Some like to hike to the top of a mountain to gaze down upon Earth’s wondrous seaboard, but true aquatic wanderlusts dive into the ocean’s waves to discover the planet’s miraculous treasures.
The deep Caribbean Sea is home to some of the world’s most gorgeous coral reefs, cays, floras and wildlife. With crystal blue waters and perfect temperatures, any explorer or vacationer would want to put on a wet suit and jump in. The Caribbean islands harbor some of the world’s best dive sites across its coastline.
In this two-part series, we explore some of the best Caribbean destinations for snorkeling and scuba diving. Part one covers the west Caribbean islands.
The Exumas have endless miles of stunning islands and cays swarming with aquatic Bahamian wildlife. This park stretches 22 miles across Compass Cay and Norman’s Cay, and is only accessible via boat or seaplane. Here you can visit the amazing Thunderball Grotto marine cave where two James Bond movies were filmed. Check out Powerboat Adventures for incredible snorkeling and the chance to feed stingrays and sharks.
Just three miles east of Paradise Island, this shipwreck site is a family-friendly snorkeling location with easily swimmable shallow reefs. This gorgeous island is made up of 11 miles of uninhabited beaches and secluded coves, and it’s a nice spot for beginner snorkelers.
For a thrill-seeking adventure, descend 80 feet underwater to this stunning Bahamian reef to get the ultimate deep-sea experience. You can swim to the surface to see rainbow fish and amazing coral formations. Located only nine miles from Nassau, it’s easy to find equipment rentals and guided tours nearby.
This gorgeous island in the Turks & Caicos archipelago has accessible snorkeling reefs on its north central coast. Start right off the beach at Bight Reef, also known as Coral Gardens, then head to the infinite waters of Smith’s Reef near Turtle Cove to spot green turtles and flamboyant fish.
This secluded spot off the remote west coast of Providenciales has beautiful reefs and sea fan beds, and is only accessible by charter boat. Known as a site for experienced snorkelers, take a day trip to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Northwest Point Marine National Park’s nature preserve.
As the largest set of islands in Turks & Caicos, this dive can be challenging, but with good weather, Dragon Cay is a beautiful destination. It’s surrounded by sandy white beaches, limestone cliffs, and is home to beautiful sea creatures such as parrotfish, angelfish and starfish.
This snorkeling paradise is sheltered inside Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Sea whips and stunning corals sprinkle the seabed that stretches 100 miles from the shore and then drops off 40 yards to the reef.
This translucent protected cove is full of amazing rock landscapes and outcrops. Explore the rocky drop-off that surrounds a bay full of sea life. The closest hotels to this area are only five miles away in Playa Giron.
Located on Cuba’s northern coast, this seaside resorts is one of the most popular on the island. The snorkeling area stretches just one mile in front of Hotel Club Amigo and Hotel Brisas, but you have to swim 100-160 yards offshore to reach the spectacular coral-covered seabeds.
This stunning reef located in Grand Cayman is a perfect family vacation for snorkelers of all ages. You can explore a shallow sandbar teeming with starfish, southern rays and turtles. Trained guides will show you how to feed the animals — and even let you kiss them!
One of Grand Cayman’s hidden gems;
the Wreck of the Cali is the perfect dive site for exploring deep-sea history. Discover the remnants of this large, historic freighter built in 1900 but sunk off George Town Harbor in 1948.
According to Caribya!, a general rule on Grand Cayman Island is “the closer you are to Seven Mile Beach, the better the snorkeling.” There are a ton of awesome underwater attractions along this beach such as the Wreck of the Gamma and Cemetery Reef.
This incredible nonprofit has managed sustainable marine and coastal resources in Jamaica for nearly 30 years. They offer aquatic excursions set up to preserve the natural environment. Take a charter to the best diving spots in Jamaica’s clear blue waters to see lionfish and lots of diverse marine life.
Located off the northeast coast of Jamaica, the calm waters of Runaway Bay Beach are a great snorkeling destination for all diving levels. Two other nice beaches to use as a starting point near this area include Cardiff Hall Beach and Salem Beach.
If you’re the type of diver who likes to explore the mysterious depths of underwater caves, this is the place for you. Located off the coast of Negril, this amazing geological formation is a 40-foot deep dive with an easily accessible tunnel.
The majestic caverns’ exterior walls are covered in yellow sponges, while the inside illuminates stunning translucent colors. You may even spot a shark swimming through here.