The best snorkeling spots in the Bahamas

Whether you like to snorkel freely from a beach or go by boat to more remote reefs, the Bahamas suits all tastes and ability levels of snorkelers. All beaches in the Bahamas are public, so there are no restricted areas.  When you go snorkeling by boat, you are less affected by tourism, so the waters around the Bahamas offers the best of both worlds.

During a snorkeling trip to the Bahamas, combining several islands is always a good idea, as each of them has its own atmosphere and singular snorkeling spots. Ready for a tour of the best spots in the archipelago? Let’s go!

Cabbage Beach and Cove Beach, Paradise Island
Cabbage Beach and Cove Beach, bordering the Atlantis Bahamas resort, has some of the best shore snorkeling near Nassau.

Snorkeling in Nassau, New Providence and Paradise Island

New Providence, on which Nassau is located, is often considered the gateway to the Bahamas. You can snorkel from several beaches of the island, such as Love Beach and Cable Beach.

From Snorkel Beach, in the Clifton Heritage National Park, you can discover the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden, an underwater gallery made up of various submerged sculptures. One of them, “Ocean Atlas”, is the largest underwater statue in the northern hemisphere.

Paradise Island, only half a mile north of Nassau and accessible by road, also offers several shore snorkeling options. Cabbage Beach, Cove Beach and Paradise Beach, all located on the northern coast of the island, are the most recommended.

From New Providence or Paradise Island, boat trips to the surrounding reefs are also offered. Day-trippers particularly enjoy the Rose Island Reefs, about 6 miles off Nassau, and Goulding Cay, just one mile west of Clifton Bay. On these two spots, the reefs are shallow, which allows snorkelers to fully enjoy the local sea life.

Virtuoso Man sculpture, New Providence
The Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden is a must do if you visit New Providence. In this picture, Virtuoso Man sculpture.

Snorkeling in Eleuthera

East of Nassau, Eleuthera, a long, skinny 105 mile-long island, is renowned for its pink sand beaches and wild landscapes. You can snorkel on almost all the beaches of this island snaking through both Atlantic and Caribbean waters, but some spots shouldn’t be missed.

Devil’s Backbone, a shallow reef on which several wrecks are found, Gauldings Cay, known for its soft corals, and Current Cut, where you can drift in a pass surrounded by tropical fish, are the most recommended.

For an even more original snorkeling experience, go explore the Ocean Hole, in Rock Sound. This seawater hole, connected to the ocean by underground caves, is literally filled with fish. Even if the underwater visibility is just average, you will be surrounded by large schools of grunts and huge gray angelfish.

Snorkelers in Princess Cay, Eleuthera
Snorkelers in Princess Cay, Eleuthera.

Snorkeling in Andros

Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, remains lush and sparsely inhabited. It is just a 2 hour ferry trip from Nassau. Andros is home to the world’s largest concentration of blue holes. Some of these surreal geological formations, filled with fresh or sea water, can be snorkeled with local guides.

For those who are more interested in the Ocean, Andros is a must-visit: running parallel to its east coast for more than 186 miles is one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. The reef’s most popular snorkeling spots, only reachable by boat, are Tiamo, China Point, Red Shoal, Trumpet Reef, Central Park and Liben’s Point. The latter two are renowned for their shallow Elkhorn coral, but hundreds of other sites can be explored.

Caribbean reef shark in Judy's reef
The Bahamas are a top destination to swim with sharks. Here, a Caribbean reef shark in Judy’s Reef, Exuma Islands.

Snorkeling the Abaco Islands

Landing in the Abaco Islands, you will immediately notice their unique atmosphere and temperament. The archipelago hosts the third-largest city in the country, Marsh Harbor (on Great Abaco), and there are other settlements that are scattered over dozens of islands and islets.

In Marsh Harbor, you’ll find good snorkeling at Mermaid Reef, accessible from the city’s northern shore. Elbow Cay, on the other side of the lagoon facing Marsh Harbor, is renowned for its stellar visibility and shallow reefs. The cay is just a 30-minute boat trip from Great Abaco. Sandy Cay, a little further north, is another famous day-trip snorkeling destination.

Snorkeler at Judy's Reef
Snorkeler at Judy’s Reef, Exuma Islands.

