Snorkeling Around Tortola

Photo credit © Day Trips BVI

Whether you're planning a sailing adventure that will make a stop at Tortola, or you'll be staying long term, incorporating snorkeling into your trip to this island is a must.  This always alluring activity is made even more attractive thanks to the promise of crystalline waters and many interesting sites to see.

There are two sites that regulars point to for snorkeling around Tortola: Smuggler's Cove and Brewer's Bay Snorkel Site.  Each is known for their explosive coral formations located to the left of each beach that make a wonderful home for turtles, rays, and huge schools of tiny but vibrantly colored fish.  

If you can't make it to either of these spots, you can typically wade in to the waters of any beach and find a little something to see.  Keep an eye for rock outcroppings jutting out of the water – if you see birds milling about looking for a meal, likely there will be a nice array of sea life in that area.  There are some areas of the island where the water is not as clear as others, especially after a storm when the sand is moved around more than normal.  Use your best judgment if you're going it alone.  Your goal will always be to find the clearest waters so that when you are below the surface you can truly escape into your unique and almost magical surroundings.  

If you're new to the sport, or simply want to make sure you see the best sites there are to see, Tortolla has numerous tour operators, especially in Road Town and Cane Garden Bay.  Most sailing excursions also offer snorkeling.  The benefit of this is the gear is typically included in the price, and the guides are very well versed in the local underwater world.  These trips might keep you close to shore or take you out to the islets and reefs that are only accessible by boat, so there is a great variety to choose from.  Snorkeling tours will generally cost anywhere from $40 to $65(USD), and you can also rent a snorkeling kit for a week from a local dive shop for around $35(USD). 

Snorkeling Sites

If you're ready to explore what's down below you might want to check out Chromis Reef. A collection of coral creates a patchy reef system that ranges from depths of zero to 45 deep. The area is home to grunts, squirrelfish, baby drum fish, and electric blue chromis. This snorkeling site is located on Cooper Island, in the eastern part of Tortola.

Cistern Point is another place you might enjoy. A large rock surfaces here, and reef spreads out from there, inviting school upon school of fish to thrive here. You'll typically see crabs, barracuda, and spiny lobster in addition to the typical colorful reef fish. The underwater sites here are dramatic and go as deep as 50 feet.

A third location to consider is Manchioneel Bay. This u-shaped reef has a swift current that brings lost of diverse sea creatures in. On any given day, you'll have the opportunity to see sea stars, sea horses, grunts, parrotfish, butterflyfish, blueheads, clownfish, blue tank, snapper, rays, and even octopus.

A fourth place where you can go snorkeling is White Bay. Because it is a protected area where anglers can't take advantage of the abundance of sea life, this is a snorkeling site where visitors will encounter some of the larger fish species including yellowtail snappers, jacks, and grunts. Many are friendly and curious and will swim right up to you. If you're interested, this site is located on Guana Island, in the northeastern part of Tortola.

Smuggler's Cove is a fifth option to consider. If you're new to snorkeling, this is the place to you. The waters are very shallow and the sites are some of the best in the area, making it the perfect place to hook a newbie.

Some details concerning 12 of the best locations to experience snorkeling in this area are listed directly below.

Snorkeling Sites Near Tortola
Site Location Island
Chromis Reef 5.2 mi. Southeast of Central Parham Town Cooper Island
Cistern Point 0.4 mi. West-Northwest of Central Cooper Island Cooper Island
Manchioneel Bay 5.1 mi. Southeast of Central Parham Town Cooper Island
White Bay 1.8 mi. North of Central Parham Town Guana Island
Smuggler's Cove 3.4 mi. North of Central Coral Bay Tortola
Brewers Bay 1.5 mi. North-Northeast of Central Cane Garden Bay Tortola
Vanishing Rock 5.2 mi. Southeast of Central Parham Town
Conch Bay 2.0 mi. East-Northeast of Central Parham Town Beef Island
Lee Bay 1.9 mi. North of Central Beef Island Great Camanoe
Cam Bay 1.9 mi. North of Central Beef Island Great Camanoe
White Bay 3.5 mi. Northwest of Central Beef Island Guana Island
Green Cay Beach 2.7 mi. East of Central Jost Van Dyke Green Cay

Snorkeling Boat Trips

BVI Yacht Charters

Some people believe the best snorkeling is accessed away from the shore.

