Dreamy Bahamas – there’s not much these islands need to do to appeal even to the most discerning traveler. The islands and cays (over 700!) of this tropical archipelago need only to exist and be as beautiful as they are, and the crowd comes rushing in. Luckily, these crowds expand and thin throughout the year, making it easy to do something special in The Bahamas, like enjoy the best snorkeling adventure!
There are many places to snorkel in The Bahamas, from Nassau, the capital, on the island of New Providence, all the way to the Abaco Islands in the extreme north. The appeal of these snorkeling destinations includes pink sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, mesmerizing blue holes, mangroves, and safe shallows, all of which make The Bahamas stand out in the diving world.
In this article, we’ll highlight the best snorkeling destinations in The Bahamas so you’re more than prepared when you get there!
Expert tip: The kind of experience you want in The Bahamas, whether more mellow or action-packed, can help you decide the best time to visit these islands. If you want to snorkel, the best time to visit The Bahamas would be between mid-December and mid-April, although you’re free to snorkel at this great destination year-round!
Clifton Heritage Park is located off the western coast of New Providence. This national park consists of both forest and marine areas and is a popular stop for travelers wanting to hike, dive, and explore. Warm, crystal clear waters are part of the appeal of diving in this area as are the amazing marine animals you’re likely to encounter.
Off the shores of Clifton Heritage Park, divers will find both natural and man-made coral reefs that are home to many varieties of tropical fish including blue tangs. Stingrays and sea turtles are also common sightings here. There’s even a huge, 18ft underwater sculpture off the coast - the largest of its kind in the world. Apart from this large carving, there are other underwater art pieces in the area, but you’ll need to have scuba gear to see those.
Rose Island is the perfect snorkeling destination if you’re looking for a unique and fun experience. This island is three miles east of Paradise Island and it can be explored via a day trip while in The Bahamas. If you’ll be staying in Nassau on New Providence, you can take a boat to Rose Island from Paradise Island, which is connected to New Providence by a bridge.
The Rose Island Reef is in relatively shallow water and close to shore, so it is quite easy to access. This is a great spot for beginners, but more experienced snorkelers will also enjoy this particularly active reef. Sightings can include stingrays, sea turtles, baby reef sharks, and lots and lots of colorful tropical fish. You can easily snorkel here for two hours or more and not get tired of the experience.
When diving around Rose Island, keep an eye out for shipwrecks. There are at least two wrecks in this area that divers can explore – the Mahoney and the Alcora. In and around these ships, you can expect to see large schools of fish and a thriving underwater world.
From Paradise Island, it will take around 40 minutes to get to Rose Island by boat. Once you arrive, you can settle into a shady beachside spot, go swimming, relax, or even spend some time with the swimming pigs of Rose Island!
Good to know: There are bathrooms, a restaurant, and a bar on Rose Island as well.
Who wouldn’t love to snorkel in a place called Love Beach? We know we would! Just as fabulous as the name of this location, the snorkeling here is amazing and just might be the highlight of your Bahamian vacation. Love Beach is on the island of New Providence, and it is one of the best snorkeling sites in The Bahamas.
There is a lot to see during a dive at Love Beach! Snorkelers frequently run into barracuda, spiny lobster, and diverse species of fish along the reef. You may see some conch shells as well and lots of colorful coral further out. You can usually see fish just by venturing into the knee-deep waters of this area, making the experience perfect for snorkelers of all skill levels.
Before or after snorkeling at Love Beach, you might consider renting beach chairs and umbrellas (about $5 USD each) to relax on the beach. The beach is rarely crowded and bound to leave you feeling refreshed and totally in love with laid-back island living!
Goulding Cay Reef is off the west coast of New Providence. This reef is located just off of a private island, so it is not possible to access it without first booking a snorkeling boat trip. Visiting this shallow water reef (about 9 feet underwater) made of elkhorn corals can be worth the day trip to get there as you’re likely to have a fun snorkeling adventure. Goulding Cay Reef is only about 30 minutes from downtown Nassau by boat.
The Exumas are made up of over 365 islands and cays. This part of The Bahamas is great for full stays or day trips as there are so many things to do in Exuma, particularly on the island of Great Exuma. If you’re planning on visiting the Exumas, here are some of the best places to snorkel:
A diving expedition in the Exumas should definitely include the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This park is a protected area to the north of the Exuma Cays and it includes both land and marine sections spanning 112,640 acres. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is loved for its beautiful and secluded beaches, diverse hiking trails, wildlife explorations, and diving!
If you choose to go diving here, you can snorkel around brilliant coral reefs teeming with sea life. Sightings can include grouper, sea turtles, lobster, eagle rays, and more. There are also a variety of marine environments to explore here including mangroves. The shallows at this marine park can be great for snorkeling as well.
Stocking Island is a few miles off the coast of Great Exuma. You can ride a 10-minute ferry to get from Great Exuma to Stocking Island at a cost of $15 USD per person round trip. Visiting this island can be worth considering if you’re not only looking for both an interesting place to snorkel and amazing beaches.
