With an expansive coral reef system located just off the coast, the Riviera Maya is Mexico’s top destination for snorkeling. The Great Maya Reef, also called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, extends for more than 965 km (600 miles) along the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula all the way to Belize. It’s the largest coral reef system in the Northern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world.
The crystal clear waters of the Caribbean allow for easy viewing of the fascinating underwater world of the Riviera Maya, which is home to more than 500 species of marine life including colorful tropical fish, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, tiger and whale sharks.
Looking for some stellar snorkeling? The small fishing town of Puerto Morelos, located toward the northern end of the Riviera Maya just south of Cancun, is home to the Parque Nacional Arrecife Puerto Morelos (Puerto Morelos Reef Park. The close proximity of the reef system to the coast of Puerto Morelos, combined with its protected national park status, allow for some of the finest snorkeling in the entire Riviera Maya region.
After you’ve spent some time exploring the coral reef, grab your mask and head for the cenotes, fresh water sinkholes created by a vast underground river system. They’re some of the most unique geological features in Mexico and there are thousands of them located throughout in the Riviera Maya. The ancient Maya believed that these sites were sacred.
The surface of the cenotes is formed by fossilized coral and limestone. Natural sunlight filters into the sinkholes through small openings in the roof and reflects off the clear turquoise water and natural mineral formations giving the cenotes a magical, otherworldly feel.