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Best Ports for Snorkeling?

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I have a feeling our Nov cruise will get canceled. My original fallback plan was to move to the Easter HotS to St Thomas and St Kitts. They have priced us out of that cruise. We have a Belize, Roatan, Cozumel, Costa Maya cruise in July. I know there is excellent snorkeling on that cruise. Below are some of the cruise options available that we may have to switch to. If any are better than others, I would love to hear. I have looked at videos to get an idea and have my opinions.


  1. Labadee/ABCs: I know Aruba and Bonaire have excellent snorkeling sites. This I think is my top choice but it is on Explorer of the Seas instead of an Oasis class.
  2. Labadee/Falmouth/Cozumel: Not my first choice but very doable. Snorkeling would only be in Cozumel which is still great, but not a lot of other options
  3. Puerta Plata/St Thomas/Tortola/Stirrup Cay: I think St Thomas offers the best opportunity. I am not sure about the others though. 
  4. Aruba/Curacao/Turks & Caicos: Aruba is great and the Baths at T&C. 
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On 7/11/2020 at 11:43 AM, bigrednole said:

 I think St Thomas offers the best opportunity.

We snorkeled in St. Thomas a few years back and were a bit let down. We went to Coki Beach as part of a ship’s snorkeling excursion. We had an enjoyable day, but the snorkeling was far from memorable. First, there were too many people in the water, and second, there wasn’t that much to see at that location (mostly sandy bottom, no reefs or fish). We spent most of our time just watching other snorkelers floating about. I know that there are better snorkeling sites in St. Thomas, which is why I wanted to bring our experience to your attention so that you can pick a bit more wisely than we did.


Of the itineraries listed, I’d go with #1. I think it will give you the best chance to maximize your snorkeling opportunities. 

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We are hardcore snorkeling fans and have done it off 20+ islands in the Caribbean, both when arriving by cruise ship and while staying on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Martin. Bonaire is far and away the best we've experienced, Klein Bonaire in particular. You can take a small ferry out there from the town. Spectacular coral and sea life! Be aware that there are some strong currents at times.


The well known spots on St Thomas are almost always crowded and certainly nothing special. You'd do better to take a private snorkeling excursion there (not a ship-sponsored excursion as it will be crowded and probably not visit any prime spots). There are many options for those, which you'll find with some research. Most are used to cruise ship passengers and schedules so no worry there.


Taking the ferry over to nearby St. John is a better option. Most people go to Trunk Bay but that too can be crowded and the coral has died off in the last few years, resulting in much less sea life. We prefer Cinnamon Bay on that side of the island, snorkel along the rocks on the right end of the beach. Not a huge area (although the beach is big and lovely) but plenty of see. Also, know that is there is an on-shore breeze on that side of St. John the water will be very murky and not worth the time and effort to get there.


Our best snorkeling ever in 20 years of visiting St. John was around Waterlemon (NOT Watermelon!) Cay, amazing coral and sea life, but it's really not practical to go there if you're off a cruise ship and only have one day, plus it is a long walk along the shore to get to the closest point to enter the water and swim out to the island. There can also be strong currents there to contend with.

You mentioned St. Kitts. Not know for it's snorkeling but we discovered on our last visit the the edge of the drop off out from the beach adjacent to the Shipwreck Bar - great place, by the way! - had some above average snorkeling in terms of sea life, although the coral was nothing special.

Hope this helps!


Gene & Kathy from Cape Cod

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21 hours ago, caribbean2000 said:

We prefer Cinnamon Bay on that side of the island, snorkel along the rocks on the right end of the beach. Not a huge area (although the beach is big and lovely) but plenty of see.

Thanks for the detailed response. You mentioned Cinnamon Bay. We stayed there in Boy Scouts back around 85 for a week. That was one heck of a trip. The snorkeling then was great.


Our whole decision process right now is cruise ship vs itinerary. I do want to snorkel at least once on our cruise. HotS priced us out, but the rest are still in our affordability range. I am leaning towards the first one, but it is on a smaller ship (Explorer of the Seas). The others are large ships. 

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No matter which islands you visit it always makes sense to do LOTS of research on the potential snorkeling. We've found that ship-sponsored snorkeling excursions are usually not that great; you almost always end up on a big boat with lots of people and go to places that often have many other boats and lots of people in the water. Private tours are your best option in most cases, or use a site like Trip Advisor to find spots on particular islands that you can go to yourself. It takes some tine and effort but the rewards can be fantastic. Contrary to popular belief, not all islands in the Caribbean have great snorkeling. Good luck!


Gene & Kathy from Cape Cod

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  • 2 months later...

We have yet to find a great snorkeling experience in the islands.  Maybe because we mostly use the ship excursions. We have ventured out on a private tour occasionally but still not happy.

Same with Hawaii. We love it there but not found a great coral reef area. 

The best snorkeling we have had so far was the Great Barrier Reef.  Our first experience was most underwhelming after spending a fortune on a tour. The second time we went to Australia was much better. We spent a couple of days in Cairns and took a local tour to Green Island for the day. It was a very fun day with snorkeling/boat ride/super lunch and watching  a playful Dolphin family. The coral was not plentiful but at least had some color which we have not found in the Caribbean so far.

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  • 2 months later...

Tortola had decent snorkeling. We went to Brewers Bay. Not crowded, relatively simple and basic and I would repeat it.  The bay is very shallow and the good snorkeling is along the left side, against the rock.


Of the other ports you have listed, Cozumel is fair, Aruba is amazing and Bonaire is on my bucket list for snorkel ports.  Turks and Caicos also has some decent snorkeling.

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  • 3 months later...

I would tell you to go to PADI and look up the scuba shops on each island. All those boats take snorkelers  too. And the vast majority of the time have a rinse off shower and cover from the sun.

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