Short Notice Alternative Snorkeling Destination to St John?

by Kelly
( )

I need a short notice alternative snorkeling destination for St John (posted September 24, 2017). I have been traveling to St John for 20+ years. Our young kids (ages 8 and 10) have been there every December since they were born, and snorkeling is something they have done since they were both 3 years old.

Needless to say, we are devastated for the St. John community and are praying they are able to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible after two horrible hurricanes and extensive damage.

We had a trip planned there for this December, but the villa we were renting was decimated. We are searching for another island that is family friendly, not over-developed, and has excellent beach snorkeling available for our annual December trip. Our choices are obviously limited to those islands that didn't sustain damage from the hurricanes.

We LOVE to snorkel and just hope to find another island that offers some good snorkeling options. I had initially looked at St. Croix and St. Kitts/Nevis, but snorkeling reviews of those two islands were not overly positive.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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Sep 25, 2017
Ones we know...
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Kelly, all the snorkeling islands we know about are listed in the left column of this website. Most of them have shore snorkeling with the exception of the Florida Keys, Belize and the Maldives. Check the others out to see if they fit your requirements.

There is a section of the site full of visitor stories of locations we have not been to as well. Find links to locations with stories in the orange box on this page.

Good luck with your search!

Sep 25, 2017
Alternative to St. John
by: Tom Turner

Hi Kelly, if you want to stay in the northern side of the Caribbean, I strongly suggest Grand Cayman. As long as you go to the East End, you will find that it is really low key.

You should be able to get a nice condo at Morritts Tortuga or The Reef, which is right next door to Morritts. Either one should be able to be found on many of the vacation sites. Morritts is in a sales mode for condos, so they might have some pretty good deals just to get you there to try to sell you a condo.

They also have some pretty good snorkeling just off of and up the beach from their location. You can also check private rentals on sites like VRBO. Just make sure you are on the East End, or at least, east of Boddentown.

I think that you can easily fill two weeks with snorkeling in Grand Cayman without getting bored. If you decide to go to Grand Cayman, read my many posts, linked to on this page. They have a lot of information on snorkeling sites and how to find them. There is also a guy that has a lot of snorkeling information that you will find if you google Grand Cayman snorkeling.

If you are OK with further south, then you need to head to Bonaire.

St. Croix is kind of a waste. In two weeks, we found a couple of pretty good sites, but hardly any for the size of the island.

Good luck on your search and you are welcome to contact me if you want more specific information on Grand Cayman.

Remember, salt water cures everything!!

Sep 25, 2017
Try Hawaii
by: Pat

Kahalu'u on the Big Island, Hawaii. Yes, it is overly snorkeled, but it is protected so visibility is nicer, and there are family sized lovely VRBO rentals to be had in an easy walk. This is the only protected area that doesn't suffer as badly from reduced visibility when the trade winds pick up about noon.

Kapalua up north on Maui is also very family friendly, we've taken a crowd there for lots of fun, but I can never remember if it's better in winter or summer. If you want south Maui, in Wailea, Mokapu Beach or between 4 Seasons and Fairmont is alright, too.

Galen and Nicole have ebooks on these places.

Have a lovely family time!

Sep 26, 2017
Where to Snorkel after Hurricane
by: Steve Shrader

My wife and I love to snorkel Roatan Honduras. The island is safe and the snorkeling at West Bay is outstanding. They have a large condo property right on the water with large community pool and restaurant. If you rent a car they have some really nice condos/houses up the hill about three minutes from West Bay.

Don't be fooled by West End, it's nice for restaurants but the best snorkeling by far is at West End, and they have some good restaurants there also.

Oct 03, 2017
St. John Alternative
by: Chloe

I am also finding this question and thread very useful thank you. Are the sandflies not awful in Roatan please? And are there ever quieter spots in Grand Cayman? I must say I've overlooked both places because of comments about sandfly hell and poor service (fueled by too many cruise ships) in Roatan, plus Grand Cayman just being a lot busier than St. John. Thanks.

Oct 03, 2017
The Quieter Side of Grand Cayman
by: Tom & Jan Turner

The hub of Grand Cayman is the main town, Georgetown, where all of the cruise ships park. Georgetown is a very busy place, but there are a couple of great snorkel spots right downtown that you want to visit when there are no cruise ships.

North of Georgetown is West Bay. West Bay is pretty busy also because a lot of people live up there.

East of Georgetown is Boddentown, which also has a lot of people living there. But when you get east of Boddentown, the crowds diminish dramatically and there is some great snorkeling on the east end.

As you head east, there is a main north-south road that takes you up to the north shore at Old Man Bay. If you turn west and head towards Rum Point, one of the best snorkels on the island is a drift snorkel going in along the north shore and snorkeling down to and coming out at Rum Point. There is also a development just south of Rum Point where there are many rentals available. It is very quiet and low key except right at Rum Point. Rum Point gets pretty busy.

Going back to Old Man Bay, if you head east, there are many great snorkel spots along the north shore. This whole area is very sparsely populated and as you head east along the shore, you will eventually come to a couple of resorts, The Reef and Morritts. There is very little down at this end except the resorts, and there is great snorkeling in the big, protected bay that is at these resorts, particularly from Morritts heading south toward the village of East End.

If you don't like crowds, and you want some really good snorkeling, rent a car and a place on the east end of Grand Cayman, and enjoy a great time. You can take advantage of all of the touristy stuff if you want to. It is all available on the west end around Georgetown, or you can stay on the east end keeping it low key and snorkel every day.

We find the snorkeling in Grand Cayman to be great. If you really want back to the basics, go over to Cayman Brac. Sometimes it is tough to find an open restaurant over there.

Oct 04, 2017
St. John Dreams
by: Chloe

Very useful information, thanks.

