Best Snorkeling Beaches in the Caribbean
A lot of snorkeling in the Caribbean can be easily accessed by boat but that can add up quickly. If you are looking for a great place to snorkel from the beach, this is what I will be talking about (time to take out those water shoes for snorkeling from your closet!).. Not only that, everyone will have their own opinion and thought but it also depends on the time of year, day, weather, etc… So I will list the top Caribbean snorkeling destinations and beaches to snorkel off of. I will also talk about some of the best Caribbean islands for snorkeling (some boat access, some off the beach), best snorkeling in the Caribbean from all inclusive resorts and best coral reefs in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is in the southeast Gulf of Mexico, borders the east side of Central America to the North of South America. There are more than 710 islands with just under 40 million in population and 30 territories. It is not a small area but is absolutely amazing from every island you go to there are great people, food and of course phenomenal snorkeling. With that many island, cays, reefs and wrecks it is tough to decipher which is the best that's why I am only give you top spots but in no particular order.
Top Caribbean Snorkeling Destinations
From the cerveza to snorkeling you cannot miss here. Within a 60 minute, drive, walk or ferry you are nothing short on excitement here. There is the island of Cozumel which is a 40 minute ferry ride that is very cheap to get to and great views. Musa which is an underwater museum off the mainland of Cancun which has 470 different life sized sculptures and then some. If you are there during the summer months, you have to check out the Whale Sharks! These amazing creatures will blow your mind in the best possible way.
Cozumel is beautiful on land and from the snorkeling areas. Once you arrive by ferry on the west side of the island, that is where you want to be. Playas Las Casitas is where you will see amazing assortment of fish, a sunken wreck which is only 25 feet down. Be careful of boat traffic and always wear a snorkel vest.
La Musa was created in 2009 and has over 470 different sculptures from famous people to a volkswagen beetle. Your best bet is to take a tour with Aqua World which is one of our favorites as they offer tours daily for about 3.5 hours where you will see all la Musa has to offer.
Whale Sharks are also a must see if you are there in the summer months (June-September). The largest whale shark ever recorded was length of 12.65 m (41.5 ft) and a weight of about 21.5 t (47,000 lb) which is absolutely massive. It truly is amazing. I would recommend checking out Aqua World for tours and it is a little pricey but is worth every penny.
Trunk Bay - St. John USVI
If you are ready for pristine waters and great snorkeling here is the place to be. You will be in awe from the very moment you see the bay. Once you are in the water there is a beautiful snorkeling trail with underwater signs leading the way. There are some fish and coral around but to get to the good marine life you need to head past the trail (underwater route). **The current can be strong once you head past the route so make sure you are a proficient swimmer and have a snorkel vest.**
There is a $4.00 fee for the park and lifeguards with all the amenities are available but it can get quite busy so head out early for a more calmer experience. No need for water shoes as the beach is sandy and beautiful but you may want to bring collapsible beach chairs with you. It does get steep though at points so be cautious entering the water. The water can get up to a depth of 25 feet in certain areas but is suitable for everyone!
You will see snapper, grouper, angelfish, squirrelfish, blue tang and about 30 other species of fish. Along with sea plumes, rods and fans with mustard hill coral and about 10 other kinds of coral as well.
Definitely a must see.
Sting Ray City - Caymen Islands
So maybe even if you are not snorkeling and want to see an amazing beach, view and spectacle this is a must! You will be immersed in dozens of stingrays in just a few feet of water. Perfect for the whole family. As fishermen used to gut their fish in this area the stingrays would gather here and for decades now they are staying in this area to get some easy food.
Your best bet to see this is an excursion and then you will get to see coral gardens and an amazing starfish snorkel. Bring your own gear for an even clearer view!
Check out Aquarius sea tours for more options and adventures.
Bonaire is just east of Aruba and Curacao and is spectacular. There are so many different beaches and islands to snorkel off of with a vast array of marine life and coral. I will give a few of my favorites, as I said there is lots of beaches to check out.
Lac Bay (Sorobon Beach) has great marine life but make sure you head out on a calmer day because this is a beach for windsurfing so make sure you stay out of their way but once you get to the coral it is spectacular. Just outside of Jibe City you will have to walk a little bit to get to the marine life so wear water shoes for protection as it is sandy in most spots there can be rocks and other sharp objects around. There are beautiful pockets of coral and fish such as porcupine fish, snapper, grouper, goatfish, butterfly fish, and for coral elkhorn, lettuce, sea fan and rod just to name a few.
