Boca Catalina have everything snorkelers could wish for: a pristine sea, nice shallow coral reefs with an amazing variety of fish, and the possibility to see green sea turtles in the deeper seagrass areas. Located on the northwestern tip of Aruba, this snorkeling spot, accessible from a secluded white-sanded beach or by boat tour, is definitely one of the best on the island.

How to get there?

Boca Catalina is located on the northwestern tip of Aruba, on the way to the California Lighthouse. From Oranjestad and the high-rise resorts in Palm Beach, drive to the north side of the island. Driving time is approx. 20 minutes from the capital, and 5 to 10 minutes from Palm Beach. Both beaches (Boca Catalina and Catalina Cove, a second entry point) are marked with signs on the left side of the road, and have a parking area. Boca Catalina is also serviced by bus from Oranjestad. See Arubus website for details. If you prefer to go there by boat, most of boat tours departing daily from Eagle Beach and Palm Beach include a snorkeling stop on Boca Catalina’s reef.

Boca Catalina snorkeling map, Aruba

Water entrance

This portion of the Aruba’s shoreline is mostly rocky, but Boca Catalina Beach provide a safe access to the water, via a sandy breach in the rocks. Enter the water here, and swim away from the shore.

Exploration

When snorkeling Boca Catalina, we advise you to focus on these three areas:

  • The seagrass beds located in front of Boca Catalina Beach, approximately 100m from the shore (↕12-20ft/4-6m). Green sea turtles like to feed and rest on the grassy seabed, making Boca Catalina one of the best site to spot sea turtles in Aruba. Go in the morning if you want to have the best chance to see them, as they tend to swim away when many snorkelers are in the water.

Snorkeling with sea turtles at Boca Catalina, Aruba

  • The area bordering the rocky point marking the north end of the beach (↕3-7ft/1-2m). Here, the seabed is mostly rocky, and quite a few coral and sponges have colonized it. You might see dozens of fish species in this shallow area, particularly boxfish, needlefish, wrasse, butterflyfish and shoals of hundreds of juvenile sea grunt, but visibility can vary.
  • The coral patches (↕10-12ft/3-4m), located some 100m offshore the rocky point. Here you will find the best coral, gorgonian and sea fan in Boca Catalina. Barracudas, schools of French grunt, French angelfish, bluefin trevally and Bermuda chub are common around the reefs.

French angelfish in Boca Catalina - Aruba snorkeling

Most of the snorkeling in Boca Catalina is beyond the buoy line, out of the swimming area. Beware of the many tour boats entering in the area. Sea conditions are usually perfect on this spot, but don’t leave the swimming area if you don’t feel comfortable with snorkeling, or if usual light currents get stronger.

When in Boca Catalina, you may also want to snorkel Malmok Beach and Arashi Beach, which are all located a few hundred yards away.

Boca Catalina beach, Aruba

Restaurants and accommodation

There are no restaurants or snack nearby, so bring you own drinks and food with you. There are free public beaches hut on the beach, making it a perfect spot for a picnic. Come early if you want to have a chance to get one. The high-rise resorts area, only a 5-10 minutes’ drive from Boca Catalina, is full of restaurants, fast-food and shops.

  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m on seagrass beds
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersDive boats crossing in the area
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsFree from the shore, or snorkeling tour price (from $60pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

Sea turtle watching in Boca Catalina

snorkeling-turtle

Sea turtles are a very familiar sight in Boca Catalina. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:

  1. Do not attempt to touch or ride sea turtles
  2. Stay at a distance (6 to 10ft) from sea turtles
  3. Do not chase a turtle swimming away
  4. Avoid sudden movement and allow sea turtles plenty of space when they come up to the surface to breathe

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.