Best Snorkeling in the Caribbean: Top 10 Spots To Discover

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by Kristin Young | Updated On: August 28, 2020 | Snorkel

The magnetic appeal of a Caribbean vacation is strong, attracting people all around the world to its clear waters and sunshine-filled days. If you’re planning a trip yourself and wondering which Caribbean island has the best snorkeling, then look no further.  

The Caribbean epitomizes a tropical island getaway, complete with the promise of countless snorkeling adventures (that you’ll want to capture on your underwater camera). There are so many idyllic spots with vibrant marine life that it can be quite challenging to decide where to begin. 

TOP 10 SNORKELER RATED SPOTS

To help make your choice a little bit easier, we polled some of the most experienced snorkelers in the world and these were the final results.


10.  TURKS & CAICOS

underwater view of coral and fish at Turks and Caicos Marine Park

Known mostly for the bustling island Providenciales, Turks and Caicos boasts some of the most glorious snorkeling spots in the Caribbean. But a snorkeling cruise from Providenciales is just the tip of the iceberg – there’s a lot more to discover. 

Turks & Caicos offers some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean from the beach, but there are plenty of snorkeling cruises available as well. 

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Turks & Caicos:

  • Bight Reef – fairly easy to access
  • Smith’s Reef – more difficult to find and best done with a guide
  • Malcolm’s Beach – spur and groove reef formations

9.  PUERTO RICO

Drone shot of beach and boats on Icacos Island

It would be a sin not to add Puerto Rico to the list of best snorkeling Caribbean islands. The pristine beaches and serene waters make for the ultimate Puerto Rico snorkeling adventure. The colorful marine life and lively coral can be enjoyed by some of the beaches, or accessed by a short boat ride. 

Cayo Diablo, in Fajardo, is an especially coveted spot for both snorkeling and diving. People visit from all around the world to swim with the turtles, enjoy the colorful corals and be surrounded by schools of fish.

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Puerto Rico:

  • Cayo Diablo National Park – with shore accessibility and outstanding shallow snorkeling
  • Escambron Beach – conveniently located near the island’s main urban center of San Juan
  • Carlos Rosario Beach – fond on Culebra, a small island off of the east coast

8.  JAMAICA

snorkeling spots just from above the water facing Booby Cay near Negril, Jamaica

If you plan a snorkeling trip to Jamaica, then make sure that Negril is your top spot to visit where you’ll have access to an array of urchins and conch shells. But that’s not all that there is to enjoy. There’s also the allure of underwater caves and even the possibility of nighttime snorkeling in Jamaica.

Some of the most vibrant snorkeling spots in Jamaica are close to the shore meaning that your daily underwater adventure is convenient and simple to achieve. If you have access to a boat, then you can also venture off of the coast of Seven Mile Beach in Negril and explore the coral reef.

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Jamaica:

  • Negril – which is best enjoyed when completed with a sunset catamaran cruise
  • Montego Bay – perfect for kids and beginner snorkelers
  • Ocho Rios – a top choice for those visiting on cruise ships

7.  MEXICO

starfish at el cielo near cozumel mexico

Snorkeling in Mexico is simply magnificent. If you don’t have your own, you can grab a pair of flippers and a mask from one of the many available kiosks. What follows next is hours exploring the underwater world. 

The 5,800 miles of Mexican coastline means that you’ll have no shortage of spots to choose from. But to get you started, you’ll want to pay attention to Cozumel, Holbox and Riviera Maya. 

Cozumel

Cozumel is a spot where you can go snorkeling by day and sip tequila by night. The majority of the best spots are on the western coast and include spots such as Secrets Cozumel, Palancar, Columbia Reef and The Money Bar. The current on the east side of the island can be quite dangerous and should not be tested.

The best snorkeling spots aren’t synonymous with white sandy beaches. Instead, rocky and dark shore is a good indication of snorkeling potential. With this in mind, you may want to pack some snorkeling booties. 

