Part of your Caribbean vacation will be hanging out in the Caribbean Sea off the shores of our beautiful beaches. The crystal clear water is begging that you put on your snorkel gear and see what lies under the sea. There are also a variety of lagoons and cenotes to test out your snorkel skills.
Some hot spots to snorkel in the Riviera Maya
In Akumal there is Yal-Ku lagoon, a brackish body of water fed by freshwater underground rivers. Yal ku also has an inlet from the Caribbean. As of this writing the entrance fee to snorkel in Yal ku is 50 pesos. Yal ku is a nice place to snorkel in calm water. Be aware that because there is an increased amount of freshwater in the mix the water is not as buoyant as seawater, and it is a little cooler. Some parking and bathrooms are on site. Most rental homes and condominiums in North Akumal are within walking distance to Yal-Ku lagoon. From the center of town it’s about 1.5 miles (3km) to the lagoon.
There is also snorkeling off the main beach in Akumal Bay and in Half Moon Bay. Sea turtles are frequently seen in both Half Moon bay and Akumal bay. Wear something on your feet for entry into Half Moon bay. Akumal bay’s main beach has pure sand entries where you can walk barefoot out into the water. Dive facilities on Akumal bay and Half Moon bay rent snorkel equipment.
Xel-ha lagoon is 10 minutes south of Akumal. Xel-Ha is not to be missed! Xel ha is the largest lagoon on the Riviera Maya coast and has a long history of use by the Maya. Full tourism facilities can be found in Xel ha including: several restaurants, refreshments, bathrooms, changing rooms and much more. Nature paths lead to the various natural areas, the beach and other points of interest.
Elsewhere along the coast there’s snorkeling in most of the protected bays fronting various beach side communities and resorts. Jade Bay, Akumal Sur, Soliman Bay and Tankah Bay are examples, but keep in mind there are no lifeguards and rip currents can be expected by the channel cuts in the reef, especially on windy days with higher surf conditions.
Safety First when snorkeling in the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a safe and fun place to snorkel no matter what level of snorkeler you are. To ensure a fun and safe snorkel trip read our safety tips below:
- The most important safety tip while snorkeling is to never do it alone.
- Stay close to shore.
- Always wear a snorkeling flotation vest or life jacket.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Retain your energy.
- Do not touch marine life.
- Be aware of the seabed (do not touch the reef).
- Learn first aid and CPR.
A quick snorkel overview to refresh your memory
Snorkeling is one Caribbean activity almost everyone can enjoy. It doesn’t take much equipment or training to snorkel safely, but there are some things you need to know to avoid problems.
After you have mastered swimming and feel confident and relaxed in the ocean you could try snorkeling. First you need to buy a mask that fits. Just about all dive shops sell masks, snorkels and fins. Always seek the help of a dive store professional but remember, it’s up to you to decide if the equipment fits and is comfortable. Fins are easy to rent and we recommend this.
To check a mask’s fit, pull the strap and your hair out of the way and bring the mask to your face. The mask’s rubber skirt should touch your face all the way around without having to press it into place. When you breathe in the mask should easily stick to your face by suction alone. Low volume masks are best for snorkeling.
Fins come in two styles: strap back and foot pocket. Strap back fins are used with neoprene booties and foot pocket fins slip right on your bare feet. Make sure fins aren’t too tight or too loose. Snorkels come with or without purge valves. Purge valves are near the mouth piece and allow water to drain out making the snorkel easier to clear. Most high quality snorkeling equipment is made of thermal plastic, silicone rubber, high impact plastic and stainless steel. Usually the “good stuff” is more expensive because it’s built to last. Ultra-violet sun rays and ocean saltwater will degrade cheap gear much faster.
Snorkeling boat tours in the Riviera Maya
It is also possible to go on a snorkeling boat tour to some of the best shallow reefs nearby. These are usually outside the confines of any bay and typically have better coral, fish and water clarity. For the new snorkeler, we highly recommend that you take a boat tour as the reef is farther out than you think!
Breath-hold technique and the buddy system
Snorkelers who breath-hold and dive down should use the one-up, one-down buddy system. One dives down while the other watches from the surface. Even a very good breath-holder can pass out on the their way back to the surface. It’s rare but possible. The snorkeler on the surface is supposed to be ready to lend assistance.