What Are the Best Snorkeling Spots in St. Martin?

There are captivating turquoise-blue sea waters that are teeming with colorful sea life surrounding the Caribbean island called St. Martin. The Caribbean Sea surrounds both the northern French and southern Dutch sides of the island, these factors make Saint Martin an ideal location for snorkeling enthusiasts.

The island of St. Martin offers an array of beaches that are brimming with aquatic life. The warm Caribbean Sea provides an exciting snorkeling experience for people looking to explore the underwater world, discover different marine animals, or learn about the aquatic plants submerged below the sea. There are great snorkeling spots for beginners as well as experienced swimmers in St. Martin. Some of the best snorkeling beaches in Saint Martin are listed below.

  1. Cupecoy Beach
  2. Dawn Beach
  3. Mullet Bay
  4. Pinel Island
  5. Orient Bay Islands
  6. Creole Rock
  7. Baie Rouge and David’s Hole

1. Cupecoy Beach

woman snorkeling with dolphin near cupecoy beach

Cupecoy Beach is located on the southwestern Dutch side of the island of Sint Maarten. This beach is close to the border division between the French and Dutch sides of the island. Cupecoy Beach is tucked away in an area surrounded by limestone cliffs with underwater caves that host a school of colorful fish.

The environment at Cupecoy Beach is quiet in comparison to other beaches in Sint Maarten because there are no shops and there are few amenities available on the beach. For this reason, all who are planning to visit Cupecoy Beach should bring their own snorkeling gear, towels, beach chairs, and refreshments if they are planning to relax on the beach either before or after snorkeling. Alternatively, swimmers can visit the Sapphire Beach Club restaurant situated close by for their meals and refreshments. Visitors should note that Cupecoy beach is “clothing optional” so there may be nude sunbathers or swimmers on the beach.

The snorkeling scene at Cupecoy Beach is calm and beginner-friendly for those who don’t have much experience snorkeling. Experienced swimmers can explore the coastline leading to Mullet Bay for a more adventurous snorkeling experience. The stronger currents along the swim to Mullet Bay would be challenging for weaker swimmers. The calmer waters at Cupecoy beach will allow those who snorkel there to spot some colorful sea creatures such as the parrotfish, wrasse, and queen angelfish.

Cupecoy Beach faces the western side of the island of Sint Maarten and its location allows for spectacular sunset views. Those who visit can spend time on the golden sands of the beach from late afternoon until the evening so that they don’t miss out on the breathtaking orange-hued sunset fading slowly behind the glistening Caribbean waters.

2. Dawn Beach

Dawn Beach is located on the eastern coast of St. Maarten facing the neighboring island of St. Barts. The white sands of Dawn Beach are situated south of Saint Martin’s Dutch and French border on the Dutch side of the island.

Dawn Beach is a tranquil location surrounded by beach clubs, elegant homes, luxurious yachts on the water, and scenic mountain views inland. Some of the beach clubs along Dawn beach provide amenities such as food, drink, and lounge chairs to use on the beach. This beach is suitable for relaxation on land and fun snorkeling in the water.

Dawn beach faces the windward side of Sint Maarten. There are strong waves and currents that can be risky for children and inexperienced swimmers especially without the use of fins. Activities such as snorkeling should be done by experienced swimmers using fins to snorkel through the strong currents. There are times when the waters calm down during which it may be safer to snorkel around the reefs. When deciding whether or not to snorkel these waters caution should be taken. Reef fish such as the angelfish, parrotfish, and grunt fish can be seen among the coral reefs.

Dawn Beach is a beautiful white sandy beach with an incredible view of clear blue waters during the day and a wonderful view of the sun setting in the evening. This beach is worth the visit even during times when snorkeling may not be possible. The beauty of the sea at Dawn beach can still be appreciated from the surface.

3. Mullet Bay

Mullet Bay is located on the southwestern coast of the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. Mullet Bay is situated close to St. Maarten’s most famous beach, “Maho Beach”, which is known for the thrilling aircraft landings very close to the beach.

