The El Cielo tour in Cozumel is one of the most popular excursions on the island and one that I had been dying to try. El Cielo is a snorkeling spot that is only accessible by boat where you can see a surplus of starfish and snorkel in crystal clear turquoise waters. Many tours offer snorkeling stops in addition to visiting El Cielo, which I’ve outlined in this complete guide to the El Cielo tour in Cozumel below.
El Cielo (“Heaven” in Spanish) is located on the southwestern tip of Cozumel island. 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 known for its abundance of starfish and crystal clear water.
How to visit El Cielo
El Cielo can only be visited by boat. If you’re coming from Playa del Carmen, you can purchase a complete tour that departs from the Cozumel ferry, or another option is to hire a boat to take you there from many of the nearby beach clubs on the island. This time we opted for the complete tour from Playa del Carmen.
About the El Cielo tour
Our tour was run by Amigos Tours Cozumel and we purchased the tour from one of the vendors on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. In addition, we had to purchase the ferry tickets to Cozumel separately, which were given to us at a discounted price. The tour included snorkeling at two different reefs – Palancar and Colombia, snorkeling at El Cielo, and a leisurely stop at El Cielito. The tour was offered at a couple of different times throughout the day but we opted for the morning tour departing at 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 and they will escort you to the boat nearby.
FIRST STOP: PALANCAR REEF
After departing from the Cozumel ferry, we cruised down the coast and the first stop on the tour was snorkeling at Palancar Reef. The Cozumel reef system is actually the second longest in the world, only second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. We were outfitted with snorkeling masks and life jackets and quickly took the plunge into the sea! The water at Palancar Reef is about 20-40 feet deep and there were many colorful fish and different types of coral to be seen.
SECOND STOP: COLOMBIA REEF
The next stop on the tour was Colombia Reef which was 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 (at least on the day that we went).
THIRD STOP: EL CIELO
The third stop of the tour was visiting El Cielo. For me, El Cielo was definitely the highlight of the tour. I can’t even explain how pretty the color of the water is, and the amount of starfish you can see was really spectacular. The water 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
After visiting El Cielo, we cruised over to El Cielito (“Little Heaven”) which a very shallow beach nearby with equally stunning turquoise water. Here we parked the boat and were served some light snacks and beverages while we relaxed in the shallow water. It was really a beyond gorgeous place to rest and relax after all the excitement of snorkeling and starfish hunting.
How much does the El Cielo tour cost?
The price of our tour was $46 USD per person plus about $14 USD for roundtrip ferry tickets to Cozumel. Tour prices are generally negotiable so you may be able to find a similar one at a cheaper price. I would also recommend bringing some extra cash to tip the tour guides at the end of the tour.
What to do after the El Cielo tour in Cozumel
After the tour we took a taxi from the ferry to Playa Palancar. I highly recommend Playa Palancar on Cozumel, as it’s one of the prettiest beaches I’ve seen on the island. It’s 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 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 IMO!