Best Snorkeling in Montego Bay Jamaica- with Maps!

If you’re planning a Caribbean break and are thinking about snorkeling in Montego Bay, Jamaica, then this guide is for you. We love snorkeling in Montego Bay. The great news for underwater explorers is that you can access the two best spots directly from shore, making it simple to sample good snorkeling in this area.

Doctor’s Cave Reef and Secrets Reef are the best snorkeling spots in Montego Bay. Both can be reached both from the shore for stronger swimmers or by boat tour.

Our overall impression of Montego Bay snorkeling was better than expected. Although Negril is known for the best snorkeling in Jamaica, Montego Bay can definitely give that area a run for its money. The Montego Bay Marine Park encompasses most of the shoreline along Montego Bay, and includes all of our favorite snorkeling spots in the area. In our experience, the coral was mostly healthy without much bleaching at all and there was plenty of sea life to see, including many species and sizes of fish, crabs and more.

Planning the Perfect Montego Bay Snorkeling Trip:
Stay: Secrets St James or Secrets Wild Orchid(nearly the only way to access Secrets Reef besides boat charter)
Snorkel: Secrets Reef & Doctor’s Cave Reef- the two best BY FAR
– Secrets Reef snorkeling daily on site-Difficult Access, no public entry, so stay on site.
-Boat trip or Taxi to Doctor’s Cave to snorkel the reef there- Easy Access– most tours go here, and can be accessed from the public beach.

Make sure to check out our guide to the Best Snorkeling in Jamaica here.

Continue reading so you too can experience the best snorkeling in Montego Bay. Covered in this article is Doctor’s Cave, Cornwall Beach, Secrets Reef, Tropical Bliss and snorkeling excursions by boat.

In this post:

Montego Bay Snorkeling Map

Montego Bay snorkeling Map

If you’re looking for the best snorkeling with easy access from shore, head over to Doctor’s Cave Beach. There’s great snorkeling within the roped off area with lifeguards on site. If you’re a bit more adventurous, Secrets Reef is a great option, but you’ll need to swim out into unprotected open ocean with boat traffic. So this is a better option for a boat tour or kayak led tour from the beach if you aren’t as confident in the water.

Doctor’s Cave Beach Snorkeling

Doctor's Cave Snorkeling Map

Doctor’s Cave is one of the top spots to snorkel in Montego Bay, and the best part is that you can access the reef right from shore.

The best snorkeling at Doctor’s Cave Beach can be found alongside the piers flanking either end of the beach and the reef running along the rope stretching between the piers. These are the ideal place for colorful corals to flourish, and we even spied a barracuda swimming around under one of the piers. 

Doctor's Cave Beach snorkeling spot
Doctor's Cave Beach snorkeling

It’s well worth venturing a little further, though. Just at the end of both piers you’ll find numerous patches of coral, and these areas are inhabited by plenty of fish and other forms of sea life. While the reef extends way beyond the buoys running the entire length of the beach, there’s lots to see within this safe zone. Here you’ll see lots of many snorkel tour boats moored up for the morning or afternoon. 

Doctor's Cave Reef
Doctor's Cave Coral

As long as you are a strong swimmer and can stay alert and aware of your surroundings, it’s possible to swim out past the buoys to explore the larger reef system. If you plan to do this, however, we would strongly recommend bringing a snorkel or dive buoy along, because this is an area that does get very busy with tour boat traffic. 

Montego Bay Marine Park Map

If you do venture beyond the boundary marked out by the buoys, make sure you cross to the boat snorkeling area as quickly as you can. This way you’ll benefit from the protection of the other snorkeling boats as you pass. You can also then join in, seeing first-hand which areas the boat tour leaders reckon are the best to explore on the day.