Mullet Bay is preferred by the locals of St. Maarten over the tourist attraction Maho Beach because Mullet Bay has a noticeably contrasting serene environment that allows for a calmer relaxing time at the beach. The quiet nature of the beach allows for sightings of sea creatures that would easily be scared off if the beach was too loud. This makes Mullet Bay a great location for snorkeling.

The sea at Mullet Bay has good visibility and aquatic life is readily spotted on the northern end of the bay near the rocks. The water is usually calm; however, occasional strong winds can result in stronger currents. It is advisable to wear a snorkel vest to keep safe in the event that the winds bring in larger waves. Some of the marine life that can be seen while snorkeling at Mullet Bay include the wrasse, queen angelfish, and parrotfish.

Mullet Bay has a cozy environment with a gorgeous view of clear turquoise blue waters sweeping off the edge of the golden sands of the beach. This picturesque destination also has some incredible sunset views that will further enrich your snorkeling adventure.

4. Pinel Island

man snorkeling near pinel island

Pinel Island is located off the coast of Orient Bay on the northeastern side of the French side of St. Martin. Pinel Island is a marine reserve that serves to protect aquatic life in the sea below and the wildlife on the land surface of the island. This makes Pinel Island one of the best locations to see colorful marine life on the entire island of St. Martin.

The scenic Pinel Island can be reached using a ferry that departs from a ferry point known as “Cul de Sac”.The ferry from Cul de Sac takes only 5 minutes to reach Pinel Island which makes it a regular excursion destination. There are restaurants and bars on Pinel Island as well as facilities that rent out umbrellas, beach chairs, kayaks, and paddleboards. This little island is great for water activities including snorkeling.

Pinel Island accommodates snorkelers with different experience levels. The main beach is situated on the western side of the island. This western beachfront is beginner-friendly with shallow, calm waters that have a designated snorkeling trail called the Pinel Island Marine Trail. This marine trail is marked with white buoys to help guide swimmers safely along the reef. The experienced snorkelers can visit the northern coast of Pinel Island which has stronger currents and there are no snorkeling guides to assist swimmers.

Some of the wildlife that can be spotted while snorkeling at Pinel Island include hermit crabs and iguanas on land as well as stingrays, different species of reef fish, and sea turtles in the water below. The marine reserve at Pinel Island is a good location to see some of the sea life around the island. Sea turtles frequently surface around the orange buoys that are located close to Pinel Island. Pinel Island is a beautiful location to experience the incredible beach view and explore the fascinating wildlife on land and below the clear blue sea.

5. Orient Bay Islands

Orient Bay Islands is a group of small islets and rocks in Orient Bay off the eastern coast of the French side of Saint Martin. The islets and rocks at Orient Bay Islands include Caye Vetre, Petite Clef, and Tintamarre Island.

Tintamarre Island is most popular for its excellent snorkeling options. This little island is the largest rocky island around Orient Bay, and it serves as a nature reserve. Tintamarre Island is uninhabited which makes it an excellent location to sunbathe on the white sandy beach or snorkel in the clear and calm waters. Visitors can access Tintamarre Island by making a reservation for a guided excursion to the island using a speed boat or catamaran.

Some of the boat tours to the different islands near Orient Bay provide food and refreshments as well as snorkeling gear for a charge. Snorkelers may spot aquatic creatures such as tropical fish, stingrays, sea turtles, and on some occasions nurse sharks and dolphins.

The rocky offshore islets of the islands near Orient Bay are a great choice for swimmers who would like to explore beautiful marine life while they snorkel around the island. The white sand beach also provides breathtaking scenery for a relaxing time on the beach.

6. Creole Rock

boy snorkeling near creole rock

Creole Rock is a small island situated north off the coast of the town of Grand Case on the northern French side of St. Martin. Creole Rock is so close to Grand Case that experienced swimmers can swim to this island. The less experienced swimmers and those who are carrying snorkel equipment and other heavy items can take a boat ride to Creole Rock.