If your time is limited and you want to go to the best spots straight away, then book a Cozumel snorkeling tour in advance. 

Holbox/Mujeres

Holbox is a small island known for its scenic beaches and snorkeling potential, especially if you want to try your luck at spotting majestic whale shark. Isla Mujeres is also a popular spot for snorkeling, but is located on the western side of Quintana Roo. 

You can quite easily snorkel from the beaches around Isla Mujeres, but the most rewarding area is undoubtedly Garrafon Reef Park. 

Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya, located south of Cancun, has a generous offering of plenty of shallow-water reefs and sheltered inlets just waiting to be explored. It’s the perfect place to snorkel with the family and discover the incredible marine life. 

Once again, booking a tour will make sure that you get to all of the best spots without having to make a difficult decision between the many stunning spots along the coast. 


6.  BELIZE

cabins on the water at Tobacco Cay in Belize

The Belize barrier reef offers unrivaled coral reef snorkeling experiences, boasting an abundance of tropical fish to discover. The clear, turquoise water and choice of hundreds of cayes make Belize one of the best Caribbean snorkeling destinations.  

While it’s possible to snorkel off of the beaches, the best snorkeling is experienced at the many cayes and atolls.

The dry season, which runs from November to May, is considered to be the best time to visit as the visibility is best. With that being said, the snorkeling is unmatched all year around. Some of the unique marine life that you can expect to encounter include the West Indian Manatee, sea turtles, and whale sharks. 

You can also push out further than the reefs on the mainland, and adventure to the various marine reserves and atolls to discover more. 

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Belize:

  • Tobacco Caye – South Water Caye Marine Reserve 
  • Hol Chan Marine Reserve – which is easily accessible from San Pedro
  • Glover’s Reef Atoll – which is a designated UNESCO world heritage site

5.  GRAND CAYMAN

underwater photo of coral and fish at rum point in grand cayman

If you’re on the hunt for the best snorkeling in Caribbean waters throughout the year, then the Grand Cayman is worth consideration. A fair number of the spots have beach access and are accessible from the shore. Although there are other spots, such as Stingray City, that are best experienced with a tour. 

The most difficult part of snorkeling in the Cayman Islands will be choosing which of the (many) spots to include on your itinerary. The brightly colored coral reef shines through the crystal clear waters and attracts snorkelers from around the world. 

Make sure that you spit in your goggles beforehand because you don’t want them to fog up. This could cause you to miss the incredible sights such as parrotfish, barracudas, and a variety of schooling fish. 

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Grand Cayman:

  • Eden Rock – centrally located in George Town
  • Rum Point – set aside a full day to explore this part of the island
  • Turtle Reef – most commonly known for diving, but the shallow reef is a fantastic choice for snorkeling too

4.  VIRGIN ISLANDS

fish at coral at Sapphire Bay St Thomas

Both the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) offer unforgettable Caribbean snorkeling experiences. The main deciding factor between the areas is the type of vacation you want out of the water. 

Visiting USVI will give you a notably more commercialized experience with beautiful beaches, a buzzing nightlife, and chain resorts for rent. The BVI is a more private experience, made up of a wealthier economy and a mood of tranquility.

United States Virgin Islands

If you’re looking for a magical place to snorkel in the Caribbean, the USVI has a variety of options to choose from. Most spots are island reefs which are located just offshore. The waters are home to an abundance of life, including seahorses and lobsters. 

The three main US Virgin Islands include Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas. But there are several minor islands offering unbeatable snorkeling experiences

If you only want to experience one of these spots, then push Trunk Bay on St. John to the top of your list. Not only is it one of the most photographed beaches in the USVI, but the underwater snorkeling trail is perfect for first-timers, kids, and adults. 

The British Virgin Islands

The BVI are known to offer some of the best sailing and cruising experiences, where passengers can throw anchor and dip below the surface to explore what lies beneath. In fact, the majority of the best snorkeling spots are only accessible by boat. Which is why we’d recommend booking a cruise and snorkel combo.

