Think Jamaica and reggae, rum and beaches come to mind. What travelers may not realize is that underwater Jamaica offers much to explore, including caves, reefs and the bioluminescent bay found on the north shore. Snorkeling is at the top of many travelers’ things to do list when they visit. From easy, beginner-friendly beach-access reefs to more advanced sites, Jamaica has sites to challenge every snorkeler. Here are our favorite spots for the best snorkeling in Jamaica.
Doctor’s Cave Beach
Head to Doctor’s Cave Beach on Jamaica’s western side for easy-access reefs packed with schools of needlefish, sergeant major fish and yellow-headed wrasse. We love the amenities available here, from for-rent beach chairs and umbrellas, to drink service offering beer, rum punch and water.
Because it’s one of the best beaches in Jamaica and a great snorkeling spot, it does get packed, especially on days when cruise ships are in port — so aim to arrive early on days free from cruise ships.
Runaway Bay Wall
Located on the northern coast of Jamaica, the town of Runaway Bay offers one of the best places to snorkel in Jamaica, found right in front of the Franklyn D Resort and Spa. Here, the reefs start just a few feet from the resort’s edge and are home to schooling Creole wrasse and French grunt fish, as well as parrotfish and angelfish.
Montego Bay Marine Park
Snorkeling in Montego Bay, Jamaica is a must if you’re in avid snorkeler and found yourself in the area. Several beach resorts front Montego Bay’s Marine Park, including Secrets Wild Orchid Montego and Sunscape Splash Montego Bay. Rock walls protect this beachfront from waves, making it one of the calmest snorkeling spots, ideal for children or anyone lacking strong swimming abilities.
In the water, you’ll likely encounter angelfish, lionfish, spotted rays and the occasional turtle. We like that the reefs here rise like rolling hills, reaching within feet of the surface, giving swimmers an easy view of sea fans and gorgonians waving in the surge, as well as the fish that flit between it all.
The Throne Room
Found off Negril, this 40-feet-deep site, reachable by boat only, is popular among scuba divers for its caves. The caves are more easily enjoyed by scuba, but their exterior walls, with yellow sponges that reach floor to ceiling, as well as tube and elephant ear sponges, leave plenty for snorkelers to appreciate.
Mountains of corals slope down with sand channels running in between; the sand channels serve as a nice contrast, making it easy to spy stingrays, lobsters and sea stars from the surface. It’s easy to see why snorkeling in Negril, Jamaica tops the list for snorkelers.
Pear Tree Bottom Reef
Along Jamaica’s north coast, about a mile west of the town of Runaway Bay, you’ll find a small cove where Pear Tree River meets the Caribbean Sea. Head to the west side of this white-sand cove to find a spot where the beach forms a point. From here, it’s a 2-minute swim to the reefs and a sheer drop-off.
Because deep waters are found so close to shore at this spot, snorkelers can be treated to sightings of barracuda, eagle rays and other bigger marine life.
This 40-foot-deep reef is typically visited by day boats departing Montego Bay. If you can handle entering the ocean from a boat, you’ll be treated to reefs alive with elkhorn corals and sea fans. This site is also one of the area’s most colorful, thanks to the yellows of the sergeant major fish, the purples of the sea fans and the reds of the squirrelfish hiding under ledges.
Bluefields Beach is one of the best beaches in Jamaica for Snorkeling. Quieter than most beaches on Jamaica, this spot on the island’s southwest coast offers reefs covered in encrusting corals, brain corals and sponges in a rainbow of colors. Visit during the week to escape the crowds and increase the likelihood of seeing turtles, stingrays and other larger finds.
Only a handful of bioluminescent bays exist in the world, and Jamaica is home to one, found in the town of Falmouth. Nighttime kayak tours explore this phenomenon, where tiny animals known as dinoflagellates emit streaks of bright, blue light when disturbed by any movement — whether caused by you or a nearby fish. Most tours allow snorkeling to get a closer, in-water view of this trippy sight.
We love this Montego Bay site for its diversity. Currents can be rough here, which means that snorkeling isn’t a safe option every day — but these currents also keep corals and sponges free from sediment, allowing for healthier growth. When conditions are calm enough, you’ll meet reef inhabitants such as blue chromis, parrotfish, wrasse and even octopi that make their homes among the barrel and tube sponges.
For something different, check out Rockhouse, a resort known for bungalows along a cliff’s edge. Snorkelers here can explore caves filled with schools of silversides, a small fish whose metallic scales glint with light. You’ll also likely see eels, shrimp and other small critters hiding within the caves. Non-hotel guests can snorkel from the restaurants, which are open to the public.