Creole Rock is a communal nesting ground for gregarious birds known as a “rookery”. Visitors are not allowed above the tideline at Creole Rock because it is a rookery, or a habitat for the various birds on the island. The marine ecosystems and vegetation below the waters are sensitive and it can be affected by the constant boat traffic above the waters as well as the many swimmers snorkeling and disturbing the underwater environment.

Visitors who snorkel at Creole Rock are advised to be mindful of the strain they can cause to the environment and the need for them to avoid excessive impact on the marine life below while they snorkel. The aquatic life that can be found in the sea surrounding Creole Rock includes trumpet fish, colorful parrotfish, sea turtles, barracuda, stingrays, French angels, and squid.

Creole Rock offers an adventurous snorkeling experience with beautiful aquatic life in the sea and the different species of birds that nest on the island. This destination is a beautiful wildlife haven.

7. Baie Rouge and David’s Hole

Baie Rouge and David’s Hole are located on the northwestern coast of the French side of Saint Martin in the Les Terres Basses region. Baie Rouge serves as the entry point for the spectacular sight called David’s Hole.

Baie Rouge is French for “red bay”. Baie rouge was given its name because of the reddish pink color of the beach sands caused by crushed coral pieces that wash up onto the shore. The primary attraction of Baie Rouge is a beautiful reef extending from the Baie Rouge shoreline and eastward of the beach there is the magnificent sight of a collapsed sinkhole called “David’s Hole”.

The waters surrounding the collapsed sea cave are packed with sea life swimming into the sea cave as well as swimming along the submerged reef. This underwater activity at Baie Rouge makes it an exciting location for snorkeling. Swimmers should inquire from local guides before snorkeling because the currents can be unpredictable.

The vibrant reef on the eastern side of Baie Rouge is a dreamy snorkeling sight with a beautiful view of colorful schools of fish and majestic sea turtles. The pretty pink sands are a relaxing destination to enjoy a restful time on the beach with a beautiful sea view.

What are the conditions of snorkeling in St. Maarten?

The snorkeling conditions in St. Maarten can be good on both the Dutch and French sides of the island depending on where you are on the coast. The western and eastern coasts of Saint Martin provide different snorkeling conditions due to the difference in weather and current flow.

The climate in St. Martin is tropical. The sea around St. Martin is warm throughout the year with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 29°C (75°F to 85°F). The eastern coast receives more rain as well as strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean. This type of weather can cause strong currents that make it difficult for snorkeling. These strong currents can be dangerous for beginner swimmers as well as children snorkeling in the sea. The experienced swimmer will need to use a pair of fins to navigate through the turbulent waters.

The western coast of St. Maarten has calmer weather conditions and is dryer with little to no rain. The Caribbean sea’s current flow is relatively calm with occasional gusts of wind in some areas. The wind power on Sint Maarten’s western coast is inferior to the eastern coast winds. The snorkeling conditions are relatively safe for beginner swimmers as well as children. The experienced swimmer can also enjoy a challenging snorkeling adventure in some of the isolated areas which provide stronger currents.

When should you go snorkeling in St. Martin?

The best time to go snorkeling in St. Martin is from the month of December through to June. The temperatures in Saint Martin are relatively constant throughout the year. During the months of December to June though, the weather is calmer and sunnier. For this reason, the best time to go to St. Martin is during the months of February and March because there are little winds, less rain, and more sun for an ideal snorkeling environment.

Are there coral reefs in St. Maarten?

Yes, there are coral reefs in St. Maarten. The coral reefs in Sint Maarten have faced a threat to their health from several factors. The government of St. Maarten has made efforts to protect the health of the coral reef and preserve this beautiful plant life that is home to much of St. Martin’s marine life.

In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria caused some extensive damage to the coral reefs in St. Maarten. The following year in 2018, Sint Maarten reported its findings on a type of disease that affects coral reefs that is referred to as “Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease”. This coral reef disease is spread through contact. The spread of coral reef disease through contact has raised concerns about divers and snorkelers in the water. There is also evidence that suggests that contact with plastic can also spread this disease among the coral reefs.

