Caribbean Snorkeling and Diving
Like keeping your head above water? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. For the large majority of visitors snorkeling in the Caribbean is as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, than scuba diving. It is certainly much easier and less expensive. You can bring your own snorkeling gear or you can rent snorkeling gear just about anywhere in go in the Caribbean. Another nice thing about snorkeling is that it requires very little preparation, unlike diving that require a bit of planning. When you find a nice reef or tidal pool you simple put on your mask and snorkel and you’re set to go. Most experience snorkelers will attest that the Caribbean is the best place in the world to go snorkeling. The water is crystal clear, and if it weren’t for the mask and snorkel you might even forget you’re in water.
Many of the top dive spots in the Caribbean are also excellent places to go snorkeling. However, almost every island in the Caribbean is a great spot to go snorkeling. Islands such as Aruba, that are typically not considered the most tantalizing dive spots, are great for snorkeling. Another great place to go snorkeling is the French side of St. Martin (a.k.a. St. Maarten) as its pristine reefs are fiercely protected by the government and well maintained. The Virgin Islands are also considered by avid snorkelers as one of the best places in the Caribbean to go snorkeling. Especially popular are the islands of St. Croix and St. John. Trunk Bay on the island of St. John offers tourists marked underwater snorkeling trails in some of the most beautiful water you’ll ever experience. (We should add that Trunk Bay beach is also one of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever visit.) You’ll often hear snorkeling aficionados say that St. Croix offers the best snorkeling in the entire Caribbean, with beautiful tidal pools, underwater coves and pristine bays that are always waiting to be explored.
Another great snorkeling spot a little further south is the Curacao Underwater Marine Park off the Dutch island of Curacao. This twelve mile long park is dotted with the remains of sunken colonial ships as well as hundreds of thousands of some of the most beautiful fish you’ll ever see. The truth is that along the Dutch Islands you’d be hard pressed not to find a beautiful place to go snorkeling. One of the many self-proclaimed hot spots in Caribbean for snorkeling is Antigua. With beautiful coral reefs and one of the largest selections of deserted beaches, it always easy to find the perfect snorkeling spot in Antigua.
If not the best snorkeling spot, at least one of the most memorable is Sting Ray City off the coast of Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands. Snorkeling with live, tame and absolutely exquisite string rays is one of the most amazing snorkeling experiences offered by the Caribbean Islands.
Top 10 Snorkeling and Diving Hot Spots
No matter where you travel in the Caribbean, you’ll likely be able to go to visit any beach close to where you’re staying, grab a snorkel and mask and begin exploring a beautiful world just beneath the water’s surface. While the entire Caribbean is renown for its beautiful reefs, waters and snorkeling opportunities we must admit that there are few snorkeling spots in the Caribbean that stand out from the rest. Below we’ve listed a few of our favorite Caribbean snorkeling hot spots.
Stingray City (Grand Cayman)
Want to have a truly unique snorkeling experience? Then we recommend Stingray City at Grand Cayman Island. The crystal clear waters of Stingray City (and Stingray Sandbar) are anywhere from three to twelve feet deep – shallow enough for novice snorkelers yet deep enough to be enticing to divining aficionados. You can hire any number of a dozen boat tour guides to take you up the northern coast of Grand Cayman to arrive at Stingray City – which is a few miles off the shore. Stingray City is made up of various sand bars that cross the North Sound from Morgan Harbor to Rum Point. In addition dozens of completely tame, and we might add extraordinarily beautiful stingrays, slowly gliding through the water at your side there are many colorful fish to enjoy here.
While not as popular as many other Caribbean destinations, Roatan, Honduras is truly a jewel among gems. If you have the opportunity to visit this tropical oasis we highly recommend you do so. In additional to exotic iguanas, beautiful sandy beaches and an exotic Latin culture the island of Roatan is host to some of the most beautiful reefs in the world and the second most beautiful reef in the entire Caribbean. Filled with miles of corral mazes and underwater valleys the reefs in Roatan are a unique experience for both the novice and experienced snorkeler. (We should probably add that Roatan is a great place to go scuba diving as well.) You’ll not only explore unique natural underwater architectural formations but you’ll be able to experience nature up close and personal. With hundreds of exotic fish species, sea turtles and crustaceans you’re sure to be amazed and enthralled.
Mona Island (Off of Puerto Rico)
The awe-inspiring sea cliffs of Mona Island rise from the ocean bottom, breaking the crisp surface of the sea, and jettison like protective walls of a prehistoric fortress reminding everyone that the area is a protected nature reserve. To visit Mona Island you must first arrive at Puerto Rico. The island is about 40 miles due west of Puerto Rico. While this island may be a bit off the beaten pay it is surely worth the visit. Nearly 300 species of tropical Caribbean fish, endangered sea turtles and other marine life inhabit the warm waters surrounding Mona Island. Ocean depth surrounding Mona Island can reach up to 100 feet deep near the shore and over 3,000 feet next to the nearby Puerto Rico Trench. Notwithstanding the depth, Mona Island snorkeling is absolutely spectacular because of the amazing visibility. While many popular snorkeling areas throughout the world have visibility from 50 up to 100 feet, Mona Island boasts visibility up to 150 feet. Playa Carmelita, one of Mona Island’s most popular snorkeling sites, is purported by many to be the most beautiful snorkeling site on the Island, but beautiful coral reefs on the South coast of Mona Island are also worth exploring as well. In order to protect the island’s singular ecosystem and exotic marine life snorkeling on the Island is regulated by local authorities.