Bari Reef is a great place for the entire family and has some of the most amazing visibility I have ever swam in. Just to the right of the entrance has an abundance of fish and coral with depths only as deep as maybe 10 feet. If you have little ones, use a snorkel vest just in case. You will see much of what you saw at Lac bay and maybe even some turtles.
A huge bonus about snorkeling in Bonaire is that almost all of the snorkeling is from shore, so if you maybe had too many margaritas or had a relaxing morning drinking your coffee on your deck the marine park will be there when you are ready! Most of the marine areas are protected by national parks so they are not overfished or damaged. The only damage is from storms that have gone through but there is a large abundance of regrowth over the last decade. Definitely a must see for cheap easy access snorkeling and great visibility.
Once again there are many places to check out in Jamaica but nominated many times as a top snorkeling destination is the Rockhouse Beach. Near the town of Negril the Rockhouse beach offers vast amount of sea life, grottos, underwater caves, grottos and eels! The water is shallow and the visibility is fantastic to see angelfish, stingrays, wrasse, and even sharks (mostly reef sharks so there is nothing to worry about). You will see an amazing assortment of brain and cauliflower coral, bubble and sea coral just to name a few.
Not only is the sea life amazing, once you get up and look around the scenery is breathtaking in and out of the water.
If the Beach Boys can sing about it, you know the place has to be good. Honestly though, Aruba snorkeling is spectacular from Arashi to Malmok.
In the north part of the island Arashi beach has white sandy beaches and crystal clear water but make sure you bring your own gear as they do not have to many amenities there. You can legitimately snorkel for days throughout these parts and still find new and exciting fish and coral.
Just down from Arashi is Catalina Cove and Boca Catalina and offer just a good of views but there are some rocks so make sure you wear your water shoes. It is still shallow throughout the area but does have some drop offs so be careful.
Even more south is the Antilla shipwreck which is a must only 600 yards from shore but I do not recommend swimming, get a boat tour and take it easy and enjoy the views. Check out the Jolly Pirates for a great excursion.
Aruba has so much to offer from coral to a vast array of marine life and shipwrecks. Put it on your list of places to go!
Just north of mainland Honduras you will find Roatan and it is magnificent. There are great options to snorkel right off of any of the beaches and then there is great charter boat tours to see breathtaking views and sights above and below water.
At Sandy Bay you will pass starfish alley which has clear blue waters and more starfish than you can imagine and from the shore about half a mile is the reef and you will also see turtles, eels, rays, rainbow fish and so much more. The swim can be long so wear a snorkel vest but it does not get too deep but better safe than sorry. Once you get to the reef, so many fish and corals to look at.
At the west end there is the Aquarium and it is exactly how it sounds, imagine the best aquarium you have seen and it will be nothing compared to how many fish you will see at this area.
Also check out Spooky Bay for more great snorkeling.
Just north of St.Lucia Dominica is not the Dominican Republic, it is its own separate nation and the hotspot is Champagne reef just off of Pointe Michel. The name is derived from the fissures in the sea floor make it looks like a champagne glass. You can feel these warm bubbles splashing against your body along with lots of marine life. There is also a 17th century Spanish shipwreck along with green and hawksbill turtles.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I highly put this at the top of your list!
Best Caribbean Islands for Snorkeling
This topic always got me because pretty much every country in the caribbean is an island except for the offshore mainland in Central America and the north of South America but this is where I will talk about amazing snorkeling by boat or smaller islands.
Buck Island is at the top of this list in St.Croix and is not be missed. The island is a National Park that encompasses 167 acres of uninhabited land except for the visitors that come everyday. It is at the top of the list and in about 15 feet of water your will see so much in a short time. Only accessible by boat and one of the many excursions you take will leave you talking about this for years. There is a wide arrangement of fish including turtles, lobsters and maybe even an octopus if you lucky and so much more!
Cayo Diablo National Park which is just 20 minutes from Puerto Rico by boat you will see so many turtles and a wide arrangement of marine life. Most famous for its Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral and limestone background. Definitely worth the trip and even better for the people who are amazing.
