The Ultimate Guide to the El Cielo Tour in Cozumel Mexico (2023)
Do you want to visit El Cielo Cozumel? You’ve come to the right guide!
El Cielo is an exclusive snorkeling spot in Cozumel, offering an incredible opportunity to snorkel with giant starfish in unbelievably clear turquoise waters.
I’m a travel blogger that lives in Playa del Carmen and I’m here to tell you that El Cielo is the most stunning snorkeling spot you’re going to find in Riviera Maya!
But this remote snorkeling location can only be visited by boat, which means you’ll need to book a tour to get there.
MY TOP PICK
⌚️ Don’t have time to read the full article?
The best El Cielo snorkeling tour is this Cozumel Snorkeling Tour: Palancar, Colombia, and El Cielo Reefs with over 350 5-star reviews!
In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about the El Cielo tour in Cozumel, including my top tour recommendations, detailed itinerary information, and tips for visiting.
Ready to find out more about the El Cielo Cozumel tour? Let’s get started!
About El Cielo Cozumel
Only accessible by boat, El Cielo in Cozumel is a snorkeling spot where you can see a surplus of starfish and snorkel in unbelievably turquoise waters.
This El Cielo tour is one of the most popular things to do in Cozumel, which will take you to El Cielo in addition to some impressive snorkeling at world-renowned coral reefs.
Of all the snorkeling I’ve done in Riviera Maya, El Cielo is honestly the most impressive with its bright turquoise water and by far my favorite snorkeling experience!
Where is El Cielo?
El Cielo (“Heaven” in Spanish) is located on the southwestern tip of Cozumel island in Mexico.
You may hear it referred to as “Playa El Cielo” but it’s not really a beach per se but more of a shallower area of water right off the coast of the island.
It’s considered one of the best snorkeling spots in Cozumel and is known for its abundance of starfish and crystal clear water.
How to Get to El Cielo Cozumel
El Cielo can only be visited by boat, which makes getting there a little more difficult.
You can either book a tour or hire a boat directly from one of the beaches on Cozumel.
I have done both options and booking a tour is definitely easier, especially if you’re not familiar with getting around Cozumel on your own.
Book an El Cielo Tour
If you’re coming from Playa del Carmen, the easiest way to visit El Cielo is to book a tour ahead of time online.
⚠️ El Cielo snorkeling tours are also sold by street vendors on 5th Avenue and while these tours may be cheaper, I would NOT recommend this option.
Here’s why: I actually did this the very first time I went to El Cielo and when we arrived at the meeting point in Cozumel, the tour operator had absolutely no record of our tour purchase and almost didn’t let us go on the tour–it was very stressful and was almost a huge disappointment 😭
For peace of mind, book online so you have an electronic record of your tour confirmation and dedicated customer service to resolve any issues.
El Cielo Tour Recommendations
There are many El Cielo Cozumel snorkeling tours available to fit your needs, and some that include roundtrip transportation and hotel pick-up.
The tour leaves from the marina in Cozumel so if you’re comfortable taking the ferry and getting to Cozumel on your own, I would recommend booking a tour that meets in Cozumel.
Otherwise, an all-inclusive tour that includes ferry tickets and pickup from your hotel in Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya would be your easiest and most hassle-free option.
Here are my El Cielo tour recommendations:
- El Cielo Tour that meets in Cozumel: BOOK HERE ▶︎
- El Cielo Tour that includes hotel pickup: BOOK HERE ▶︎
- El Cielo Private Tour: BOOK HERE ▶︎
How much does the El Cielo Cozumel tour cost?
The cost of El Cielo Cozumel tours will vary depending on which transportation option you prefer.
The prices for the tour generally start around $65 USD if you’re meeting in Cozumel.
The price can go up to $150+ USD for the more all-inclusive tours that include pickup from hotels in Riviera Maya.
Keep in mind for the tours that meet in Cozumel, you will still need to pay for roundtrip ferry tickets, which cost an additional $25 USD.
Travelista Tip: If you have a group of 6 of more, consider a private tour to El Cielo which comes out to be only about $60 USD per person.
Take a boat from a beach club in Cozumel
Another option for visiting El Cielo is taking a boat from a beach club on Cozumel.