Buck Island Reef National Monument (St. Croix)
There are so many world-class snorkeling sites in the Virgin Islands that it is extremely difficult to single out just one snorkeling haven that stands out from the rest. Notwithstanding, there is one snorkeling site that seems to be at the top of the list of all seasoned Caribbean snorkelers, St. Croix’s Buck Island. This island paradise located off the north shore of St. Croix will bring you back again and again to explore its unbelievable corral reef systems, crystal waters, hundreds of fish species and exotic marine life. At the east end of the reef there is popular underwater trail that anyone can explore. The Buck Island Reef is part of the national park so the only thing you’re able to bring back are pictures and wonderful memories.
Antigua has long been considered by visitors and locals alike as a snorkeler’s paradise. It offers just about everything a novice or seasoned snorkeler could desire. Its has beautiful white sandy beaches, warm clear water, natural coral reefs, underwater walls and valleys, ship wrecks you can explore and various types of colorful tropical fish. In addition, in most places there is almost no current, which is attracts many first time snorkelers as well as families with children. Of all the spots in Antigua, Paradise Reef is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling attractions. This one mile long coral reef location just north of Dickenson Bay is part of an underwater park that is home to vast coral gardens as well as The Wreck of the Andes, a merchant ship that sank in early 1905. Since the ship is only in 30 feet deep water it can be explored by experienced snorkelers and divers.
St. John (Virgin Islands)
St. John is another snorkeling hot spot the draws snorkelers back again and again. The warm, shallow waters, the slow, safe currents and unbelievable visibility make St. Johns one of the Caribbean’s premier snorkeling and diving destinations. The vast majority of the beaches on St. Johns are host to exquisite coral reefs, tranquil bays, tidal pools as well as an unimaginable array for tropical fish. There are so many great places to go snorkeling on St. John Island it would be difficult to have just one favorite site. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention in passing Salomon/Honeymoon Bay, Caneel Bay, Hawknest Bay and Trunk Bay – all of which have amazing water, ample marine life and while warm beaches.
Curacao Underwater Marine Park (Curacao)
Along the southern coastline of Curacao is the 12-mile long Curacao Underwater Marine Park, one of Curacao’s most popular attractions and one of the best-known snorkeling sites in the Caribbean. So what makes Curacao Underwater Marine Park a snorkeler’s paradise? Well sunken ships, vast coral gardens, tropical fish galore, schools of nurse sharks, underwater labyrinths and variety of exotic marine life for starters. There are marked trails and signs setup to help snorkelers find their way and identify what they’re seeing. And while you can snorkel right off the shore in most locations, to reach some of the best snorkeling spots requires a boat ride.
Provo (Turks and Caicos)
One of our favorite islands in the Caribbean is Turks and Caicos. Best known of its diving, Turks and Caicos also provides fantastic snorkeling. To enhance the snorkeling experience for tourist the local government has set up well marked snorkeling trails just off Provo’s renown Grace Bay Beach, at Bight Reef as well as Smith’s Reef. Unlike many of the more attractive reefs in the Caribbean, these reefs are located right off the shoreline, so they are easily accessible to just about anyone who want to venture into the water with a snorkel and mask. Like many other top snorkeling locations Provo is home to stunning coral gardens and a fragile, pristine underwater ecosystem.
The Tobago Cays (The Grenadines)
Of all the islands in The Grenadines the Tobago Cays hands down stand out among the snorkeling hot spots. Unlike other regions in the Caribbean Tobago Cays is a government-protected wildlife reserve. Consequently, the coral reefs are in superb condition and there are teams of neon and rainbow colored tropical fish as well as other marine life at every turn. Since the waters at the Tobago Cays are quite calm it’s the perfect place to just float on your stomach and let the slow current gently pull you over the reef. Another noteworthy snorkeling area in the Tobago Cays that we really like is one mile reef near Canouan Island. Here you’ll find an exquisite collection of brain coral as well as an array of tropical and brightly colored fish.
So what make St. Martin stand out as one of top snorkeling destinations in the Caribbean? Two things. First the local government protects the French side of the island and consequently you’ll find pristine, well-preserved coral reefs. Second, the visibility in the water surrounding St. Martine is second to none. The visibility on average is 100 to 200 feet in any direction. Ya like exotic brightly colored fish? St. Martin has them. And it also has a sunken English battleship that can be viewed by snorkelers and explored by scuba divers. Want to just have a relaxing experience then we highly recommend exploring one of St. Martin’s many shallow coves or coral reefs. Last but not least we recommend snorkeling in St. Martin’s underwater nature reserve located in the northeastern region of the island.
Anse Chastanet (St. Lucia)
Last but not least on our list of top Caribbean snorkeling locations is Anse Chastanet Beach located on St. Lucia. Like most of the snorkeling locations in the Virgin Islands Anse Chastanet a wealth of beautiful marine life, crystal clear water and exquisite (black) beaches. This happens to be a very popular spot for first-time snorkelers however because the entire area is cordoned off by buoys. The reef located off the shore of Anse Chastanet Beach is quite long and there are variety of shallow coves and bays you can explore. On average the reef runs from 5 to 20 feet deep on the shallow end and up to 150 feet deep on the far end. Anse Chastanet is a favorite location for photographers due to the array of colorful fish and marine life as well as the calm, clear water.