The 10 Best Caribbean Snorkeling Spots
The Caribbean's warm, crystal-clear waters are home to some of the world's best snorkeling hot spots.
Some sites have shallow waters and others plunge down to great depths, but wherever you go, beautiful coral reefs and even shipwrecks provide abodes for hundreds of brightly colored tropical fish - and stingrays! No matter where you are in the Caribbean, you'll probably be able to step off the beach near your hotel, grab a snorkeling mask and start exploring the beautiful world just beneath the water's surface. The following sites, however, are especially good, and you'll be guaranteed a snorkeling experience you'll never forget.
Mona Island (Off of Puerto Rico)
Mona Island's dramatic sea cliffs rise from the ocean like protective walls, reminding visitors that the area is a protected nature reserve. The island can only be accessed from Puerto Rico, and it lies about 42 miles from Puerto Rico's Western coasts. Over 270 species of fish and endangered sea turtles inhabit the warm waters surrounding Mona Island, where ocean depths can reach over 100 feet closer to shore and over 3,000 feet at nearby Puerto Rico Trench. Mona's snorkeling is spectacular because of the amazing visibility, which can be up to 150 feet. Playa Carmelita is rumored o be the best snorkeling site, but beautiful corals on the South coast beckon to be explored as well. Mona is a natural reserve for the conservation of sea turtles, so a strict protection program is in place in order to the island's fragile, beautiful ecosystem.
Antigua is truly a snorkeler's paradise. Its gorgeous beaches surround warm, clear waters full of rainbow colored fish. Various types of coral reefs, walls and even shipwrecks provide homes to dozens of colorful fish varieties. In most places, there is little or no current, so Antigua is an excellent snorkeling spot for children or inexperienced first-timers. Paradise Reef is one of the island's most famous snorkeling spots; it's a 1-mile long coral garden just north of Dickenson Bay. Cades Reef is one of the most popular snorkeling sites, and it's also now a part of a designated underwater park. The wreck of the Andes, a merchant ship that sank in 1905, can be explored in waters only 30 feet deep.
Buck Island Reef National Monument (St. Croix)
The Virgin Islands are virtually synonymous with the some of the world's best snorkeling opportunities, and it's difficult to pick just one snorkeling haven to check out. However, St. Croix's Buck Island brings back seasoned snorkelers again and again to admire the hundreds of species of fish, in addition to various corals, sponges and crustaceans, which inhabit the beautiful reef system about two miles off of St. Croix's north shore. At the most eastern point of the reef system, there's a famous underwater trail that snorkelers of all abilities will have fun exploring. The reef is strictly protected by the National Park Service, so as they say - take only pictures, leave only bubbles!
St. John - (Virgin Islands)
The waters in St. John are warm and shallow, and there are no rivers, large tides or strong currents, so the water is unbelievably clear and you can see your toes when you stand in it! Almost all of the beaches here have coral reefs around the bays which are havens for tropical fish of every imaginable color. There are so many great snorkeling locations in St. John it's highly difficult to pick just one to recommend. Salomon/Honeymoon Bay is a definite favorite, and the waters are ten feet or less in depth. A large variety of coral and tropic al fish can be easily seen here. Caneel Bay, Hawknest Bay and Trunk Bay also have amazing snorkeling, and most have waters shallow enough for beginners and children. After an afternoon of snorkeling, retire to the sensually soft sands of the island's many beaches.
Curacao Underwater Marine Park (Curacao)
Curacao's best-known snorkeling sites are in the Curacao Underwater Marine Park, which can be found along 12 miles of Curacao's gorgeous southern coastline. This area is a snorkeler's dream, where sunken ships, gardens of hard and soft coral, and millions of fish and schools of nurse sharks provide create an artistic underwater display of bright colors and interesting textures. Various trails and signs help snorkelers identify what they're seeing. Snorkelers can view some of the snorkeling sites from shore, though for some of the best snorkeling, short boat rides are required.
The Tobago Cays (The Grenadines)
Every island in The Grenadines offers snorkeling possibilities, but the Tobago Cays are truly special. This is a government-protected wildlife area, so the coral is in great condition and there are countless varieties of neon - and rainbow-colored fish and other sea life snorkelers can get close to. The calm waters here are perfect for what's known as "drift snorkeling" - you simply float on your stomach and let the water gently pull you over the reef areas. Another great snorkeling spot nearby The Tobago Cays is a one mile reef along Canouan Island. The waters here are filled with intricate brain coral and fish from all colors of the rainbow.
Provo (Turks and Caicos)
This island is actually known to many people as being a fantastic dive site, though it also offers snorkelers some beautiful scenery closer to the surface. Snorkel trails have been established by the government at both Smith's Reef and Bight Reef, just off of Provo's gorgeous Grace Bay Beach. The special part about these reefs is their location - they're right off the shoreline, so they provide very easy access to even beginning snorkelers. The coral gardens here are stunning and colorful - and fragile. More about Turks and Caicos
Anse Chastanet (St. Lucia)
The best snorkeling in all of St. Lucia is in the waters in front of the Anse Chastenet Beach. This is a great spot for first-timers and weak swimmers because the area is cordoned off by buoys, so no boats are allowed near the snorkeling site - it's a marine reserve. The reef here is long, and there are plenty of shallow areas to explore. The reef run from 5 to 25 feet deep on the shallow end and up to 140 feet deep on its far end Photographers love the site due to the abundance of colorful sea life - bright yellow and neon-colored fish dart to and fro in the waters, and the beautiful coral is easily photographed in the clear, calm waters. When you're done snorkeling, retire to the black sand beach for some relaxation.
The government protects the French side of this island, so this is where some of the best snorkeling is. The visibility is wonderful here, and it can be anywhere from 100-200 feet! An old English battleship that sunk in 1801 is a fun place to explore for scuba divers as well. Snorkelers will be treated to school after school of brightly colored fish, shallow coves waiting to be explored and beautiful, diverse coral reefs. There's an underwater nature reserve in the northeastern area of the island that's great for snorkeling as well. More about St. Martin
Stingray City (Grand Cayman)
For a truly unique snorkeling experience, take a trip to Stingray City at Grand Cayman Island. The crystal clear waters here are about thirteen feet deep, so they're shallow enough for first-time snorkelers and skittish swimmers. All fears will be set aside though when the snorkeling masks are submerged - dozens of completely gentle stingrays can be seen slowing "flying" through the water, and many will come up a snorkeler to say hello. At about thirteen feet deep, the crystal clear waters here are quite shallow and a great choice for kids and first-time snorkelers. Stingray City is a short boat ride from Grand Cayman's northern coast, and it's made up of a series of beautiful sand bars that cross the North Sound from Morgan Harbor to Rum Point. There are many colorful fish to enjoy as well!