Boy snorkels in clear azure water with giant starfish on the seabed below

Snorkelling in Cozumel, Mexico with kids (2024)

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how expensive all the tours are on the Riviera Maya, but this was one that I REALLY wanted to do. I felt like the chance to snorkel with so much marine life in the beautiful Caribbean Sea was too good to pass up while we were here. Snorkelling in Cozumel with the kids turned out to be one of the best things we’ve done on our travels!

Why choose Cozumel for a snorkelling tour?

I spent quite a while researching various options for a snorkelling trip with kids in the region and Cozumel island seemed to be THE one – the chance to swim at two reefs with loads of marine life (including possibly turtles) plus the El Cielo sandbar. All the reports seemed to indicate that the snorkelling itself wasn’t too challenging at Cozumel, which was important with the kids as they have snorkelled a few times before but they haven’t done a huge amount. We didn’t want anything they would find too challenging!

How to book a snorkelling tour to Cozumel

Cozumel is a diving and snorkelling dream so there were hundreds of tour options available (which tour companies attempt to sell to you every time you walk anywhere in Playa del Carmen). The prices we were quoted for a trip to both Palancar and Columbia reefs, plus El Cielo, were anything up to £300. 

In the end we settled for booking one through Viator which came in at £160 for the four of us for a four hour trip (although I managed to book via a QuidCo link which earned me a nice little £10 cashback – make sure you are signed up for QuidCo if you’re booking anything through Viator). This was with a company called Choc Chac Tours. This didn’t include the Marine Park Tax (US$6 per person) or the ferry to/from Cozumel (which is pricey, coming in at nearly another £100 for the return journey for all four of us).

The link to our tour on Viator is here – it was definitely one of the most affordable options available for snorkelling in Cozumel with kids.

If you prefer to use GetYourGuide this is the equivalent tour for a similar price – it includes all three snorkelling locations.

You can also check out more info on snorkeling and diving in Cozumel on TripAdvisor here.

How to get the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel

Our tour started at 1pm, with a 1230pm check in time, so we went for the 1030am ferry from Playa to Cozumel. There are two ferry companies that cover the route – Winjet and UltraMar. They alternate schedules on odd/even days so we booked our tickets at the counter in Playa the day before so we could make sure we were booked with the right company. We opted for a single and bought our return at the port when we were ready to come back; the companies don’t accept each other’s tickets so doing it this way meant that we had the freedom to get on the next available ferry back in the evening after the tour.

As it turned out we were on a Winjet ferry on the way to Cozumel. It was so much more fun that your average ferry crossing – there was music, dancing and a LOT of laughter, none of which I expected! It was quite rough on the way out and Angus struggled a bit but the journey is only 40mins so it wasn’t too bad.

At Cozumel we jumped in a taxi to the marina where the tour departed from ($150 pesos). We were there in plenty of time and had time to chill out and eat our packed lunch at the marina pre-tour.

Where do you go on the snorkelling tour at Cozumel?

Our first stop was Columbia reef. We had a bit of a stress getting Angus’ mask to fit properly (something we’d also found on the Puerto Moreles snorkelling trip earlier in the week). In hindsight we should probably have bought our own kids size mask to make sure he had a well-fitting mask. 

Once we were in the water though there were quite a few fish – though I wasn’t keen on the fact that one of the guides was feeding them to keep them close, and taking photos constantly (which were for sale at the end of the tour for a cool $50 a pop!). I was definitely disappointed with this first bit in the water as it felt that the focus was on the photography rather than explaining the marine life. 

But we then swam across to Palancar reef and had some time drifting around there – there were no strong currents on the day we went so it was a nice easy swim and snorkel around.

Boy snorkelling in azure clear sea, pointing to giant starfish on the seabed

I thought we were then headed towards El Cielo (as there were only three reefs advertised as part of the tour) but the guides had heard that there were turtles in a different spot so we stopped there – and almost immediately saw one surfacing for air a few metres from the boat. I snorkelled once before (on honeymoon in Barbados) with a turtle and I was so hoping that the boys (and me!) would have the same experience. This time both boys were straight in the water (no stopping them) and within a few seconds we were snorkelling right next to a pretty big sea turtle who was nonchalantly grazing on sea grass. 

It was absolutely magical and the amazing GoPro that my Mum and Dad bought us for Christmas last year definitely came into it’s own and I managed to get a few shots of the boys with la tortuga 🙂

There was also a collection of rocks and coral that had loads of fish swimming around (including Griffin’s fave, the pufferfish, and a triggerfish). Then it was back on the boat for the next stop, which was indeed El Cielo.

El Cielo translates as ‘the sky’ and takes it’s name from the crystal clear water. It’s a sandbar that is home to dozens and dozens of giant starfish and was a fab spot to float around having a good look at them all.

Two boys snorkelling in clear blue seas surrounded by fish

As our final stop, the boat dropped us at another sandbar nearer the coast. As we anchored we spotted a shape under the water, which turned out to be a very large stingray! As we watched the ocean floor we saw loads more floating by, completely unfazed by the people already in the water from other boats. Angus was completely unfazed and was straight in the water, Griff ventured in after a few minutes (and after basically sending his little brother in first to check it was safe!). We stayed there in the shallows for about 20-25minutes, floating around with several stingrays swimming past at regular intervals. The boat crew handed out drinks and snacks in the sea. The whole thing was super chilled and the water was an unbelievable colour – there were a couple of points when the stingrays were so close it slightly freaked me out though (one brushed past my foot at one point!). 

The boat trip back to the marina took about 30ish minutes (which took us to 4.5hours in total). 

The verdict

Despite my initial misgivings at the first snorkel spot, this was such an amazing day and worth every penny – there are some memories/sights of the day that I don’t think any of us will ever forget. Snorkelling in Cozumel with kids should be on every family itinerary if you’re visiting the Yucatan!

The close proximity of the two reefs plus the sandbar with the giant starfish make Cozumel a great option for a day trip as you can pack a lot in to a short time. Plus, the sea when we visited was calm and clear so made it really easy for our boys to snorkel – they could concentrate on the underwater world and all the marine life, rather than struggling to swim around/battling with choppy waters.

Boy stands in front of painted 'I Love Cozumel' sign on a wall with his arms outstretched

We’d love to go back and stay on Cozumel next time as the whole place had a really laid-back vibe to it, so it’s also worth looking in to accommodation options on the island as this would make a great break from the more hectic Playa del Carmen just over the water!

Planning a family trip to Mexico?

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico with kids then check out some of our other posts here for more tips and info:

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