The Bahamas, simply put, have some of the best snorkeling you will find anywhere. When featured in the news, most of these mentions discuss the undeniable star quality of the best Bahamian beaches and reefs, and all the unexpected things you can see, including golden shores, pink sands and swimming pigs. Whether you are snorkeling or scuba diving, the 700 plus islands that make up The Bahamas are especially suited to impress.
Of all the undersea locations you can explore in the world, you probably won’t find ones that are as unique as the ones in The Bahamas.
When snorkeling in The Bahamas, it’s important to know in advance that what your experience depends upon the location that you choose. In some areas you will spot lots of tropical fish and coral, while in others you may find more exotic sea life like seahorses, angel fish, and lion fish. You may also come across a variety of sea turtles, squid and small stingrays.
On most snorkeling tours, you’ll be briefed ahead of time on what to expect while visiting the various areas, and you’ll be instructed on how to use your snorkeling equipment.
If you’re a snorkeling newbie, you may want to check out our amazing snorkeling tips for beginners that will make you look Like a pro before proceeding with the rest of this article.
For everyone else, onto the 10 best snorkeling spots in Nassau!
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
Overall, The Bahamas is a great location for snorkeling, with hundreds of beaches located across the various islands which make up the tropical archipelago. In Nassau, you’ll find some of the most easily accessible dive sites and reefs, which are populated with vibrant undersea life. If you want to skip the cherry picking, you can book a tour through resorts like Sandals Royal Bahamian, or contact a tour operator like Island Routes, that will help you discover some of the most amazing Nassau snorkeling sites. All beaches in The Bahamas are public, so if you go on your own, you’ll have to ensure you walk with your own equipment. You may not have the most fantastic vantage from the shore, but you will be able to have an optimal snorkeling experience at most beaches in Nassau. If you have friends or family who have access to a boat, you’re in luck, as you will be able to explore some great locations for free!
Expert Tip: If you plan on booking a tour, ask ahead to find out if the tour includes round trip pickup from and back to your resort.
Here are our top picks for locations which do not require spending money on a tour, or hiring a boat:
Lucky number 10, Adelaide beach can be found on the south-western coast of New Providence Island. The clear and warm waters on this beach make it very conducive for snorkeling. It is accessible by car, bus, or by foot, if you’re staying within close enough distance. Many who go here say this beach has more of an ‘out island’ feel, than other beaches in Nassau, due to being it less frequented by visitors. The ‘out island’ feel is more commonly associated with islands located outside of Nassau. During the week you’ll find this beach mostly empty, which leaves plenty of room to explore. On weekends there tends to be more locals at this location. Adelaide Beach is perfect for newbie snorkelers, as its shallow waters add to its family friendly ratings. While it isn’t the best for unique underwater sightings, you’re bound to spot something interesting!
Cable Beach is a superb location for Nassau snorkeling as you can rent out snorkeling equipment right on the beach front. It is located on the northern coast of the western half of Nassau, and it’s relatively easy to find whether you choose to catch a cab, walk, or drive yourself. Cable Beach is one of the more popular beaches in The Bahamas. If you do manage to find a good day to go, you can expect fantastic snorkeling, made even better by calm and clear seas. You’ll find a few coral heads on this beach if you’re willing to explore, and you’ll be able to swim right into a new world of marine life.
Expert Tip: Sandals Royal Bahamian, located on the best strip of sand along Cable Beach, offers free snorkeling excursions throughout the duration of your trip (like at all Sandals Resorts), including all equipment you will need to have the best snorkeling eperience!
Found on the north-east Coast of Paradise Island, Cabbage Beach is easy to find. It even comes complete with various water excursions that will make your beach day super fun, even if you just came to snorkel. There are various hotels, bars, and restaurants located in the vicinity of Cabbage Beach, but you can also find some more secluded spots with great snorkeling. Go down the stairs and walk right onto the beach, turn right towards the rocky headland and you’ll find a particularly conducive snorkeling spot with lots of possible sightings.
Love Beach is pristine, beautiful, and inviting for those looking for a day of snorkeling. You can find it easily on the western-north coast of New Providence. It is one of the least crowded beaches in Nassau, and not very shaded, though you’re unlikely to notice, as you’ll probably spend the bulk of your day exploring what lies beneath calm turquoise waters. Love Beach is a good choice for a day of snorkeling, and possible sightings between the shores and the reef include parrotfish, angelfish, damselfish, grey and yellowtail snapper, reef butterflyfish, and lion fish.
