Snorkeling Around Antigua

Photo credit © Adventure Antigua Eco Tours

Surrounded almost completely by coral reefs that are not only well-preserved but thriving, Antigua is a great snorkeling destination.  Between these reefs and the lack of a dangerous current almost anywhere around the island, it doesn't matter where you choose to stay, you can make this sport a major part of your vacation activities.


Travelers may easily partake in snorkeling directly from one of Antigua’s beaches, while more remote locations are accessed by boat.  Underwater visibility ranges from 50 to 140 feet, allowing snorkelers to see reef systems that are a less than desirable distance below the surface, though most people choose to stick to Cades Reef or snorkel from the shore.  There are even a few ship wrecks that can be experienced, but for these and Cades it is recommended that you hire a local tour guide.   

As opposed to diving, snorkeling can be enjoyed on a more spontaneous basis; many beaches  offer concessions for rental equipment, and tourists can explore coral reefs directly from the shoreline without instruction.  Additionally, vacationers should consider the differing expenses that accompany each activity. Due to the complex equipment and requirements of diving, this activity tends to cost more. Those traveling with tight budgets will be more inclined to opt for a snorkeling excursion.

You should also consider the health benefits of snorkeling, something that is often overlooked.  Similar to meditation and yoga, when you are breathing through a snorkel, you are forced to take slow, full, and deep breaths. Indeed, many people compare the sport to meditation as it is known to calm the mind and the soul through a combination of the deep breathing, the silence, the healing nature of the warm salt water which is on average 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Antigua, and the indescribable beauty.  Depending on the season and where you do your snorkeling, be prepared to see hard and soft corals,  sea grass, sea fans, sponges, moray eels, sea turtles, jacks, sergent majors, barracuda, batfish, spadefish, and more.

Snorkeling Sites

If you're looking forward to seeing what's down below you might want to visit Cades Reef. Perhaps the most popular snorkeling spot around Antigua, this reef is a protected area part of the Cades Bay Marine Park. This means some great snorkeling, especially for those wanting to catch a glimpse at a diversity of marine life. This snorkeling site is located in the southwestern part of Antigua.

Carlisle Bay East is another snorkeling spot you might enjoy. The clear waters of Carlisle Beach make it a great place to spot the tropical fish that frequent the shore.

A third site to consider is Deep Bay. The final resting place of a ship that wrecked in 1905 when it caught fire and sank, it now rests at a depth of only 35 feet, making it more than accessible to divers and snorkelers alike. Since its sinking, the wreck as become a popular habitat for sponges, as well as countless small fish.

A fourth place to go snorkeling is Darkwood Beach. While it does not offer the best snorkeling on the island, the clam waters and decent wildlife viewing opportunities make Darkwood Beach a good spot for beginners and anyone looking for a quiet snorkel. If you want to experience it for yourself, you'll find this site found within the western part of Antigua.

Great Bird Island Beach is a fifth site to consider. While the island serves as a private sanctuary for a number of birds and reptiles, there is also plenty of wildlife action to be seen just offshore. Shallow reefs full of tropical fish can be found all along the coast, making it a good spot to explore the underwater habitats.

Summary information concerning 16 of the best places to go snorkeling in this area are listed here:

Snorkeling Sites Near Antigua
Site Location Island
Cades Reef 8.2 mi. South-Southwest of Central St. John's Antigua
Carlisle Bay East 3.4 mi. South West of Central Sweets Antigua
Deep Bay 2.8 mi. West of Central St. John's Antigua
Darkwood Beach 1.8 mi. South of Central Jolly Harbour Antigua
Great Bird Island Beach 6.9 mi. Northeast of Central All Saints Great Bird Island
Green Island Beach 2.8 mi. Northeast of Central Freetown Green Island
Long Bay 1.1 mi. Northeast of Central Willikies
Long Bay 1.1 mi. Northeast of Central Willikies
Half Moon Bay Beach 1.2 mi. East-Southeast of Central Freetown Antigua
Dickenson Bay 1.5 mi. West of Central Cedar Grove Antigua
Galleon Beach 0.4 mi. East-Southeast of Central English Harbour Antigua
Hawksbill Bay 3.6 mi. West of Central St. John's Antigua
Johnson's Point 1.9 mi. South of Central Valley Church Antigua
Pigeon Point 1.3 mi. West of Central English Harbour Antigua
Prickly Pear Island 2.0 mi. Northeast of Central Cedar Grove Prickly Pear Island
Rendezvous Bay 3.9 mi. South of Central All Saints Antigua

Snorkeling Boat Trips

For some people, the best snorkeling is accessed away from the shore.

