Saint-Martin is a small picturesque island in the north of the Caribbean, divided into a French part in the north and a Dutch part in the south. Its 67km of coastline and 35 beaches make it a popular destination for beach holidays. Saint-Martin offers snorkelers great opportunities to explore the underwater world. The coves, beaches and islets located off the main island are all spots to discover: in translucent water, you'll encounter colorful fish swimming around the reefs, and sometimes rays or turtles.
Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Saint Martin is a small West Indian island that is divided between a French part in the north and a Dutch part in the south. Despite its small size and only 67km of coastline, you’ll find there around fifteen very good snorkeling spots, both on the main island and on the surrounding islets.
The best snorkeling spots in Saint-Martin (French side)
There are many snorkeling spots that can be explored from the shore in the French part of the island.
Coconut Grove, in Baie de l’Embouchure (East Coast), is often considered the best of them. In this small bay with shallow and sheltered waters, you can observe many fish around preserved coral areas.
On the west coast, we particularly recommend Friar’s Bay and Happy Bay, near Grand Case. On these two spots, you can explore rather interesting seabeds, with a beautiful variety of marine species.
Grand Case is also the starting point for boat trips to Creole Rock, which emerges a few hundred meters from the coast. Its rocky drop-offs, licked by a sea of crystal, offer one of the most beautiful underwaterscape of the island.
However, for the best snorkeling in the French side, head for the islands and islets located in the Saint-Martin Nature Reserve, a 30 square-kilometers marine protected area protecting the northeast of the island.
You will find many guides to take you to spend the day – and snorkel – in Tintamarre, Ilet Pinel, Petite Clef, or Caye Verte. Green sea turtles, rays and a myriad of reef fish await you in these unspoiled areas.
The best snorkeling spots in Sint Maarten (Dutch side)
The Dutch part of Saint-Martin, which comprises the south of the island, also has sites where you can enjoy the pleasures of snorkeling. The best beaches for snorkeling are located west of Simpson Bay: Mullet Bay, but also Cupecoy Beach, are prime sites for a beach + snorkeling day.
In Simpson Bay, several shipwrecks can be explored from the shore. Kim Sha, on the eastern extension of Simpson Bay Beach, is also a good option for getting in the water. Dawn Beach, about 15 minutes drive from Philipsburg, is the only real snorkeling spot on the Dutch east coast.
The rocky coves of the south coast also hold some nice surprises. Do not miss Indigo Bay/Cay Bay, recognized as one of the most beautiful spots on the island. You will also find nice snorkeling in nearby Little Bay/Divi Bay, just 1km further east.
Also in Little Bay, Tiki Hut‘s floating platform allows discovering boat and helicopter wrecks, before enjoying the deck.
The underwater life of Saint-Martin is typically Caribbean. Along the coasts, corals (35 species have been identified around the island), sponges, and sea fans form more or less dense reefs, around which gravitate a great diversity of fish.
Some of the most common fish include the French angelfish, foureye butterflyfish, blue tang, bar jack and sergeant major, but hundreds of other species can be seen. You may for example have the chance to see in the corals and rocks moray eels, frogfish or scorpionfish.
For green turtles, stingrays, and spotted eagle rays, try your luck in the seagrass beds of the Saint-Martin Nature Reserve, particularly at Pinel, Petite Clef and Tintamarre Island.
You can snorkel all year round in Saint-Martin, where the temperatures in (around 80°F/26°C) and outside the water (80-86°F/28-30°C on average) are relatively constant. The period from December to June is considered the best season to visit the island, which then experiences sunny days and little wind. During the rainy season, from July to November, clouds and showers cool down hot and muggy weather almost daily.
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Frequently observed at Ilet Pinel, Petite Clef and Tintamarre
Frequently spotted in reef areas
Common at reef spots
Abundant in all snorkeling locations
Snorkel Park with coral reef and wrecks
Shallow wreck with a few colorful fish
Level: Free shore access
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