Snorkeling in Huatulco: An Incredible Underwater Adventure

Wondering about snorkeling in Huatulco?  Do you think Huatulco is all about beaches, mescal and sunshine? With a coastline dotted with 36 beaches, a wealth of dive sites and extraordinary sea life,  snorkeling in Huatulco is one of the top things to do on Mexico’s southern Pacific Coast.

This detailed adventure guide offers tips about where to find the best spots — whether you’re looking for a guided  excursion or just planning to snorkel from shore.

Learn more about where to stay in our Hotel Guide to the Best Huatulco Beaches 

Why Go Snorkeling in Huatulco

snorkeling Huatulco Mexico

Huatulco has several snorkeling locations in protected waters where you might see turtles, rays and schools of fish Credit Jeremy Bishop

While the Pacific Coast of Mexico is not as well known for snorkeling as the island of Cozumel in the Caribbean, much of the coast of Oaxaca is protected from development which helps support rich marine life and healthy reefs. In Huatulco, you can expect to see sea turtles, parrotfish,  needle fish, grouper, snapper, angelfish as well as manta rays and eagle rays,  It’s even possible to see dolphins and migrating whales as they head south in December and return north in March.

During my full-day snorkeling tour with Hurricane Divers, the waters were teeming with a different type of sea creature  — sardines! Compared to swimming with dolphins, swimming with sardines probably doesn’t rank high on the lifetime bucket list for most people.

But, as I plunged headfirst into a school of thousands of the graceful acrobats, I discovered that the tiny silver fish has its own special charms. They shape-shifted from a shadowy cloud into a shimmering ribbon of silver that swirled around my body like a wisp of fine silk. Then, moving in unison, they morphed again – this time into a blanket that blocked out the sunlight and threw the coral reef into darkness.

Best Snorkeling Tour in Huatulco

My swimming with sardines experience took place as part of an all-day Snorkel Excursion with a Tour of the Bays with Hurricane Divers.  Our group of eight snorkelers and three crew members were anchored offshore at San Agustin Beach, a western bay in the Bahías de Huatulco area on Mexico’s Pacific Coast that has incredible, sapphire-blue waters.

trio of snorkellers in Huatulco

A trio of snorkellers readies to jump into the waters at San Agustin Bay

Anyone who has read my post the Beginner’s Guide to Snorkeling Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Museum, knows that although I love the ocean, I’m not the most confident swimmer.  When deciding on a snorkeling excursion, it’s extra important for me to choose a safe tour operator.

Hurricane Divers features bilingual guides, modern boats with roofs, life vests, mobile phones, safety equipment, first aid kits and more. They are PADI-certified and only take small groups.

A Picnic Lunch at Chachacual Bay

I have to admit that one of the other attractions of Hurricane Divers is that their all-day excursion includes a full gourmet lunch.

snorkeling in Huatulco at Chachacual Bay

Beach picnic at Chachacual Bay

Upon arrival at Chachacual Bay — even more untouched than San Agustín  and accessible only by boat–  the crew laid out an al fresco lunch while we floated in shallow waters bursting with blue-spotted coronet fish and yellow-tailed sturgeon.

Refreshed by the clear waters, we planted ourselves on the white sand to enjoy grilled steak arranchera, spicy adobo chicken and fresh papaya salad.

Snorkeling Cacaluta

Next up  was Cacaluta Island where a coral plate stretches for 300m at depths of between 2 to 12 metres. The marine life is so abundant and the coral so colourful, it’s known as Las Jardines or the gardens.

Cacaluta Bay Huatlulco

Snorkellers enjoy the enticing offshore reef that lies just below water’s surface at Cacaluta Bay

“Watch for strings of gas bubbles escaping from between the rocks on the bottom” said our guide as we anchored in open water. “You may find sea turtles and Nurse Sharks resting in the gaps in the coral.”

Deciding to drip-dry for a few stops, I soaked up the panorama of sun and sea. Manta rays leaped above the water’s surface and plumes of crystal spray shot out of a nearby blowhole.

No other boats were in sight.

“Where is everybody?” I asked.

“Huatulco is out of the way for many people,” he shrugged. “We rarely see other boats.”

Where is Huatulco Mexico?

Located in the southern state of Oaxaca two hours from Puerto Escondido, it’s 185 km south of Acapulco and closer to Guatemala than major Mexican cities. Yet its isolation doesn’t mean roughing it. Much like Cancun, Los Cabos and Ixtapa, Huatulco was identified as a prime site for tourism development by Fonatur, the Mexican government agency.

