Between the two main islands and dozens of islets, Antigua and Barbuda is teeming with marine life. There are hundreds of noteworthy snorkeling spots, from shipwrecks to sandbanks, and you don’t need to be a confident snorkeler to enjoy the best of them either. So slap on your sunscreen, slide on your snorkel mask and check out some of the best places for snorkeling in Antigua.
The best places for snorkeling in Antigua
1. Cades Reef
Measuring close to two miles long, the protected Cades Bay Marine Park is one of the most exciting snorkeling spots in Antigua. Located offshore, southwest of the main island, you’ll need to hop on a boat ride to get here but it’s worth the extra effort. Most people opt for a half-day or full0day snorkeling tour aboard a catamaran, scooter or kayak for the full snorkel safari experience. These can easily be booked at the Jolly Harbour.
The reef is brimming with tropical schools of fish, as well as lobsters, sea fans, hard and soft corals, moray eels and nurse sharks.
2. Paradise Reef
Located on the northwest coast of Antigua, north of Dickenson Bay (10 minutes from St. John) is one of the island’s best beaches. When you’ve tired of stretching out in the sun, rent a kayak or paddleboard and head out to Paradise Reef near a cluster of uninhabited islands offshore. The coral reefs are brimming with schools of creole wrasse, Bermuda chubs, yellowtail snappers and needlefish, as well as elkhorn and anemones. Back on dry land, there’s a handful of beach bars and shops renting out snorkel equipment too.
The clue is really in the name. If stroking stingrays is your thing, hotfoot to this private island where you can expect to bump into at least a dozen. It’s perfect for beginner snorkelers since the water is only waist high and a floating wooden platform with stairs leads you into the water gently too. The stingray here are used to humans and will likely try to swim into your arms in search of food.
You’ll need to book a tour to visit Stingray City since the island is owned by a tour operator of the same name. Trips costs around $50 per person for one hour on-site with the stingrays.
4. English Harbor Wreck
Sitting just under 10 metres from Galleon Beach’s lapping shores, you’ll find one of the best shipwrecks on the island. No one knows much about the former lifeboat, but you can easily spot it thanks to the three buoys marking the spot. Dozens of queen angelfish, peacock flounders and grunts have made the former lifeboat their home.
There are several other shipwrecks along Galleon Beach, all of them sitting in reasonably shallow waters. It’s also a popular spot for sea turtles. When you’ve tired of underwater adventures, it’s worth taking a stroll along the Jones Valley Trail and Carpenters Rock Trail from Nelson’s Dockyard National Park too.
5. Galley Bay
Located on the west coast of the island, Galley Bay is one of the few snorkeling spots you can reach directly from the beach. The beach is bookended by two small coral reefs brimming with tropical fish and kaleidoscopic corals. While you can snorkel the length of the beach, the best spots for snorkeling are at either end of the beach.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to avoid the western reef. There’s stronger wave activity here as the conditions are more exposed. The eastern reef is generally calm with excellent visibility.
6. Long Bay Island
Home to the Pineapple Beach Club resort on the east of the island, Long Bay Island boasts brilliant snorkeling all year round. It’s accessible from the beach too, simply swim out pasts the motorboats. As well as dozens of colourful corals, you’ll find a staggering variety of sponges, including rope sponges and vase sponges. Other highlights include enormous schools of eelgrass, parrotfish, moray eels, purple surgeonfish and French grunts.
7. Halfmoon Bay
If you’re looking to avoid fellow tourists, this off-the-beaten-track beach is the perfect snorkeling spot. It’s also one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Waters are rougher here so it’s not suitable for beginner swimmers, but there are calmer spots along the bay if the weather is right. It’s another of the few spots offering direct access from the beach. Expect to bump into barracuda, cuttlefish and pufferfish, as well as lots of lovely colourful corals.
The northeastern end of the crescent is popular with surfers and wakeboarders, while the northeastern side is more popular with snorkelers. It’s a real trek to get there but well worth the effort, even if just to see one of the island’s superstar beaches. There is a small ball called Tibby’s selling snacks and renting out beach chairs but it’s worth bringing extra food and drink too.