If you're hoping to go snorkeling during a boat trip, you should consider BVI Yacht Charters. If you're looking to charter a yacht to sail independently throughout the British Virgin Islands, this charter company has over 50 yachts in their fleet, making your sailing options vast and wide ranging, just like the ocean blue.

Another option to investigate is Footloose Sailboat Charters. So confident that you'll love their services, this charter company promises to beat any competitors price by $100(USD). So, if you're looking to find a yacht to sail around the BVI independently, why not give them a try? They're found in Road Town, in central Tortola.

A third option is Mystique Charters. Mystique Charters hosts day sails, snorkel excursions, sunset cruises, and private day charters. Destinations include Norman Island, Jost Van Dyke, and the Virgin Gorda Baths.

Check the following chart to read more about boat operators that offer snorkeling.

Day Sails and Boat Trips On Tortola
Name Phone Location Island
Aaron Rentals (284) 494-8917 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Aristocat Charters (284) 499-1249 Downtown Road Town Tortola
BVI 360 (284) 541-1281 0.7 mi. South-Southeast of Downtown Road Town Tortola
BVI Yacht Charters -- 0.5 mi. Northeast of Downtown Road Town Tortola
Conch Charters (284) 494-4868 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Day Trips BVI (284) 340-3434 2.9 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Frenchman's Cay
Footloose Sailboat Charters (284) 494-0528 0.4 mi. North-Northeast of Downtown Road Town Tortola
Kuralu (284) 495-4381 3.0 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Tortola
Mystique Charters (284) 494-0740 2.9 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Frenchman's Cay

Snorkeling Services

BVI Scuba Company

If you looking for someone that offers snorkel rentals, excursions, or similar services, you might want to contact Dive BVI. They often make trips out to Dog Island, Scrub Island, Ginger Island, Cooper Island, RMS Rhone, and Chikuzen, which means snorkelers can see these sites as well. They are located on Scrub Island, in the eastern part of Tortola.

Another company catering to snorkelers is BVI Scuba Company. Just 200 feet from the entrance to the cruise ship dock, this dive shop is easily accessible by cruisers who are looking for a snorkeling tour. In addition to their great location, they are known for creating eco-friendly tours that educate their guests about local marine life as they explore underwater.

A third company worth contacting is Blue Water Divers. Planning on doing some snorkeling during your time on the isles? This group is not only the top scuba diving operation around, but they also rent out snorkeling equipment. They're found in Nanny Cay, Tortola.

Be sure to look through this table to learn more with regard to 5 companies that provide snorkeling related services.

Snorkeling Services On Tortola
Name Type Phone Location Island
BVI Scuba Company Snorkeling Tour Operator (284) 540-2222 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Blue Water Divers Snorkeling Equipment Rental Service (284) 494-2847 1.9 mi. South West of Downtown Road Town Tortola
Blue Water Divers Snorkeling Equipment Rental Service (284) 495-1200 2.9 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Frenchman's Cay
Boardsailing B V I Watersports Watersports Equipment Shop (284) 495-2447 Tortola Tortola
Dive BVI Snorkeling Tour Operator (248) 495-5513 3.6 mi. Northeast of Central Parham Town Scrub Island

For more information about snorkeling, including suggestions and helpful tips for beginners and "pros" read our exhaustive guide to snorkeling in the Caribbean.

The waters that surround Tortola are famed for many reasons, and you won't want to miss out on the stunning variety of sea life that can be seen even if you never leave the beach.  Bring your snorkel or rent one when you arrive, just make sure you spend some time exploring under the sea.


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