Snorkeling in Bimini

The Bimini Islands, located only 50 miles off the Miami coast, are the closest to Florida. Here, too, strips of sand, islets and reefs bathe in turquoise water heated by the Caribbean sun.

These stunning islands are home to some of the most beautiful snorkeling in the Bahamas. Reef-lovers will enjoy the many shallow reefs scattered throughout the archipelago, the best known being Rainbow Reef, made up of hard corals, gorgonians and sponges.

However, two other locations offer even more singular experiences: the Wreck of the Sapona, a steamer that was once a floating warehouse for illegal liquor during Prohibition, and the fascinating Bimini Road, aka Atlantis Road. There, you will explore a cluster of large flat stones submerged in some 6m/20ft of water. The legend says that these rocks were part of a road system that once traversed the lost continent of Atlantis.

Pig at Pig Beach, Staniel Cay
Swimming pigs are the main attraction of Pig Beach, in Staniel Cay.

Snorkeling the Exuma Islands

The Exumas are an archipelago made up of 360 cays featuring white-sand beaches and clear turquoise waters, which can be reached from Nassau by plane or ferry. It boasts some of the most iconic snorkeling spots in the Bahamas.

If you visit George Town, the capital of the Exumas, go explore the seabed of Stocking Island. On this island located less than a mile from the city, you can explore the reefs bordering Stocking Island Beach, or admire the cushion sea stars living in shallow Starfish Beach.

Snorkeling and movies enthusiast? Head to Staniel Cay, 1about 62 miles further north. This is where Thunderball Grotto, a submerged cave famous for its appearance in a James Bond movie, is located. In its shaded water be on the lookout for tropical fish and stingrays. Next door, Not The Grotto is also a good snorkeling location.

Pig Beach, where pigs will swim with you in the water, is the other attraction of Staniel Cay. Continuing north, you arrive at Compass Cay, where dozens of nurse sharks await you in the turquoise waters of the marina.

Coral reef at Guana Cay, Bahamas
The Bahamas hosts vibrant coral reefs, like in Guana Cay.

Snorkeling in Southern Bahamas

There are opportunities for shore snorkeling in almost all of the southern Bahamas. San Salvador Island, in particular, is almost surrounded by coral reefs. Near Cockburn, top sites include Bamboo Point, Fernandez Bay and Long Bay. Around the southern tip of the island, Grotto Bay and especially Sandy Point boasts great snorkeling.

While planning your trip to the Bahamas, you will probably have heard of the Dean’s Blue Hole. This blue hole over 218 yards deep is located on the northern coast of Long Island. You will see little underwater life there, but snorkeling above its dark, bottomless waters is a surreal experience.

The southern shore of Long Island also teems with coral reefs, which can be snorkeled from the beach in many places.

Nurse sharks in Compass Cay
The famous nurse sharks of Compass Cay.

What will I see while snorkeling in the Bahamas?

The varied marine ecosystems of the Bahamas provide the backdrop for hundreds of species.

Marine life enthusiasts will agree that the Bahamas are one of the world’s best places to spot sharks. More than 10 species live in the archipelago, including the iconic tiger shark and hammerhead shark, which divers from all over the world come to encounter on the island’s deep sandbanks. Nevertheless, most of the sharks spotted at snorkeling depths are nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and lemon sharks.

Southern stingrays are very common in the Bahamas, and are fed and tamed in some locations. Spotted eagle rays, green sea turtles, and hawksbill sea turtles are rarer, but occasionally make an appearance around the reefs.

The reef ecosystem of the Bahamas, which is home to the third-largest coral reefs on the planet, is vibrant. Hard corals, soft corals and gorgonians abound on the healthiest reefs, attracting around them a whole host of underwater life. 

Angelfish, butterflyfish, triggerfish, grunts and parrotfish are particularly easy to see in the shallows, but many other species can be encountered.

When to go snorkeling in the Bahamas?

Due to the year-round warm temperatures and favorable conditions, snorkeling in the Bahamas is possible all the time. The islands enjoy a very pleasant tropical climate, tempered by the trade winds.

The winter is dry and sunny, with maximum underwater visibility but relatively cool temperatures (73-82 F/23-28 C on land, 75 F/24 C on average in the water). During the summer months, temperatures rise (93 F/34 C degrees on the beach, 84 F/29 C in the water) but rains shower the islands from time to time.

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