The white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Caribbean are like no other, but a true adventure awaits once you slip on a mask and look below the surface. Discover abandoned ships that have merged with coral reef or swim the shoreline and look for colorful marine life. This list of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean will help you choose the ideal spot for your underwater adventure.
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Protected by the U.S. National Park Service, the ecosystem at Buck Island Reef National Monument is one of the most pristine places to snorkel in the Caribbean. Home to a variety of threatened and endangered marine life, it also features some of the most dramatic, including massive elkhorn coral branches. Along the underwater snorkel trail, you’ll find colors and textures of all kinds as you swim beside blue tangs, trumpetfish, and possibly even barracudas. Beginner snorkelers will benefit from a guided tour and the useful advice that comes with it.
The vivid streetscapes of Willemstad are known for their brightly colored architecture, and a snorkeling adventure on the island is just as colorful, thanks to the clear waters that reveal coral reef, parrot fish and a host of other sea life. The stunning coral formations at Playa Kalki seem to be sprung from the imagination, earning it the nickname “Alice in Wonderland.” For an experience that is just as historic as the island’s streetscapes, visit the sunken tugboat just off the coast of Caracasbaai Peninsula.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean can be found around Grand Cayman. Include Stingray City on your list of sites to visit and you won’t have to search the clear water for signs of marine life. As its name suggests, you’ll find yourself surrounded by flat-bodied rays as they glide through the water. Nearby in the North Sound, Coral Gardens offers particularly calm water, making it another popular snorkeling location. Many tour boat operators take visitors to both spots due to their proximity.
Ten yards from the water’s edge, the reef at Anse Chastenet is ideal for those who prefer shoreline snorkeling. Alternate between the beach and the crystal-clear water throughout the day as you explore the reef, which is home to more than 150 species of fish. No boats are allowed in this snorkeling area, making it a particularly tranquil place, but nearby you can hop on a tour boat to venture farther into the Caribbean. At Anse des Pitons, swimming takes place between the two volcanic spires known as the Pitons.
Turks and Caicos
When your travel companions have varying levels of snorkeling experience, it can be a challenge to find a site that meets everyone’s expectations. Grace Bay Beach offers the best of both worlds. Shoreline snorkeling features plenty of colorful fish, while those who swim farther out will find even more to explore. Since the trail around Bight Reef is marked, the adventurous beginner might even be comfortable joining everyone on an adventure farther from the beach. Another popular spot on Turks and Caicos is Smith’s Reef near Turtle Cove, where you’ll find sea fans, barracudas and all manner of colorful sea life.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
For an adventure far from the crowd, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the best places to snorkel in the Caribbean. While the chain of 32 islands and cays offers the quintessential Caribbean experience, it’s less traveled than other tourist locations. Visit Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Garden in Molinere Bay to observe how man made works of art have become an important habitat. Following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the sculptures were placed in the bay to encourage the proliferation of coral, sponges and other marine life.
Famous for its 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, Antigua offers adventures beyond the edges of its pink and white shore, and you don’t have to swim far to find many of them. Coral reefs can be found within a short distance of your beach towel at many locations. For a chance to see eagle rays, conchs and more marine life, take a boat tour to Cades Reef, where you might even spot a nurse shark. A number of tour operators combine guided snorkeling with caving and other activities that give you a more comprehensive view of the island’s scenery.
Throughout the Caribbean you’ll find paradise destinations with a number of underwater adventures that reveal vibrant colors and abundant marine life. When you come back to shore, you certainly won’t be disappointed by the pink sand of Antigua or the black sand found in parts of St. Lucia and Grenada, but you’ll probably be lured back to the water in no time.