Oct 05, 2017
Roatan Guide?
by: Lynn

I am in a similar situation regarding an upcoming St. John vacation. I think we have decided on Roatan. The Mesoamerican reef sounds fascinating and it sounds like there are lots of great snorkeling opportunities.

I can find very little information about snorkeling outside of West Bay, Half Moon Bay, and Sandy Bay. That seems to cover only about a sixth of the potential snorkeling locations. The guidebooks on snorkeling specifically are decades old and poorly rated - does anyone know of a good guidebook or good blog that could help us plan our snorkeling trip?

Thank you for your advice and I've gotten some good info about the more popular west end from here already!

Nov 05, 2017
Grand Cayman is Perfect for Children
by: Anonymous

We have visited Grand Cayman 5 times in the past, always staying at the same Condo on 7 Mile Beach. We rent a car, and have favorite places to snorkel, including a shipwreck a few blocks from our suite.

I feel very safe and comfortable in Grand Cayman, and the local people are extremely welcoming. We always see octopus and Caribbean Reef Squid.

Nov 05, 2017
West Bay Roatan
by: Altarose

We have been to Roatan twice and loved the snorkeling at West Bay. It can be crowded on cruise ship days but check the schedule and on off days you have the beach to yourself just about.

The access is so easy. The best is the end against the Iguana walls, great coral lots of fish.

We stayed at West End last time. There is nice snorkeling on either side of the boat channel. We saw turtles everyday.

We had no trouble with sand fleas but always sat on a towel or chair.

Great restaurants in West End and we loved Sundowners.

Nov 06, 2017
Alternative to St John
by: Liz

I was booked for St John too, in Nov. Heartbroken.

In my experience you would find everything in Belize. It's been more than 10 years for me but Ambergris Caye has a fabulous fish preserve. Lots of choices for accommodations. Multitudes of marine life. Boat trips, jungle trips!, kayaking, paddleboarding. It is the 2nd largest reef in the world.

I have been to Roatan, Grand Cayman, Yucatan, and places not so family friendly like Raja Ampat and Palau. I would pick Belize.

Good luck and we will keep St John in our hearts.

Nov 06, 2017
Belize is not so good for shore snorkeling
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Kelly, some folks are suggesting Belize. There is not much shore snorkeling at all in Belize, it is mostly by boat. One place where you can do some snorkeling from shore is Glover's Reef. Read our pages about snorkeling Belize, and read about Glover's Reef options in the Belize visitor stories section of the site.

Nov 06, 2017
Bonaire is great for snorkelers!
by: Laura

We have made 3 trips to Bonaire - our children (now young adults) are divers; my husband and I are snorkelers. Bonaire is great for both. There are numerous sites on Bonaire (watch for the yellow painted rocks), or take a boat to Klein Bonaire.

We use Goodive for equipment rentals and going out on their boat - Esther always has great recommendations for us.

Favorite snorkeling spots include: Oil Slick, Windsock and the Salt Piers. Very friendly, good food, a broad range of accommodations. Van der Tweel is a wonderful Dutch grocery store if you are staying in a condo.

The only downside is that it can be a bit difficult to fly direct (although United has weekly flights out of Newark).

Good luck!

Nov 06, 2017
by: Gary Koop

My wife and I are also in shock at the devastation in the Virgin Islands. We have a 30' sailboat in the BVI that miraculously survived major damage, but we won't find out about the lovely reefs there until January.

We would put in a good word for Roatan as well. Canadians will like the good, inexpensive charter flights. We would recommend Seagrape Plantation as a laid back, family run resort a short 10 minute walk from lovely West End and 2 beach snorkeling areas.

From West End, it's a short cheap water taxi to West Bay which is the best (also beach) snorkeling spot. Get the cruise line schedules on line when you're there to avoid the overcrowding at West Bay.

No problem with sand flies in April.

We avoided the overpriced taxis on Roatan when touring the island in favor of the local buses with the friendly locals.

We'll be back.

Nov 07, 2017
Snorkeling Belize with children
by: Joni

I was at Iguana Inn in Caye Caulker, Belize last May, 2017. There is snorkeling from the shore at the hotel. It is on the west side of the island and has very protected water. There are seahorses under the dock. Children will love it here. This is the only place I know in Belize for shore snorkeling.

Nov 07, 2017
Great Shore Snorkeling
by: Tim Jordan

Have you looked into going to Bonaire? Wife and I have been there 6 times in the past, mostly in December and all of our times have been wonderful. Great carefree snorkeling from shore and very reasonable pricing for accommodations, food, and car rentals. Also great for the kids to learn or do some kite surfing or sail boarding. You will not be disappointed in going to Bonaire.

Nov 07, 2017
Alternative to St. John
by: Anonymous

Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos: stay at Coral Gardens. It is right on a reef that is protected and marked; you could snorkel there all day everyday and see different sights and animals. Absolutely beautiful!

It is not a busy island at all: very restful and quiet! There are some good restaurants but we mostly just get groceries from the very close grocery store and eat in.

There are other snorkeling spots but this one is absolutely perfect; water is calm most of the time; as soon as you wade in you will see turtles and beautiful fish!

Also, Southwest Airlines (if they have service near you) has just begun flights to Provo!

Nov 07, 2017
Turks & Caicos also affected by the same hurricanes
by: Nicole & Galen

The Turks & Caicos were also hit by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. We don't know the state of these islands after these storms, but we suggest you do your research about the state of things before making the decision to go there.

Nov 11, 2017
I Recommend Grand Cayman
by: Mark

Grand Cayman is a good snorkeling island both from the beach and from a boat. It is surrounded by a reef on most sides. The resort we stayed at, Morrits Tortuga, has a nice school of fish that hang out right by their private dock which is great for kids or weak swimmers.

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