Snorkeling Lac Bay (Sorobon Beach) – Still Worth It Despite the Challenges and Decline


Snorkeling Lac Bay is still good and fun, but we found in late 2022 that it had radically changed from earlier visits. Large areas of Elkhorn, brain, and Finger corals have died off, and overall fish numbers were much lower. Although, there is a huge patch of Staghorn corals that has expanded significantly.

Elkhorn Corals seen while snorkeling Lac Bay
Elkhorn Corals Still Alive at Lac Bay

If you know where to go you can find the remaining areas of healthy corals and some nice big schools of fish. It is one of Bonaire’s better spots, mostly because it is one of a few very shallow snorkel spots, no deeper than five feet. Lac Bay is also one of the few areas on Bonaire with a sandy beach, and the only one with a protective barrier reef. But it is a challenging spot to access, for a few reasons explained below.

Snorkeling Lac Bay Challenges

Honeycmob Cowfish in Elkhorn Corals at Lac Bay

There are three things that make accessing and snorkeling Lac Bay challenging:

  1. The snorkeling area is a half mile walk/swim to access, which takes about a half hour each way.
  2. The area is a world famous windsurfing location, so you must avoid walking and swimming in areas where they are active.
  3. Lac Bay is on the east, rough side of Bonaire and is exposed to the easterly trade winds. You will be snorkeling behind the protective coral barrier reef, but when there are high winds the resulting waves push a lot of water over the reef causing a strong current that you must contend with.

Snorkeling Lac Bay is safer and more enjoyable on a lower wind day, or if the wind swings around to the west. The currents would be weaker with less waves coming over the barrier, the underwater visibility might be better, and you would likely encounter fewer windsurfers.

This is more true than in the past, because besides the large patch of Staghorn Corals that jut out perpendicular to the barrier reef, to find live Elkhorn and other corals while snorkeling Lac Bay, you need to swim very close to the leading edge of the barrier reef where the waves break, which is not fun when it is very windy or wavy.

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Walking and Swimming Directions for Snorkeling Lac Bay

Fireworm in sand at Lac Bay

There are two options for accessing the snorkeling area, and both are about a half mile (800 meters) long, and take about a half hour each direction.

If it is a very low wind day, and there are no windsurfers out, then it is preferable to start and end your journey from the beach at Jibe City. The reason this is preferable is because there is a sandy path through the sea grasses already established.

If there are windsurfers, it is too dangerous to walk/swim out from Jibe City, and instead you should start from the fishing shack that is farther south, before all of the buildings. Unfortunately you will be walking across sea grasses, which will damage them, so try to swim as soon as possible.

Whichever path you select, we highly recommend some form of footwear, instead of going barefoot. There are many fireworms in the sand, and other hazards that could hurt your feet.

Windsurfers on Lac Bay

Directions From Jibe City

Jibe City is a windsurfing business (see driving directions below). And so long as the wind is low, and there are no windsurfers active, they don’t not seem to mind snorkelers accessing the water at their beach.

Entrance to Jibe City at Lac Bay Bonaire
Entrance to Jibe City

Go to the entrance to Jibe City. Before going in, sight down the alley between the buildings out into the bay. That alley points to the general area on the barrier reef that you need to walk/swim to for the best snorkeling, which is approximately in the middle of the barrier reef that spans the mouth of Lac Bay.

Water entrance at Jibe City
Water entrance at Jibe City at Lac Bay

The water is rather shallow a long way across. You can either walk or swim if it is deep enough for your tastes. As you get close to the reef you will need to start snorkeling because you don’t want to step on the coral rubble.

If you have a pair of polarized sunglasses that you can throw into a pocket when you start snorkeling, they will be helpful to see where the corals are.

As you walk or swim out, you can keep looking back at the Jibe City alley, to make sure you are pointed in the right direction.

Directions From the Fishing Shack

If the wind is up, and there are windsurfers out, then you need to enter and exit the water farther south, close to the fishing shack that is south of all the buildings in the area (see driving directions below).

Fishing shack at Lack Bay
Fishing Shack at Lac Bay

The walking or swimming distance is about the same as from Jibe City. But it is a bit shallower water, and you may encounter more current because of this and its proximity to the barrier reef.

After the water gets deep enough to swim, get up nice and close to the barrier reef, and follow it along until you come across some alive and healthy big corals.