Silverbank is located about 80 miles north of the Dominican Republic and is a breeding ground for humpback whales. In 1986 it was declared a whale sanctuary and they have thousands and I do mean thousands of North Atlantic Humpback Whales. There are numerous travel excursions from Dominican Republic and can be accessed by Turks and Caicos. To be able to swim with these amazing beings is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you must put this at the top of your list!
Best Snorkeling Caribbean All Inclusive Resort
Let’s be serious here for a second, there is nothing better than finishing work, getting on a plane and not having to worry about anything. Food, drinks, accommodations and of course snorkeling right out in front of your hotel. No worries for the duration and a great time will be ahead. Here is a list of a few of my favorites to stay eat, drink and snorkel!
Barcelo Maya Caribe
Just south of Cancun, Mexico in the Mayan Riviera there is spectacular snorkeling at the Barcelo Maya Caribe. With a lot of the same fish you will see at Cozumel, whale sharks in the summer months and La Musa just a short boat ride away. You will see lots of tropical fish including: angelfish, grouper, triggerfish, roosterfish and maybe even a barracuda if you are out far enough (be cautious as always) and much much more! There is also a wide range of coral from cauliflower, brain, fan, and fire coral and much more.
The resort offers 6 pools, lots of restaurants and bars and free rentals on non motorized water sporting equipment. I would recommend you bring your own goggles, fins, snorkel and other accessories you may need including reef safe sunscreen. The beach is sandy and beautiful but there can be rocky areas so you may want water shoes as well.
For further information check out their website: www.barcelo.com
Anse Chastanet Resort, St. Lucia
St.Lucia has amazing amazing hotels and Anse Chastanet is fantastic but the only thing better is the snorkeling right outside the resort!
Protected by national marine reserve, the coral and fish are just minutes away once you pop in the water. There is over 150 different kinds of fish swimming around including turtles and even octopus! The range of depth goes from 10 to 120 feet although only if you are diving will you be going down that far and they have excellent packages for that as well. They do provide snorkeling gear but as I always like to have my own gear, then I know where it has been. You can head out day or night to see some spectacular underwater views.
The hotel has a vast array of other amenities that you can use if you can pull yourself away from the snorkeling!
Check out the website for more details: http://ansechastanet.com/
Sunscape Curacao Resort
Set in Curacao this resort has a great wave blocker so it entices you and the family to do even more snorkeling with the family and it is great for everyone especially if you are just starting. The wave blocker protects the waves and the fish and coral so they can thrive and you won’t have to worry about any waves or wind surfers getting in your way while you enjoy the natural marine life.
With white sandy beaches no need to worry about hurting your feet and with pools and bars close by you will not go thirsty. With lots of restaurants you won’t go hungry either.
Check out the website for further information: http://www.sunscaperesorts.com/
Best Coral Reefs in the Caribbean
It is tough to really determine the full extent of the best coral reef in the caribbean as there are so many and it depends on when you go and what the weather is like but we will try and narrow it down for you the best we can and this is strictly speaking reef, not beaches or resorts.
1. Belize Barrier Reef
1.Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world next to Australia and is a must. In 1996 the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was marked as a world heritage site. It includes Half Moon Caye, South Water Caye, Ranguana Caye and much more. There are opportunities to see whale sharks and the blue hole which is spectacular!
2. Champagne Reef
Located in Dominica the reef is spectacular with the fissures in the sea floor that create bubbles like a champagne glass. Here the warm bubbles create an amazing coral formation all around making it some of the best in the caribbean. This is definitely a must to see and the amazing coral around.
3. No Name Beach
In Bonaire the colorful reef system brings in a huge variety of fish making the coral even more magnificent and spectacular as they both shimmer before your eyes. The vibrant oranges and yellows of the coral bounce across the sea turtles and make this a snorkel you won’t forget. Great for the whole family as you are only in about 10 feet of water but just be cautious of the current as it can get to about 25 feet but still great visibility!
As you can see even though there are over 710 islands you can see there is any island that will offer great snorkeling. It all depends on the time of year as well because you could be in a top 5 or 10 snorkeling destination but hit a rainy or windy time (where you may need a high wind beach umbrella) and you could not be happy with the outcome so plan ahead and look at the forecast and the good times to go. No matter where you go, you will have fun snorkeling and enjoying the sun especially if it is snowing where you are! Hope all this helps.