If you enjoy snorkeling and identifying the many colorful tropical fish as they swim lazily by or hide among the corals, you have one of the best spots in the Mexican Caribbean right here on the doorstep! Protected by a National Marine Park, the Puerto Morelos Reef is rich in marine life and local dive guides will take you to all the best snorkeling locations. After a couple of days snorkeling in Puerto Morelos, you’ll be hooked and will want to explore other sites in the area.
An hour’s drive to the south, two Riviera Maya snorkeling parks Xel-Há and Yalkú make a perfect day out with the family.
A chain of turquoise inlets, lagoons and crystalline cenotes fed by underground springs and surrounded by emerald green forest and mangroves, Xel-Ha is one of Mexico’s wonders and a huge natural aquarium. More than 90 species of fish of all shapes and sizes from the nearby reefs seek food and shade among the rocks rimming the caleta (inlet). You’ll find yourself surrounded by schools of fish such as sergeant majors that are just as curious about you as you are about them. Diminutive butterfly fish, damselfish, beaugregories and spotted drums hover around outcrops, multicolored parrotfish – one of the park’s symbols – nibble at the limestone and algae and angelfish and blue tangs glide regally by. There are graceful southern stingrays in an area near the north bank of the inlet.
Concrete structures known as reef balls have been submerged in different areas of the inlet to provide an additional habitat for fish and are already being colonized by corals and algae. The park also has a project to replenish fish populations in the lagoon and to raise the endangered Queen conch.
Venture further into the forest and swim in the cenotes or sinkholes where you’ll see different species of freshwater fish.
Walk across the floating bridge at the mouth of the inlet for a breathtaking view of the lagoons and the Caribbean. Watch the waves break and larger fish such as groupers, barracudas, red, mutton and yellow tail snappers and horse-eyed jacks as they swim under the bridge.
Spend a day at Xel-Ha with the family. Apart from snorkeling, you can float down the waterways in oversized inner tubes, swim with dolphins, try snuba (a combination of snorkeling and diving) and sea trek your way across the seabed (additional charges). Leap into a pool from a cliff, explore caves and learn about Mayan culture, the tradition of bee keeping and local flora and fauna such as the manatee.
Located just to the north of Akumal, Yalkú is another turquoise caleta that is a heavenly snorkeling spot.
Follow the coast road north from Akumal past Half Moon Bay to the shores of Yalku. As you explore the refreshingly cool and crystal-clear waters of the inlet you’ll see a variety of colorful reef fish that come inshore to feed or breed among the mangrove roots and submerged rocks. Sergeant majors and damselfish patrol the shoreline, queen angelfish cruise by and lone barracudas guard their territory. Listen and you will hear the sounds of parrotfish gnawing at the rock and look carefully and you may see the camouflaged peacock flounder emerge from the sand. This is a lovely spot, especially early in the morning before it fills up.
A local cooperative manages Yalku and charges a fee for admission. Life jackets are available and there are restrooms and a little open-air cafe.
Ask the Concierge to help you plan a trip to Xel-Há or Akumal and Yalkú.