If you’re looking for the best snorkeling in Antigua, look no further. In this post, I will tell you all the best places on the island, including practical information on how to get there and what are the best tours to join, when it’s necessary.
Also called the island of 365 beautiful beaches, Antigua is one of the most popular destinations of the Caribbean islands for many reasons.
It is indeed surrounded by many incredible white sand beaches and some of them are great for snorkeling from off the shore. Other amazing snorkeling spots in Antigua require joining a boat tour or kayaking. But worry not. I’ve got you covered with this complete list of the top snorkeling spots on the island.
Before that though, I would like to share some useful information about the island.
Snorkeling in Antigua: An Overview
Antigua is a small Caribbean Island in the Lesser Antilles that boasts an incredible variety of landscapes and climates, despite its tiny size. You may find that it’s raining on the West Coast and sunny on the East or vice-versa.
But, also, it is possible that if you wake up to pouring rain, it may clear up by the time you finish your breakfast. So never change your plans according to the weather. It will always be an amazing experience even if you get some of what locals call “liquid sunshine”!
Antigua is a popular destination for honeymooners because of its romantic views but I do believe anyone will enjoy its beauty, starting from the spectacular Antigua beaches, to breathtaking sunsets and all the incredible activities you can enjoy in Antigua, the great cuisine, and much more!
The best way to explore the island is by renting a car, and that’s why I wanted to share my tips on driving in Antigua. I had the privilege to live on the island for more than a year and drove all over the place. I am sure you will find my tips useful.
Also, before organizing your trip to Antigua please check out my fun facts about Antigua and Barbuda, so you will know what to expect.
And if you are undecided on where to stay, read my reviews of the top All-inclusive hotels in Antigua and Airbnb, in case you love to stay in your own place and live like a local. I have checked out every single hotel on the island because it was my job at the time.
Now that we have covered all my housekeeping duties here, let’s dive into the places where to find the best snorkeling spots in Antigua.
The best snorkeling spots in Antigua from the shore
1. Dickenson Bay
Dickenson Bay is located only a 10-minute drive from St. John, Antigua’s capital city, which is actually a small town. It’s a very popular beach with crystal clear waters that you really must visit, although there is not much to see underwater close to the shore.
To reach the best snorkeling spot in the area, you should rent a kayak or a paddleboard and get to Paradise Reef by a group of uninhabited islands offshore. If you are alone I would avoid going out that far by yourself. Instead, I would look for boat tours or hire a guide.
On Paradise Reef, you will be able to find some pretty cool marine life around the coral reefs, including elkhorn coral, yellowtail snappers, anemones, and needlefish.
On Dickenson Bay, besides the enormous All-inclusive Resort Sandals Grand Antigua, you will also find some nice beach bars and places where you can rent your equipment or find tours.
| Also read: The best snorkeling in the Caribbean
2. Snorkeling in Deep Bay
Located only a 20-minute drive from the city of St. John’s, on Antigua’s west coast, Deep Bay is a tranquil bay for swimming and relaxing in its calm waters, but also for great snorkeling.
In fact, not far from the shore you can snorkel by the wreck of the Andes, The Andes is a three-masted sailing boat built in 1874 and sunk in 1905 in 35 feet of water.
You will have the opportunity to see a variety of fish among other sea creatures such as crabs and lobsters.
Deep Bay used to be one of my favorite places to go because it was quite secluded and tranquil. There was an abandoned hotel that have been recently acquired and turned around. It’s now a spectacular new luxury hotel, the Royalton Antigua All-Inclusive Resort.
3. Long Bay Beach
Long bay beach is one of the best snorkeling beaches in Antigua. It’s home to the luxury all-inclusive resort Pineapple Beach Club, an ex-family resort that has been recently renovated and turned into an exclusive Adult-only property (you should check it out if you travel with your partner).
The right side of the beach is open to the public. All the beach is actually open because in Antigua the beaches are public, but let’s say that on the right side is mainly where people usually go.
And right on that side, you can find amazing snorkeling from very close to the beach, if you continue swimming by the rocks that mark the limit of the bay.
By the shallow reef of Long Bay beach, you will find a rich sea life there, from small colorful coral fishes, different kinds of sponges, and eelgrass, moray eels, parrotfishes, and schools of pale purple surgeonfish and you may even spot green see turtles.
4. Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is one of my favorite beaches in Antigua where I used to escape on my day off to relax and enjoy some sunbathing. If you want to snorkel around the bay, though be careful to the currents.
I would stay by the rocks on the left side, before the turn. Also around the bay, not far from shore, you may find some other great spots with coral reefs surrounded by lovely water creatures, mainly barracuda, cuttlefish, and pufferfishes.
If you go on the weekend the beach gets pretty busy but not crowded. On weekdays you may be able to be on your own, but, be careful in the water and check the weather before going. There may be dangerous currents that you cannot see from the shore, especially if you are not an expert swimmer. It is best practice not to snorkel alone, though.
5. Galleon Beach
Galleon Beach is a secluded beach in the elegant area of English Harbor, you can have access either by car or by water taxi from Nelson Dockyard.
The beach is amazing and very intimate with soft sand covering a protected bay beautiful for swimming.
You can also take a small hike at the far end of the beach following a rocky trail up to the ruins of Fort Charlotte, with great views of English Harbour.
Right past those rocks, you can find great snorkeling in shallow water, especially around a small shipwreck home to large tangs, schools of yellowtail snapper, angelfishes, and barracuda, and the funny peacock flounders, staring at you while laying flat on the sand.
While visiting Galleon Beach you can also plan a day in the English Harbour and enjoy the beautiful elegant area, the ancient building of the old British Harbour, and the delicious restaurants.
