or continue on another 2/10 miles and get out at the Snorkel Center (see below.)

Sand Dollar Grill landmark for snorkel put ins

Sand Dollar Put in: approximately 6/10 miles south of Playa Caletita and the lighthouse, you'll see a single story restaurant with a red tiled roof on the left side of the road. Look on the ocean side and you'll see a wooden rail and stone stairs that lead you down to another put in.

 

If the current is going north, you can take it up to Playa Caletita and exit there. If south, get out at the nearby Snorkel Center if the current is stronger that day than you feel like dealing with.

 

Snorkel Center Put In

You'll see a half-finished, long-neglected "sky scraper" on your left as you continue south on the main road. Just a little beyond this and on the oceanside of the road is The Snorkel Center.

 

Little stone steps beside the Snorkel Center lead down to an easy put in

(If you go under an overhead footbridge, you know you've gone a block too far.) Little stone steps beside the Snorkel Center lead down to an easy put in. Snorkel this area after 9 AM or before noon when the dive and snorkel boats will be out and away. What you'll find: coral heads, fan coral, plenty of fish.

The Money Bar Beach Club

Taxis drop offs and pick ups are very easy from this well-known snorkeling spot once known as Dzul Ha. If you're driving yourself, head south on the main road. About a half mile beyond all the congestion and the new traffic light they put in a few months back (only one south of town) you'll see overhead roadway signs and a road that veers off to the right at a 35 degree angle. This is the old beach road. Follow this for about a mile until you hit it.

This sprawling, funky little club on the beach is an excellent base for a couple hours of snorkeling.

In fact, quite a few cruise ship-arranged snorkel tours take you out from the Money Bar dock. You'll see lemming schools of them bobbing around out there and can feel very smug about getting the same views on your own, in peaceful solitude and for a fraction of the price.

You may or may not be asked to pay a cover charge for using a covered table and chairs. Depends on the time of the year and how crowded they are. In any case, plan to order a round or two of drinks during your stay at the club and consider lunch as well. We haven't tried the lunches at the little palapa-covered area at the extreme north end of the club. But we've asked other customers about them and they seem well satisfied with the quality and the price. This has become a popular spot for cruiseship snorkel tours. To avoid the crowds here, plan to snorkel between 9 and 10:30 AM or after 4 PM.

There are one easy entrance to the water where dive boot are not required. The wide, circular stair entrance, however, is extremely slipperly.

Fiesta Americana

How to Get There: Continue down the old beach road from Dzul Ha about ½ mile and you'll see the bright orange hotel across the road from the beach with a restaurant on the beach.

 

What you'll find-- There's is still beautiful snorkeling in front of this hotel. But the particularly interesting marine and plant life will be found to the south of the hotel

Fiesta Americana has a easy entrance from the big staircase. Take this staircase to head out to the buoys (but no further). Then drift south with the current and get out before the pier. If you want to drift further south than the pier, the strong current will take you almost to the entrance of Chankanaab. (See Old Chankanaab Road Next.) So if you pass the pier, you will have to angle into shore and walk back.

Just park your car or jump out of the taxi and walk on through to the beach area. If you plan to stay for awhile and use one of the shaded tables, just order something if a waiter comes around. At non-busy times of the year it's unlikely a waiter will come by. If you want something to drink, you can go find one.

The Old Chankanaab Road

How to Get here:Approximately 3/10 miles past Fiesta American watch for a Y intersection approximately 200 yards before the entrance to Chankanaab National Park.

This was the old entrance to the famous park which is now further south on the main road.No chairs under palapas here but lots of low trees offer shade close to the water and there's easy, partially sandy put ins for 50 yards.

Chankanaab National Park

How to Get There--One of the don't miss attractions of the island, any taxi will take you here. Or if you're in a car, just drive south out of town on either the new road or the old ocean-side one and follow the signs to Chankanaab (CHAHN-kah-knob).

This lovely park with its peacefully shady gardens and long, lovely stretch of man-made beach is a don't miss experience for any visitor to Cozumel.

 

And if you've never snorkeled before, it's a good place to rent gear and practice your moves. You will see the occasional parrot fish, a school of sergeant majors perhaps but no coral, sea fans, octupus, lobster, etc. etc.

Be sure not to miss the underwater statues: Chaak Mool, the Rain God, the Virgin and The Christ. Land-side be sure to check out the beautiful tropical gardens and the "living museum" where you can see how the Mayans lived and even try homemade tortillas and salsa. Also don't miss the interesting Palapa Musuem next to the freshwater lagoon with its exhibits of Cozumel's flora and fauna.

Corona Beach Club

RIGHT, Sandbag Path for easy snorkeling put in at Corona Beach Club

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How to Get There: Continue on the old beach road going south from Chankanaab for approximately 9/10 mile.

Another funky little beach club where they have shaded tables down by the water and an easy,

No-booties necessary as they have a track through the sand into the water right in front of the club. Clean bathrooms, outdoor shower.High season this year they were charging a cover charge of $2/person in addition to anything you order in the way of drinks or food. But it's worth the price of admission if you love snorkeling

This spot has good close to shore snorkeling and for strong swimming free divers, some excellent 10-20 ft walls 50 yards or so out from the beach.

East Coast "Wild Side"

We don't call this the "wild side" of the island for nothing. It's beautiful over there where Cozumel's eastern coast faces the open Carribean and Cuba. But it's also dangerous with very strong and unpredictable undertows that you can't see from the surface but that are often found in 3 to 15 ft of water here. Don't snorkel here because there's nothing to see anyhow. And Extreme Care should be taken with regular swimming as well.

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