Best Snorkeling Spots in the Bahamas

Snorkeling in the Bahamas is a bit like a smorgasbord: It's tough to know what island to choose and which reef to visit, but with more than 700 islands and some of the clearest water you've ever seen, you really can't go wrong.

With 700-plus islands and cays and some of the clearest water imaginable, the Bahamas are an ideal spot for anyone who loves to snorkel.Shutterstock

The Bahamas are home to some of the clearest, bluest, most inviting water imaginable — making these 700-plus islands and cays located off the southeast coast of Florida an ideal spot for anyone who loves to pull on a snorkel mask and fins and explore.

But not all snorkeling spots in the Bahamas are created equal. Some are great for beginners and families with children while others are famous for their caves, currents or larger sea life that require experience and skill. If you love spying on colorful fish and coral or getting and eyeful of darting rays and circling sharks, read on for more than 20 locations that rank among the best snorkeling spots in the Bahamas.

Nassau/Paradise Island

The most-visited island in the Bahamas — popular with both cruise passengers and guests at large resorts — Nassau/Paradise can claim two top snorkeling spots.

Rose Island Reef is a family-friendly spot located just 3 miles to the east of Paradise Island and accessible via a snorkel tour boat; it's known for a vast array of tropical fish as well as two shipwrecks, the Mahoney and the Alcora. Goulding Cay Reefs is another shallow and colorful reef located about 1 mile offshore from Nassau.

Elbow Cay offers both beach access and organized wreck dives.Shutterstock

The Abacos

Situated in the northeastern Bahamas in the Sea of Abaco, The Abacos are known for their clear, family-friendly lagoon-like water. Favorite snorkel spots accessible from Great Abaco include Elbow Cay, a 30-minute ferry ride away, it offers both beach access and organized wreck dives, and Fowl Cays National Park, also accessible by boat, it's a favorite hangout of groupers, including a giant known as Gillie.

At Sandy Cay Reef, book a tour to snorkel with spotted eagle rays, southern stingrays and sea turtles. Other snorkeling spots include Angelfish Reef (as its name implies, it's the spot to see schools of angelfish); and Mermaid Reef (just offshore, it's known for vibrant corals, trumpet fish and moray eels).

Grand Bahama

If you're looking to snorkel directly from the beach, head for Paradise Cove, located about 15 minutes from downtown Freeport on The Bahamas' largest island.

It offers access to Deadman's Reef, but don't let the name scare you; this snorkel spot is great for families and is home to parrotfish, sea turtles, snapper and more. Another top spot is the shallow waters of Peterson Cay, which is located off the southern coast and reachable by kayak or paddleboat tour.

Stocking Island is home to blue holes, sea caves and lots of sea life.Shutterstock

The Exumas

With sparkling white-sand beaches and sparse populations, the Exumas are ideal for laidback relaxation and boast several top snorkeling spots for the adventurous.

These include Stocking Island, accessible via ferry from George Town on Great Exuma and home to blue holes, sea caves and lots of sea life, and Stingray Reef known for its vibrant coral heads, sea fans and stingrays.

Don't miss Thunderball Grotto, a hallowed-out sea cave frequented by a variety of fish as well as octopus and stingrays. It's also where scenes from the James Bond flick Thunderball were filmed.

Andros Island

Fringed off of its southern coast by 190 miles of coral formations that create the third-largest barrier reef in the world, Andros ranks among the best spots for snorkeling in the Bahamas.

Top sites include Tiamo (to swim above underground caves or, if you're a strong swimmer, into "The Crack," a deep fault line teeming with fish); China Point (to spot blue tangs, sergeant majors and triggerfish); and Central Park (known for its shallow water and Elkhorn corals).

Andros is also home to the world's largest concentration of Blue Holes, surreal openings in the ocean floor where cool freshwater from underground caves merges with the sea, creating vibrant freshwater pools that rest atop heavier seawater. Popular with divers, blue holes also attract snorkelers to their edges where schools of fish congregate.

Thunderball Grotto is a popular snorkeling spot, and the filming location of James Bond movie Thunderball.Shutterstock

Eleuthera

Eleuthera snakes through both Atlantic and Caribbean waters (the island is 112 miles long and just 1 mile wide) with an array of snorkeling opportunities along the way, including Current Cut on the Caribbean side, which involves riding a tidal cut alongside a variety of sea creatures.

Devil's Backbone is a shallow reef along the island's north end that holds the remnants of 17th-century shipwrecks, and Gauldings Cay is home to striking soft corals, sea anemones and bonefish.

Bimini

Thanks to its proximity to Gulf Stream waters, Bimini is a prime location for spotting larger, migrating sea life, including dolphins and rays — and in December and January even hammerhead sharks — and calm water makes it great for snorkelers of all levels.

A popular spot is Rainbow Reef, a shallow site frequented by too many species to count, including nurse sharks and sea turtles, while a more mysterious one is Bimini Road/Atlantis Road, where neat rows of rectangular stone monoliths have fueled legends of the lost city that gives it its nickname.