Snorkeling In Jamaica: Our Favorite Beaches, The Marine Life And Tours

jamaica snorkeling


The life-celebrating island country Jamaica is a pearl in the Caribbean, attracting millions of tourists each year. It’s located about 90 miles south of Cuba and 119 miles west of Haiti. With Bob Marley’s “home museum”, it’s national Blue Mahoe trees and sparkling white beaches, this is definitely an experience on it’s own.

Did you know: Jamaica made it to the number 4 spot in our list of Best Snorkel Locations in the Caribbean.

How to get there

There are 3 international airports in Jamaica of which Sangster International Airport (Montego Bay) is many people’s first choice. From there you could either hire a car, grab a taxi or use public transportation.

We always use Skyscanner, especially because there’s an option to combine your flight with some great deals on airport car hire. If you don’t have specific travel dates in mind, try their “Flexible dates” function (you’ll get this option once you select your departure date). That’s where we often find some great deals!


Our Best Snorkel Beaches

1. Negril Beach

Located in the west of Jamaica, Negril is definitely one of the most famous areas to explore the underwater life. This so called “seven mile beach” is not only a “coconut-destination”, it also offers a good amount of hotels, resorts, bars, restaurants, shops, you name it.

If you’re an adventurous kind of person you could consider to snorkel at the “Negril Coral Reef”, which is approximately 2 miles off shore. People rent a boat or go on a snorkel excursion in order to get there. Especially if you’re an experienced snorkeler, this will be more attractive than snorkeling directly off the beach.

If you want to take Negril to the next level, check out the Rockhouse Hotel. This hotel is situated on top of a cliff and offers private little houses overlooking the ocean. Definitely not a “typical” hotel. It’s less crowded and packed with a good amount of healthy coral to check out.

The marine life is diverse, but it all depends on where you want to snorkel. The reef and the Rockhouse hotel are perfect to spot parrotfish, barjacks, wrasses, sea urchins, conch shells, sea fans, and who knows even a nurse shark. In my opinion, the corals are already beautiful enough.

For underwater photography it’s probably best to visit the cliffs near Rockhouse hotel. We added a video below to give you an impression of what to expect. If you’re interested, make sure to also read my “Giant Guide For Snorkeling With A GoPro“.

2. Bluefields Bay

Close to Negril, just a little towards the south-east, you’ll find Bluefields Bay. It’s actually a resort that takes care of all your needs. If you want to snorkel right at your doorstep, this could be your dream location. Not only do they offer a private beach, it’s a dream location to get out of the rat race with their spa, pool, boat trips, private chef’s and much more. If you’re interested, visit their website here.

I’m aware that staying at a resort can limit you when it comes to snorkeling. However, if you want to combine snorkeling and relaxation, this is a great location to read more about. Besides, you are not limited to stay there. Like I said, take a boat and broaden your possibilities.

The resort is close to Moor Reef. It’s marine life is pretty much the same as in Negril, even though your chances or spotting a yellow stingray are bigger. They love to stay close to the mangrove tree roots, so make sure to bring your camera.

In regards to the surrounding nature, people call this “The real Jamaica”. I know, this is a snorkeling website, but I’m just saying. Not a whole lot of quality underwater footage to find online, so here’s a video about what to expect when staying at this resort.

3. Montego Bay

Montego Bay offers great snorkeling for both beginners and more advanced visitors. Located in the north-west of Jamaica, you can easily combine this location with the ones we already mentioned.

As the video below will show you, this is an awesome spot to snorkel. The ocean floor consists of rocks, sand, plants, and a whole lot of corals. If you want to take a clear shot of stingrays, this could be a great choice. Most of the marine life I already mentioned lives here, sometimes even in big schools.

If you’re an experienced snorkeler, consider to visit one of the reefs offshore. Finding a boat trip isn’t a big problem usually, some resorts or hotels offer them as well. If you’re a beginner, or maybe even scared to snorkel, it might be best to stay close to the beach.

For beginners , consider to snorkel at Doctor’s Cave Beach. Located in Montego Bay, this shore is a great combination of (usually) calm waters and appealing reefs. As long as the weather conditions are fine, it’s also a nice location to snorkel with kids (if interested, consider to read my Giant Guide For Snorkeling With Kids).

4. Runaway Bay

To continue on the north shore, Runaway Bay is somewhere in the middle. You’ll find white sandy beaches, waterfalls and even some amazing hiking tracks throughout the forests. This location is pretty small, so don’t expect a whole lot of restaurants or shops. For a snorkeling day, it is brilliant.

One of the most popular places to stay is the Bahia Principe Resort. You can find their website here. Whether you stay at this resort or any other, there is great snorkeling directly off the beach. Want to spot a seahorse? This could be the place to go to.

Besides seahorses, expect to discover barracuda, octopus, lion fish, stingrays, crabs, sea urchins, and a whole to of fish we already talked about previously. The corals are impressive too with a good amount of brain coral.

