Between its gently lapping waters, bathwater-warm temperatures and vibrant underwater life, Jamaica boasts some of the best snorkeling experiences in the Caribbean. There are over 450 sq. miles (1165 sq. km) of coral reefs fringing the island, most of which are in excellent condition. The best snorkeling spots in Jamaica are located on the northern and easter coasts, where you can access living reefs from the beach. All set on your underwater adventure? We’ve selected seven of the best places for snorkeling in Jamaica to save you some time.
The best places for snorkeling in Jamaica
Established in 1991, the Montego Bay Marine Park is Jamaica’s blockbuster snorkeling spot. The first protected marine park in Jamaica, strict environmental regulations protect the waters which means the underwater flora and fauna grow in abundance. The reserve stretches all the way from the airport to the Great River, so there are plenty of spots to choose from too. Doctor’s Cave Beach is easily accessible from the beach, though lots of people opt for a canoe tour through the mangroves to the outer reef for the chance to swim alongside the ‘big fish’ and turtles.
2. Oyster Bay
Over in Port Antonio in the Alligator Head Foundation Fish and Reef Sanctuary, the Oyster Bay offers eight miles (13km) of interconnected coral reefs. The waters are calm with little current and excellent visibility, so it’s perfect for beginner snorkelers too. Highlights include parrotfish, angelfish, Creole wrasse, and French grunt fish.
3. Runaway Bay
Situated on the north coast of the island, Runaway Bay is one of Jamaica’s most family-friendly snorkeling spots. It’s easy to access directly from the beach, with a reef just off the shore next to the Franklyn D Resort and Spa. Cardiff Hall Beach is another popular snorkeling spot along the bay, home to sea urchins, stingrays, creole wrasse, French grunt fish, parrotfish and angelfish. You might spot some barracudas, stingrays and lionfish tucked away by the corals too.
When you’ve tired of snorkeling, you can visit the Green Grotto Caves or the Bob Marley Museum, which is an easy stroll away from the bay.
The picture-perfect seaside town of Negril is home to a handful of snorkeling spots boasting staggering marine biodiversity. Seven Mile might be the area’s most popular beach, but for the best snorkeling head to Bloody Bay or Half Moon Beach. The coral reef, located around two miles off the coast, is easily accessible by boat. It’s ideal for beginners due to its shallow reefs and natural grottoes too. As well as hundreds of tropical fish, it’s a popular sport with stingrays, Hawksbill turtles and nurse sharks.
For something a little different, head out to the luminous lagoon for a nighttime snorkel. Located in Falmouth along stretches of marshlands, the lagoon is famous for the millions of dinoflagellates that live here. Invisible by day, at night the lagoon sparkles as the microscopic organisms shimmer under the water. As the lagoon lights up, you can see fish and other sea creatures darting beneath the surface too. It’s one of four such locations in the world, so definitely one for the bucket list.
6. Devil’s Reef
Devil’s Reef is part of the wider Ocho Rios Marine Park, which boasts some of the best snorkelling on the island. While the whole park promises breathtaking underwater adventures, Devil’s Reef is the best place to enjoy the park’s rich marine life. The reef system here is home to manta and eagle rays, scorpionfish, spadefish, snapper and trumpet fish. You might even spot a few nurse sharks too.
Ochos Rios is hardly a well-kept secret and it’s a popular jumping-off point for cruises. Make the trip early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
You’ll need to arrange a short tour or boat transfer to get here, but it’s worth the extra effort. Named after the flocks of Booby birds that live here, the island is as popular with photographers as it is with underwater enthusiasts. Home to long stretches of soft sand beaches, colourful and turquoise waters, it’s undeniably photogenic.
The surrounding reef is a little damaged due to hurricanes but there’s still plenty to sea, including starfish and octopuses. Stop for freshly-caught lobster and other seafood cooked right on the beach.