With 700 islands and thousands of cays, the Bahamas are a unique playground for snorkeling enthusiasts. The largest archipelago in the Caribbean, a step away from Miami, hosts a wide array of snorkeling spots including coral-covered wrecks, colorful reefs, sandbars teeming with nurse sharks and stingrays, mangroves, and innumerable blue holes. Grab your mask and fins and check out some of the best snorkeling in the Bahamas!
Whether you like to snorkel freely from a beach (all beaches in the Bahamas are public) or go by boat to more remote reefs which are not shore-based thus less affected by tourism, the Bahamas suits all tastes and abilities of snorkelers.
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!
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 500m 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 ten kilometers off Nassau, and Goulding Cay, 2km west of Clifton Bay. On these two spots, the reefs are shallow, which allows snorkelers to fully enjoy the local sea life.
Snorkeling in Eleuthera
East of Nassau, Eleuthera, a long, skinny 170km-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 average, you will be surrounded by large schools of grunts and huge gray angelfish.
Snorkeling in Andros
Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, remains lush and sparsely inhabited. It is just a 2 hours fast 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 300km 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 being renowned for their shallow elkhorn coral), but hundreds of other sites can be explored.
Snorkeling the Abaco Islands
Landing in the Abaco Islands, you will immediately notice their unique atmosphere and temperament. If the archipelago hosts the third-largest city in the country, Marsh Harbor (on Great Abaco), the other settlements 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 Harbour, is renowned for its stellar visibility and shallow reefs. The cay is just a 30-minutes boat trip from Great Abaco. Sandy Cay, a little further north, is another famous day-trip snorkeling destination.
Snorkeling in Bimini
The Bimini Islands, located only 80km off 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.
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 1.6 km from the city, you can discover 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, 100km further north. This is where Thunderball Grotto, a submerged cave famous for its appearance in 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.
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 have probably heard of the Dean’s Blue Hole. This blue hole over 200m 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.
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, fed and tamed in some locations. Spotted eagle rays, green sea turtles, and hawksbill sea turtles are rarer, but appearances are occasional 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.
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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Common at reefs
Very common in some locations, for example at Compass Cay
Easy to spot in most of locations
Occasional at reef
Seen in large schools in most reef locations
Common at reef
Coral reef with sea fans and colorful fish
Shallow wreck with reef fish
Coral reef with a diversity of colorful fish
Small cay edged by a coral reef
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