Jamaica is beautiful all around, but especially so beneath the turquoise waters. The island is excellent for snorkeling particularly in areas like Montego Bay on the north coast where you can find some of the best snorkeling in Jamaica.
If you’re planning on snorkeling in Montego Bay, know you’re in for an adventure. With healthy and thriving dive sites you can explore from the shore or out on a catamaran, there’s a lot you can expect to see in Jamaica. If you’re ready for the ultimate ocean adventure, read on for everything you need to know about snorkeling in Montego Bay including the equipment you’ll need, best locations, weather, and the depth for the best snorkeling.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Snorkeling conditions in Jamaica
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Montego Bay is a marvellous place to snorkel. Although snorkeling in Jamaica is good year round, some months stand out more than others for being especially good for snorkeling — like between March to May.
Overall, Jamaica maintains a sunny climate with temperatures most often falling somewhere between 73°F to 89°F so you’ll definitely find lots of pleasant days to head out on a snorkeling trip.
Visibility wise, in the best weather conditions you’re more likely to have unhindered views while snorkeling in Jamaica. To figure out when you’ll be able to find the finest Jamaica weather, scope our post on the best time to visit Jamaica.
What can you expect to see snorkeling in Jamaica?
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In Jamaica, dive sightings will largely depend on where you decide to snorkel, and whether you’re snorkeling near shore or around one of the deeper reefs.
Generally though, while snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Jamaica you can expect to see things like sea urchins, angelfish, and parrotfish. Snorkelers may also see clown fish, large-eyed squirrelfish, dart fish, kingfish, jack, mackerel, whiting fish, tuna and occasionally turtles since the northern coastline is a nesting area.
Less commonly, you can spot things like the four-eye butterflyfish and sharpnose puffers.
The more colorful and floral coral that you may see around Montego Bay will usually be of the soft coral variety — this includes bubble coral. Soft coral is also set apart by the fact that this species usually presents as single, large organisms, while hard coral may be spotted in large groups. Hard coral like brain coral and elkhorn coral are commonly spotted in Jamaica. Although these aren’t seen as often, keep on the lookout for sea fans, star coral, and torch coral.
Best snorkeling spots near Montego Bay
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Some of the best snorkeling in Jamaica can be found at locations like Doctor’s Cave Beach, Montego Bay Marine Park, and some other snorkeling hotspots which we’ll elaborate on later.
Doctor’s Cave Beach in particular is a popular one, and it falls into the protected category in Montego Bay. This status helps preserve the natural elements of this beach including the coral reefs. For this and reasons to do with its laid back ambiance, Doctor’s Cave Beach is a favorite for visitors and locals.
Other great options for snorkeling in the Montego Bay area include Cornwall Beach. If you’re willing to venture out a bit further for a daytrip, the waters at Seven Mile Beach and Bloody Bay are worth exploring as well.
Below, we’ll talk some more about what divers love about each of these locations.
Doctor’s Cave Beach
8-minute drive from Sandals Montego Bay.
Photo credit: CO Leong/Shutterstock.com
The first thing you might hear about Doctor’s Cave Beach is that there’s a healing quality to the waters. Whether or not there’s any truth to this long standing legacy, this belief has hung around and it really does add a self-care component to even the most casual dive there.
At Doctor’s Cave Beach you’ll find protected coral reefs that can be easily accessed on foot. Visitors love diving on this beach because the environmental regulations really have helped preserve the beauty of the reefs here.
It costs about $6 for adults and $3 for children per day to visit Doctor’s Cave Beach. That fee includes access to beach bars, changing rooms and a range of water sports, the latter at an additional cost. Snorkeling gear as well will come with a price, all of which can up the cost of your beach day.
Insider tip: Getting set for an all-inclusive vacation in Jamaica with lots of snorkeling? Sandals Resorts offers complimentary snorkeling trips for all her guests. The best part: guests staying at Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean get access to the amenities of both all-inclusive resorts. Enjoy unlimited food and (alcoholic) drinks at a total of 21 restaurants, an over-the-water bar, and multiple swim-up and beach bars. Transportation between the two resorts is included and the resorts are located on a 5-minute drive from each other!
Montego Bay Marine Park
12-minute drive from Sandals Montego Bay.
Photo credit: Damsea/Shutterstock.com
Promising to be the highlight of any Montego Bay vacation, the Montego Bay Marine Park has some of the best dive and snorkel sites in Jamaica. Established in 1991, this is Jamaica’s first marine park. Inside the park you’ll find 12 miles of shoreline, impressive mangrove ecosystems, seagrass beds, and of course, lots of coral reefs. This is a protected area, which is great news for the diving crowd. You’ll be able to snorkel here easily as most of the reefs are near shore. Beneath the waves you’ll find vibrant and healthy coral reefs and thriving marine life much due to strict environmental regulations.
Photo credit: CO Leong/Shutterstock.com
Expert tip: Some tours to the Montego Bay Marine Park include stops at both the Marine Park and Margaritaville where you’ll be able to do some souvenir shopping and maybe even take a walk along the nearby “Hip Strip”.
7-minute drive from Sandals Montego Bay.
