We weren't able to do the Fat Cat catamaran trip so we stopped by the travel agency we use in town, Mayalum, and asked what we could do instead. Several of the catamarans were not running but she said we could do a 1/2 day snorkel trip with Yucatek Divers for $32 per person.
Yucatek also runs scuba trips so we waited for a while at their shop for the boat to come back. It ended up just being the two of us plus the guide, driver and their girlfriends so we were able to stay out a little longer I think. They take you to two different spots to snorkel, the first one was excellent, full of fish and we saw a squid (really cool!), lobsters, eels and a ray in addition to the usual assortment of tropical fish. The 2nd spot wasn't as good but by then I was tired anyways.
There are several good places to snorkel near Playa. The best snorkeling we experienced in the region was at Puerto Morelos, midway between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Just get to the main square in Puerto Morelos, by the pier, and you can hire someone with a launch to take you to the reef a few minutes away. We arrived there at 8:00 am and were amongst the most amazing schools of fish within 1/2 hour. It's a natural preserve, and the coral is great, at a distance of between 4 and 12 feet. The guy who took us out was friendly and helpful. It's much more low key than Cozumel or Playa. We were just about the only ones out on the reef. We also once took an excursion here from Cancun, which included pick up at the hotel and everything else. They didn't take us directly to Puerto Morelos, but to a launch site north of town. The snorkeling was just as good, out to the same reef.
We earlier had spent a day at Cozumel, and were quite disappointed. There are a lot of guys when you get off the ferry trying to get you to go, but the guide and captain we got happened to be grumpy. They took us to three sites south of the town, but the coral reef is nothing to see, and it is pretty deep, between 20 to 30 feet. But what bothered us the most was that the guides lure the fish in with food. The fish come swarming around when the food is out, but there are also a lot of other tourists swarming around these feeding frenzies. At Puerto Morelos, feeding is not allowed and the setting is much more natural. There were more fish too. In Cozumel I asked about going to better sites further south, but that has to be arranged by hooking up with a diving excursion, which takes more time and money.
Another day we went to the lagoon at Akumal, between Playa and Tulum. This is also a preserve, and you can swim out to the coral at the mouth to the lagoon. It was impressive and fun, if not as brilliant as Puerto Morelos. Akumal, however, is further from Cancun.
This is a tour for people who enjoy snorkeling.
There are three snorkeling stops in the way: the first one is a sea bay, the second one is a cave cenote and the third one is an open-air cenote.
The first one is the longest one and depends on the sea conditions. If it is stormy, you will not go close to the sea, but will only go halfway.
The second snorkeling site is, maybe, the most exciting one, since it is in a cave. There are lights in the water, so you can see the huge white slabs of stone underwater, which fell from the top of the cave some time ago. Quite scary, but beautiful. A professional photographer will take a picture of you in the cave, if you wish.
Then, after lunch, you'll take the third stop at an open-air cenote. Here you will have to jump in the water from a 4-5 meter high rock and then swim around or snorkel. I preferred to walk around the cenote to take some pictures.
Everyone was predicting rain for our visit so we woke up each morning and then figured out what to do. Our options for snorkeling cruises was a little limited since the first group of them had already gone out but the Best Day representative found us an afternoon one that left at 12:40 and sailed from Marina Maroma.
This was not one of the better snorkeling cruises we've taken, the boat made two stops, one following the guide and the other on our own. The quantity and variety of fish was not remarkable although we did see a couple of stingrays, I saw an eel and my husband saw a lobster. The marina is north of Playa del Carmen but not as far north as Puerto Morales.
The cost was $52 per person, the cruise lasted for about 3 hours, water and soft drinks included, no liquor, this was not a booze cruise. Snorkel gear was also included.
After we were done snorkeling, they allowed people to do the spinnaker swing but the wind was light so only the smallest people got any lift at all. After we were done, they took us back to their activity center where we waited for at least another hour for our transport to go back to the hotels and then they forgot a couple people so we waited some more on the side of the highway.
What other activity could give a person such pleasure other than snorkeling? Scuba diving maybe, but for those of you who don't dive, snorkeling is the next best thing and Playa Del Carmen has plenty of areas to do that at. Xel ha or Xcaret has rivers, lagoons & bays for snorkeling and when you tire of that, there are all sorts of other neat things to do and see within these parks. Akumel is fantastic for snorkeling and when your tired you can go lay out on that spectacular white sand. The entrance fee for Akumel is only $5.00 and you can rent snorkel equipment & a locker right there next to the beach bar. I highly recommend Akumel. I've always seen some big amazing creatures when I've been there. Or you could go on any of the many tours given by the operators and be whisked over to Cozumel to do some fantastic snorkeling that you can only reach by boat. Snorkeling can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. Hey, if you want, you can even snorkel right off your hotel beach. We did & had a fantastic time!
Caught the ferry across to Cozumel island and then went on a 3-hour snorkelling adventure on the 2nd best reef in the world!! Amazing visibility and saw so much - eagle ray, moray eel, sting ray, parrot fish, starfish, stone fish and more! No need to book beforehand - they come around to you on the ferry with offers or you can sort it out when you arrive on the island. Offers normally include water, soft drinks and beers on the boat. 3 hours involve going between 3 different areas on the reef, with about 35min of snorkelling at each site. Lots of fun, and so much to see!!! Not a very cheap adventure, but still worth every cent! We paid about $45 and then $40 return for the ferry (if I remember correctly!)! You can get it cheaper, but this was booked for us through our hotel.
Playa has many snorkeling places, one of the most interesting was a park called Xel Ha. It is a park just for snorkeling and you get to see just about everything in the water. Go out closer to the entrance of the cove and the fish get alot bigger!!
There is great snorkel at the man-made reef just in front of La Tortuga restaurant. We have lots of fun with our kids only a few yards from the beach with tons of fish swimming around us as we fed them with banana and corn flakes. Even my 3 year old daughter could float freely with her inflatable arms among fish of different colors and shapes.
For better snorkeling you can take the guided tour to the protected reef. It lasts 45' and costs $10. Highly recommended.
You can see some things if you just go snorkelling straight from the beach, and the best is at Coco beach north of the city. But for the best snorkelling it is better to go on a tour. All over the city you can find agencies organizing all kinds of trips. Some just take you out for a quick snorkel, while others are out the whole day and take you to different kinds of reefs. They also organize scubadiving if you prefer that. Ask around for the best price.
I love snorkeling at Xel Ha. There are paved walking trails surrounding the immaculate, clear lagoon, with plenty of rest areas to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the park.
After snorkeling with hundreds of exotic fish, you will enjoy floating down the Xel Ha River on an inner tube.
The third activity we chose was a morning snorkelling in the nearby Ponderosa and Taj Mahal Cenotes.
Unfortunately, the photos of the Ponderosa and Taj Mahal cenotes are on a film which I still need to finish before getting developed, so I'll add them at a later date.
I have added a shot of the cenote which you will probably be taken to if you take a tour to Chichen Itza. The main problem I had with this cenote is that it was the most crowded area that we saw besides the busy resort of Playa del Carmen. You will need to leave all of your belongings at the concreted surround if you opt to take a swim, which was too risky for me. Worth taking a dip if you don't mind leaving your belongings behind though.
Snorkelling in a Cenote - a Sink hole. All the rivers in this part of Mexico are underground. This is an opening and great fun to jump into !