Selecting the very best Caribbean snorkeling vacation destinations is not such an easy task. The region spans thousands of square miles, and contains many hundreds of beautiful islands ringed by coral reefs.
Our choices presented below were based (among other considerations) upon a desire to reflect the geographic diversity of island environments found in the region.
Islands in the northernmost parts of the Greater Caribbean region (e.g., The Bahamas) differ in many ways (geology, topography, marine lfe, culture, etc.) from those in the southernmost (e.g., Aruba) or eastern (e.g., Belize) Caribbean.
Additionally, each of the following main criteria had to be (in our judgement) "good to outstanding" for a destination to be included on our list:
(1) Quality and accessibility of snorkeling sites: Overall "health" of the marine environment, underwater visibility, and diversity of shallow, readily accessible reefs.
(2) Quality Island Amenities: Most Caribbean snorkelers also want to experience the other many charms of island life - eye-popping beaches, local hospitality, island dining, night life, and other such pleasures.
(3) Quality and Variety of Accommodations: Hotels and other housing options available across a spectrum of pricing levels
(4) Easy Air Access: Commercial flights on regularly scheduled airlines available with no more than 2 changeover flights
Five Best Caribbean Snorkeling Destinations
All things considered, and based largely upon the factors described briefly above, our picks (in alphabitical order) for the top island vacation snorkeling destinations are:
We have devoted a separate page (or in some cases several pages) of our website to each of these Caribbean island nation destinations.
What And Where Is "The Caribbean"?
The term "Caribbean" is commonly used rather loosely, and is often used to refer to the entire tropical Western Atlantic region (or "Greater Caribbean"), or alternatively to the Caribbean Sea proper.
This Greater Caribbean region spans the Caribbean Sea proper along with The Bahamas, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, and south Florida to the north, and the northeastern coast of South America to the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers south of the Caribbean Sea.
The Caribbean Sea proper is the central portion of the biogeographic region of coral reef development known as the Greater Caribbean. It is blessed with the warmest average water temperature and greatest coral reef biodiversity of the entire Tropical Western Atlantic region. The Caribbean Sea is bounded to the north by The Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispanola, and Puerto Rico), and so does not include the waters and reefs of South Florida, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, or Bermuda.
Our website (unless otherwise noted) uses the term "Caribbean" in the sense of the "Greater Caribbean" as described above.
The Caribbean Snorkeling Environment: An Overview
Most Caribbean snorkeling (by far) takes place within coral reef environments, and with good reason.
Coral reefs are by far the most interesting and colorful underwater environments for snorkelers to explore and observe a great variety of marine life "up close and personal".
Less experienced snorkelers often prefer (and should begin) their reef explorations on shallow reefs found within a protected lagoon (pictured left).
As beginners gain experience and confidence, they often wish to move further offshore to the shallower portion of the upper reef face. This is where the greatest variety of corals and reef fishes may be observed in waters less than 30 ft. in depth. With practice, free diving 20-30 ft. is well within the abilities of most snorkelers.
Visit our other website (Coral Reef Facts) to learn more about Caribbean coral reefs.