Secrets Reef Snorkeling

Secrets Reef Snorkeling Map
  • Entry:  Beach or Boat
  • Access: No Public Beach Access; $100+ for a boat trip or Secrets resort day pass (all-inclusive)
  • Facilities: Restrooms, Beach showers, Bars, Buffet restaurant, Chair, Umbrella and Towel Rentals, Jacuzzi, Snorkeling equipment, Kayaks and indoor and outdoor Sports facilities at Secrets Resort
  • Nearby Accommodation:  Secrets Wild Orchid or Secrets St James – luxury adjoining adults-only resorts overlooking the Caribbean

One of the two main snorkeling spots in Montego Bay, Secrets Reef is a spacious site but is more difficult to visit unless staying at Secrets Resorts. This is a longer reef and considered by some to be the best reef in Montego Bay. Note that it is NOT within a protected bay, so stay aware of potential boat traffic. Without a boat, I did not feel comfortable venturing out into the channel between the peninsula and mainland.

Close up Coral at Secrets Reef Montego Bay Jamaica
Spotted Eagle Ray swimming at Secrets Reef Montego Bay

Since it’s less visited than the reef at Doctor’s Cave, you won’t have to compete with the crowds and may see marine life that could be scared off by all of the boat tour and snorkel traffic.

It’s possible to access this beach from the shore at the Secrets Wild Orchid or Secrets St James resorts. These are connected resorts next to one another with really no distinction between the two. They both are luxurious, adults only properties that share the same dining options. The beach here is over a mile long, so there’s lots of space. It’s also an idyllic spot with white sands, azure waters and swaying, exotic palms.

Secrets Wild Orchid from Reef
Distance from Reef to Shore at Secrets

The reef is about 150 yards off shore and ranges in depth from 5 to 20 feet. If you zoom in on google maps, the good section of reef is the darkest line that runs along the edge of the open ocean. Before that, it’s mostly rocky with small bits of coral heads.

Deeper Reef at Secrets Montego Bay
Coral Heads at Secrets reef in Montego Bay

Nearly all of the boat trips, even those from Secrets Resorts go to Doctor’s Cave Reef. So, if you want to see this reef, you’ll need to access it from Secrets Resorts or by private boat charter. The watersports department at Secrets Resorts also runs guided swim out snorkel trips to the reef that are included with a day pass or if staying at the resort. They will point out interesting spots and offers comfort in numbers, but this trip just swims along the reef that can be reached on your own from shore.

Secret's Reef Montego Bay Snorkeling Map

Though it’s a pricey place to visit, the resorts offer an incredible array of amenities and you can access these with your day pass. There is also a tranquil atmosphere and no crowds. Your ticket will include an unlimited buffet lunch, soft and alcoholic drinks, use of snorkeling equipment, towels, sun loungers, kayaks, a jacuzzi and swimming pools, including a saltwater pool.

Once you access the reef you have a great chance of seeing plenty of tropical fish, corals and other underwater life. I swam along with an eagle ray there. There is quite a bit of dead coral, as is becoming more common in the world, but there is still enough healthy reef to make it one of my favorite spots in the area.

Snorkeling at Secrets Reef is regarded by many as the best the Montego Bay Area offers. This is because there’s a variety of colorful underwater life and your chances of seeing it are higher due to the less visited location.

Cornwall Beach Snorkeling

Cornwall Beach Snorkeling Map
  • Entry:  Beach or Boat
  • Access:  $70 Royal Decameron day pass (10am to 5pm, all-inclusive)
  • Facilities:  Restrooms, Beach showers, Snack stand, Bars, Buffet restaurant, Chair and Umbrella Rentals, Hot tub, Kids’ pool, Snorkeling, Scuba diving, Glass-bottom boat, Windsurfing
  • Tip:  Take advantage of the inclusive buffet and snack bar plus soft and alcoholic drinks included as part of your day pass while you’re there
  • Nearby Accommodation:  Royal Decameron Hotel – upmarket resort right by the beach with free access to Cornwall Beach

Cornwall Beach is right next to Doctor’s Cave Beach. It allows access to the same reef system, though we think the area in front of Doctor’s Cave is a little better. While it’s not the best beach in Jamaica for snorkeling, the resort facilities here are seriously impressive. 