Secrets Huatulco Conejos Bay

Looking west at Conejos Bay and Secrets Huatulco

A massive injection of cash created an impressive infrastructure of wide boulevards, luxury marinas, golf courses and a modern sewage treatment system. Yet it remains surrounded by stretches of undisturbed  wilderness.

“They learned from earlier overbuilding mistakes and imposed development restrictions,” said our guide.

With flights to Huatulco increasing, the region’s peaceful seclusion may not last long. But for now, the beaches and clear blue waters are free of crowds.

Unless you count the sardines.

Huatulco Snorkeling from Shore

sue campbell and full face snorkel mask

Ever tried a full face snorkel mask?

While taking a snorkeling tour is the best way to see the most variety of fish in Huatulco, it is possible to experience some rewarding snorkelling from shore in Huatulco. It’s even possible to snorkel right in the bay of Santa Cruz.  When it comes to variety of fish, abundant coral and calm waters, the best place for snorkeling in Huatulco from shore is the Bahia san Agustin.

Located an hour by boat and a $15 – 20 USD cab ride from the luxury hotel zone of Tangolunda Beach, San Agustín Beach is relatively deserted, apart from a few seafood palapas (thatched huts).  It flanks Huatulco National Park, a 119 sq. km. ecological reserve  at the base of the Sierra Madre Sur.

With calm waters and underwater visibility of up to 18 metres, even novices can spot florescent damsel fish, spiny black sea urchins and eels ducking through the crevasses of the coral reef.

It’s also possible to do some snorkeling from the shore at Dreams Resort & Spa and to a lesser extent, Secrets Resort & Spa, where you’ll need to wait for low tide and cross over the rocks at the end of Conejos Bay to find the best snorkeling area.

Disclosure:  By providing handy links to affiliates such as Amazon and hotel booking sites, we may earn a small referral commission and you don’t pay anything extra. All opinions are our own and we only link to companies and products  we think readers will enjoy. Read more on our Disclosure Page. Thank you for supporting our website!

Travel Tips for Snorkeling in Huatulco

Hurricane Divers is located in Santa Cruz harbour ( near the cruise terminal) and offers deep-sea fishing in addition to dive and snorkel excursions for half and full days. Book at least two or three days in advance.

What to Pack:  According to the environmental protection organization Marine Safe and many other sources, “swimmer pollution” is a major cause of declining coral reefs in many parts of the world, including the Caribbean, the Red Sea, Costa Rica and anywhere humans get into the water on or near a reef.

Chemicals in sunscreen such as oxybenzone induce coral bleaching and are genotoxic which means it damages coral DNA. Oxybenzone is also toxic to algae, sea urchins, fish and mammals. Concentrations of oxybenzone are growing around nearshore reefs are already within the range of being a significant environmental threat so it’s important to take action to reduce the chemicals in our ocean now.

To reduce your impact when snorkeling, try to use sunclothes to protect against UV exposure and reduce the amount of sunscreen you use. You can reduce the quantity of sunscreen you use by 90%  if you apply it only to your face, back of hands, neck and feet and use a biodegradable suntan lotion such as Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream – 2.9 fl oz Tube or  Organic Sunscreen Natural Biodegradable Minerals. No Titanium Dioxide Non-Nano Zinc. Infused Vitamin D Nutrients. Gentle for Kids and Adults. Made in USA

Snorkel Gear: While all tour operators include snorkel gear as part of their rental rate, the quality of the gear can vary widely. If you want to have the best and safest snorkeling experience, it’s wise  to travel with your own snorkel kit. At minimum, invest in a mask and snorkel. I travel with a custom snorkel mask that’s been fitted with prescription lenses. It cost $200 but has lasted me for years and is virtually indestructible.

My travel writer pal and colleague Sue Campbell who has fearlessly snorkelled everywhere from Belize to Tahiti swears by her full face snorkel mask. It’s important to invest in a good quality full face snorkel mask as low-cost, poor-quality imitations have the potential for CO2 build-up and head straps can be too tight and difficult to remove in an emergency.

Where to Stay: Both Huatulco and La Crucecita offer a wide range of hotels for every budget. If you’re on a budget, the Holiday Inn Huatulco located in the Santa Cruz harbour features clean rooms with balconies, a full breakfast and outdoor swimming pool while Mision de los Arcos in La Crucecita offers luxury rooms at budget prices but no swimming pool. For a luxury stay, try Dreams Resort & Spa ( family-friendly) or Secrets Resort & Spa (adults-only).


