Where to Snorkel in St. Maarten?
By Tom & Jan Turner – (Jamestown, PA)
We will be traveling to St. Maarten to snorkel in October, 2011. I have tried to research snorkeling there, but have been unable to find good information. Has anyone been there? Can you recommend any snorkel spots? We generally steer clear of the snorkel tours, so we like to find spots that you can go to on your own from shore. Any information you can give will be greatly appreciated.
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Anonymous – Jun 5, 2011 – Disappointed with St. Maarten Snorkeling
We were there in November, 2009 and visited every location listed on the web that we could find as a snorkeling option and found nothing that we would even rate as ‘good’. There are many fun things to do and beautiful sights above the water, but we were very disappointed with the snorkeling. I would love to hear if you find some good places.
Steve – Jun 6, 2011 – Snorkeling in St Maarten
My girlfriend and I spent a week on Sint Maarten in July, 2009. Snorkeling off the beaches is fun but not too much to see. Baie Rouge near the western end of the island on the French side offered the most underwater variety but it wasn’t great.
However, there is a little bar on the western side of the Red Bay beach (from the parking lot) that serves an excellent and inexpensive fish and chips lunch … and don’t forget the Red Stripe beer to go with it.
The most fun we had snorkeling was on the Three Island Snorkeling Adventure with Captain Alan (www.captainalan.com).
Finally, plan to spend an hour or two at one of the two bars on either side of the western end of the runway at Princess Juliana Airport … and bring your camera! (Sun position for pix … Morning: south side bar; Afternoon: north side bar)
Anonymous – May 20, 2019 – St. Martin Snorkeling Trip May 2019
I just got back from a quick four day trip to St. Martin. Here’s what I did and saw:
I stayed in Simpson Bay where most folks just lay out under umbrellas or wade and swim in the bay. I swam straight out from the beach and it’s just a sandy bottom with few fish. Underneath the string of buoys I found a few interesting small fish, including a small, friendly hogfish. I also ran into the biggest barracuda I’ve ever seen. As big as a tarpon.
I snorkeled over along the south side of the bay, in front of Simpson Bay Resort. There are large boulders, ledges and docks providing shelter to all kinds of small fish. Water clarity varied with wave action and how sandy the bottom was. Huge schools of young fish and grunts were under some of the docks and around any structure.
I also did a full day snorkel trip with Billy Bones. About 23 people on a fast twin motor Scarab. We motored through the big lagoon and up the west side of the island, stopping at Creole Rock. This was a decent spot, and I was able to see many Queen Angelfish, squirrelfish, lots of black urchins and my first spotting of an eagle ray. There was also not a lot of coral and some remaining had been mostly sheared away with just little stumps left. There were small patches of brain coral but one was totally bleached.
We then motored up to Tintamarre to look for turtles. I swam over the turtle grass, but only encountered one Green Sea Turtle and a flounder that was yellow with blue circles. Got some great photos. I stopped on the beach for a rest.
We then went around to Pinel Island, which is accessible by boat only, mainly to hang out in the shallow waters. This is a great spot for a day on the beach, with a decent restaurant. They had lobster on the menu and the lobsters were kept in a big cage in the water. The bar will plant small bar tables in the water for you.
From there we motored back down the west side, stopping at Grand Case for lunch at a restaurant on the beach, then around the west end of the island back to the Dutch side. We stopped at Mullet Bay for an hour and I snorkeled the nearby ledge on the southeast side of the bay. I saw small fish, including a juvenile French Angelfish, tube worms, a big red sea urchin as well as a medium sized moray eel, brown in color.
The water was nice, not cold at all and not too warm. The island is still showing signs of Hurricane Irma’s destruction, with a fair amount of construction noise all over and plenty of empty shells of buildings. Other buildings are operating without a roof. Overall I would probably return, but might stay in a different location, like up on the French side, to access the three good snorkeling areas mentioned more easily.
Sint Maarten Snorkeling Report, Oct. 21-30, 2011
By Tom & Jan Turner – (Jamestown, PA) – November 2, 2011
My wife and I just returned from Sint Maarten, and am sorry to report that the snorkeling is pretty close to worthless. I highly suggest that you strike St. Maarten off of your list if snorkeling is the primary part of your trip.
We did our best to make the best of it, and saw a few things that were great. In general though, we snorkeled every day for nine days, and only twice had anything to talk about.
We saw a good size shark for the first time in five years (7-8 foot); we saw a school of what I thought were young dolphin (mahi), and was amazed to see them in shallow water close to shore. Was told by my marine biologist daughter that they were probably chicken dolphin. We saw several eagle rays, which are always worth spending some time on.
The coral is basically non-existent (very little to speak of), and water clarity was generally bad. It is said that Dawn Beach has the best snorkeling on the island, and we found it to be pretty skinny.
We have a trip planned for Grand Cayman in February, and we will catch up on all the good snorkeling that we missed at that time.
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Galen & Nicole – Nov 19, 2012 – Bummer!
Thanks Tom and Jan for that report. What a bummer for you, but a boon for all of us that you posted this story!
Read Tom & Jan’s reports on the good snorkeling on Grand Cayman.
Eric – Jun 22, 2016 – Boat Trip / Snorkel St. Maarten May 2016
We stopped in St. Maarten on our cruise in May of 2016 and took a boat tour that included a few snorkeling spots. While not at the same level that Sombrero Reef was, I saw some interesting things at the stops we made. The charter was through Billy Bones which I found through Trip Advisor.
Our first snorkeling stop was Tintamarre Island. We snorkeled away from the group to the right of where the boats moor and found a few fish and a ray. Back around the boats we saw a nice sized Green Sea Turtle in about 10-12 feet of water that seemed to be relatively unphased by my following him taking video.
The second snorkeling stop was Creole Rock which had several beautiful Blue and Rainbow Parrotfish and lots of other fish. The area was very light on coral but there were lots of black spiky urchins.
The last stop where I snorkeled was a bay by an upscale resort where the boat guests could climb up on the rocks and dive off. In this area I found some crab, a couple of the white round soft urchins, once again several of the black spiky ones and saw my first flounder here. He swam up on the side of a rock and changed colors to camouflage himself!
From a strictly snorkeling perspective all the spots were light on sea life. The tour was excellent though and included Pinel Island, the beach that the planes fly over when landing and other landmarks. The guide was very informative and we had lots of fun overall.