Places where you can walk right from the beach to the reef.
One of the great joys of snorkeling tropical waters is freedom. No complex or heavy dive gear to manage, no worries about running out of air or monitoring bottom time, just the tranquility of hovering over a sun-dapple reef. It’s even better when done on your own schedule by wading right out from a resort beach, with no boat to catch and a refreshing shower and beach chair awaiting your return. Here are some of the best beachfront resorts in the Caribbean that provide immediate access to great snorkeling.
Tranquility Bay Resort, Belize
Situated on a remote beach on Ambergris Caye, 10 miles north of San Pedro and accessible only by boat, Tranquility Bay is a throwback in time. Traditional, colorful cottages are positioned just yards from the water, and inside you’ll find a surprisingly modern décor and amenities. From the beach it’s a short swim to the inner edge of Belize’s magnificent barrier reef. The resort is secluded and simple, but if clean sand and clear water trump nightlife and spa services, there are few places that can compare.
The Buccaneer Hotel, St. Croix
This landmark property delivers enticing views of the coral-strewn shallows that sit between Mermaid Beach and blue water. Fin east along the rocky coast towards Shoy Point and look under the ledges to discover fish and lobster lurking in the shadows. Those wanting more can catch a boat from the resort dock to Buck Island. Ashore, the Buccaneer remains one of St. Croix’s favorite resorts, providing a complete vacation experience that can include golf, tennis, spa treatments and live music.
Fiesta Americana, Cozumel
Fish and coral are abundant off Cozumel’s west coast, but many sites lack easy beach entries, and to the north of the island, prevailing currents may pull snorkelers away from land. For an easier snorkeling experience, head south to the Fiesta Americana. This all-inclusive property overlooks a colorful stretch of shallow reef just to the north of Chankanaab National Park. There are easy entry and exit points for snorkelers, and milder currents move you southward towards the park. This upscale all-inclusive property is family-friendly, with a pair of pools, a playground and children’s activities.
The Retreat at Rum Point, Grand Cayman
It’s less than eight miles from Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach to Rum Point as the crow flies, but you’ll have to drive all the way around on the island’s coastal highway or take a ferry across North Sound to get there. This relative isolation means fewer swimmers on the palm-fringed beach and a chance to explore the coral-strewn shallows inside the island’s northern barrier reef. The retreat at Rum Point is a collection of rental condominiums that provides spectacular water views. Full kitchens save on dining out, but if the adjacent Wreck Bar saps the cook’s culinary ambitions then head next door to the Rum Point Club for a meal.
Anse Chastanet Resort, St. Lucia
Some of the best coral reefs lie off the southwest coast of St. Lucia in the shadow of the landmark Pitons. They are within an easy swim from the beach at the Anse Chastanet Resort. This protected coral habitat is a favorite with divers and snorkelers, who can wade into the shallows to discover a profusion of sea life mere yards from shore. The resort provides snorkeling equipment for self-guided explorations, or you can book a boat trip with a guide to nearby reefs. The resort itself is the stuff of tropical fantasy, with rooms hiding in the palms, and a short climb up the green hill delivers sweeping views of the Caribbean.
Plaza Resort, Bonaire
Bonaire’s entire west coast is flanked by one of the finest coastal reef structures in the Caribbean. But only a handful of the island’s resorts are also favored by sandy beaches. Of these, the Plaza provides the best combination of amenities and water access. The reef is just a short swim from the water’s edge, and an on-site dive shop has rental gear or replacement equipment. Ashore, the all-inclusive resort features a collection of low-rise buildings overlooking the channels of a lagoon and marina. Highlights of a stay include open-air seating at the waterfront restaurant and a weekly beach barbecue that is a favorite island tradition.
Sunscape Curacao Resort, Curacao
Six restaurants, six bars, water sports, a spa, first-class fitness center, daily entertainment and a casino—all for one price. Well, not the casino. But if larger all-inclusive resorts are your thing, the Sunscape is the finest on Curacao. When it’s time to submerge, novices can find fish without having to venture beyond the sheltering breakwater. More advanced snorkelers can head outside the breakwater to find vibrant patches of coral on a reef that drops from the jetty rocks to depths of 10 feet, then continues a gradual slope out toward deep water.