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Cayo Levantado is a small island southeast of the Samaná Peninsula. The resort owning the island has one main private beach on the southern coast of the island, while the western coast is a large public access area with two beaches. Cayo Levantado offers easy snorkeling, with decent marine diversity. When snorkeling around the island, you may spot angelfish, butterflyfish, moray eels and flounders, among dozens of other Caribbean fish species.

View of Cayo Levantado
Probably the most popular snorkel point around Cayo Levantado is between the small island, slightly offshore, and the main beach in the resort. The small island is viewed here from the top of the lift.

How to go snorkeling Cayo Levantado?

Cayo Levantado is a small coral cay located 4 miles off Santa Bárbara de Samaná. There are two main options for getting there:

  • Take a boat trip, which will drop you off for a few hours (sometimes more) on the island’s public beach. A large choice of tours is available, departing from Santa Bárbara de Samaná, but also from Punta Cana. Other stops or activities may be included, in addition to the beach & snorkeling time in Cayo Levantado. Prices and standards are variable, inquire when you book.
  • Book a stay at the Bahia Principe Luxury Cayo Levantado, the resort of the island. By staying on-site, you’ll be allowed to snorkel the public access area (zones 1 to 3 on the map), but also to the hotel’s private beach (zone 4 on the map). The resort can also take you by boat to snorkel around Cayo La Farola, just north of Cayo Levantado (zone 5 on the map, at a price).

Cayo Levantado snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Cayo Levantado

To snorkel in the public access area, you can enter the water from the beach. For zones 1 and 2, the water entrance, from the main public beach, is pretty safe. Area 3 is slightly more difficult to enter. This beach is periodically subject to a lot of swell, and vessels pass relatively close to shore.

To snorkel area 4, accessible to the resort’s guests only, enter the water from the resort’s private beach. Area 5 is only accessible by boat (to be organized with the resort).

Cayo Levantado snorkeling exploration tips

Off the public beach, the sand slopes very gently, onto a mixed rocky, coral debris, sand, and seagrass area. It is subject to some tidal current effects, so try not to allow yourself to drift too far to the east (right facing the sea).

The whole of the shore can be snorkeled over from area 1 to area 2, but much of this area is sand with patches of seagrass. Area 2 comprises sparse cobbles inshore, gradually becoming consolidated rock further offshore.

These support a variety of reef-related fish species, with small shoals evident. The seabed between areas 2 and 3 ranges from flat rock to open sand and seagrass areas, with occasional rock gullies closer inshore. Some unusual seagrass seams exist within the rock.

High hat
The high-hat is frequently noted under rocky overhangs, particularly in snorkeling areas 3 and 4.

From the resort’s private beach, the seabed slopes gently but the area is periodically subject to swell, as well as small vessels (in-advisedly) passing between the island and the roped-off swimming area.

The seabed is comprised of sands, dense seagrass, with an outcrop of rocks in the center of the bay. The rock outcrop is surrounded by mixed sand, cobbles and echinoderm bored rock with some coral.

The final location included here (area 5 on the map) is only accessible by boat, which will take you first to an offshore wreck, with plenty of shoaling species, then on to the sheltered edge of the nature reserve on Cayo Farola. Several interesting seafans and corals here, although silt levels are quite high.

Goldentail moray
A moray eel, encountered in the interface between sand and rock in snorkeling area 2.

More than 100 marine species have been recorded around Cayo Levantado. French grunt, blue tang, and doctorfish tang are among the most abundant.

In the rocky areas, look for the small moray eels finding shelter in the holes and crevices. With a little luck, you may also spot French angelfish, high-hat, cushion sea star and peacock flounder in the area.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

The Bahia Principe Luxury Cayo Levantado is the only resort available on the island. Some snacks and restaurants are set around the public beaches.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth12ft/4m in designated snorkeling areas
  • Water entranceFrom sandy beaches
  • Potential DangersCurrents, swell, boats
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsCost of a snorkeling tour or stay on the island
  • Restaurants nearbyYes, both on the public beaches and the resort

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.