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Stingrays, Sea Turtles and Spectacular Coral Reefs: The 7 Best Places to Snorkel in the Caribbean


28 March, 2023


15 March, 2024

There’s no denying that the glorious Caribbean hosts some of the best places on the planet for an underwater adventure. Many people travel to this tranquil region specifically to discover the vibrant world waiting beneath the waves. Reefs resplendent with bright pink brain coral and shimmering shoals of tropical fish are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll also come across shallow coves whose sandy bottoms are scattered with starfish, as well as eerily beautiful shipwrecks that have long since been reclaimed by the sea. Exploring these amazing aquatic worlds couldn’t be easier during your Caribbean island villa vacation.

So, where is the best snorkelling in the Caribbean? While each island offers its own unique underwater allures, a few specific places should be on your radar. From watching turtles collect sea grass in the Cayman Islands to swimming alongside whale sharks off Mexico’s idyllic Riviera Maya, here are seven inspiring locations for a Caribbean snorkelling trip:

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

You’ll need little persuasion to visit the paradise that is Turks and Caicos. The sun-soaked archipelago is a prime destination for a relaxing beach escape where the most energetic activity you’ll do is snorkelling off the islands’ picture-perfect coastlines.

Thanks to its sheltered location, beautifully calm waters, and proximity to the Turks and Caicos Great Barrier Reef, Grace Bay Beach on the island of Providenciales often features among the best snorkelling beaches in the Caribbean.

The breathtaking coral reef shielding the bay is the third largest in the world and home to a vast range of incredible sea creatures. As well as vibrant parrotfish, blue tans and angelfish, you’ll have a high chance of glimpsing a few rare predators, such as manta rays and nursing sharks.

Planning to stay in a beach villa on Grand Turk rather than Provos? Don’t skip taking a boat tour from Cockburn Town to the island's continental shelf. Nicknamed 'the Wall', it's a dramatic 7000-foot drop located just one kilometre offshore. Snorkellers can expect to see thousands of fish swimming around the coral, while divers might glimpse sharks, rays and turtles in the deeper water.

Discover more with our Turks & Caicos travel guide

Spotts Beach, Grand Cayman

The largest of the Cayman Islands offers some of the best beach snorkelling in the Caribbean, where you can glimpse all manner of marine life. If you’ve always wanted to see turtles up close, there’s one beach in particular on Grand Cayman’s southern shores that should be on your checklist.

Spotts Beach sits 20 minutes away by car from the famous Seven Mile Beach, and it's a truly serene place to while away a few hours. There are no amenities besides a car park, toilets and a few cabanas if you need some shade. Instead, the main attraction is the sea turtles that swim over the nearby reef to feed on the bay's abundance of seagrass.

Before you hop in the sea, walk out to the end of the small jetty to admire the view and to scan the water. If there are turtles around, you’ll spot their heads popping up periodically for air. You can then strap on your mask and swim over to watch as they glide gracefully between clumps of seagrass. There's usually plenty of fish to see too, plus the occasional conch shell nestled in the sand.

Other must-see snorkelling spots on Grand Cayman include Eden Rock, just 150 yards from George Town's shoreline, and Starfish Point on the island's north side, where you can float in the shallows above dozens of bright orange starfish.

Discover more with our Grand Cayman travel guide

Doctor’s Cave Reef, Jamaica

Jamaica has no shortage of natural beauty – whether that’s its dramatic Blue Mountains, the tumbling Dunn’s River Falls or the countless tranquil beaches scattered along its coastline.

When it comes to memorable marine encounters, Montego Bay Marine Park is hard to beat. The protected reserve lies within one of Jamaica's most iconic beach resorts, and its extraordinary biodiversity has helped cement it as one of the top dive spots in the world. As well as boat expeditions to deeper waters, you can also enjoy some of the best shore snorkelling in the Caribbean from Doctor’s Cave beach.

This sparkling cove – which gets its name from the cave that was once its only entrance – offers up eight miles of powdery white sand. This is complemented by bright blue waters, which have long been thought to have healing properties. Once you’ve spent a blissful morning cooling off in the shallows or relaxing on the shore, why not strap on your snorkel mask and head out to Doctor’s Cave Reef for some afternoon exploration?

The reef sits a short distance from the beach's designated swimming area, bursting with marine life. Spend an hour or so exploring this underwater paradise where bright butterflyfish, schools of silvery grunts and the occasional stingray live side by side among the vibrant corals.