The four larger islands include Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost van Dyke. But there are 50 smaller islands and cays waiting to be explored. Whether you’re enjoying the resident Whitespotted Filefish at Carvel Rock on Cooper Island, or rays hiding in the boulders at The Baths, Virgin Gorda, you’re in for a treat. 


3.  CURACAO

Woman snorkeling with ball of fish- Westpunt Curacao

Our experience snorkeling in Curacao, located in the southern Caribbean, was both relaxing and exhilarating. The majority of the snorkeling spots have beach entry, meaning easy accessibility and less organization needed. 

The west coast of the island is best for underwater adventures, showcasing sea turtles, brightly colored fish, and the iconic tugboat wreck. Curacao’s waters are known to be less legally protected than other islands in the Caribbean, such as Bonaire. But the long stretches of white-sand beaches make up for any missing fish. 

The entire island is an adventure waiting to happen, and worth booking a desert tour and snorkel combo experience.

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Curacao:

  • Playa Porto Mari – a particularly photogenic spot
  • Little Knip Beach – a gorgeous beach with the opportunity to swim with fish
  • Klein Curacao – a small island approximately six miles from Curacao

2.  ROATAN

aerial view of island off the coast of roatan with view of reef around it

Located approximately 20 miles from Honduras, Roatán is a haven for marine life and a dream for snorkelers. Dipping your head below the surface will bring you up close with queen angelfish, sea turtles, and even whale shark. 

There are over 25 unforgettable spots in the world’s second-largest reef. The crystal clear waters give a clear vision of soft coral all around the island but are best enjoyed at West Bay. 

March, April, and May are considered the best months to visit Roatán, when the climate is most temperate and the island least crowded.  If you’re looking for a local to guide you on a snorkeling trip, then you can always book a Roatán snorkeling adventure.

If you enjoy pushing your boundaries a bit more, and are experienced in freediving, then you can the western tip of the island. The reef wall drops off at a point to a stunning canyon.  

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Roatan:

  • West Bay – particularly Half Moon Bay
  • Jade Beach – an easy-going snorkeling experience from the shore of Barbareta
  • Pigeon Cay – only recommended for strong swimmers

 1. BONAIRE

Snorkelers walking down to beach at Playa Funchi in Bonaire

Bonaire is the second-largest island in the Dutch Caribbean, boasting a plethora of ocean life to enjoy. Bonaire’s coral reef is envied as one of the healthiest in the Caribbean. 

The immense biodiversity of marine life found in the reefs of Bonaire makes it one of the best Caribbean islands for snorkeling. Just east to Aruba and Curacao, the most notable snorkeling is found on the west coast which is protected from the winds. 

The majority of the snorkeling spots are narrow strips of coral reef and can be easily accessed from the shoreline. These snorkeling spots accessible by the beach are free and noticeably marked. 

At these spots, you’ll find some of the 350 species of fish species known to the island, and 55 species of corals. There are also further-flung snorkeling areas that can be accessed via boat and tour groups. 

The climate in Bonaire is consistent all year-round, making snorkeling a suitable activity whenever you visit. However, if you want more of the reef to yourself, then low-season (May to October) is best.

Top Three Snorkeling Spots in Bonaire:

  • Klein Bonaire – only accessed by boat
  • 1000 Steps – access is via a small staircase and beach
  • Bonaire Mangroves – not recommended to snorkel without a tour group

FINAL THOUGHTS: BEST PLACES TO SNORKEL IN THE CARIBBEAN

The Caribbean has some of the best snorkeling spots in the world, making it a difficult job in choosing where to go first. This list has narrowed down some of the most exquisite options with lively coral reefs and underwater life. 
All that’s left to do now is make sure that you have the perfect snorkel mask to add to your packing list!

Hi!  We’re Kristin & Andrew, lovers of everything tropical.  We spend as much time as possible searching for the best beaches, snorkeling, hiking, and fun in the sun!