A vacation that includes snorkeling and lots of it? That's not at all hard to find in the Caribbean. In fact, islands like Jamaica have some of the most diverse snorkeling experiences that the Caribbean has to offer (think dive sessions in a bioluminescent grotto in Ocho Rios)! Indeed, Jamaica is known for its vibrant coral reefs, thriving marine life, and crystal-clear waters, all of which you’ll be able to experience during a vacation.
A little insight into Jamaica: This island is the third largest in the Caribbean. It is located near Cuba in the northwestern Caribbean. Jamaica is known for many things including reggae and dancehall music, it's amazing waterfalls like Dunn’s River Falls and YS Falls, scrumptious cuisine (yes, jerk chicken!), and of course lots and lots of beautiful beaches.
If you're looking for great snorkeling in Jamaica, you’ve come to the right place. We've listed some of the best snorkeling sites on this island, and what you can expect when diving there!
Expert tip: Want a dive resort in Jamaica? The all-inclusive resorts in Negril and the all-inclusive resorts in Ocho Rios cater to guests who want to dive. Snorkeling and scuba equipment can be easily accessed via the dive shop. The dive team can also share tips on the best places to dive depending on what you're hoping to see.
Let your snorkeling vacation in Jamaica begin at Booby Cay in Negril. This small island is near Seven Mile Beach and is home to lots of booby birds (from which the island gets its name), as well as marine life of all kinds. Boobies lay their eggs on this island, so you might spot some nests if you go here for a snorkeling session.
You could possibly take a glass-bottom boat to Booby Cay while in Jamaica and whet your appetite for the dive expedition ahead while discussing the things you’ll see beneath the waters with the guide. Your boat tour to Booby Cay will likely include snorkeling equipment as well as lunch and drinks. Sometimes there is fresh seafood on the menu or jerk chicken, both of which go down well with local Caribbean beer like Red Stripe. A snorkeling trip to Booby Cay can span 2 to 4 hours.
Aside from getting there by boat, you can opt to kayak or ride a paddleboard to Booby Cay. Once you dive in, you're likely to be surrounded by fish of all types, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the coral in this area.
Doctor's Cave Beach in [Montego Bay](Montego Bay) is a good choice for snorkeling in Jamaica. This beach has plenty of amenities including a restaurant, bar, and restrooms on-site. To take advantage of these conveniences while enjoying a snorkeling experience here, you'll need to pay a small entry fee of $6 USD per person for access.
Once that’s out of the way, you can dive right into the cool and clear waters of Doctor’s Cave Beach, which are believed by some to be therapeutic. Whether or not there's any truth to this theory, most will agree the waters are calm and ideal for snorkeling, particularly if it's your first time enjoying this activity. The coral reef at Doctor’s Cave Beach is one of the more active ones you can find off the coast of Jamaica. For the most interesting undersea views, swim around the reef and also along the stone walls that form the cove.
Sightings at Doctor’s Cave Beach during a snorkeling excursion can include blue tangs, grunt, butterflyfish, and sometimes stingrays. You can rent snorkeling gear on this beach at an additional cost if you don’t have your own. There’s even more action to be found at Doctor’s Cave in the form of fun water sports like kayaking or paddleboarding. You may also find jumping on the water trampolines a bit irresistible!
It is almost impossible to visit Jamaica and not hear about Seven Mile Beach. Understandably so, as this is one of the best beaches on the island. Located in Negril, Jamaica, Seven Mile Beach is ideal for snorkeling as there are several interesting reefs that you can explore near this beach. Seven Mile Beach is relatively shallow, calm, and has great visibility, so it can be a good place for snorkelers who are just starting off.
More experienced snorkelers might enjoy a dive at the Negril Coral Reef about two miles off the coast. It is possible to take a boat out with a guide to explore the reef as part of your Seven Mile Beach day. The reef is shallow, and sightings include a variety of coral, sponges, seashells, tropical fishes of all kinds, conch, sea urchins, and tiny harmless jellyfish. When you’re done snorkeling at Seven Mile, you can stroll the extensive shores of this four-mile-long beach, which leads into the three-mile space of Bloody Bay.