The best snorkeling spots in Antigua reachable by boat
6. Cades reef
Located within Cades Bay Marine Park, Cade’s Reef is a two-mile-long barrier reef located approximately 20 minutes by boat from the island’s south coast, opposite the luxury All-inclusive hotel Curtain Bluff.
It’s considered one of the best places for snorkeling in Antigua and even though the coral reefs are not as spectacular as you may expect it’s still a good snorkeling tour in the clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea.
In fact, you may be able to see a wealth of marine life including moray eels, nurse sharks, lobsters, barracudas, eagle rays, and sea fans among others.
Many organized tours will include a stop by the barrier and here I am sharing the most popular ones.
7. North Sound of Antigua (including Hell’s Gate and Great Bird Island)
North Sound of Antigua is an area north of the island of Antigua that comprises 22 uninhabited pristine islands surrounded by an incredible natural environment.
It’s a protected area and the best way to explore is with Eli’s Original Eco Tour, one of the most popular and authentic tours of the island.
I took this tour and the Xtream, and they are my favorite boat trips in Antigua, with a small group of people, great staff, and amazing itineraries.
It’s a boat ride in a family environment. The captain and crew will make you feel at home and will share their knowledge of the area while taking you to the best spots.
The itinerary includes a stop at the turtle project at Jumby Bay, the reef ball system at Maiden Island, the beautiful and important Mangrove system of Guiana Island, and a small hike on Great Bird Island where you may find the only snake species on the island, the innocuous runner snake. ( I didn’t see it)
You will also visit Hell’s Gate Island for another snorkeling stop (2 in total within this tour) where you will climb through a small cave-like structure that goes through the island & comes out over a natural bridge on top.
From the bridge, you will enjoy an amazing view over the Atlantic Ocean where it meets the Caribbean Sea.
8. Prickly Pear Island
Prickly Pear Island is another pristine uninhabited island at only 10 minutes boat ride from the coast right off of Hodges Bay.
If you don’t want to join a tour you may be able to kayak to the island, but I am afraid I don’t have this information at the moment.
The deserted island offers a spectacular bank of sand where you can enjoy the pristine nature and shallow water. It’s easy to start swimming to explore among coral heads and sea fans.
Cruises offer tours to the island but even on the most crowded day, you will still find peace and tranquility as it’s easy to spread out.
If you choose to go on a tour you will be offered a great local meal based on lobster and seafood cooked right on the spot. Definitely a great way to spend a day in Antigua.
9. Pillars of Hercules
The Pillars of Hercule are fantastic limestone rock formations in the English Harbor area. It’s also one of the most popular spots among divers and snorkelers. In fact, it’s a great place in Antigua where you can spot tropical fish, sea turtles, and stingrays.
This popular destination for snorkeling is in fact included in different snorkeling tours, including one where you will leave from Galleon Bay and will be swimming with a sea scooter that propels you through the water. I would prefer to swim and enjoy the calm of the sea but I understand the fun of this tool.
The Xtreem circumnavigation is another amazing boat tour that circumnavigates the island and stops by the pillars of Hercules for snorkeling, besides other incredible spots, including the two secluded beaches of Rendezvous Beach and Green Island.
Other tours with the best snorkeling in Antigua
Snorkeling safety tips
When you are snorkeling you are not in your natural element although it may feel the opposite. But you are not a fish. So some safety rules (for you and for the sea inhabitants) apply.
✅ Never snorkel alone, always with a buddy, and if you don’t have one, as you are a solo traveler like me, either hire a guide or if you just stay close to the shore or in shallow waters, still let somebody on the beach know and ask to keep an eye on you. I am sure they will. If not avoid going out (sorry!) ✅
✅ Make sure you check the currents and if undecided, don’t go!
✅ Avoid snorkeling after drinking
✅ Do not touch or stand on the Coral Reefs ( it goes without saying, but it’s better to be said, just in case)
✅ Never swim against a current. Swim diagonally across it. I learned the lesson the hard way!
✔ Do I need
Among all the multiple reasons why you should get
✅ Avoid snorkeling at dusk or dawn (gray light). Avoid murky water. You won’t see anything anyway.
✅ That’s just me, but I would bring my own snorkeling gear, even when it’s provided by the tour company, just for hygienic purposes!
✅ Most importantly, respect the environment ( I know I have already said that) and have lots of fun!
Snorkeling in Antigua: FAQ
Does Antigua have good snorkeling?
Yes, indeed, Antigua has great snorkeling. Comprising two central islands alongside numerous petite islets, Antigua and Barbuda boast an immensely diverse marine habitat. As mentioned in the post, you can find superb snorkeling locations, with an abundance of sea life.
Which side of Antigua is best for snorkeling?
Definitely the South West the best for snorkeling. In particular Cades Reef Marine Park. This coral reef presents unparalleled snorkeling opportunities and crystal clear waters, with visibility extending up to 100 feet under optimal circumstances.
Which side of Antigua has the best beaches?
Many of Antigua’s best beaches are on the Caribbean side, and all are open to the public. From Deep Bay to Jolly Beach, Darkwood Beach, and all the way to Pigeon Point Beach you will find many incredible best-kept-secret beaches.
What time of the year is best to visit Antigua?
The best time of the year to visit Antigua for the best weather is mid-December to mid-April, which makes it the peak season. If you don’t like the crowds or you are looking for lower prices, you may want to consider traveling from April through June and October through November.
Snorkeling in Antigua: Final Thoughts
I hope this post helped you find the best snorkeling spots in Antigua. If you are a diver, though worry not, because there are many great diving spots and amazing dive shops will take you there. Check out Jolly Harbour Marina and English Harbors for more information on diving in Antigua as well! Have fun!!
About the Author
Hello there! This is Isabella, this blog’s author, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.