You Might Also Enjoy: 

How to Visit Pluma Hidalgo Coffee Country 

Don’t Miss These Top Outdoor Adventures in Puerto Escondido 

9 Tips For The Perfect Romantic Getaway in Puerto Escondido 

7 Reasons to Love Mazunte, Mexico 

Quick Tips: How to Take the Shuttle from Huatulco to Puerto Escondido Mexico 

Enjoy Unlimited Luxury with a Secrets Huatulco Day Pass 

TAR Airlines Offers New Discount Flights to Huatulco 

Pin it and save for later!

A visit to Huatulco Mexico isn't complete unless you go snorkeling in the clear, blue waters.

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
Recommended Posts
Showing 13 comments
  • Mason Lindquist

    Hello Michele,

    I saw your article about Huatulco. I am currently the owner of a real estate company here called Resort Real Estate Services. I also have a blog that I manage and I would love to repost your article on Huatulco with a credit to you if you would be ok with that?

    Thank for the great piece!


    Mason Lindquist

  • Lesley Peterson

    I loved Huatulco, the friendly people there and the dry, desert-like climate. I enjoyed a boat ride from gorgeous emerald bay to gorgeous emerald bay, swimming at beaches otherwise deserted because there is no road access. Swimming with the sardines sounds an amazing experience.

    • esperanza

      Swimming with sardines in those beautiful waters sounds so lovely! Just remember to keep your mouth closed. Would love to try it!

  • Bella cruse

    Mexico is an amazing family holiday place. When it comes to family holiday the first thing that click into our mind that the place should be beautiful and stunning. By going through your pics it seems that you really enjoyed the tour and yeah amazing pics i must say.

  • kirk and rebecca needham

    my husband and i have been snorkeling in the dominican rep.
    for the last 6 years and it is getting so run down without
    hardly any more good snorkel sites. a stewardess on
    our flight told us about huatuco and what we have been
    reading it sounds like it would be just what we have
    been looking for…..fabulous snorkeling, warm, beautiful waters,
    private lagoons, beaches and just nice and secluded. we are
    anxious to try it next year for our anniversary in october….
    could anyone out there let us know more about the hotels and
    which one to stay at? we would like to be at an all incl without
    kids —-for some peace and quiet especially when dining? we
    have five adult kids and numerous grand kids—we love em but
    when we go on vacation—-that is what we want—privacy-adults…
    let us know please more about awesome snorkel spots too—
    we like going on our own also—we r retired scuba divers due to
    my injury years ago—-

    • Michele

      Hi Kirk and Rebecca…it sounds as though you’d enjoy Huatulco. It’s received Green Globe International Certification as a sustainable tourist area which means it has modern water and sewage treatment plants all the better for clean waters for swimming and snorkelling. The new Secrets Huatulco is my favourite place to stay if you are travelling without kids and want a romantic getaway on a beautiful, private bay. All rooms are ocean-view and the culinary team is one of the best in Mexico. I wrote about Secrets in this article on Huatulco’s Soul Food. and on my blog post Secrets on a Day Pass.. You shoudl be able to get a good deal in October. An economical option is Mision de los Arcos – its in the small town of La Crucecita so it isn’t near the beach but it does offer a shuttle service. I’m headed back to Huatulco again soon so will report back on any new hotels I recommend.

      My colleague Sue Campbell just wrote a review on Secrets Huatulco in Luxury Latin America so you might want to check it out. Hope this helps with your planning ( and happy anniversary)!

  • Cindy Baker

    I really love your underwater shots and would be interested to know what camera you use for them. Hurricane Divers sounds like a great option for a good and safe experience. And thanks for the tip about sunscreen – – it makes sense but I hadn’t thought about that before.

  • Carol Colborn

    We will be spending three months in Mexico (Jan. 1-March 31) every year beginning next year. Maybe I will finally learn to snorkel. My husband’s skin also needs a lot of sunscreen so Badger Sports 35 we will definitely try!

  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    I don’t snorkel, but I can see I’m missing something!

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Hi Michele. thx for this fab post about snorkelling in Huatulco. Love your pic of the Beach picnic at Chachacual Bay. I can definitely see myself there.

  • Marilyn Jones

    I wish I wasn’t so afraid of the water! Your experience sounds like so much fun and your photos make it look so alluring!! I enjoyed reading about your experiences!!

    • Michele Peterson

      I’m actually terrified of water, Marilyn! If I can snorkel you can too! The key is to find a tour operator who will keep an eye on you

  • Irene S Levine

    Love Huatulco! What a special place~

Leave a Comment

5,075 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you as soon as we're online.

Not readable? Change text.