Unlike most snorkel "tours" that take a boat load of tourists out and dump them in one spot to flail around in and then cart you back in, this is truly a tour of the reef. You'll find a kiosk at the beach. They asked $35/pp for a 1.5 hour tour, but since we brought our own equipement, we talked them down to $30. Normally we shore/beach snorkel, but the famed Palancar Reef is too far out to swim to, so a boat is the only way to go. Plus, there is so much boat activity out there, it'd be dangerous to swim out on your own at any distance.
We were lucky to be the only 2 snorkelers on a boat with 5 divers. I did not know we would be escorted, but glad we were. Marcello brought a life ring to hold on to, which I thought was unnecessary...but truly came to appreciate it because we snorkeled along the Columbia and THEN the Palancar...snorkeling for an hour straight in the open ocean!
Marcello did not require us to hang onto the life ring, but I felt more secure doing so because of the winter rolling waves. My husband is a stronger swimmer, so he freely went about within earshot of Marcello, who was deft at spotting and pointing out lobster, Lion Fish, stingray, and turtle.
The boat quietly followed us from a distance, never disturbing our tour...it seemed like were the only ones in the ocean. Unfortunately I did start to get quite cold since it was a cloudy day and the sun wasn't as warm and we were in the open water for so long. But I didn't want to ask to get back in the boat because I didn't want to miss a thing.
The visibility was amazing. Columbia Shallows we could easily see down 20-40 ft. and Palancar down to 100 ft. with it's towering coral and caves.
The Palancar Beach club has great chaise lounges, hammocks, rinse off showers that you can use for free. They do not pressure you to buy any food or drink. But if you do, the food is much better than most beach clubs. Peacocks roam the grounds looking for scraps and a nice thick grove of coconut trees provide ample shade.
In the past Palancar was not frequented by cruise ship passengers (who tend to be herded to the closer and bigger San Francisco Beach), so it was ridiculous to have so many people clumped on the small beach at one time. This may have been because it was windier that day at the SF beach. The crowd all seem to evacuate by 3:00 pm. and then it was pleasantly serene again.
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