Lac Bay Snorkeling Map

Where to Snorkel

When swimming across the sandy bottom out to the barrier, keep your eyes open. You may see some rays, Queen Conch, or an octopus midden.

Live Queen Conch showing eye.
Live Queen Conch Looking at Me
Spotted Eagle Ray at Lac Bay
Spotted Eagle Ray we saw while snorkeling Lac Bay

And once you are close to the middle of the barrier reef there are two areas worth exploring.

The easiest to find and snorkel is a very large patch of Staghorn Coral that runs perpendicular to the barrier reef. In the last ten years this patch of coral has grown considerably. It is home to a decent amount of smaller fish. You can follow along the edge of it, but you will not be able to snorkel over the top of it.

Staghorn Corals and fish at Lac Bay
Staghorn Coral Stand
School of smaller fish in Staghorn Coral at Lac Bay

The second snorkeling Lac Bay area for live corals, and a decent number of larger fish, is right up close to the edge of the barrier, south of where the Staghorn patch is. Generally, the closer you get to the edge of the reef where the waves are breaking, the healthier the corals are. And that is also where the larger fish, and big schools of fish hang out. If the wind and waves are up, this can be challenging because of the amount of water pumping over the reef. Visibility can be really low here too.

Corals and big fish schools at Lac Bay
Bigger fish schools close to the barrier reef edge in Lac Bay
Elkhorn, Lobed Star, and Symmetrical Brain Coral with Schoolmaster Snappers Lac Bay Bonaire

Definitely do not cross outside the barrier reef. Stay inside.

If you swim farther north along the barrier reef than the perpendicular line of the Staghorn patch, you will see a very sad area of mostly dead corals, with a few live Finger corals that look like they are being taken over by algae. So, don’t bother swimming that far when snorkeling Lac Bay.

Dead corals at Lac Bay
Large areas of dead corals that used to be our favorite snorkeling area.

Snorkeling Sunburns Suck!

Check out the snorkeling rash guards, wetsuits, and reef safe sunscreen we use to protect ourselves and to protect fish and coral from sunscreen chemicals.

What We Saw While Snorkeling Lac Bay

While snorkeling Lac Bay we saw some areas with healthy Elkhorn, Lobed Star, Finger, Mustard Hill, brain, and lettuce corals, and a few sea rods, along with that large patch of Staghorn. Some of the corals were bleaching or diseased when we were last there. And there is lots of evidence of past bleaching events in the Lobed Star Coral. In some areas there are tube sponges too.

Silversides and large coral heads at Lac Bay

In the areas with corals there was a decent amount of fish, some in schools. We saw schools of snappers and grunts, chromis, schools of Blue Tang, schools of parrotfish, squirrelfish, triggerfish, French Angelfish, trunkfish, cowfish, Bar Jacks, Porcupinefish, goatfish, wrasse, filefish, and damselfish. We also saw a Southern Stingray and a Spotted Eagle Ray over the sandy areas on the way out to the reef. We spotted an octopus in its midden in the middle of a sandy area on the way out to the reef.

School of Rainbow Parrotfish at Lac Bay
School of grunts and other fish with Elkhorn Coral at Lac Bay

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Driving Directions for Snorkeling Lac Bay

  1. In Kralendijk, get on Kaya Industria heading east. The first traffic circle is the intersection with Kaya International. Stay on Kaya Industria through that and continue driving by all of the grocery stores.
  2. Just past the Van den Tweel Supermarket you will come to another traffic circle. Take the first right on Kaya Nikiboko Zuid.
  3. Drive through the residential area and past the ballpark. You will pass two intersections with a well-traveled dirt roads to the left. You are now on Kaminda Sorobon.
  4. Stay on this road until it ends at the intersection with Kaya IR. Randolf Statius Van Eps. Turn left here.
  5. Take the next left into Sorobon.
  6. Drive in past the Sorobon Luxury Beach Resort and park in front of the windsurfing businesses.
  7. Walk to the entrance to Jibe City.
  8. If there are too many windsurfers, drive back toward the main road then turn left onto the dirt road past the resort and follow it to the water’s edge. Find a good spot to park.


The windsurfing businesses have snack bars, surf shops with rental gear and kayaks, restrooms and showers for customers. There is a restaurant with restrooms too. If you are staying at the resort, there are full facilities available.

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