We took a scooter out here so we could have all the time we wanted without a tour. You can either hit the Laguna de Maya snorkel company and pay 10 cuc to go with the guides, or drive another 500m and do the same thing independently. My girlfriend decided her swimming ability wasn't strong enough to go alone so we paid.
With the company, life jackets are mandatory and you basically follow the guide out to the Coral without much stopping time, then turn back.
There isn't a large variety of fish but the guides do draw a feeding frenzy with some food, which was pretty cool.
We got there as another tour of about 15 people were setting out so in the end, we basically were taking a tour instead of the independent swim I had originally sought out. You end up bumping into others often. I think they said it was an hour swim. We had set out for more, but really there wasn't enough to see to make a day of it.
If you scooter to their lot, a security guy will tell you that the lot is safe and watched, but they don't tell you if there is a cost (I don't think they get many visitors outside of the Jeep/bus tours). When we left, the guard stood there in silence until I gave him 1.50 cuc (I only had enough cash for the highway toll back) and he seemed satisfied with that.
If you are a competent swimmer/snorkeler, pass by Laguna de Maya and swim alone for free. Otherwise, it is safer to go with the guides, and not a terrible value for the price as a novice.
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