You can do this from Playa Palancar, which is a stunning beach on the southern part of the island.
On the beach, you’ll find a dive shop that offers boat tours to El Cielo and nearby reefs.
This is a cheaper option and offers the same tour experience but you still have to get to Cozumel on your own, as well as take a taxi to Playa Palancar, which costs about $15 USD each way.
What’s included in the El Cielo tour?
Again, what’s included in the tour will vary depending on the tour operator and if you select a tour with transportation included.
But here’s what’s included in the majority of El Cielo tours:
- Roundtrip boat trip from Cozumel marina
- Snorkeling at two different coral reefs–Palancar Reef and Colombia Reef
- Snorkeling with starfish at El Cielo
- Leisurely stop at “El Cielito” beach
- Snorkeling equipment
- Life jackets
- Bottled water, soft drinks, and beer (2 per person)
El Cielo Tour Itinerary
The tour start time will vary depending on whether you choose a tour with hotel pickup in Playa del Carmen or the Rivera Maya.
Pickup from your hotel can be as early as 7:00AM or if you’re meeting in Cozumel, the departure time will likely be around 11:00AM.
⚠️ Keep in mind the tour leaves from the Cozumel ferry at this time so you have to plan ahead to take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel which leaves approximately every hour.
Once you arrive at the ferry, you will meet your tour guide at the designated meeting point outside of downtown San Miguel de Cozumel and they will escort you to the boat nearby.
You’ll then set off to begin your snorkeling experience at two different reefs–Palancar and Colombia, followed by snorkeling at El Cielo, and a leisurely stop at El Cielito beach. The tour duration is approximately 4 hours.
First Stop: Palancar Reef
After departing from the marina near the Cozumel ferry, you’ll cruise down the coast and the first stop on the tour is snorkeling at Palancar Reef.
The Cozumel reef system is actually the second longest in the world, only second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
You’ll be outfitted with snorkeling masks and life jackets and then you’ll be ready to jump into the sea!
The water at Palancar Reef is about 20-40 feet deep and there are many colorful fish and different types of coral to be seen.
Second Stop: Colombia Reef
The next stop on the tour is Colombia Reef, which is just a short boat ride away. Colombia Reef is a bit shallower at around 15-30 feet deep.
The snorkeling here was pretty similar to Palancar Reef, and in my opinion not all that impressive–the visibility wasn’t great on the day that we went!
Third Stop: El Cielo
The third stop of the tour is visiting El Cielo, which is definitely the highlight of the tour!
I can’t even explain how pretty the color of the water is–the pictures really don’t do it justice!
And the amount of starfish you get to see at Cielo is really spectacular–it’s definitely the best place to snorkel in Cozumel!
The water at El Cielo is about 7-8 feet deep so it’s still pretty deep but you can choose to remove your life jacket if you wish.
It was really fun to dive down for an up close view of the starfish. Check out my video below for a better look!
Last Stop: El Cielito Cozumel
After visiting El Cielo, you’ll then head over to Playa El Cielito (“Little Heaven”), which is a very shallow beach nearby with equally stunning turquoise water.
The boat will anchor here and you’ll be served some light snacks like sliced cheese and jicama, as well as beverages while getting to relax in the shallow water.
Playa Cielito is really a beyond gorgeous place to rest and relax after all the excitement of snorkeling and starfish hunting.
After visiting El Cielito, you’ll get back on the boat and return to the Cozumel ferry.
What to Do After the Cozumel El Cielo Tour
The tour will end around 2:00PM so you’ll still have some free time in Cozumel if you don’t book an all-inclusive tour.
There are many things to do in Cozumel but I would highly recommend visiting Playa Palancar, as it’s one of the prettiest beaches I’ve seen on the island.
Playa Palancar is about a 15 minute drive from the ferry and the taxi will cost around $15 USD each way but it’s definitely worth the trip.
There are a couple of different beach clubs there where you can rent lounge chairs and enjoy some beach snacks and frozen cocktails. A perfect way to end the day!
What to Wear on the El Cielo Tour
Here’s what I recommend wearing on the El Cielo Snorkeling Tour:
- One-Piece Swimsuit: For most of the tour you will be in the water so you’ll definitely need to wear a swimsuit. I always prefer to wear a one-piece swimsuit when going on snorkeling tours since they provide more coverage and less hassle with the life vests and snorkeling equipment.
