Tips on How To Snorkel in the Riviera Maya (and anywhere else YOU CAN SWIM)

Snorkeling is one of the best experiences to tick off your bucket list. And snorkeling in the Caribbean with its calm, clear waters and living reefs full of coral and fish — ahh!

It's one of the main the reasons why expats end up here. Everyone falls in love with the water, above on the beaches and underneath with the fishes!

Snorkeling always looks so easy, doesn’t it? And it is! All you need is the right equipment, and to relax. Snorkeling isn’t a sport. It’s like watching TV. Interactive TV. And just like TV, you don’t  touch much (aside from the water,, and the sand)!

Flotation Device

If you’re not a sure/strong swimmer, you can still safely and confidently enjoy snorkeling. Vests, or water noodles. They may not be photogenic as you wish, but they extend your snorkeling time! Just float when you get tired.

Wetsuits (optional)

Shorty wetsuits. No, they’re not just for cold water. They also add buoyancy AND sunburn protection. No little bits of stings and nicks on your covered skin either.

Reef-friendly sunscreen 

Whether you go snorkeling with a swimsuit or wetsuit, you need sunscreen. It should be eco-friendly that won’t leave harmful elements in the water. Some areas in some countries check your sunscreen. Look for ‘certified organic’ ingredients, and “certified safe for human, fish and coral health.”

Mask & Snorkel

Tours like ours usually provide quality masks and snorkels, complimentary as a part of the trip. We do!

If you get into it, buy your own set to take with you whenever you travel. Saves you rental costs! And the fit will be even better.

How to fit your mask, snorkel and fins:

  • It should be as narrow or as wide as your face, and should fit your nose size and length. By sight, you can tell if the mask is made for you or not.

  • Try it on. Press it to your face. Does it fit comfortably? Water pressure will press it to your face. All its edges should be just right. Not too high up that it touches your nostrils, not too near your eyes. (Men, shave before trying on masks so you can see properly!)

  • Suction test. (Here’s where men should shave, because stubble/full mustache doesn’t allow a water-tight seal). Put the mask onto your face (without pulling on the straps) and breathe in through your nose. This should seal the mask to your face. Move around a bit-- the mask should stay on without you having to hold it.

  • Now try the straps. The fit should be snug, not tight. The straps should sit high on your head. If they rest on your ears, that will be painful.

  • Try it with a snorkel. Put your snorkel in your mouth. This is enough to shift your face muscles, but it shouldn’t break the seal/suction of your mask. If it does, try another one.

  • Look for semi-dry/dry snorkels. They have splash guards or a valve at the top that seals when your snorkel goes underwater, and a purge valve at the bottom so you can easily blow water out. Don’t forget, the snorkel mouthpiece should be comfortable in your mouth.

  • Defogger. Snorkeling is all about seeing, so it sucks when you can’t see. Your mask will fog up because you generate heat. But it’s preventable with defogger gels, or even your own saliva. Make sure your defogger is also biodegradable, non-toxic, alcohol-free.

  • Enter the water with a dry mask, over a dry face, and do not take that mask off at all during the snorkel. That’s it.

  • Or you can simply use baby shampoo. Dilute 5-10 drops of baby shampoo in 2-ounces of water. Spray your mask with this solution, swish it around and dump the excess. Don’t rinse. The mild soap should coat the mask-- this prevents moisture attachment. And the baby shampoo won’t sting your eyes.

  • Fins. Like your mask, your fins should fit comfortably. Snug, not tight. The big fins may look awesome in the movies, but that’s for experienced swimmers. They require a lot of muscle to use. Opt for smaller fins.

Practice snorkeling

When you’re familiar with it, it keeps you relaxed. You enjoy the water, instead of worrying if you’re doing things right.

Get used to your snorkel. Don’t bite. Rest your teeth on your snorkel. Avoid a sore jaw by staying relaxed.

Practice deliberately flooding and clearing both mask and snorkel. When water comes in, you might get a salty surprise, especially for first-timers! So practice calmly reacting to this scenario and blowing out all the salt from the snorkel.

  • Simply get out of the water and let the water out.

  • Or, without leaving the water, press the top portion of your mask to your face and blow air out through your mouth. The air will force the water out through the looser lower portion of your mask.

Practice floating face down and breathing. This is the best part of snorkeling. Just lying on the ocean, letting the salt water carry you, and watching everything underneath. Beginners get plenty of encouragement and excitement from this! It’s so easy!

  • Keep the snorkel upright. Get help from a friend with more experience. At H2Oh, we help you out with this!

  • Gently kick with your fins to get yourself moving. That’s it! You’re snorkeling!

Practice looking around. Get familiar with your mask and your surroundings. You lose some of your peripheral vision because of the mask. Always look around so you don’t bump into other snorkelers.

They learned to snorkel watching the Little Mermaid.

They learned to snorkel watching the Little Mermaid.


Snorkeling safety and etiquette

When you head out with us, we go in groups with guides, so stay close. Or if you’ve chosen a beach, make sure you have a spotter or a lifeguard, or better yet a buddy system and only go out together. Watch out for flags or anything indicating rough conditions. You may see whitecaps or heavy winds, red flags or yellow flags.

We don't have much of this in the Riviera Maya, but elsewhere watch out for jellyfish and undertow or rip tides

Touch nothing and take nothing. Even a shell can look harmless — but if everyone took just one tiny shell, what would be left? 

Touching nothing applies to your feet as much as your hands. Be careful to swim a safe distance so you don’t kick corals. This could damage your skin and your fins. But the damage to the coral is worse. Corals are living creatures and so essential to marine life. It’s up to us to preserve them. It’s so tempting to touch them, but don’t. It can poison them.  