Jamaica is one of the most convenient places in the world to snorkel, particularly because it’s so easy to get to some of the popular snorkeling sites on this island. The Montego Bay Marine Park is one of these convenient sites. This marine park is a protected area of about six square miles, and it’s home to beaches like Doctor’s Cave Beach, Aquasol Beach, Cornwall Beach, and Dead End Beach, all of which are interesting places to snorkel.
At the Montego Bay Marine Park, you’ll find lots of different coral reefs and mangroves. You can take a canoe trip through the mangroves to get to the outer reef, which is a fun place for a dive session.
Devil’s Reef is only accessible by boat, but it is not far from shore — just about 3-4 minutes from the beach. This reef on the eastern side of Ocho Rios is on the deeper end - about 65 feet below the surface sloping downward to 130 feet. This site is more popular with scuba divers than snorkelers because, with scuba equipment, you can have a closer look at the intricate features of the reef as you dive.
Snorkeling is still a possibility at Devil's Reef though. While diving here, you’ll be struck by how beautiful even the top side of this reef looks and the interesting marine life swimming around this area. Sightings at Devil's Reef include snapper, grouper, jackfish, barracuda, turtles, and sometimes nurse sharks.
Expert tip: If you want to make the most of a snorkeling vacation in Ocho Rios, you might want to stay at one of the all-inclusive resorts in the area like Sandals Ochi, Sandals Royal Plantation, and Beaches Ocho Rios. This will greatly reduce the travel time it will require to get between the various snorkeling sites in this area.
Runaway Bay Beach has quite a lot to offer including gorgeous white sand, crystal clear waters, and amazing snorkeling experiences. This beach is on the north coast of Jamaica. It is around 36 minutes from Ocho Rios and an hour from Montego Bay. Runaway Bay is an area that’s more popular with locals than Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, so a beach day or diving experience here tends to be mellow and fun.
At Runaway Bay, you’ll be able to access the coral reef from the shore. If you want to dive a bit deeper, then you should check out the Runaway Bay Wall, a large barrier reef that is home to a plethora of marine life. Both snorkeling and scuba diving are possible at Runaway Bay and sightings include creole wrasse, parrotfish, angelfish, barracuda, sea urchins, and grunt. Once you’re done diving, you can easily find a secluded part of this beach to relax.
Good to know: Want to have more adventurous experiences once you're done snorkeling? If you stay at a Sandals all-inclusive resort, you can book tours and excursions directly through the resort.
Marley’s Garden is located in Montego Bay, and it is one of those reefs in Jamaica that you’ll need a boat to access. The boat ride will be short though, and you’ll be at the reef in no time to get your dive expedition underway. This reef is about 40 feet below the surface and once you dive in,you’ll be thrilled at the colors and vibrancy of this natural attraction.
Snorkelers can have a world of fun at Marley’s Garden, but to make the most of this experience, a scuba diving trip is preferred so you can get closer to the reef. If you don't have scuba gear, you can still take in some of its beauty from above while snorkeling. Some of the sea life you're likely to scope at this reef include elkhorn corals, sea fans, and lots of tropical fish including sergeant majors and squirrelfish.
The Throne Room is located off the coast of Negril on the western coast of Jamaica. This is a well-known scuba diving spot in Jamaica, but it is possible to go snorkeling here as well. If you want to go snorkeling at the Throne Room, you’ll likely be guided to the outer reef where scuba diving gear isn’t required to dive.
The lure of the Throne Room for scuba diving is the fact that there is an underwater cave here that is home to lots of different species of marine life. It is not recommended to get into the cavern without scuba gear, so you're unlikely to experience this portion of things during a snorkeling trip. However, there is still lots to see for snorkelers in this area including snapper, eel, turtles, shrimp, octopus, stingray, and lots of different types of coral, sponges (like giant elephant ear sponges), and tropical fish.
Good to know: If you’ll be scuba diving at the Throne Room, it is useful to note that the cavern can be entered via a crack in the reef.