- Swimsuit coverup: Wear a coverup or shorts and a tank top over your swimsuit to be comfortable on the ferry ride.
- Waterproof sandals or flip flops: Wear comfortable sandals or flip flops that you don’t mind getting wet. You’ll remove them as soon as you get on the boat.
- Sun Hat: If you want to bring a hat, make sure to wear one with a wind lanyard or that fits securely on your head as it can easily blow off when you’re traveling by boat.
What to Bring on the El Cielo Tour
Here are a few essential items I would recommend bringing on the El Cielo tour:
- Biodegradable Sunscreen: Be sure to wear biodegradable sunscreen as regular sunscreen is prohibited on the tour as it is damaging to the coral reefs.
- Beach Towel: You’ll definitely want to bring a towel to dry off after snorkeling. These microfiber beach towels are great as they are lightweight and dry quickly.
- GoPro or waterproof camera: Be sure to bring a GoPro (or the less expensive AKASO Brave) waterproof camera to capture your experience. El Cielo offers an amazing photo opportunity for an up close view of the starfish.
- Snorkel Gear: You can also bring your own snorkel set if you prefer. Snorkeling equipment is provided on the tour but having your own ensures cleanliness and the best fit.
- Change of Clothes: It’s also a good idea to bring a change of clothes to change into after the tour so you’re not stuck in a wet swimsuit for the return trip.
- Cash for tips: I would also recommend bringing some extra cash to tip the tour guides at the end of the tour. This is something I often forget and then feel terrible at the end of an amazing tour experience.
El Cielo Cozumel Video
Visiting El Cielo: FAQs
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting El Cielo in Cozumel:
El Cielo can only be visited by boat so you’ll need to book a guided boat tour to take you there.
El Cielo is a shallow sandbar off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico that is home to giant starfish and crystal clear turquoise water.
No, you cannot swim to El Cielo. The snorkeling spot is located about a half mile off shore and can only be accessed by boat.
No, you cannot get to Playa El Cielo by car. The snorkeling spot is located about a half mile off shore and can only be accessed by boat.
El Cielo is located about 30 minutes from the Cozumel cruise port.
Conclusion: El Cielo Cozumel Tour Guide
So are you ready to tour El Cielo Cozumel? I really hope this El Cielo tour guide was helpful and you get to experience such a beautiful place!
It’s definitely one of the most memorable snorkeling tours I’ve been on in Riviera Maya–the color of the water is just so unbelievably clear!
If you’re ready to see El Cielo for yourself, this El Cielo snorkeling tour is the one that I personally did and recommend. Plus, it has over 350 5-star reviews!
And for more Playa del Carmen snorkeling tours, check out my guides to swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres, swimming with sea turtles in Akumal, and a snorkeling and cenote tour in Puerto Morelos.
Traveling to Mexico soon?
These are the Mexico travel resources I use and recommend:
🏨 Hotels: I always find the best deals for Mexico hotels and resorts on Booking.com. If you prefer a vacation rental, check VRBO as they are often cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: I recommend using Skyscanner for the best Mexico flight deals. Be sure to sign up for their price alerts for your preferred travel dates.
🚗 Rental Cars: I like to use Discover Cars because you can compare multiple car rental companies and see detailed ratings for overall value, ease of pick-up, efficiency of agents, car condition, and overall time spent.
🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: I recommend booking a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation for the quickest and most hassle-free option!
🤿 Tours & Activities: I always use Viator or GetYourGuide for booking tours and activities in Mexico. You can cancel up to 24 hours before the tour for a full refund, plus they have excellent customer service if you were to have any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: After my Dad broke his hand in a taxi accident in Playa del Carmen, I always recommend buying travel insurance before your trip for added peace of mind! I recommend Travel Insurance Master for short trips or Safety Wing for digital nomads.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Don’t forget to add biodegradable sunscreen to your Mexico packing list! Regular sunscreen is prohibited when swimming in the ocean and cenotes in Mexico, so you’ll need to pack some biodegradable sunscreen for sun protection. I recommend Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is reef-friendly, vegan, and cruelty-free.
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