St Barthélemy, often nicknamed St Barts by English speakers, is by no means a top snorkeling destination in the Caribbean, but if you spend some days on the island, you’ll have fun discovering its underwater world. A dozen of decent to good snorkeling spots are found off the beaches of the islands, most of them protected by an extensive marine reserve. Green sea turtles, southern stingrays, moray eels and Caribbean reef fish are all common in the shallow waters and coral reefs around the most unusual of the French West Indies island.
St Barthélemy is a French territory laying southeast of St Martin and Anguilla, north of the Lesser Antilles. It is a small archipelago comprised of only 10 square miles of main island and about 25 smaller islands, islets and rocks.
If you stay in Gustavia, St Barts main city, you’ll find decent snorkeling in popular Shell Beach, just a few hundred meters from the marina. One mile north to Gustavia is Corossol, another nice beach with fair snorkeling around the rocks enclosing the small bay.
Gouverneur Beach, a two mile ride from the city, and located near the southernmost tip of the island, is also a fine option if you are looking for a snorkeling spot in Gustavia area.
To find more exciting snorkeling, head to St Barthélemy Natural Reserve, a protected area covering 1200 hectares of marine environments in 5 sectors of the territory, established in 1996. Colombier Beach, at the northwestern tip of the island, is one of St Barts most popular snorkeling spots.
Only reachable by boat or by a 20-minutes’ walk from Flamands Beach, Anse de Colombier is a great place to spot green sea turtles grazing in the bay’s seagrass meadows. Stingray, shark sucker and barracuda are also easy to spot there.
Grand-Cul-de-Sac area, on the eastern coast of St Barthélemy, is also a great option for snorkeling in the reserve. This large bay comprises four smaller coves: Anse de Petit-Cul-de-Sac (considered the best snorkeling spot here), but also Anse de Grand Cul-de-Sac, Anse Marigot and Anse Maréchal. These sites give the opportunity to spot green sea turtles, but also a nice variety of fish and corals in the reef areas.
Snorkeling tours can be organized in Grand-Cul-de-Sac bay, and allow snorkelers to reach the best reef areas, which are located a distance from the shore. Outside the marine reserve, Lorient, on the island’s north coast, is a renowned snorkeling spot, but be very careful there, as in this bay you will encounter lots of waves.
The islets surrounding St Barthelemy’s main island are also great places for exploring the underwater world. Fourchue Island, a 5 miles boat ride from Gustavia marina, is part of the marine reserve and boasts great snorkeling. There, you’ll swim with sea turtles and a whole host of tropical fish in a sheltered rocky bay. You can reach the island with boat tours or with your own boat (managed mooring area).
If you are planning a snorkeling trip to St Barts 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 island.
St Barts is a year-round snorkeling destination, where temperatures outside (around 80-86°F/28-30°C in average) and in the water (around 80°F/26°C) don’t vary much.
December through June is considered the best time to snorkel in St Barthélemy, with a sunny climate and low winds. During the rainy season, from July to November, clouds and rains frequently refresh the warm weather.
Avoid the months of September, October, and November, the storm-prone period, when most hotels and restaurants close. December is considered as the peak season in St Barts and requires bookings at least six months in advance.
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Easy to spot at Colombier Beach, Ile Fourchue and Grand Cul de Sac
Common in Anse de Colombier seagrass beds
On all reef spots
Frequent in Anse de Colombier
Unmissable at Anse de Colombier
Sheltered cove with sea turtles and coral reefs
Free shore access
Marine reserve with seagrass beds, sea turtles and stingrays
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