Inside the Clifton Heritage Park you’ll find the famed Jaws Beach, which was once used as a set for ‘Jaws the Revenge’ (1987), a movie that probably scared far too many people from stepping foot into the ocean. Thankfully, most of us have gotten over these Hollywood scars; and in good time to take advantage of beaches like Jaws beach, which encompasses natural reefs and man-made reefs. Here there are no great white sharks, and fish seem especially friendly. If you calmly float for a minute, you may soon find yourself surrounded by schools of different varieties. We’re sure though, that you’d much prefer to keep your goggles on and explore the undersea. Clifton Heritage Park is located off the western end of New Providence. Just off the coast, you can find a gigantic underwater sculpture (Ocean Atlas), which is said to be the world’s largest at 18 feet tall! It was created by artist Jason deCaires Taylor and is part of the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. You may however, need to upgrade from snorkeling to scuba diving to take full advantage of this underwater feature.
Need to know: Beaches at the Clifton Heritage Park were also sets for ‘Thunderball’ 1965 and ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983). Some props from these famous movies filmed in The Bahamas can still be found in this area, which will definitely make your exploration here something of an undersea treasure hunt!
Most of the locations below can only be accessed via boat, or through a paid tour:
Some of the more popular snorkeling locations in Nassau may come with a price tag. Specifically this means as part of a tour which takes you to just the right location. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however, as it could save you some time that you’d otherwise be using trying to figure things out on your own. Gambier Deep Reef is one of these locations, and it is located on the north western side of New Providence Island. This isn’t one of the beaches that you can cab or drive to – Gambier Deep is only accessible by boat. The stunning snorkeling location is about nine miles away from downtown Nassau. The reef itself descends about 80 feet down, which is an aspect that’s appealing to scuba divers. Those wanting to snorkel will be equally happy with the views around the upper area of the coral reef, and the wide variety of fish that can be spotted there.
Snorkeling, in its best sense, entails exploring the homes of marine life. Reefs are often busy and colorful, and can often seem like whole different worlds. This is what an experience at Goulding Cay Reef feels like… exploring something that is so foreign, that it is hard to believe it exists. Goulding Cay is located to the western end of New Providence, and the Cay itself can be found less than an hour away from downtown Nassau. This shallow reef is popular with both amateur and experienced snorkelers, and in the past, it has received numerous recognitions for being one of the best shallow water snorkeling locations in the world. The reef itself is made mostly of elkhorn coral, and all around it you’ll find fishes too numerous to count. The shallowness of this reef makes it suitable for all ages, and adds to the ease with which you can interact with the diverse marine life that can be found here.
Another reef which can be accessed only by boat while in Nassau is the Rose Island reef. Seasoned and newbie snorkelers agree that snorkeling in this spot, which is located just about three miles east of Paradise Island, is an experience that is not to be missed. In fact, many say snorkeling here is high on the global ranking, and not just that of the Caribbean. Top three for a reason; this reef is shallower than most, which makes it easy to navigate while exploring ocean life at its best. Not only will you find tropical fishes here, but two shipwrecks of notable snorkeling and scuba diving fame – The Mahoney and The Alcora. Rose Island is a relatively remote beach, so more likely than not, unless you embark on a tour, you’ll have the beach mostly to yourself.
Expert Tip: Make a party of it; take a catamaran tour over to Rose Island, and enjoy a day in the sun, inclusive of a snorkeling trip and lunch. If you’re staying at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, this tour can be organized by your local agent.
At 190 miles long, the Andros Barrier Reef is one of the most popular spots for diving in The Bahamas. It is highly rated for Nassau snorkeling, as it is the third largest reef complex in the world. It runs parallel to Andros Island, and is located to the West and South-West of New Providence Island. The Andros Barrier reef is only accessible by boat, so you’ll need to organize a tour in advance. The reef extends around 124 miles, and is subdivided into zones including the shallow lagoon (including mangrove areas), back reef, and inner fore reef. You can find over 150 species of fish at this location, including marlins, tarpons, sailfish, tunas, snappers, and plenty of species of coral. The Andros Barrier Reef also features the Tongue of the Ocean ‘drop-off’, an undersea cliff around 65 feet beneath the surface, that’s 6,000 feet deep over the edge. Travel time from Nassau to Andros takes about 2 hours by fast ferry, costing around $45 each way.
It’ll be hard to find a better spot for snorkeling in The Bahamas than the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. It is a top choice for visitors to the islands wishing to have an all-embracing snorkeling experience, which also includes other side attractions in a park spanning over 22 miles. At the 176-square-mile Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park you’ll find plenty of blue holes containing fresh water, caves of the land and marine varieties and numerous awe-inspiring undersea drop-offs. Located close to Sandals Emerald Bay resort, this celebrity inspiring location had been the backdrop for movies including James Bond’s ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’. Both were shot at the Thunderball Grotto marine cave, which is a must see if you decide to snorkel in this location. As far as snorkeling goes, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is top notch! Travel time from Nassau to Staniel Cay, in Exuma, takes about 2.5 hours by fast ferry, costing around $45 each way.