If you're hoping to snorkel during a boat trip, you can check with On Deck. On Deck offers the largest selection of sailing courses on the island, whether you are interested in practical training or theory. For your convenience, online courses are offered as well.

Another option to consider is Adventure Antigua Day Sails. Since 1999, third generation Antiguan Eli Fuller has been offering his services as captain to show visitors around Antigua by boat, offering many sailing options as well as ecology education and fun. They're located in Freeman's Village, in northern Antigua.

A third good option is Wadadli Cats. Wadadli Cats offer two main cruises on five catamarans from simple sightseeing to snorkel and diving trips. These main cruises are the "Cades Reef Cruise" and "Bird Island Cruise." Additionally, if you are looking to see a less visited area, Wadadli Cats will work with you to plan out a unique tour just for you.

Some details with regard to boat trip providers that offer snorkeling opportunities can be found in the chart below.

Day Sails and Boat Trips On Antigua
Name Phone Location
Adventure Antigua Day Sails (268) 726-6355 6.1 mi. North of Central All Saints
Life's A Beach A Water Sports, Cruises & Taxis (268) 784-1406 Freeman's Village, Central Antigua
On Deck (268) 532-6696 0.4 mi. Northwest of Central English Harbour
Pirates Of Antigua (268) 562-7946 Freeman's Village, Central Antigua
Treasure Island Cruises (268) 461-8675 Downtown St. John's
Wadadli Cats (268) 462-4792 Antigua
West Coast Tours Antigua (268) 728-5239 Jolly Harbour

Snorkeling Services

If you looking for a place offering snorkeling excursions, rentals, or other services, you might want to contact AquaSports Jolly Harbour. AquaSports specializes in all things watersports. You will find everything from T-Shirts and Beach Towels to technical equipment for diving. They are found in Jolly Harbour, in the western part of Antigua.

A second company worth knowing about is AquaSports St. John. This shop's line of products is extensive, giving shoppers the opportunity to find the perfect fit when it comes to fishing, snorkeling and water sports equipment. All types of accessories you may require such as waterproof cameras, beach clothing, shoes, towels and sunblock are available. If you're looking for a special piece of equipment and can't seem to find it, just ask, chances are they have it in stock.

A third place to consider is Dockyard Divers Snorkeling. A local watersports operation that specializes in diving, the sites they visit are also perfect for snorkelers as well and so they allow guests to tag along for a snorkeling trip. If you're traveling with a diver or just want a knowledgeable team to show you the best sites for snorkeling, this spot has you covered on all ends. They're located in English Harbour, in the southern part of Antigua.

The following chart lists a few details about 5 companies that provide snorkeling related services.

Snorkeling Services On Antigua
Name Type Phone Location
AquaSports Jolly Harbour Watersports Equipment Shop (268) 462-3474 0.2 mi. Southeast of Central Jolly Harbour
AquaSports St. John Watersports Equipment Shop (268) 462-3474 Downtown St. John's
Dockyard Divers Snorkeling Snorkeling Tour Operator (268) 729-3040 0.0 mi. Northeast of Central English Harbour
Life's A Beach Snorkeling Tour Operator (268) 784-1406 Freeman's Village, Central Antigua
Stingray City Snorkeling Tour Operator (268) 562-7297 Downtown St. John's

To learn more about snorkeling, including suggestions and helpful tips for both "old pros" and beginners, check out this extensive discussion of snorkeling in the Caribbean.

When it comes to snorkeling in Antigua, the options are plentiful.  Bring your own equipment or rent it, hire a tour guide or go it alone, stick close to shore or head out to the reef.  Pick what works for you and go for it, just make you plan to do some snorkeling during your trip.


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