Cornwall Beach is not too far from Doctor’s Cave Beach and it is one of those beaches that are great if you want to snorkel near the shore. The coral reefs here are on the shallow side making this a great dive location for snorkelers of all ages. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee of about $5 to access this beach; a small fee that goes toward its maintenance that’ll totally be worth it once you sink into the peaceful ambiance. On some days there are sunset watch parties on this beach with more than enough rum to go around!
Day trip. 80-minute drive from Montego Bay.
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Considered a hidden gem by some, Bloody Bay is a cool option if you’re looking for a scenic and quiet location to relax beachside and get some snorkeling in. This beach is next to Seven Mile Beach, and in fact, three miles of Seven Mile Beach extend into Bloody Bay. Beneath the calm and clear waters here you’ll find a colorful reef which divers of all skill levels can explore. You can take a catamaran cruise into the deeper waters of this beach to go snorkeling and as part of that escapade, you’ll also be able to scope caves in the area or even canoe into the Negril Great Morass.
Seven Mile Beach
Day trip. 90-minute drive from Montego Bay.
Photo credit: CO Leong/Shutterstock.com
Seven Mile Beach is high on the list of must-visit beaches as it’s the best beach in Jamaica. It is also quite extensive, as the name suggests. Located in Negril and just around a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay, this beach is not exactly around the corner, but well worth a daytrip or a split stay with Sandals Negril!
Snorkeling and water sports are part of the allure of this strand. The water here is calm and shallow, perfect for a casual swim with a Pina Colada in one hand. Newbie snorkelers or those just looking for a tranquil experience appreciate this as well. There are many all-inclusive resorts along Seven Mile Beach where guests can enjoy a world of quality inclusions.
Did you know Seven Mile Beach has a pirate rich history? Find out more in this article from Beaches detailing everything this gorgeous beach has to offer.
Take a catamaran to Jamaica’s most unique snorkeling locations
Oh, the bliss and beauty of the Caribbean Sea! So magnetizing is the ocean from this island vantage that while in Jamaica, you probably won’t be able to resist exploring the island via catamaran. Why not incorporate snorkeling into your boating adventure?
Getting aboard a catamaran for a snorkeling trip is a great way to enjoy coastal views of Montego Bay as well as scope the local reefs from a different vantage. There’s plenty of options for catamaran snorkeling tours in Montego Bay as many of the interesting reefs in this area are further out to sea.
Expert tip: Have a blast and book the Reggae Catamaran and Snorkeling Cruise offered by Island Routes, which includes an open bar and professionals DJ onboard! If it’s your first time snorkeling our snorkeling tips for beginners will definitely come in handy.
The thrill of heading out on a catamaran to go snorkeling will be felt right away with a glimpse at the coral and marine life you’re likely to come across. If you prefer catamaran snorkeling trips and plan to do a few of them while in Jamaica, all-inclusive resorts often offer excursions right through the resort.
The main reasons to go out on a catamaran snorkeling trip:
- There’s simply more to see offshore.
- The view of Montego Bay from out on the water.
- Before and after snorkeling you’ll enjoy some (reggae) music, drinks, and the company of the other vacationers.
- Anyone can come along and have a good time, even if you don’t like snorkeling.
Some of the best catamaran snorkeling tours in Montego Bay end at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville which is always a good time. Excursions often include transportation to and from your resort!
Equipment needed for snorkeling excursions
The basic things you’ll need for snorkeling in Jamaica are a mask, snorkel, flippers, and a life jacket.
Multiply these things by the number of people who’ll be going on an excursion with you and you’ll know precisely what’s required before diving in. Of course, excursions will almost always provide you with the equipment, but quality might vary. To be on the safe side, bring your own mask and snorkel.
Want to go on your own snorkeling adventure, right from the beach? If you’re planning to stay at an Sandals or Beaches all-inclusive property in Jamaica you won’t have to worry about packing any of these things or sourcing them when you get there. Both resorts provide guests with top-of-the-line kits whenever they need them. These are always cleaned, sanitized and ready to go should the urge to go snorkeling arise while you’re out on the beach enjoying the simple pleasures of the Caribbean.
Insider tip: Want a really private and exotic snorkeling experience? Guests of Sandals Royal Caribbean can take a complimentary ferry to the resort’s private island where you’ll find excellent snorkeling right off the beach!
Other water sports you can expect to find in Montego Bay
In Jamaica there’s lots to do in and out of the water whether or not you decide to go snorkeling. Popular water sports include water skiing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, tubing, and wakeboarding. All of which are provided and included for guests staying at Sandals Montego Bay - for free. You can even get on a glass bottom boat to see marine life from a relaxed vantage, or head out on the hobie cats or aquatrikes.
If you want to try something else in the dive realm, consider signing up for a scuba diving excursion or going snuba diving.
Insider tip: PADI® certified guests at any Sandals Resort in Jamaica scuba dive for free (max. two tanks a day), this includes professional equipment and the dive staff! Want to go scuba diving but not certified yet? You can get PADI® certified right on property at any Sandals resort at additional cost.
Snorkeling is all part of the fun in Montego Bay
A vacation in Jamaica is incomplete without a bit of snorkeling. This island and in particular areas like Montego Bay offer great snorkeling and dive spots, some of which we’ve detailed above. If in Montego Bay for any amount of time, you’ll definitely want to explore some of these amazing snorkeling spots which just might end up being the highlight of your vacation!
Also read: The 12 best beaches in Montego Bay