Best Beach Snorkeling Destinations in the Caribbean?

By Russ Fleenor – (Roanoke, Virginia USA)
Looking for a place to take teenage boys in the Caribbean where there is good beach snorkeling (no boat required). Also other activities and fishing to keep them busy would be great.

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Galen & Nicole – Jul 1, 2011 – Caribbean Beach Snorkeling Spots?

Most of the Caribbean that we have snorkeled so far has required boats, except for Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba. Bonaire has some great snorkeling from shore if you know where to go. But, it really cannot be considered beach snorkeling. There are very few sandy beaches on the island.

Curacao on the other hand has a lot of sandy beaches to snorkel from, and some of them have good or great snorkeling. Find the best spots in our Curacao Snorkeling Guide eBook.

Aruba has a few beaches with good snorkeling, but not enough for a multi-week trip. And the best spots are not for beginners.

All of the good snorkeling in Belize and the Florida Keys requires boat trips. And we have seen enough reports of the hurricane damage to the shallow reefs in Cozumel that we have put off a trip there. But there is a good site visitor trip report about Cozumel here.

A number of folks have left differing reviews of the beach snorkeling in Turks & Caicos you may find useful to read.

Reviews of beach snorkeling in St. Maarten do not bode well for a good destination.

It sounds like the islands off Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques, have good beach snorkeling.

We have also snorkeled Bermuda which is not technically in the Caribbean but offers great shore snorkeling in the summer months.

We snorkeled St John, USVI before hurricanes Irma and Maria and loved it, but we have not been back to see how the reefs fared after the storms. We have discounted our St John Snorkeling Guide eBook to reflect that.

We also found some limited shore snorkeling in St Lucia.

Many of our site visitors consider Roatan, Honduras to have some of the best shore snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Gordon Kirkland – Jul 1, 2011 – Beach Snorkeling Caribbean

The best we’ve seen was at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas. The bay is a marine preserve and full of fish. We had a friendly school of reef squid stay with us for a long time one morning. We saw eagle rays, southern sting rays, and the biggest barracuda I have ever seen swam by to see if we were dropping any food. The bay is teaming with a huge variety of other fish such as gray angels, and every color you can imagine. The water is quite clear with good visibility to 50 or 60 feet. Close by are charter yachts that take you to very secluded lagoons.

Tom – Jul 1, 2011 – I Vote for Grand Cayman

I would highly recommend Grand Cayman. There is so much snorkeling from the beach, you will never get it all in. I have posts about Grand Cayman snorkeling on this site. I would go there and read them. You will be able to wear out two teenage boys snorkeling in Grand Cayman.

Anonymous – Jul 1, 2011 – Virgin Islands

Oh, man, Gordon, I wish I had talked to you before our trip. That would have been great.

Russ, we went to the Virgin Islands also. St. Thomas was fun. We went to a place named Koki Beach and although it’s not great for the ecosystem (which I didn’t know at the time) they feed the fish which attracts them. Koki park has an excursion called sea trekking and they put a big helmet that blows air in and you go down into the water about 10 feet and walk through holding on to a chain. It’s really a rush and I’m older so it would be for teens I’m sure. Look it up online. It’s also a park with all kinds of neat attractions.

We then went to Virgin Gorda on the British side to a place named The Baths. Look that up also. It’s a natural group rock formation that you can climb and swim through and a great bay to snorkel in. You can climb through to another bay and snorkeling there is good too. You may not see a lot of really unusual stuff but there’s some beautiful fish there. We also went out on a boat but we had a great time at these places.

So, there’s my report on my experience. We also went to Turks Caicos and I wasn’t real impressed even though Grace Bay was reputed to be great.

Anonymous – Jul 2, 2011 – Beach Snorkeling

We are scuba divers, but with our very young child we have started snorkeling. The best beach snorkeling is in St John, Virgin Islands. It is easy to get to the island with a child, and it is very easy to drive around the island to the many beaches. We have seen eagle rays, turtles, reef sharks, and the corals are healthy. We haven’t been to Bonaire, but we will soon!

Joan – Jul 5, 2011 – Great Right From the Beach

Russ, snorkeling is great off the beach in Akumal, Mexico. There are also all inclusive resorts so you don’t have to worry about buying meals.

Reeftraveler – Aug 2, 2011 – Caribbean Shore Snorkeling Spots

Hi Russ. I have found a few great shore snorkeling spots in the Caribbean.

1)St. John – Caneel Bay Resort has perhaps the best shore snorkeling in the Caribbean, IMO. Many other St. John beaches have excellent snorkeling.

2)Roatan, Honduras – Simply incredible shore snorkeling around the island. The most popular area is West Bay Beach, which has fine white sand and clear turquoise water. The snorkeling is close to shore and the reef is teeming with life.

3)St. Thomas, USVI – Sapphire Beach and Secret Harbour have very good shore snorkeling. It’s not quite on the level of St. John, but it is still impressive.