On Stocking Island, you can experience the famous pink sand beaches of The Bahamas. Walking on these rare sands will be a phenomenal introduction to the island as you get set for a day of snorkeling. Once you settle in, you can decide whether you want to explore the coral reefs and caves, or snorkel in the shallows. If you’ll be there for the day, you might have a chance to enjoy a little bit of everything. Sightings of sea turtles and stingrays are common around Stocking Island.
Expert tip: When you’re done snorkeling at Stocking Island, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant and bar or gear up for a game on the volleyball court!
There are so many reasons to love Thunderball Grotto and that list starts with just how breathtaking it is to look at. Thunderball Grotto is an underwater cave system located to the north of Great Exuma and Guana Cay. This location is best known for its incredible snorkeling and scuba diving, and for the list of movies it has appeared in, such as the famous James Bond movies, ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Never Say Never’.
Thunderball Grotto is on Staniel Cay and appeals to anyone looking to have a unique and exciting snorkeling adventure in The Bahamas. This space is truly spectacular, and while snorkeling here, you can expect to see diverse coral reef systems and marine life. If you want to snorkel at Thunderball Grotto, it is best to do so during low tide. At high tide, you may need scuba diving gear to get in and out of the grotto. The currents tend to be stronger at high tide as well.
Expert tip: If you plan on exploring Thunderball Grotto while in The Bahamas, it is a good idea to go with a guide. This way you won’t have a hard time finding underwater entrances, and you’ll be able to get in and out of the cave safely.
Three Sisters Beach is on the island of Great Exuma, just about 20 minutes from the island’s main settlement, George Town. This quiet beach was named after the three huge rocks that sit in the shallows and serve as a beautiful photo backdrop. The appeal of a dive here is the beauty of the beach itself and the calm, shallow waters. For this reason, it is a great starting point for beginner snorkelers. While diving off Three Sisters Beach, you can expect to be dazzled by the large, colorful schools of fish and vibrant coral.
Duck Cay is located off the western coast of Great Exuma. The northern and southern parts of this cay offer quite different dive experiences. In the north, you can expect to see lots of standout reef structures and a wide variety of marine life, while the south features more shallow reefs, which are ideal for beginners. The highlight of a dive at Duck Cay is the interesting reef structures you’re likely to see while there.
Eleuthera can best be described as that long, thin island south of Great Abaco, and to the east of New Providence. This Bahamian snorkeling destination is known and loved for its gorgeous pink sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. If you want to snorkel in Eleuthera, here are the best places to go:
Gaulding’s Cay is just off the north coast of Great Exuma. This dive site is relatively easy to access because it is only about 50 yards from Gaulding’s Cay Beach on Great Exuma. You can swim to the cay and back from the beach, and, at low tide, you can even walk out to the cay while the water is knee-deep.
Since Gaulding’s Cay is so easy to access, it is a great option for newbie snorkelers. At this snorkeling site, you can enjoy a relatively shallow water dive with lots of colorful and curious fish, as well as occasional sightings of stingrays, starfish, and more. You’re also likely to see bonefish, sea anemones, and sea cucumbers around the cay. Gaulding’s Cay Beach is on the quiet side so you’ll have lots of room to explore and enjoy your beach day once you’re done snorkeling.
Devil’s Backbone Reef gets its name from the sharpness of the coral along this reef, which is said to have been responsible for a number of shipwrecks. This reef is along the northern coast of Eleuthera. It can be worth snorkeling here if you’re looking for an experience that not only includes lots of marine life but sightings of history-filled remnants of wrecked ships as well.
This reef is more on the shallow side, and you can expect to see lots of different types of fish including parrotfish while diving here. You might also come across moray eels and stingrays. There’s a wide variety of coral in this underwater zone including star coral, elkhorn, and brain coral. While diving here, you may also spot the odd anchor, random metal beams, rudders, and other evidence of the reef’s ship-wrecking repertoire.
The Abacos are an island grouping to the extreme north of The Bahamas. These islands are just about 180 miles off the southwestern coast of Florida with the main islands being Great Abaco and Little Abaco. There are both islands and cays in the Abacos where you can have incredible snorkeling excursions like those listed below:
Pelican Cays National Park is located in central Abaco between Elbow Cay and Tilloo Cay. This park spans 2,100 acres of both land and sea. Pelican Cays National Park is loved for the fact that it offers hiking opportunities, has lots of different beaches to explore, allows you to spend some time in nature, and of course, provides great snorkeling experiences!
The coral reef inside this park is extensive, and there’s an underwater cave system as well. This makes Pelican Cays the ideal snorkeling destination, especially if you choose to dive around Sandy Cay Reef. There, you can expect to see lots of species of coral including elkhorn coral, sea fan coral, finger sponges, and more. You’re also likely to see angelfish, Nassau grouper, sea turtles, spiny lobster, jacks, queen conch, stingrays, and even dolphins!
The Fowl Cay National Park can be found between Scotland Cay and Man-O-War Cay in Central Abaco. This area consists of lots of seagrass beds and coral reefs with lots of rocky shores and sandy bottom habitats. Fowl Cay National Park is a great spot to snorkel because there’s always lots to see in the bright turquoise waters of this area.
