Tropical coral reefs are among nature’s most diverse ecosystems, composed of thousands of species of fish, plants, corals, invertebrates, and microorganisms. Their natural beauty attracts thousands of tourists and divers each year. Snorkeling in the emerald waters off the coast of Jamaica to explore the beautiful living coral reefs and see the exotic fish that dwell therein is a popular activity in the Caribbean, let alone on the island itself and it’s something the entire family can enjoy together.
Though most coral reefs may require a boat to get to them all major tourist resorts in Jamaica, in areas such as Port Antonio, Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, and St. Elizabeth (to name a few) offer daily snorkeling trips. Usually all equipment, the boat experience and the crew and captain are included in the cost of a snorkelling trip. If you’re about to plan that next big vacation and you’re curious about the underwater aspect of Jamaica you’ll want to visit any (or all) of these 5 Hot Spots for Snorkeling in Jamaica!
Doctor’s Cave Beach, Montego Bay
If you’ve never explored the vibrant world just beneath the waves, this is where you’ll want to go first. Arguably some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean is offered in Montego Bay and Doctor’s Cave Beach features one of the most accessible spots. Get fitted with snorkeling gear by local tour guides and head out to explore the crystal clear waters where a warm mineral spring water meets the ocean, independently or with a guide. Expect to see huge, brightly colored fish that emerge dramatically from their hiding places amid ocean floor vegetation. The fish (being used to tourists) often linger to brush against you as you bask in their beauty. For the more daring, you can head across the channel to explore the Coyoba, Seaworld and Royal Reefs. Each of these reefs are full of wildlife, including barjacks, blue and brown chromis, yellow-headed wrasses, and spotlight parrotfish. Here, be sure to hire a guide as the water is farther from shore and a bit rougher.
Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth
The Lonely Planet Guide to Jamaica describes Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth as “…a gem for travelers in search of the off-beat. You won’t find a more authentically charming and relaxing place in Jamaica. Treasure Beach is the generic name given to four coves– Billy’s Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Calabash Bay, and Great Bay —that stretch for several miles…their rocky headlands separate romantically lonesome, dark coral-coloured sand beaches.” There are four public beaches well suited for swimming, snorkeling, and body-surfing. Snorkeling here offers a variety of colorful fish and coral reef to explore and if you’re lucky enough one might even happen to see dolphins splashing around along the waters of the coast! Also worth visiting is the picturesque Font Hill Beach Park, located just outside of Black River, St. Elizabeth. Here you’ll find a white sand beach and a lovely reef for snorkeling. The reef is located just off-shore.
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Negril, though famous for its seven-mile beach, and for sunsets viewed from the beach or the cliff area to the south is also a great spot for snorkeling. Various small outfits along the beach offer glass-bottom boat rides and/or snorkel trips to the nearby coral reef. Negril typically has calm seas even when the north coast is rough. If you’re not up for the boat tours you can also chose to snorkel right off the cliffs (this is recommended for older kids only). For a more specific, resort snorkeling experience in Negril The Rockhouse resort is ideal. Sitting on the rocky shores of Negril, each bungalow is just steps from the water that laps languidly at the base of the cliffs. Being here is like diving into your personal aquarium populated by species usually found only on offshore reefs.
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Christopher Columbus’s first glimpse of Jamaica was of the area around Runaway Bay in St. Ann. Located just west of the packed resort town of Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay is fast becoming another major Jamaican destination. Runaway Bay vacations are suitable for people who want to enjoy a quieter getaway mostly spent within the confines of an all-inclusive resort. The waters around Runaway Bay Jamaica are packed with tropical fish, coral reefs, and other interesting features. Because the reefs are close to shore, snorkeling here is excellent. Snorkeling here is the best way for the inexperienced to become acquainted with the superb Runaway Bay Jamaica marine environment.
San San Beach, Port Antonio
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Just a stones throw away from the world famous Blue Lagoon (which gets its startlingly blue color from its 200-foot depth), Port Antonio Jamaica was the island’s first vacation destination. Over the years, glamorous visitors like Errol Flynn have found respite in the coastal town. Today, a Port Antonio vacation is a chance to escape the resort towns of Montego Bay or Ocho Rios or the urban buzz of Kingston. The waters around Port Antonio Jamaica are good for snorkeling and surfing, though famed for their deep-sea fishing. San San Beach in Port Antonio is recommended for snorkelling with its shallow and protected waters that are frequented by an abundance of tropical fish. Perfect for swimming and snorkelling, the water is warm and shallow. There are some reefs a few yards from the shore that offer good snorkelling. Just across from the beach is the tiny but beautiful Pelew Island, also known as Princess Island which is also great for snorkelling or just lazing if you are up to the swim there.
This is just a small taste of the wondrous undersea adventures to be had in Jamaica, but you have to see it to believe it, so be sure to bring an underwater camera for memorable photos of ornate coral reefs and beautiful, exotic fish when planning your next trip!
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