Set in the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a stunning island chain in the southern area of the Lesser Antilles arc. Consisting of the main island, Saint Vincent, and 31 other smaller islands and cays - with the largest among them being Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, and Union Island - this paradise is a haven for healthy reefs and marine biodiversity and thus packed with exceptional snorkeling spots. Lovingly nicknamed the 'Critter Capital of the Caribbean,' St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a collective boast approximately 65 square miles of coral reefs, where around 400 reef fish species bustle amid the brimming underwater flora.
Although this Caribbean archipelago isn't particularly famed for snorkeling off the beach, its most dazzling spots can be reached by boat, with numbers of tours available to visitors who wish to explore these islands' sub-sea realms. Naturally, with such breathtaking barrier reefs, pristine coastlines, postcard-perfect beaches, exploring the SVG islands' beauty beyond the beaches and sublime shores via boat trips is a must. Plus, as some of the lesser-visited Caribbean Islands, this underrated gem truly is the ultimate, off-the-beaten-track retreat ideal for jet-setters in need of a crowd-free vacation in pure paradise. Once those toes are sandy, the hair is crisped and salty, the warm tropical breeze is blowing, and the reefs are bustling before the eyes, taking the time to research the best places to snorkel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines before that dream getaway will prove to have been worth it.
8 Wallilabou Bay
Wallilabou Bay gets the privilege of calling itself the best shore snorkeling destination on the main island of St. Vincent. In fact, its bay may be familiar to fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies; a number of scenes were shot in this very spot (all the more reason to tick this one off the bucket list). Even those who've never heard of Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbosa, and Davey Jones will find their fancies tickled in full here thanks to the excellent snorkel sites right off the shore; from a variety of colorful corals, gorgonians, and sponges to firework-like displays of tropical fish below the water's surface, this sensational section of the island catches the eyes of discerning nature lovers, not just filmmakers.
Plus, particular swimmers to look out for here are moray eels, trumpetfish, damselfish, bluehead wrasse, and blue tangs, which are commonly found busying among the reefs and rocky seabeds. Throw in the whimsical rock formations and steep cliffs creating a stunning backdrop while snorkeling in the waters, and Wallilabou Bay truly is a picture of paradise.
Within the protected Tobago Cays Marine Park, Mayreau island is a mecca for both scuba divers and snorkelers. Many superb dive and snorkel sites abound in the fairtytale underwater world here; however, among its most noteworthy to call home about is Mayreau Gardens - a kaleidoscopic reef chock-full of biodiversity. Hosting rainbow-hued coral gardens, brightly colored sponges, clouds of tropical fish, marine snails, and no lack of the bigger boys, such as sea turtles, sting rays, barracuda, and sharks, most of the creatures snorkelers and scuba divers would ever wish to see in this part of the Caribbean can be witnessed in this magnificent underwater ecosystem.
Underwater enthusiasts can also find fringing reefs near the beaches on the northeast coast of Mayreau Island, but indeed a boat ride might be the best option if they intend to explore the areas of Mayreau Gardens further from the shores that cannot easily be accessed by swimming. In addition, tourists visiting this region of St. Vincent and the Grenadines get the best of both; home to some of the most spectacular marine reefs and the Caribbean's most scenic beaches, Mayreau is an uncontested top choice for a day of snorkeling (or scuba diving) and beach bumming. A few of the most beautiful beaches promising computer screen saver-worthy scenes include Windward Bay, Saline Bay, and Salt Whistle Bay.
Situated in the southern Grenadines, Canouan Island is a little different from others because it delivers some of the best shore snorkeling available in the entirety of the archipelago. Home to a mile-long reef that shelters the coast, ocean conditions here are prime for snorkeling and swimming, entailing calm, crystal-clear waters ideal for spotting all the busy underwater animals thriving within.
Abundant marine species here include tons of reef fish, bizarre brain corals, and lots of other enthralling creatures to observe and admire. What's more, the beauty of Canouan Island also lies in its accessibility and possibility to stay overnight if visitors become so enchanted by its splendor that they find it impossible to leave. With an array of resorts and accommodation on the island, guests can stay and create a whole extra portion of their vacation if they so desire; if not, they can always take their exploration in the form of a day trip by boat.