Discover more with our Jamaica travel guide

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Mexico’s magnificent coastlines are inundated with picturesque beaches where you can enjoy an aquatic adventure or two.

The Riviera Maya, in particular, offers some of the best snorkelling in the Caribbean Sea thanks to the expansive Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

Want to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime snorkelling experience? Venture to the Riviera Maya between May and September, and you'll have the chance to swim alongside dozens of whale sharks. These gentle giants flock to the balmy water off Mexico's eastern coast to feed on the thousands of phytoplankton that live and breed in the region.

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the sea, with the average animal measuring a whopping 39 feet long. Despite their size, they're incredibly docile, so swimming alongside them is possible. It's easily one of the most unique Caribbean snorkelling experiences on offer, with boat trips leaving from both Tulum and Cancun.

Discover more with our Riviera Maya travel guide

Trunk Bay, St John

First-timers should put Trunk Bay on the island of St John at the top of their Caribbean snorkelling bucket list. A nature lover’s paradise, St John is two-thirds national park and is one of the best off the beaten path spots in the Caribbean. Trunk Bay, a white-sand beach fringed with swaying palms, is arguably the most picturesque in the US Virgin Islands.

It’s not just an oasis for sun worshippers, though. Trunk Bay also features a self-guided snorkelling trail around a small yet thriving stretch of reef.

The water is usually very calm and doesn't get beyond 16 feet deep around the trail, making it one of the best snorkelling places in the Caribbean for beginners. If you feel more confident, swim around the small cay to discover small marine mammals and crustaceans living among the rocks.

Alternatively, why not combine an underwater adventure with a coastal hike along the Leinster Bay Trail to the charmingly named Waterlemon Bay? Once there, you can cool off with a snorkel around tiny Waterlemon Cay, whose waters are the natural habitat of nursing sharks, sea turtles and barracuda.

Discover more with our St John travel guide

The Baths, British Virgin Islands

If you want to go from sugar-soft sand to still ocean waters teeming with rainbow-coloured fish in just a few steps, make your way to Virgin Gorda. One of the more laidback of the British Virgin Islands, you’ll find one of the region’s most impressive natural wonders tucked away in this tropical nirvana.

The Baths sit within their own national marine park on the island's western shores, comprising several craggy granite boulders and caves featuring natural pools. The water is crystal-clear, making it a sublime spot for snorkelling in the Caribbean Sea - plus, there's a great sandy beach where you can lay a towel down and dry off in the sunshine.

The Baths’ beach also features a rustic bar where you can sip local rum punch with uninterrupted views - a lovely treat after a snorkelling session. If you feel like stretching your legs, follow the leafy trail leading south through the rocks to Devil's Bay Beach. It's a quieter spot for sunbathing, but it's best to avoid swimming or snorkelling here due to rip tides.

Discover more with our British Virgin Islands (BVI) travel guide

Carlisle Bay Marine Park, Barbados

Another marine park that should be on your radar is Barbados’ Carlisle Bay.

The crescent-shaped bay is centrally located and hosts some of Bridgetown’s top beaches. It’s also the location of no fewer than six shipwrecks, all of which can be accessed by swimming straight from the shore.

The best place to enter the water for snorkelling is Brownes Beach which sprawls about a third of the way down the bay. Closer to shore, it’s not uncommon to glimpse sea turtles feeding on the clumps of sea grass growing in the shallows. Swim a little further out (being careful of boats and jet skis), and you'll come across a collection of wrecked barges and ships encrusted with otherworldly coral and fascinating crustaceans.

Depending on the tides, the wrecks can be as little as three metres below the surface. Snorkel around all six and look out for marine creatures hiding inside their hulls and around their anchors. Afterwards, you can enjoy a well-deserved cocktail at one of the many beach shacks scattered along the shoreline.

Discover more with our Barbados travel guide

What time of year is best for snorkelling in the Caribbean?

While Caribbean snorkelling is possible all year round, you’ll have the best visibility between November and May. These months sit outside the region's hurricane season when heavy rainfall and storms can cause swells and riptides.

The onefinestay experience

Our exclusive range of concierge services lets you experience the very best attractions in Tulum. Whatever you have in mind, we’re on hand to turn your dream getaway into a reality. From arranging all private picnics, beach bonfires and clam bakes to booking tables at the best restaurants in Tulum, simply speak to our team of expert Travel Advisors to make your holiday dream a reality.

Dreaming of a snorkelling adventure?