Include Ocho Rios Bay Beach on your list of places to snorkel in Jamaica during your vacation. There's a reef on this beach that can be accessed by boat about half a mile from shore. You’ll need to be ferried across to the reef with a guide who can point you in the right direction in terms of where to dive. Ocho Rios Bay Beach is about five minutes walking distance from the cruise terminal in Ocho Rios, so it won’t be hard to find once you’re in this area. There are quite a few cafés and shops around this dive location where you can relax before or after your snorkeling session.
Expert tip: If you want a guide and a boat to take you over to the reef off the coast of the Ocho Rios Bay Beach, you can usually find vendors on the beach offering this service. Once you’ve secured a boat, you should be able to spend an hour or two exploring the reef.
Coyaba Reef is in Montego Bay and will require a boat trip for a snorkeling session. It’ll take around 20 minutes to get to this reef from the cruise port terminal in Montego Bay. Once you get there, you can dive right in and start exploring. Sightings at Coyaba can be quite surprising, but you’ll need to be a good swimmer to dive here as the currents can be strong. If you do wind up snorkeling here, you're likely to see lots of colorful fishes including wrasse, parrotfish, butterflyfish, and chromis. You might also spot an octopus or two, and other amazingly unique sea creatures.
Good to know: Staying in Montego Bay and planning on snorkeling? Here’s what to expect when snorkeling in Montego Bay. You can also stay at one of the all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay if you want to be near some of the best beaches in Jamaica.
Bluefields Beach/Belmont is located in Westmoreland Parish about one hour from Negril. This beach has been described by travelers as "a gem off the beaten track”, “simply gorgeous”, and "the highlight of a Jamaica vacation”. A Bluefields beach day is ideal if you’re looking for a snorkeling location that is convenient with resorts and restaurants nearby.
It can be pebbly at first when you get into the water at Bluefields Beach, but things smooth out as you venture further in. Once in the water, you’ll be able to explore the surrounding reef where you can sometimes spot turtles and the occasional manatee. Bluefields Beach is also visited on occasion by dolphins, so you might be lucky enough to see one while there. From this beach, you can also visit Moor Reef (lots of coral reefs and tropical fish) via a short boat ride.
Oyster Bay is another dive option in Jamaica. This dive site is off the coast of Port Antonio and features eight miles of interconnected reefs. A great place to dive in this area is the Alligator Head Foundation and Reef Sanctuary. The water there tends to be quite calm, which is ideal for beginners. While diving at Oyster Bay, you might see parrotfish, grunt, angelfish, and more. Advanced snorkelers might enjoy diving here as well as it is truly a relaxing place to witness the magic of the undersea.
The Luminous Lagoon is a unique attraction that appeals to travelers because there are few other sites like it in the world. This spot is just about 40 minutes from Montego Bay, and 1 hour from Ocho Rios. Experience the Luminous Lagoon, if you’d like, by taking a tour at night to see the microscopic organisms that live here. These peculiar creatures known as dinoflagellates emit a bluish glow when touched, which can make for quite a fascinating experience.
You can also go diving in the Luminous Lagoon. While snorkeling, here you’ll see the glow effect of the harmless dinoflagellates (bioluminescent organisms) up close - a beautiful underwater light show. There’s also the option of going with a catamaran tour that will provide the snorkeling gear you need as well as lots of expert tips and tricks.
Expert tip: There's an abundance of mangroves and white sand beaches around the lagoon that can be worth exploring. After your tour, you can stop for a cocktail and something to eat at the Glistening Waters Restaurant.
In case you were unsure, Kingston, Jamaica has its own share of great dive sites. One of the best places to dive in Kingston is Port Royal where you’ll find many different shipwrecks off the coast. Diving here is suitable for snorkelers of all experience levels, and you’re likely to come across a wide variety of marine life.
If you choose to go snorkeling in Port Royal, you’ll probably get an overview of some of the shipwrecks, but if you want to get close to them, scuba diving is the better option. The shipwrecks in the Port Royal area (which was once home to many great pirates of the Caribbean) are around 50 feet beneath the surface. Once you're done diving at this location, you’ll have plenty of time to explore other well-known areas in Kingston.
