If you’re interested in taking your casual swimming in the sea to the next level, a snorkeling excursion around St Martin is the ideal way to get your feet wet. And if you’re already an avid fan, Sally’s handpicked must-try snorkeling zones provide a sound reason to find your passport, grab your bathing suit and dip into the Caribbean water to fill your vacation schedule swimming around the island.
As part of the French Nature Reserve, Creole Rock is celebrated for its diverse ecosystem. On one side of the rock you’ll discover generally calm, shallow waters with typical Caribbean marine life such as Sargent Majors, Blue Tang, Parrot Fish and more. Swing around to the far north side and you’ll find deeper waters, generally rougher conditions and creatures from Turtles and Dolphins to Nurse Sharks and Stingrays.
Sally’s pro tip: If you’re a beginner, stick to the calm and shallow section. It’s a great place to start.
Turtle Reef is a circular reef where you’ll often find two variants of turtles, both Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles. It’s filled with diverse fish life as well as healthy fish life. It’s a perfect place for new snorkelers to go, as it’s only 25ft deep at its absolute deepest, and 6ft deep at its shallowest. It’s quite a ways from the other snorkeling hotspots too—so you’ll beat the other snorkeling crowds and cruise around comfortably.
Sally’s pro tip: You’ll need to be escorted by someone who knows the water well, like a local operator, because Turtle Reef is tricky to find.
The most accessible from St Martin on the list, snorkelers can get to Pinel Island from ferries that run from Cul de Sac every half hour, or you can kayak, paddle board or even swim. Once you arrive, you’ll be snorkeling on a shallow reef that goes off of the island’s east side and swings around to the north side, only a maximum 20ft deep. You’ll discover healthy fish and coral life, and since you can access Pinel Island easily at your leisure, it’s the perfect spot to explore if you don’t want to commit your entire day to the underwater world.
Sally’s pro tip: go in the morning to beat the cruise ship crowds!
Tintamarre Island is a great place to snorkel if you want to make a whole afternoon of it. It’s sequestered far to the north of St Martin, loaded with amazing diving spots (maybe for next time!). For snorkelers, head to the west side of the beach where you’ll discover robust rock formations and tons of Blue Tang. You can swim in front of the beach where the boats or moored up, over the reef and around the rocks along the beach too. If you’re on the lookout for some turtles, you’ll find them amid the eel grass just off the beach.
Sally’s pro tip: On the west side of the island, the reef system stretches far, making a great spot for experienced snorkelers. If you try this, make sure you have a marker buoy so boats can readily see you.
If you’re on the market for a little beach relaxation along with your snorkeling, Happy Bay is a pristine beach with good snorkeling on the north and south shores. It’s a great destination for the entire experience: drive to Friars Bay, park and take in the picturesque walk to Happy Bay over the cliffs. Once you hit the waters, you’ll find nurseries for Caribbean Reef Fish.
Sally’s pro tip: If you’re an avid snorkeler, you can swim from Friars Bay all the way to Happy Bay and continue around the coast, just be sure to rehydrate along the way.