During a dive at Fowl Cay National Park, snorkelers can expect to see grouper, yellowtail snapper, sea turtles, barracuda, stingrays, and the list goes on! There are multiple reefs to explore in Fowl Cay so you can check out a few of these during your visit. You can get to the Fowl Cay National Park via a snorkeling or adventure tour or by taking your own boat to get there. There are mooring buoys available if you will be heading out on your own.
Great Guana Cay is located between Whale Cay and Elbow Cay. This island is around 4 miles long and it is a cool place for a day trip that includes hiking, interacting with iguanas, kayaking, and snorkeling. As the coral around Great Guana Cay is so beautiful and the marine life so alluring, it is one of the best places to snorkel while in The Bahamas.
In the waters surrounding Great Guana Cay, you’re likely to see lots of colorful coral heads, purple sea fans, sea whips, and more. The marine life is impressive as well - you'll see this for yourself while exploring the coral reef that is home to so many different species. The reef is just a few yards from the beach, so it won’t be hard to access.
Good to know: There’s a beachfront restaurant and bar on Great Guana Cay – Nippers. This spot is known for its friendly staff, great music, dancing, and mesmerizing ocean views!
We won’t blame you for hoping that you might spot a mermaid or two at this location. While we can’t exactly make any promises where that’s concerned, we can say that you’re likely to have a wonderful time snorkeling at Mermaid Reef in The Bahamas.
Mermaid Reef is ideal if you’ll be visiting Great Guana Cay and you’re looking for other interesting things to do. As it is a protected reef, the marine life here is thriving and you can expect to see a wide array of fish that will swim right up to you. You might spot some eels as well along the reef itself. Mermaid Reef is located just 10 minutes from Marsh Harbour and is easy to access. In this area, the water is usually calm and clear, which makes for a great experience for snorkelers of all skill levels.
Andros is the largest island in The Bahamas. Its landmass is said to be greater than all the other islands of The Bahamas put together. The island of Andros is split into three parts – North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros, all of which are known for great snorkeling sites, which we’ll detail below:
The Andros Barrier Reef is on the east coast of Andros in The Bahamas. This reef is extremely popular because, at 190 miles long, it is the third-largest barrier reef in the world. The Andros Barrier Reef is only accessible by boat, but even with a boat, you’ll need some really good directions or a guide on board. This is because there are many shallows and shipwrecks in this area that can be devastating for your boat if you don’t navigate carefully.
Once you finally make it to a good spot safely, you can really get into this dive experience. While diving around the Andros Barrier Reef, expect to see a vast array of sea life as over 164 marine species have been spotted in this area including red snapper, blue tang, Spanish hogfish, sea turtles, lobster, and lots of juvenile fish. You’re also likely to see brain coral, staghorn coral, water sponges, and lots more.
The Andros Barrier Reef borders the Tongue of the Ocean, which is a deep trench dividing the island of Andros and New Providence. The water around the trench has a much deeper blue tone compared to the shallower waters in the area. From above, the deeper blues take on a tongue-like shape, which is how the area got its name.
China Point is a lesser-known dive location in The Bahamas. You might only find out about it if you find it by chance or if you go with experienced divers for your snorkeling excursion. This dive site is located near Andros, and it is loved for its clear waters, the abundance of fish, and the beautiful coral formations.
In the shallower waters of China Point, you can expect to see elkhorn corals, staghorn corals, sea snails, parrotfish, and more. If you venture a bit further out, you’re likely to see brain corals, sea fans, and lots of tropical fishes.
There are lots of blue holes found around Andros, but the South Andros Blue Holes are definitely worthwhile for a snorkeling expedition. These tidal freshwater blue holes were formed long ago when the ocean level was much lower, even as far back as the last Ice Age. Water eroded the limestone that the islands of The Bahamas are primarily made of and created these immensely deep underwater caves.
In South Andros, there are blue holes that you can dive in without scuba equipment – these can make for an exciting snorkeling session. If you want to scuba dive in Andros, there are lots of other blue holes to choose from around the island.
Snorkeling tours in The Bahamas can be exciting, to say the least. There are so many amazing dive locations to choose from on these islands and, hopefully, you’ll have enough time during your vacation to check out the best ones. If by the end of your vacation there are still a few more you’d have loved to explore, a repeat trip is always a possibility!
If you’re taking a trip down to The Bahamas, you’ll need to decide where to stay. If you haven't yet chosen accommodations for your snorkeling trip, it is worth looking in the direction of an all-inclusive resort in Nassau or an all-inclusive resort in the Exumas. At Sandals Emerald Bay in the Exumas, you can snorkel in uber-blue waters as you indulge in easy access to beaches, unlimited cocktails, and all-inclusive snorkeling excursions. Sandals Royal Bahamian on New Providence also has a beautiful beachfront setting with lots of quality inclusions like ten gourmet on-property restaurants and its own offshore private island. Both resorts offer snorkeling with professional equipment and instruction (all included), so you can dive whenever the mood strikes you on your Bahamian vacation!