Some of the best snorkeling locations in the world are located in The Bahamas. Snorkeling experiences in Nassau vary depending on the location; in some places the focus is on underwater exploration of structures, like those off the coast of the Clifton Heritage Park. In other areas you can find diverse sea life, and an abundance of coral, particularly hard coral species. In some places, you may have to take a boat out for a better experience. Overall, in Nassau you’ll have excellent viewing in most places as the water is calm and clear on most days.
You can find plenty of good snorkeling opportunities in Nassau on beaches like Cable Beach and Cabbage Beach.
The best time to plan a snorkeling trip to The Bahamas is in the peak season to travel to this destination, which is from mid-December to mid-April, annually. However, due to the persistently sunny skies in The Bahamas, you can snorkel there pretty much anytime.
Sightings while snorkeling in The Bahamas depend upon where you go. You can see everything from parrot fish, goat fish, porcupine fish, sand divers, Bahamas grunts, and trumpet fish, to crabs, conch, lobster, barracudas, stingrays, whale sharks, and more. You may even spot various species of octopus, eels, soft and hard coral, and much more!
Bright and vivid, coral reefs can be spotted in oceans around the globe. They are very much alive, and made up of tiny animals called polyps. According to National Geographic, coral reefs are known are ‘mega builders’, as polyps connect to each other, which creates a colony that acts as a single organism. Reefs can grow hundreds of miles long. They are among the most diverse eco-systems on earth, and are vital for life as we know it. Corals are home to 25 percent of all marine creatures. Somewhere around 2 million species inhabit coral reefs. They serve as nurseries for small fish, protecting them as they grow. Some reefs are thousands of years old, and much like tree rings, corals can teach you a thing or two about the past, including what climate conditions might have been like in the ancient days. Translucent in nature, coral gets its color from algae. Reefs are particularly vulnerable, hence there are pervasive efforts to keep them safe and healthy, in places like The Bahamas and beyond.
Coral reefs are very fragile, so it is a good idea to avoid touching them. Take special care when swimming over coral reefs, which can be easily damaged. Do not take anything home with you as a souvenir. The only thing you should be taking home with you is the memory of your experience, so be sure to take lots of pictures!
As previously mentioned, reefs are fragile. Imagine the damage that can be done by anchoring your boat to one. Ensure that you don’t do this under any circumstances. Anchor in a safe spot, where you can easily swim to the reef.
Invest in one of these ahead of your snorkeling journey, so you can share the fun with friends and family once you return home.
There is such a thing as scuba and snorkeling friendly sunscreen. This kind of sunscreen won’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are harmful to reefs.
Leave everything as it was when you came, or in better condition. Don’t throw your rubbish into the sea, and if you can do so safely, collect pieces of litter, or old fishing lines to get them out of the way.
Snorkeling rates in Nassau vary depending on whether you use a tour company. Some people opt to bring their own equipment, and snorkel for free from the beach. If you decide to go with a tour company, snorkeling rates for adults start at $80 in some places. Children pay about half that price. The price also varies depending on whether or not you need to take a boat to get to your snorkeling location of choice. You can rent a wetsuit for about $12 at some locations.
Insider Tip: As part of your all-inclusive package, all the additional costs associated with your snorkeling excursion are free. If you stay at a Sandals resort in Nassau, Sandals Royal Bahamian is an amazing place to stay while in The Bahamas.
There are over 700 islands in The Bahamas, and that number increases significantly if you add cays, and other large rock formations to the equation. Most of the islands are located in close proximity to vibrant coral reefs. In The Bahamas you can find over 50 hard coral species, including finger, brain, star, staghorn, elkhorn, starlet corals, and more.
More than just being a home for various species of sea life, coral reefs offer benefits to human beings too; they help to protect coastlines from the damaging effects of waves. Without them, the entire eco-system would suffer. It is important to protect them, as doing so also protects our livelihood.
For The Bahamas in particular, coral reefs are a huge lure for visitors to the island. A highly tourism dependent region, visitor arrivals equate to big money in The Bahamas, and the reefs are an important part of that mix. As they are a habitat for sea life, they are literally undersea cities for most species on the food chain. Any disruption in that would not be beneficial to the ecosystem, or the Bahamian economy.
Whether you’re snorkeling as part of a family vacation, or a honeymoon escape with the one you love, you’re bound to find a great spot to enjoy in The Bahamas. The reefs here are among the most beautiful in the world, and continue to serve their greater purpose, in the most mesmerizing way.