Certainly don’t stand on them to rest from swimming! One second’s damage could take one decade to grow!

Every creature deserves its personal space. Don’t go too near. If they’re used to people, they’d come to you instead! Let them, but don’t stress them with cuddles. Remember, no touching.

No feeding either. It turns out that feeding fish creates havoc on the ecosystem. Think about it. If certain species are too full from feedings, they won’t eat the creatures they’re supposed to eat, and they’re supposed to eat those so they have the nutrients needed by those that eat them.  And so on. It has a rippling effect. 

A trick is to move your fingers as if you have food! The fish are tricked by that, and you’d have gorgeous underwater photos without damaging the marine food chain!

Most of all...

Enjoy snorkeling! Relax. Rest. Meditate. Don’t forget to turn over now and then, getting your exposed back into the water, or you might bake in the sun. And hydrate! The salt water absorbs moisture from your skin.

When you get back aboard with us, one of the crew can get you a water to enjoy while you think of all you experienced. 

After snorkeling... it's time for the high-dive!


What is a typical snorkel and boat cruise like?

Around the website there is a lot of detail on what is included when you decide to join us on your own private charter.  However, I thought it would be a good idea to write out the day's events in a simple and chronological order here so you can get a better feel of a day at sea with us!

Welcome Aboard!

We begin at the dock with a cocktail and some photos as you board the boat. Once everyone is on board, our crew will quickly prepare to head out. As we head out of the beautiful marina into the Caribbean, we prep the fishing lines and get those in the water so that we can troll for game fish our whole way north to this beautiful, secluded reef.

At this point, your group can be enjoying cocktails, enjoying music from our huge catalogue on a 6,000watt system, picking your favourite karaoke songs with lyrics to be played on our HD TVs (indoors and out), or just relaxing on one of the many decks and enjoying the sun.

When we get to the reef, we’ll drop anchor and give a quick safety demonstration with the snorkelling gear and get you guys into the water!

We also have a second level high-dive if anyone feels like jumping from the top into the turquoise waters below.

As you snorkel, you’ll see an endless amount of beautiful reef fish and often some sea turtles swimming around!

After a good amount of time at the reef, when everyone’s back aboard we’ll pull up anchor and start heading south past the marina we came from (while trolling for fish again). We then pull into a private canal for the architectural tour, which also happens to be time to eat. As we slowly motor by boats and beautiful homes in this canal you will enjoy a full Mexican cuisine style lunch on the bow of the boat.

After this, we pull back out into the sea for a short final cruise into the marina where we’ll dock.

During all of this, remember that the boat is your home! Let us know if there is anything we can do for you to make it an even better experience and we will always do our best to accommodate you.

We have full staff to make sure your drinks are never empty and to set up any songs you’d like to hear, and maybe to even encourage a bit of karaoke! 

Join us for a day at sea, and you might just walk away feeling like family after the best day of your vacation!

Reef Fish of the Mayan Riviera

Taking a swim in the reefs of the Mayan Riviera can show a lot of color and excitement. The reefs are amazing with the largest variance of species in the world!

Taking time to snorkel through the reefs is time well spent when on vacation, and every one of our private charters includes snorkeling and gear for all.

Use this guide on your next snorkeling adventure to identify some of the most unique fish species of the Riviera Maya.

Queen Angelfish

The queen angelfish is seen frequently through the reefs of the mayan riviera. They can be spotted by the color of their electric blue bodies and have been know to be a fish. They are usually seen by themselves or in pairs. Watch for their rounded head and beak like mouths for distinct identity.

Black Durgon

The name of this fish can be quite confusing because the black durgon is actually a greenish-black tropical fish with purple overtones. The durgon rear scales will have prominent keels that form longitudinal ridges to help make them more distinguishable. They can be found eating small bits of algae from the top of the water or small plankton around the reef.

Queen Triggerfish

This fish is a striking fish to see swimming around the Mayan Riviera reef. The queen trigger fish if stressed will slightly change colors, so be careful when approaching this majestic sea creature. The diet of the queen triggerfish consists mostly of sea urchins and other small creatures such as krill and hard shelled shrimp.

Glasseye Snapper

This unique fish can be seen swimming around the hundreds of other species. Although it is not always the brightest fish it still adds appeal to the reef community. The glasseye snapper can be easily distinguished with its pinkish red color, and dark red spots. What makes this fish more appealing is how rare it is. If you see this fish consider it a honor.               

These are just a sample of the many species swimming in our waters here on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

Bonus: When snorkeling with us, you will often see sea turtles swimming around the reef, snacking on the sea grass. Read this post to learn 7 Fun Facts about Sea Turtles and check out what we see when we go swimming!                                    

Seven Quick, Fun Facts about Sea Turtles in the Mayan Riviera

  1. They live an estimated 70-80 years!

  2. Mother sea turtles lay their eggs on land, returning to the same location that they were hatched. They'll even return over huge ocean crossings to lay their eggs.

  3. There are seven species of sea turtles (not all native to the Mayan Riviera): Leatherback, Green Turtle, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, Kemp’s Ridley and Flatback. Learn more about them here.
  4. Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, while females return to their birthplace on land to lay their own eggs.
  5. A sea turtle's gender can be determined by the temperature of the nest in which they are laid. Warmer temperatures tend to hatch female sea turtles while colder climates produce more males.
  6. The first marine turtle is thought to have lived 220 million years ago!
  7. The largest sea turtle on record (a leatherback) was found on the coast of Wales in 1988. This leatherback weighed over 2,000lbs and measured 9 feet in length and was estimated to be approximately 100 years old. 

Sea turtles are incredible creatures and swimming alongside them can be experienced on our snorkeling tours. While you can get close to them while snorkeling, we do ask that you please do not touch them and simply enjoy the view and experience!