So you’ve decided to vacation in the Turks & Caicos. You might have read a lot about this tiny Caribbean isle, and the good news ? You couldn’t have selected a better spot to vacation – particularly if you’re a fan of crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, and a luxury lifestyle. If you’re looking to find the best spots on the island for snorkeling, look no further!
The shallow, clear waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands makes it an amazing spot for snorkeling. The islands boast a barrier reef which is unlike any other in the Caribbean. While snorkeling you will notice an abundance of captivating marine life living in and around the coral reefs. If this isn’t enough assurance that the Turks and Caicos are the best place to snorkel, note that the islands have been voted as 2015 pick for the world’s top island. This should be enough to get you and your snorkeling gear on a flight to the tropical Caribbean paradise!
There are a few things you need to know. The Turks and Caicos are a tropical archipelago in the Caribbean, just southeast of Florida. Millions of visitors flock there every year to visit the low lying coral islands – 40 in total. The Turks and Caicos are made up of two groups of islands – the Turks islands and the Caicos Islands. When you think about these islands, you may immediately think of Providenciales, or Provo as the locals call it. Provo is the north-eastern most island in the Caicos and boasts some of the best snorkeling spots. When traveling to the Turks and Caicos from an international destination you will almost always fly into Provo. Provo, a gateway island of sorts, is home to Grace Bay Beach, a sprawling locale with luxury resorts, shops and restaurants. On the island of Provo you will find some of the best snorkeling in the archipelago.
Tip: Also read the complete guide on ‘Snorkeling tips for beginners’. This guide contains information on how to find the perfect fit for your mask, the best way to defog your mask and much much more.
The best snorkeling spots are located in Providenciales, Grand Turk and Salt Cay. While the other islands in the archipelago do provide fantastic snorkeling, the underwater views at these locations are even more superb. Since Provo is the most developed island, it has the most options and it is recommended that you put it at the top of your list.
There are tons of great places to snorkel but these are closest to the beach and do not require boat access.
This is not only close to the beach, but is easily the most popular snorkeling site in Providenciales. It contains one ridge of coral which extends roughly 350 feet from the beach, at a depth of 15-20 feet.
Bight Reef is easily accessed from the beach by simply walking along the shore to the visibly marked snorkeling location. This reef also features a snorkel trail where markers on the sea floor guide you to the coral. This makes it the perfect location for kids.
After you’ve waded through the shallow waters to Bight Reef, you can spot green and hawksbill turtles, stingrays, barracudas, blue parrotfish, trumpet fish and the occasional nurse shark or hump back whale, if you’re lucky!
Other pluses for Bight Reef include free parking, restroom availability, lounge chair, rental if you feel like sunbathing, and other amenities.
Insider tip: Bight Reef (but also Smith’s reef and Grace Bay’s reef) is on less than a 10-minute trip from all-inclusive resort Beaches Turks & Caicos. Snorkeling equipment is included in your stay!
Malcolm’s Road Beach is one of the best options in Provo. Located at a secluded spot on the west coast of the island, it is well known for high underwater visibility and the likelihood of spotting larger marine animals like sharks. At this reef you’re also likely to run into spotted rays, one of the most beautiful ray species of the undersea.
Where to find the best reefs
The best reefs at Malcolm’s Beach Road are located 500-700 feet from shore and the wall (drop off on the edge of the Caicos plateau) is located 1600 feet out at sea. The depth at the top of the wall is 50 feet and 7,000 feet off the wall.
It is important to note that snorkeling at Malcolm’s Road Beach is more difficult than Bight Reef and is a better location for experienced and skilled divers. Also, as a method of conservation to regenerate coral, concrete artificial reef balls have been placed in the area.
Accessing Malcolm’s Road Beach is a bit of a rough drive on a three-mile-long unpaved road. Unfortunately, it is the only designated access road, but it is all worth it given the reef that awaits.
The outer reefs at Smith’s reef have been called the best, easily-accessible beach snorkeling in Providenciales. With several reefs, there are areas suited for both experienced and beginner snorkelers. The reefs begin in the shallows and extend into the sea and feature marine life like butterfly fish, damselfish, indigo hamlets, parrotfish, barracudas, lobster, moray eels and more. The scenery varies greatly, from hard corals, to soft corals like sea fans . At night you may even see octopi , and schools of squid. Smith’s reef is immensely popular because of the unique sightings available in the different areas of the reef system. Smith’s reef is located near Turtle Cove, on the central north coast of Providenciales.
You can access Smith’s Reef via three public beach accesses:
What you need to know…
If you’re looking for a reef that’s a bit further out but just as promising, the Grace Bay reef is worth checking out. This reef is located off the coast of Providenciales, but requires a boat cruise.
Picture: Grace Bay beach in Turks & Caicos.
Grace Bay is hailed as one of the best beaches in the Turks and Caicos. Notably, the beach was named after Grace Jane Hutchings who was the wife of the commissioner of the Turks and Caicos from 1933-1934.
With dynamic beauty and history, Grace Bay can prove a little disappointing for snorkeling – it’s mostly sandy bottom near the shore and at least half a mile off the beach. It is recommended that you take a boat cruise out to the barrier reef which provides spectacular views when weather conditions are right. Nevertheless, the calm and crystal clear waters are great for swimming!
