Snorkeling Around Isla Mujeres

Photo credit: © Shinya Sazuki

Once overlooked as an island that has no great snorkeling to speak of, Isla Mujeres has recently come on the map again as a place known for snorkeling with the largest fish in the world: the whale shark.

It has only been in the last few years that this destination has been recognized for its location on the whale shark migration path, which brings them to Isla Mujeres between June and August.  They can sit in the same spot for quite a long time taking in the plankton and small fish as they eat, giving snorkelers the amazing opportunity to observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat.  Even though these creatures are not aggressive, tours are still recommended for snorkeling here.

If you are one who likes to snorkel on your own from the beach, Isla Mujeres may not be your ideal vacation destination.  Although they do have Garafon Reef which locals recommend to snorkelers, the waves around the island can be high and  rough.  Then you have North Beach which is perhaps the calmest spot on the island, but visibility is not great and can be frustrating for snorkelers who know that crystal clear waters exist so nearby in other parts of the country. 

Snorkeling Sites

If you're looking forward to seeing what's below the surface you should consider a visit to Garrafon Reef Park. Clear waters, an abundance and variety of fish, and a reef combine to make a popular snorkeling site. Unfortunately, storms and an unending supply of visitors has paid its toll on the reef, which is not as healthy as it once was. This snorkeling site is found within the southern part of Isla Mujeres.

Manchones Reef is another place you might enjoy. A section along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this spot is well-loved not only because it is a gorgeous plot of coral with vibrant sea life, but also because it is home to one of the MUSA exhibit pieces which places a life-sized sculpture in the sea for divers and snorkelers to see during their underwater explorations.

A third site to consider is El Farito. This site is a nice one if you happen to be in the area, but few would recommend you go out of your way to visit. The reef is home to several schools of fish and you may see a sea turtle or two, but there is also a lot of fire coral which can become a problem if the current is heavy and you are constantly being pushed into the reef.

A fourth place where you can go snorkeling is Sac Bajo Reef. Although there is no coral reef here, you can see fish swimming along in the current between the bay and the lagoon through a narrow inlet. If you want to check it out, this site is located within the western part of Isla Mujeres.

A few key details for 6 of the most popular places to go snorkeling in this area are listed directly below.

Snorkeling Sites Near Isla Mujeres
Site Location
Garrafon Reef Park 4.2 mi. South-Southeast of Central Downtown Isla Mujeres
Manchones Reef 4.1 mi. South-Southeast of Central Downtown Isla Mujeres
El Farito 0.9 mi. South of Downtown Isla Mujeres
Cuevita 1.1 mi. South of Downtown Isla Mujeres
Sac Bajo Reef 1.4 mi. South of Downtown Isla Mujeres
North Point Downtown Isla Mujeres

Snorkeling Services

If you're looking for someone offering snorkel rentals, excursions, or similar services, you might want to contact Carey Dive Center. Offering a wide range of watersports excursions, this is one of the largest and most well-established dive centers on the island. For those who don't want to become certified to dive, snorkeling is also a possibility with them, whether you want to rent gear to go out on your own or sign up for a snorkeling tour. They are located in Colonias, in the central part of Isla Mujeres.

Another place catering to snorkelers is Aqua Adventures. Wale Shark tour season is from May 15th to September 17th. Wale shark boats never have more than ten swimmers and only two snorkelers will enter the water at a time. You can take photos during your swim but you cannot use flash and you cannot touch the whales.

A third place to consider is Sea Hawk. When they take you out on a snorkeling tour, you are in control, but some of their favorite spots are the underwater sculpture garden, the Lighthouse Reef, and Manchones Reef. They're found within Downtown Isla Mujeres, in the northwestern part of Isla Mujeres.

The following table lists some information with regard to 6 places that offer snorkeling services.

Snorkeling Services On Isla Mujeres
Name Type Phone Location
Aqua Adventures Snorkeling Tour Operator (998) 236-4316 Downtown Isla Mujeres
Captain Tony's Snorkeling Tour Operator -- Downtown Isla Mujeres
Carey Dive Center Snorkeling Equipment Rental Service (998) 877-0763 Colonias, Central Isla Mujeres
La Islena Snorkeling Tour Operator -- Downtown Isla Mujeres
Sea Hawk Snorkeling Tour Operator (998) 877-1233 Downtown Isla Mujeres
Snorkel Tour Cooperative Mujeres Snorkeling Tour Operator -- Downtown Isla Mujeres

For more information concerning snorkeling, including tips and suggestions for both "old pros" and beginners, check out our extensive discussion of snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Isla Mujeres has some great snorkeling opportunities, even if the reasons are different than what most people are used to.  Just be sure to sign up for a tour with a reputable dive centerto be extra cautious and you'll be ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. 


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