Our Week of Snorkeling in Aruba, July 2019
We were a group of four (myself, wife, son and his best friend) that just completed our week of snorkeling all throughout Aruba in July 2019. While it does not have the coral canyons of Roatan or the sharks and rays of Belize, we were very pleasantly surprised overall about the quality of snorkeling throughout Aruba. Somewhat surprisingly, the water was very pleasant and was not too warm at all (and at some points was downright chilly). You quickly get used to the fact that it is VERY windy in Aruba, but the beaches are amazing, the people great, and the snorkeling pretty good overall.
On day one, as we got acclimated to Aruba, we decided to try our luck at Arashi Beach on the north end of the island. This was one of our least favorite stops, as the current and undertow are very significant, the water is very shallow and due to those facts, the quality of sea life was not what we had hoped for. It may be a different situation if it is not so rough, but when we went back later in the week, we saw the same conditions.
On day two, we did an all island trip through ABC Tours that also included two rounds of snorkeling. First off, I would highly recommend taking a tour with these guys, it was an absolute blast and you really get a great overview of the island. We stopped at Tres Capis (Three Steps), the Natural Pool, and Baby Beach.
The Natural Pool is in the heart of Arikok National Park and I would not recommend driving there by yourself, as it is driving over miles of what they call dirt roads. However, the pool itself was a lot of fun, much like Queen's Bath in Kauai, only smaller. Saw some nice fish and coral in a very protected environment.
The last stop was Baby Beach, which is one of the most popular beaches on the island, due to its calm waters. Because of this, the visibility in the heavily trafficked areas was not good. However, if you go to the far left of the beach (if you are facing out towards the water), and go up the cut, you can see a lot of nice coral and fish in a very shallow area. You may have to fight the current going up the cut (while you are still protected by the reef), but it makes for a great drift snorkel back.
On day three, we spent a lot of time in Boca Catalina, which was absolutely fantastic. Like everything else in Aruba, this is all shore snorkeling, and the quality of sea life was fantastic. On the first day we snorkeled there, we saw sea turtles, multiple types of angelfish and parrotfish, pufferfish and hogfish, as well as the "usual suspects" you might see on most Caribbean snorkels. The snorkeling here was easy, with minimal current and a great beach area. We also made a stop at the Pedernales, which is a half submerged ship about 150 feet offshore in about 3-4 feet of water. Around the ship were hundreds of fish, and we even saw a lobster hanging out in the submerged wreck. This wreck is visible from the street, and is just south of Malmok Beach and north of the Ritz Carlton (close to Fisherman's Hut, where all the kite surfing is done).
On day four we attempted to do Mangel Halto, but the current was way too strong, as evidenced by the significant waves crashing on the beach. Instead we went back down to Baby Beach and Rodger's Beach (which is right next to Baby Beach). Don't bother going to Roger's Beach if you want to snorkel, we saw next to nothing out there. However, if you are looking for a beautiful beach that is pretty empty, this is the place for you. We snorkeled again in Baby Beach after that, which was lackluster.
On day five we decided to get up early and head down to Mangel Halto, and were rewarded with an amazing morning of snorkeling. The coral was plentiful and healthy, and there was an incredible array of fish out there. The key to Mangel Halto is going outside the reef, and you really need to do it when the wind is at its lowest. The current was significant but manageable. We entered through the beach area that was closest to the reef, and that was the way to go.
After that, we headed back up to Boca Catalina for the afternoon, and were rewarded with seeing multiple squid, eels and an octopus, along with a ton of other fish. By far and away, this was our best day of snorkeling, although we were worn out after that.
Our last day of snorkeling was spent at Malmok Beach, which was surprisingly good as well. It is just south of Boca Catalina, but has a number of small cliffs right on the shore that were full of trumpetfish, angelfish and other assorted fish, including a large number of squid. Again, much like Boca Catalina, it was an easy snorkel, the water was crystal clear and it was not crowded.
Overall, we had a great time snorkeling in Aruba, and one of the nicest parts of it was the fact that you didn't need to rely upon anyone to get out there and snorkel. Just drive up, find a place to drop your stuff, and get right in the water.