A whole lot can be seen when snorkeling directly off the beach, but keep in mind there are boat tours that take you further out. Some resorts even offer a glass bottom boat which could be fun for kids. Besides, you get to see the coast from a different angle.

Jewel Runaway Beach Resort seems to be very popular too. To check it out, this is their website. I tried to find a great video to give you an impression of the marine life, but there aren’t many. Here’s one directly off the beach at the Principe Bahia Resort.

5. Ocho Rios

A little eastward of Runaway Bay you’ll find Ocho Rios. Translated, that means “eight rivers”. It symbolizes the eight rivers that flow into the bay. Dunn’s River Falls is a famous waterfall in Ocho Rios, attracting loads of tourists each and every year.

Besides the waterfall, there are many other tourist attractions located nearby, which results in a good amount of cruise ships. However, snorkeling at the reefs is really amazing. Just be careful to not head out into the open water.

Even though boats could be entering this bay, there are boats leaving it too. Some of them are meant to take tourists on a snorkel adventure. In other words, if you stay at this snorkel location you’re pretty flexible to go wherever you want.

Staying close to the reefs is what most people prefer, especially since it allows for some awesome marine life. Expect to see spadefish, scorpion fish, barracuda and snapper. And a whole lot more off course.

Devil’s Reef is just a few minutes by boat, and it’s awesome for snorkeling. How about some turtles? Or nurse sharks? You can find them here. Jackfish, barracudas, moray eels, yogas, they all love this reef big time.

The Weather In Jamaica

Since Jamaica is a tropical destination, expect warm temperatures all year round. July seems to be the hottest month with temperatures up to 91°F. Januari usually is the coldest month, around 82.°F

If snorkeling is your main goal, try to avoid the rainy seasons. There are two rainy seasons in Jamaica: May and October/November. Even though rain is not a big problem for snorkeling, if you can, try to avoid it. Rain is often accompanied by clouds, which could decrease your underwater vision. If it helps, maybe go and read my article about snorkeling in the rain.

A long story short, you could visit Jamaica anytime you wish. The temperature is always pleasant. Even at night it rarely drops below 68 °F. If you can, especially when snorkeling is your main priority, try to skip the rainy months.

What Else To Do In Jamaica

Besides snorkeling, Jamaica has a whole lot to offer. Let me tell you the most appealing activities to maybe consider.

Glistering Waters

Close to Montego Bay you’ll find Glistering Waters, also known as the “Luminous Lagoon”. Water from the river “Martha Brae” runs into the salty ocean water, creating a phosphorous substance. This will light up whenever it is disturbed, like swimming or kayaking. Definitely worth a visit and a big laugh for children.

Rick’s Café

To watch “the perfect sunset” of Jamaica, consider to give Rick’s Café a visit. You can find it in the west, very close to the Negril Beach we mentioned before. The bar and restaurant will make sure you enjoy yourself as you wait.

Blue Hole

Cliff jumping at the Blue Hole could be fun for some as well. If you visit the place you’ll find hiking tracks and rope swings to possibly enhance your excitement. There’s an excursion that takes you to this place and also drops you at Dunn’s River. Maybe fun for a day trip.

Ghost Tour

If you have a thing for spooky stuff, maybe visiting the Rose Hall Great House will do the trick for you. This 18th Century plantation is known to be haunted, and the tour will not forget about that.

Bar Tour

Yes, there is a bar tour in Jamaica. You’ll be picked up at your Negril hotel after which 6 or 7 bars await you. Little snacks are sometimes included. Depending on the weather you might even enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Conclusion And Final Thoughts

Jamaica has a lot to offer. If you want to combine snorkeling with a family holiday, this is definitely a great choice. Loads of fish, corals, easy to access beaches, it’s all there. And don’t forget about the reggae lifestyle, local street sellers and tropical resorts.

Important: Unfortunately Jamaica has a bad reputation when it comes to safety and criminality. Do you own research! When snorkeling I’d say never leave any of your belongings on the beach. Bring a waterproof bag or case and take it with you whenever you enter the water.

Is it the best snorkel destination in the world? From the research I did, and from what my heart tells me, I think this is not the case. However, for a mix of relaxation and snorkeling, it is perfect. Especially if you want to bring the whole family.

Another thing I’ve learned is that Jamaica’s roads can be pretty bumpy. Personally I usually prefer to rent a car, and bringing the whole family on a bumpy road in the early morning could be a little annoying. But still, if everyone keeps the “holiday spirit” alive, there should be no problem.

The many all-inclusive resorts could be a deal breaker. I don’t mind them that much, I just don’t like crowded beaches. So if I would ever go to Jamaica, I’d definitely look into the Rockhouse Hotel. The snorkeling there seems amazing and it allows me to relax. I think I’d take a few boat tours as well.

I hope this article was of help. I spent ages doing my research as I’m still planning to visit Jamaica in the (near) future. It’s not in my Top 3 at this moment, but I have to admit it seems like a very cool place to visit someday.

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