4) Provo, Turks and Caicos – Bight Reef on Grace Bay and Smith Reef have decent shore snorkeling. It’s not in the league as the above, but many people find it more than satisfactory. We recently stayed at Coral Gardens, which is directly in front of Bight Reef.

Good luck!

Been there, snorkeled that! – Apr 8, 2012 – Lots of Places

The Caribbean has just a TON of beach snorkeling places. I’ve not been to an island where there aren’t great places to snorkel from the beach.

Tops for me is Bonaire. Amazing snorkeling virtually anywhere you go, all from shore. No boat trip ever needed on Bonaire.

Curacao has many sites to snorkel, all from the beach, no boat required. You will need a rental car though, as this island has many many coves and beaches along a long and diverse coastline. It’s a close second to Bonaire for me. Check out especially the south end of the Royal Sea Aquarium beach, through the channel, and off to the right – huge elkhorn coral, tons of fish, and many moray eels.

Cayman Islands – another terrific shore snorkel location. Seven Mile Beach is world renowned for having some of the best snorkeling. Just walk in anywhere and be amazed. Also – Eden Point right downtown is remarkable to swim with tarpons, a large fish that swims in schools. It is pricey though – but you can do it on the cheap if you eat “locally”. If you want something to make your heart beat really fast, do go to Barracuda Point – swimming with several hundred barracuda will get your heart pumping!

Aruba – a rather developed island, but lots of shore snorkeling. Do check out Malmok Beach – great for turtle sighting. And go to Baby Beach, but head to the north end, not the channel where everyone else goes. If you are a strong swimmer, Mangel Halto is absolutely stunning.

St. Maarten – some of the best shore snorkeling is on the French side but the protected Pinel Island is fantastic, but make sure it’s a calmer day. Try Friars Bay for some spectacular stuff – lots of octopus… and lots of turtles too!

Belize – truly remarkable. One of the most amazing places to snorkel. Stay on Ambergris Caye and be amazed at the reef system. Truly remarkable.

Playa del Carmen area – Mexican Riviera – really great stuff. While the shore dives are pretty good, you will want to take a boat trip and snorkel with the whale sharks – a trip you will never forget. I like to stay on Cozumel too – and that’s a great place for shore snorkeling.

Providenciales – Turks and Caicos – amazing shore snorkeling again. It’s an expensive island, but you can eat cheaply by eating “locally” – getting harder though. Grace Bay Beach is considered one of the top beaches in the world. They have the third largest reef system in the world – and the fish you can see are really amazing. It was the first place I swam with sharks (reef and nurse) and felt safe too.

There are tons of other places – but start with any of these to experience snorkeling from the beach!

Denise – Nov 27, 2014 – Good Snorkeling

We’ve snorkeled all over the Caribbean. Here is where we think the best snorkeling is:

  • Curacao – drive anywhere and snorkel right off the beaches.
  • St. Lucia – excellent snorkeling, but not easy to get around the island if you drive.
  • St John, USVI – Leinster Bay – excellent, but a long trek to get there. Trunk Bay – good.

Here is a spot to avoid:

  • Antigua – Cades Reef is not a good place to snorkel any more. 75% of the reef was destroyed years ago by a bad storm, and the water is a bit rough.

We are looking forward to going to Buck Island next month in St. Croix and Bonaire next year.

Anonymous – May 9, 2015 – I Also Vote Grand Cayman

Went there last July and all we did was snorkel for a week. Still weren’t able to see it all. Thought my two teenage kids may get bored after awhile. No way. They couldn’t get enough of it.

We are hoping to go back next summer to try and snorkel what we weren’t able to last time.

Anonymous – Jun 4, 2015 – Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac

I have been to at least seven islands and I still consider Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac to have great snorkeling.

We have been to Grand Cayman twice. We were there 6/2015 and the best snorkeling by far is on the north side of the island. We rented one of the two story homes “Azure Breeze” (#3). Terrific snorkeling right in front of the the homes and along the beach as far as you can see. We saw all types of fish, squid, and stingrays on the north side.

The north side is very quiet, no hotels, only a local bar or two and no commercial development. Very much the old Grand Cayman part of the island. Local towns are near, and it is worth the 45 minute drive from the airport and Georgetown to be on that side of the island. I think it is way better than the seven mile side of the island. The entire area of Seven Mile Beach and that side of the island is now very developed and there is a commercial center and they are building a new huge hospital.

Another great place for snorkeling is Spotts Bay on the east coast. We swam in about eight feet of water with four turtles there. Incredible experience! The turtles are there all the time according to locals.

Eden Rock right before you get to the town of Georgetown is a must snorkel. Cemetery Beach is really an only okay spot way up the coast on Seven Mile Beach. On the north side off Rum Point is Stingray City a trip not to be missed. Also, in the evening, the bioluminescence plankton tour off Rum Point is an incredible experience. Also a visit to Starfish Point also off the north side is fun. Big starfish are in a foot or two of shallow water right off the beach.