Expert tip: Want to do a little more than snorkeling during your Jamaica vacation? Explore one of Jamaica’s best natural attractions, the Ocho Rios Blue Hole, or go cliff jumping in Jamaica for an action-packed getaway!
Adventure seekers will love the Cool Blue Hole, which promises a day filled with swimming, exploring, and overall peace and serenity. The Cool Blue Hole is a natural limestone sinkhole in Ocho Rios, Jamaica that offers amazing scenery and ambiance. Here the most beautiful waterfalls freely flow into the blue hole, creating the perfect natural swimming pool. The bright turquoise waters of this attraction helped to inspire its name, and once you get there, you’ll find the striking color to be quite surreal.
There is no charge to explore the Cool Blue Hole while in Jamaica unless you opt to go with a guide. If you do choose a guided tour, you'll pay a bit more, but the tips and tricks your guide shares with you will help make your experience even more memorable.
Expert tip: Whether you plan on cliff jumping or just climbing and exploring the rocks around the Cool Blue Hole, you’ll want to wear water shoes for safety and comfort.
A full or half-day trip to Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica can certainly add some excitement to your vacation. This 180ft high, 600ft long waterfall is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Not only will you get to see this magnificent waterfall up close when you visit, but you'll also be able to jump right into one of the surrounding natural pools for a refreshing dip. Rope swinging and cliff jumping are also a possibility at Dunn's River Falls.
If you've got the time, you'll definitely want to try hiking around the Dunn’s River Falls area. You can hike for 1.5 hours to get to the summit of the falls via the wet or the dry route. You also have the option of hiking to the nearby Secret Falls as well.
Good to know: Entry to Dunn’s River Falls is $25 USD per person (ages 13 and up). Children 12 and under pay $17 USD. Water shoes will come in handy at the falls because of the slippery rocks!
If you're looking for a thrill, try exploring Montego Bay via ATV while in Jamaica. This can be an exciting way to see some of the places that you might not experience on any other excursions. An ATV tour in Montego Bay will take you through the lush Jamaican countryside, to small villages, through the jungle, and even along the oceanfront.
As you explore the locations along your ATV adventure with a guide, you’ll be able to take lots of photos to forever seal your amazing memories. The Montego Bay ATV tour usually takes around 3 hours, and you will definitely want to pack things like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a swimsuit underneath your clothes for this journey. You’ll also want to wear closed-toe shoes and bring your driver's license with you. The Montego ATV Adventure in Sandy Bay, Jamaica costs around $121 USD per person.
Dive right into some island history at the Bob Marley Museum in Nine Mile, Jamaica. This museum is set up in the Jamaican reggae icon’s former home and prominently features many vibrant murals of the late musician. The renowned artist spent most of his life in Jamaica and this tour provides an intimate experience where you can see what his life was really like. Tours of the museum happen about every half hour, and it costs $25 USD for adults and $12 USD for children aged 4-12 to get into the Bob Marley Museum.
Jamaica offers a great variety of snorkeling sites, and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Many of these coasts have healthy and flourishing coral reefs offshore. The beauty of Jamaica’s forests, mountains, rivers, and people will become apparent to you the minute you set eyes on the island, but you’ll have to dive a little deeper to find the beauty that lies beneath its waves.
If you want to enjoy a snorkeling trip in Jamaica but don’t want your luggage bogged down with snorkeling gear, then consider staying at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Sandals Resorts in Jamaica not only provide snorkeling gear free of charge for all guests but also offer free scuba diving (up to 2 tanks per day) for certified divers.
From any of the luxury, all-inclusive Sandals Resorts in Jamaica, you’ll be able to explore snorkeling hot spots in Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios without the hassle. The sooner you get there for a snorkeling experience, the better!
Good to know: If you sign up for tours or excursions through any Sandals resort in Jamaica, transfers will be included with your package. This means you won't have to worry about setting up transportation on your own!