To access Cornwall Beach you’ll need a day pass to the deluxe Royal Decameron Hotel. This not only lets you access the snorkeling area but also gives you use of all the resort amenities. At $70 it sounds like a lot of money, but for this you can enjoy alcoholic and soft drinks, the buffet and a snack bar. 

Royal Decameron Cornwall Property
Cornwall Beach

There are plenty of other luxury amenities here to keep you occupied all day long. These include a hot tub and a swimming pool for kids. The Royal Decameron also provides water sports facilities, including glass-bottom boat tours, scuba diving and snorkeling and windsurfing. A day pass is valid between 10am and 5pm and includes all your food, drinks and activities.

You can expect to see lots of tropical fish at Cornwall beach, plus black sea urchins or even eagle rays. In fact fish are often spotted from above the surface of the water. It’s a popular snorkeling spot and the water is both warm and shallow.

Due to the entry fee via the Royal Decameron Hotel, this beach can be more peaceful and less crowded than other Jamaica snorkeling areas in Montego Bay. Though of course this depends on how busy the hotel is on any given day.

Tropical Bliss Snorkeling

Tropical Bliss Snorkeling Map
  • Entry:  Beach
  • Access:  Beach Club entry $5
  • Facilities:  Beach Bar, Restaurant, Chair and Umbrella rentals
  • Look out for:  Boat traffic, as the swim involves a long route through open water
  • Nearby Accommodation:  Sandals Montego Bay

Tropical Bliss snorkeling is another option for those keen on discovering marine life in the Montego Bay Area. This area is best explored via a local boat trip, and there are half-day and longer trips available.

While there is access to the reef from shore here, this is via a major boat channel. It also involves a fairly lengthy swim. We thus wouldn’t recommend accessing this spot directly unless you’re a strong swimmer and bringing a swim or dive buoy with you for safety.

Snorkeling Excursions Montego Bay

Montego Bay Snorkeling Tour

Another option for discovering marine life in this part of Jamaica is to book one of the many Montego Bay snorkeling excursions available locally.

The reef at Montego Bay runs from Doctor’s Cave, then heads up to and around the airport area before running alongside the coastline. Besides the shore access at Secrets Reef and Doctor’s Cave Beach, there’s no other decent spots offering shore access to the reef.

If you’re a strong swimmer with a dive buoy who can remain vigilant about your surroundings at all times, then you could swim out to the reef from most of the resorts dotted along the coastline.

However, this area is frequented by regular boat traffic. This means that swimming out in the open ocean without a boat or clearly identifiable marker can be dangerous. Many all inclusive resorts, like one of the Sandals properties in Jamaica offer their own boat trips out to the reef from just off the shore, and this is a far safer option.   

Montego Bay Marine Park Map

If you’re not staying at one of the resorts, you can also book snorkeling excursions provided by local operators. These will generally take you to Doctor’s Cave Reef.

You can book boat tours like this Island Routes Catamaran Snorkel Tour in advance of your trip via companies like Viator and Get Your Guide. These are run by local operators, but save time when you arrive as well as securing a place. In many cases these are fully refundable when canceled more than 24 hours before departure.

Click here to check prices and availability for the Island Routes Catamaran Snorkel Tour.

Where will you go snorkeling in Montego Bay?

There is lots of choice for those who want to experience snorkeling in Montego Bay, Jamaica. A couple of great spots can be accessed straight from the shore, and sampling life at the deluxe, all-inclusive resorts can also be an incredible part of a day out there

With the additional option of booking boat snorkeling tours in Jamaica to enjoy this area, Montego Bay makes a great vacation destination for keen underwater explorers – as well as fans of luxurious, tropical living.

Looking for more Jamaica information? Check out all of our Jamaica posts and guides here.

About the author
Kristin Young