Cayman Brac had some great areas on the island to snorkel from. We just drove down a road, got out, and into beautiful reefs. The island has little to no entertainment, and no real town. There are very few tourists in the summer months, just locals and probably still a very small hospital with a doctor on call as needed.

Virginia Jones – Sep 4, 2015 – Roatan

I had been on a dive trip to Roatan 40- yes 40- years ago. My two adult children and I wanted to go on a snorkeling trip. I remembered correctly. Roatan is second only to Bonaire for underwater beauty.

We used a company called Ecotours for a couple of boat snorkels. Alex, the owner, was terrific.

Later we taxied over to West End Beach and experienced the best and easiest beach snorkeling ever. Not being a kid anymore I was a bit doubtful regarding my somewhat worn skills, but it all came back.

Needless to say we had a great time. The island is totally surrounded by reefs.

Bill – May 24, 2017 – Long Caye, Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize

Stayed on Slickrock Adventure’s island on the edge of Glover’s Reef Atoll. We kayaked to different spot reefs and snorkeled. Lots of flora and fauna on and around the spot reefs. It was the right blend of kayaking and snorkeling for me.

Anonymous – Jan 29, 2018 – Best Snorkeling Right Off the Beach

I have been a certified diver for 33 years and have snorkeled for 35 years. I do not think there are that many truly great spots to snorkel off the beach, especially places where you can rent a house or condo on the beach. There is also the problem with bleached coral.
1. Bonaire – the best. 1 of 10
2. Curacao – the northwest is great. 1 of 10
3. Grand Cayman, 7 mile beach – very clear water, great beach, but coral is very bleached, otherwise, this would be my top pick. 2 of 10
4. Grace Bay, Turks & Caicos – nice, but the reef is roped off. 3 of 10
5. Half Moon Bay at Akumal, Mexico – nice bay, snorkeling is decent, but water is not as clear as other four choices. 4 of 10
6. Roatan – based on other comments, I am going there next.
7. Belize – does anyone know of a place that you can stay that really has good snorkeling? Or do you have to boat to snorkel?

Thanks and enjoy the water!

Debba – Mar 18, 2018 – St. John

Snorkeling from the beach is amazing in St. John! From Leinster (Waterlemon) to Hawksnest to Maho to Francis Bay, all are amazing on this beautiful island. We’ve snorkeled Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, Bimini, and more, and St. John is by far our favorite, especially for snorkeling from the beach. Rebuilding now from hurricanes.

Todd – Apr 25, 2018 – St. John

Last year prior to the hurricanes we had the pleasure of snorkeling from six different beaches in St John. Waterlemon Cay had amazing coral and a great variety of fish. Salt Pond Bay was excellent (first Spotted Eagle Ray). Both of those require you to be a good swimmer. Each bay had a different environment. Maho had a grassy bottom and was filled with turtles. Trunk Bay has an excellent reef but is a little busy at times. All have excellent white sand beaches and incredibly clear blue water.

With 70 percent of St John being a national park, it offers a natural environment without any commercial buildings. It’s an incredible setting. What I have heard is many of the reefs have fared well, except some shallow areas where the corals were affected. It is worth a trip even if you do a day trip from St Thomas.

I have snorkeled in Maui which was also amazing.

Erin – Apr 28, 2018 – Belize

Stay at Tranquility Bay Resort on Ambergris Caye, Belize for snorkeling!

Anonymous – May 11, 2018 – Roatan & Utila, Honduras

My husband and I had our wedding in Roatan, Honduras. We went snorkeling daily and let me tell you, this was a real paradise. This one should make the list!

Katrina – May 19, 2019 – A Few Spots We Liked

My husband and I love to snorkel, especially if we can do it from the shore. We are kind of lazy and prefer to do our own thing.

Belize is great, but you must be boated out. The sea grass along the shore of Ambergris makes shore snorkeling more challenging. Farther down south, in Placencia, there is not nearly as much sea grass, but you still need to be boated out to the reef.

By far, Roatan was the best shore snorkeling we have done. Worth staying at the Grand Roatan for easy and frequent access. The water was a bit cooler than we expected.

We did not have good luck with shore snorkeling in Barbados or Jamaica. I think we could have found it in Jamaica, but we ran out of time.

Surprisingly, we have had a great time snorkeling the shore of the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. We spend our time near Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva. Always something fun to see, the water is perfect, and very few tourists. We go there annually.

K and L Hines – Jan 25, 2020 – Snorkeling Cozumel

My husband and I went to Cozumel Mexico June 6-8, 2019 and we stayed at the El Presidente Resort. We got to snorkel there every day.

The resort had three piers and a beach that led directly into the ocean. The snorkeling was wonderful. We saw a shark, lots of beautiful fish, but my fave was either the barracuda or the eel.

We would highly recommend this resort. The grounds were beautiful and the ocean was clear blue. This year we are returning there for our one year anniversary.

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