5 The Tobago Cays
Comprising five deserted islets, namely Baradal, Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Petit Tabac, and Jamesby, the Tobago Cays are divine and encompassed by an expansive system of coral reefs. As part the 1,400-acre Tobago Cays Marine Park, the area's waters are fully protected and therefore promise some of the most incredible snorkeling sites in the whole Caribbean. Of all the best spots, one of the major highlights is the 2.5-mile Horseshoe Reef, which wraps around the small islets found here.
With spectacular shows from marine life, such as colorful corals and sea fans, turtles, eagle rays, nurse sharks, and a whole host of reef fish, adding the Tobago Cays to one's snorkeling trip list will entail much reward. However, visitors need to note that these cays are only accessible by boat, although there are plenty of day trips, guided tours, and catamaran cruises offering access from St. Vincent and its other small sibling islands, such as Bequia, Canouan, and Union. Getting to the Tobago Cays by water taxi is also a viable option, which can be done from Union, Canouan, Mayreau.
4 Petit St. Vincent
Found near Carriacou - the sister island of Grenada - Petit St. Vincent is one of the Grenadines' southernmost islands. Operating as a resort, the island is privately owned, where 115-acres of its serene space promises one of the most luxurious, exclusive tropical retreats in the Caribbean. Not just an opulent paradise tucked away in the utmost privacy, the island is also a celebrated scuba diving and snorkeling hotspot, with a number of exquisite sites for snorkelers accessible straight from the beach.
Be it pristine corals or wealths of tropical marine life from colored fish and eagle rays to sea turtles, there's so much richness to see in the teeming waters of this small speck of the Grenadines. Amazingly, the resort here even has an artificial coral garden as part of its marine conservation initiatives, where elkhorn and staghorn corals are grown. As for the cherry on top of this pint-sized pinnacle of pristine, Petit St. Vincent also delivers fantastic water sports and in-water activities ranging from relaxing to heart-pumping, with the likes of paddle-boasting, kite surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, and, of course, scuba diving all available to resort guests.
3 Palm Island
The paradisiacal Palm Island is also a beautiful private island - one that's exclusive to guests of Palm Island Resort and Spa and the high-end villas nearby. Bright white-sand beaches on this tranquil island are bathed by transparent shallow waters, which are superb for inexperienced swimmers and snorkelers to find their fins. As stunning as Palm Island may be, its gorgeous ocean doesn't actually have that many corals or reef systems; however, what it lacks in reef it makes up for with an abundance of vibrantly colored tropical fish and current, wave-free waters perfect for kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, and many other memorable water sports and wet pastimes.
Evidently, the largest of the Grenadine Islands is bound to boast a sample of the most breathtaking snorkeling adventures in the Caribbean - but that 'largest' branding is somewhat deceiving since it's a mere seven square miles in size. At only ten miles from St. Vincent, it's easy to arrive at Bequia Island; however, it's still fairly under-visted and undiscovered despite being so close to the chief island of these parts. With a number of wonderful waters to discover, it's not easy choosing the best of Bequia's bunch in terms of snorkeling sites. Still, the dot known as Devil’s Table consistently rates high among the top-cited hubs for marine adventurists, where a shallow reef favored by both scuba divers and snorkelers serves as a prolific breeding ground for bounties of marine creatures.
This impeccable reef shelters habitats for a myriad of critters big a small, including sea fans, spiny lobsters, octopus, parrotfish, snappers, hawksbill sea turtles, eagle rays, and adorable seahorses. Also a brilliant site for snorkelers is the Lower Bay, where a laid back sandy stretch provides access to snorkeling directly from the shore at the beach’s western end. For even more beach lounging and calm-water snorkeling spots, Industry Bay and Spring Bay are equally worthy candidates to add to the to-visit list.
1 Petit Byahaut
Last but not least, Petit Byahaut is found on St. Vincent’s southwestern coast - but it's unlike any others and thus deserves a serious shout-out. Boasting a heavenly lagoon only reachable by yacht, visitors can discover an underwater cave known locally as the Bat Cave (no Bruce Waynes inside though - he's probably on one of the moored private yachts basking under the sun).
Furthermore, it's not merely cavernous sights and pretty above-water lagoon scenery to explore and adore here; it's also the dramatic subaquatic natural formations complementing the snorkeling experience. At Dinosaur Head - a picturesque place at Byahaut Point - snorkelers can witness the magnificent 100-foot-plus towering underwater wall coated in colorful sponges, hard corals, and beach grass.