Grace Bay is located on the northern side of Providenciales and its reefs feature small walls with deep coral canyons from 30 to 100 feet.
These next set of snorkeling locations are not located in Providenciales, but in the other Turks and Caicos Islands. These also require boat access.
If you’re looking forward to worthwhile snorkeling in Grand Turk, it’s best to plan a boat cruise and head out to sea. Most reefs that are close to the shore are too deep to be good snorkeling points. Marine life here includes parrotfish, horse eye jacks and butterflyfish.
However, Boaby Rock Point is a good option for beach snorkeling on the southernmost point of Grand Turk. There are two medium sized reefs here, which extend roughly 300 feet from the beach. On a calm day, it is a good location to see the vibrant coral including sea fans and various marine life. Accessing this point is only a short walk from Grand Turk’s Cruise Center or an even shorter drive from that location.
On the downside, there are some large rocks and a great amount of seaweed. If you can get past this, snorkeling here can be fun.
These other beaches offer good snorkeling:
Picture: Horseshoe Reef at Gibbs Cay.
This small island in the Turks offers several snorkeling options – but boat cruises are recommended.
A boat excursion gives the opportunity to see reefs which are otherwise inaccessible. In between January and April, you can snorkel with migrating humpback whales.
Here are some great beach snorkeling locations in Salt Cay:
Mudjin Harbor is located in Middle Caicos which is the biggest island in the Caicos. This is not a location for beginners. The change in tides is often sudden but the limestone cliffs provide protection. Since the barrier reef is close to Mudjin Harbor, the underwater views are great, however, sea conditions are not always favorable. The marine life here is varied, including starfish, grouper and parrotfish.
If you’re in Providenciales and looking to get to Mudjin Harbor, take a ferry to North Caicos and rent a car from there.
This is a group of three limestone rocks off the north shore of North Caicos. The Cay is easily accessible from the island and although the reefs are not as vibrant as the popular locations on Provo. Small amounts of healthy coral and colourful reef fish including purple sea plumes can be seen here. Bight Reef is easily accessed from the beach by simply walking along the shore to the visibly marked snorkeling location. Although it is generally peaceful, you are encouraged to check the weather forecast since the winds can stir up the sand and affect visibility.
Road improvements have made it easier to access Three Marys from Sandy Point. The sign is tiny to be sure to look out for it.
Dove Cay is a tiny, inhabited cay in South Caicos, with an area of 2.4 hectares. Accessing the Cay can be done via a private and customizable tours, or by kayaking or paddle boarding. The Cay is 700 feet away from South Caicos.
Dove Cay is great for snorkeling, however, it is recommended that you stay on the western side of the island unless the water is extremely calm. In those instances, you can venture to the western side where you’re likely to see turtles swimming freely. Be aware that Hammerhead sharks & manta rays may also be spotted along the Caicos Archipelago.
South Caicos is only a 10-minute flight away from Providenciales.
This is another uninhabited island a short boat ride from South Caicos, and named for its long and narrow shape, 3 miles across and less than 100 feet wide in some places. Since the water is crystal clear, it makes for great snorkeling and other beach activities. In the clear water, you will be able to catch glimpses of a variety of fish and turtles. You may also be able to view small sharks, barracudas, and stingrays.
The fringes of Long Cay also make for beautiful snorkeling since tiny creatures hide in the crevices of the cays. However, it is best to stay away from the edges of the cliffs since the soft limestone easily crumbles.
Located in North / Middle Caicos, Conch Beach offers close access to the vibrant barrier reef. Be sure to check the weather before heading out to this reef, as ocean conditions can often be too turbulent for snorkeling. On a good day, possible sightings at this reef are endless!
Looking for a location that comes with a challenge? Try the Remote West Coast of Providenciales – this area is highly recommended for snorkeling, and though difficult to access, boasts some of the most vibrant reefs in the area. With choppy waters, this reef is recommended for experienced swimmers / snorkelers. It’s also located on a secluded beach and susceptible to larger than normal ocean swells. When checking out this reef, ensure you go with a group so there’s help if you run into trouble.
The Northwest Point- Providenciales is recommended to access by boat charter. At this location expect to find some of the most colourful reefs, and sea fans. Beware of the waves and currents.
The best times of year to travel to the Caribbean island s of the Turks and Caicos are between December and April. This is the peak season, and is recommended because these are the months excluded from the region’s often inconvenient hurricane season. Hurricane season in the Caribbean spans from June – November annually. It’s a little more risky to travel to the region during the hurricane season, but typically these are the times with the best airfare. When going snorkeling, always remember that calm and sunny conditions make for the best experience. Keep in mind, the less wave action, the more likely you’ll have a day filled with interesting sightings!
Take heart. If you forget any essentials at home there are dive and gift shops in Provo that offer pretty much anything you would need for a snorkeling expedition. Keep in mind if you need something special, supplies might be limited, so it’s always best to get what you need ahead of time, if you can.
Turks and Caicos provides tons of cool options for snorkeling, from small reefs just off the shore line, to pristine reefs further out to sea.