Made up of two main islands and many small islets and reefs, Antigua and Barbuda has one of the richest marine ecosystems in the Lesser Antilles. The country provide dozens of good snorkeling spots, from coral reefs to shipwrecks, mangroves and sandbanks where stingray abound. In nearshore shallow waters of the islands, it is easy for both beginners and advanced snorkelers to discover and enjoy the Caribbean underwater life.
Measuring 13 miles at its widest point, Antigua is the largest island in the archipelago with the highest population by far. It is a favorite stopover for cruises in the Caribbean, and many tourists spend the day here, disembarking from the vast ships that tour the region.
Barbuda, just to the north of Antigua, has kept its strongly unspoiled nature. It is one of the last preserved islands in the Lesser Antilles, like a paradise untouched by mass tourism.
Antigua and Barbuda are both surrounded by coral barrier reefs and white and pink sand beaches. The coral reefs, the many shipwrecks, and the edges of the mangroves are all favorite destinations for snorkelers.
You can reach some spots directly from the coast, particularly in Dickenson Bay, Halfmoon Bay, Galley Bay, Long Bay, the Hawksbill Beaches, or Pigeon Point. But to discover the country’s best snorkeling spots, you will need to take a boat to one of the many reefs emerging from the coastal waters.
The Cades Bay Marine Park (probably the best snorkeling spot in Antigua), the Wreck of the Andes (a ship that sunk in 1905 and came to rest in Deep Bay) or the very popular Stingray City (where you can see and interact with stingrays that live on the sandbank), are among the best options.
In Antigua and Barbuda, you can observe the characteristic underwater life of the Caribbean: fields of sea fans, coral, colorful sponges, and a whole rainbow of fish: butterflyfish, surgeonfish, pufferfish, moray eels, and shoals of sergeant major.
Among the species that will leave you the most striking memories, you may come across some gentle green turtles, impressive barracudas, southern stingray, and nurse sharks.
If you are planning a snorkeling trip to Antigua and Barbuda or anywhere else in the Caribbean, we recommend the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling the islands.
When to go to Antigua and Barbuda?
The climate in Antigua and Barbuda is tropical and divided into two main seasons. The dry season (careme) lasts from December to April. Sunshine is excellent and rain is rare.
This is the best season for snorkeling in the archipelago, but it is also the period with the highest tourist numbers, including cruises. In the rainy season (winter period) from June to November, it rains almost every day, and humidity levels climb (maximum average of 88°F/31°C).
The water temperature, on average 80°F/28°C all through the year, is ideal for snorkeling. As in all the islands in the Lesser Antilles, the east coast (windward coast) is more exposed to rain and wind, while the west coast often has more clement weather.
August, September, and October are the hurricane season. Although there are few hurricanes, they may prevent you from taking to the water for days at a time.
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Unmissable on the shallow sandbank of Stingray City
Frequently sighted at Stingray City
Common on all spots
Common on all reef spots; often seen in large schools
Shallow sandbank with stingrays
Large sandy beach edged with shallow coral reefs
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