Turks & Caicos Snorkeling
(Merion, PA, USA)
We just got back from the Turks & Caicos Islands which we had chosen to visit specifically because of the reported excellent beach snorkeling. It's true, with a reservation or two.
We stayed on Providenciales ("Provo"), which is the main tourist island. It's very similar to the Bahamas, being composed of coral, sand and gravel. Lots of nice places to stay and dine, although most are pretty pricey.
The snorkeling off the beach is limited to two relatively small areas, both on Grace Bay, which is the principal beach on the north shore where the best hotels are located. One area is at the Coral Gardens resort, the other at the point at west end of the bay. All beaches are public, so both areas are freely accessible. The two reefs are similar, with lots of good coral (although some is bleached) and lots of fish plus an occasional turtle and ray. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the reef off Coral Gardens is half roped off to prevent snorkeler access while the coral regenerates.
We also went on a half day snorkeling sail on a catamaran which took us to a reef offshore from a nearby uninhabited island, where the snorkeling was also good. The uninhabited beach was gorgeous, too.
Overall, I'd say the snorkeling at Provo is equally good as at Caneel Bay on St. John. At Provo, it would probably be good to plan on taking boat trips to broaden the snorkeling experience, given the limited beach snorkeling. Besides the sailing catamaran trip, there are several power boat snorkeling trips.