If you swim, you can snorkel. Easier than diving as no certification isn’t required, all you need is a mask and snorkel to see a whole other side of the Caribbean – the underwater one, that is. If you don’t have this basic equipment, no worries. Many of the ten best Caribbean snorkeling spots below are near rental vendors.
1. Providenciales, Turks & Caicos.
A great locale to snorkel with kids is the Bight Reef. It’s easy to see why this spot is also called Coral Gardens. A long shallow ridge of hard and soft coral extends out from shore. Common sightings include sea turtles, rays and fish such as Nassau groupers, parrotfish, colorful sergeant majors and porcupinefish. A sugar soft white sand beach ashore makes an idyllic place to rest after snorkeling.
2. Negril, Jamaica.
Calm, warm water with visibility over 60 feet make snorkeling a joy here for first-timers and veteran snorkelers. Rockhouse in western Negril is a fantastical area with submarine caves teeming with finned critters and other sea life. Seven Mile Beach is also a popular snorkeling destination. Cliffs above the beach are a perfect perch to spec out what part of the reef you’ve like to snorkel.
3. The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
This playground of giant granite boulders that mark the island’s iconic southwest coast is a paradise for snorkelers. Arrive here by boat and dive in. Or, walk down to the beach on the short, clearly-marked yet somewhat rocky trail leading from the Top of the Baths restaurant. Plentiful schools of rainbow-colored fish are the main undersea attraction. Yet, climbing around the boulders and sea-filled grottos between them is great shoreside fun.
4. Green Island, Antigua.
Located off the east coast of Antigua, this uninhabited island owned by the private Mill Reef Club is full of pristine white sand beaches that offer a perfect gateway into the sea beyond. The best snorkeling is over the reef right offshore. Charter operators bring guests here for snorkel trips, but other than this, the area is quiet and relatively isolated. After all, the only way to get to here is by boat. Plan to bring a picnic and spend the day sunning, swimming and snorkeling.
5. Scotts Head, Dominica.
Known for its stunning scuba diving, the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve situated off this southwest coastal village of Scotts Head is also ideal for snorkeling. One of the best sites is the Champagne Reef. Named for the water bubbles that float up from the volcanic hot springs on the sea floor, this area is a real underwater zoo. It’s filled with all kinds of coral, sponges, anemones, lobster, and multicolored fish. Snorkeling gear is available to rent nearby.
6. Rockley Beach, Barbados.
Snorkeling is just some of the fun on this beach, also called Accra Beach, which is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Calm to moderate waves, no undertow and a sandy beach entry make snorkeling easy. Lots of colorful fish, sea turtles and even an occasional ray are the chief underwater draws. Souvenir vendors, sun lounger and umbrella rentals, and beach bars and restaurants are also here. Additionally, two miles to the north at Browne’s Beach, one of the island’s largest beaches, there are several sunken ships about 100 yards offshore that are spectacular to snorkel.
7. Mayreau, St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
The magical reefs around this smallest of the inhabited Grenadine islands are nicknamed the Mayreau Gardens and are home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the region. Managed and protected by the Tobago Cays Marine Park, there is a wealth of sea life: turtles, rays, nurse and reef sharks as well as corals, sea fans and corals. The island is reachable only by boat since there is no airstrip.
8. Tobago Cays, St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
See sea turtles feed on the sea grass growing in the clear shallow waters off the Baradal Turtle Sanctuary. Located on an island in the center of the Cays, this protected area is home to green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles. The reefs here are also swimmingly full of other sea creatures like corals, conch and spiny lobster. The current can sometimes be strong, so fins are helpful. Reach the Tobago Cays by yacht or day charter from the mainland.
9. Buccoo Reef, Tobago.
Shallow reefs rim much of Trinidad’s sibling island, making it easy to snorkel right off the beach. One of the best places is Buccoo Reef, a protected marine park located between Buccoo Point and Pigeon Point. Head to the western part of this area for the best snorkeling. Do be aware of boat traffic in this area and to the north as glass bottom boats take visitors to the reef daily. Rent snorkeling equipment from vendors on the beach.
10. Klein Curacao, Curacao.
Look but don’t touch applies to the snorkeling off of this ½-square-mile uninhabited island at the southeast of mainland Curacao. That’s because sea turtles are one of the prime sights. This advice also applies to the sensational stands of coral and countless fish. The island is only reachable by boat. What makes the one-hour one-way ride really memorable is the frequent bottlenose dolphin escort. Moorings off Klein Curacao are mainly for day tour boats.