There have been environmental initiatives set up on the island of Saint Martin to curb the spread of coral reef disease. The St. Maarten Marine Park of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation advises snorkelers to ensure that their snorkeling gear is carefully cleaned before they go into the water. Swimmers who are snorkeling in the water are also advised to minimize contact with the coral reefs and to ensure that they do not pollute the water, especially with plastic.

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation continues to monitor the spread of the coral reef disease as they look for ways to reduce infection. This foundation has guidelines that can be provided to snorkelers to ensure that those who are snorkeling can enjoy their time in the water while helping in the preservation of the coral reefs.

What creatures can you see when snorkeling in St. Martin?

The creatures that you can see when snorkeling in St. Martin are beautiful and diverse. Some of the creatures that can be spotted while snorkeling in Saint Martin are listed below.

  1. Sea turtles: These majestic creatures shelter in some of the reefs and wrecks found in St. Maarten’s sea waters. The different types of sea turtles found around Sint Maarten during a snorkeling visit include lager head, green and hawksbill turtles. The sea turtles eat seagrass, and these turtles are often spotted while snorkeling by the island of Tintamarre which is surrounded by seagrass.
  2. Parrotfish: Parrotfish can be found when snorkeling among the coral reefs in Saint Martin. Parrotfish have hard beaks that they use to grind coral reefs into a white powdered texture which can be swallowed and digested by the fish. The residue of this crushed coral reef washes up onto the beach shore giving it a white sandy color. The white sandy beaches in St. Martin are a product of the work of the parrotfish.
  3. Grunt fish: When snorkeling near the reefs and wrecks found in the waters off the coast of Sint Maarten, swimmers can spot some schools of grunt fish. The schools of grunt fish stick together to protect themselves from predators. The grunt fish grinds its teeth together to produce a grunting sound when protecting its territory. These remarkable creatures can be assertive towards other fish when establishing dominance.
  4. Lionfish: The lionfish can be spotted while among the reefs on some of the beaches in St. Martin. The magnificent lionfish is a beautiful sight for snorkelers but a fearful encounter for St. Martin’s reef fish. This creature is known to eat anything that can fit into its mouth and poses a threat to the reef fish population around the island. The lionfish should be reported by those who spot it while snorkeling because of its threat to other fish.
  5. Angelfish: Angelfish is another popular reef fish that can be seen while snorkeling among the coral reefs in Sint Maarten. The angelfish are beautifully colorful and these schools of fish feed on the coral reefs. The different types of angelfish that can be located around the island of St. Maarten are queen, gray and French angelfish. The angelfish are graceful in nature and this makes an encounter with them delightful when snorkeling.

Are there sharks in St. Maarten?

Yes, there are sharks in St. Maarten. There is an abundance of nurse sharks and reef sharks as well as other types found in deeper waters extending from Sint Maarten’s coast. The sharks in St. Maarten rarely pose a threat to swimmers who do not provoke these sharks.

There has only been one unprovoked shark attack that occurred in St. Martin in 2005. This happened while a tourist was swimming approximately 150m (492 ft) off the coast of Orient Bay.  Many people who snorkel off the coast of Sint Maarten reportedly enjoy swimming with these majestic creatures as they discover much of the marine life that exists in the Caribbean waters. Many visitors who have encountered sharks while snorkeling in Sint Maarten have expressed that the sharks did not display any aggression towards swimmers.

Which side of St. Martin is good for snorkeling?

The French side of St. Martin is good for snorkeling. This region has the most popular beaches for snorkeling in St. Martin. French St. Martin is not as crowded as the popular Dutch side. The tranquil and secluded beaches on the French side of St. Martin offer a calm and relaxing atmosphere that can enhance any tourist’s snorkeling experience.

The Dutch side of Sint Maarten is usually crowded because tourists are often attracted to the lively entertainment offered in St. Maarten which includes watching plane landings at Maho beach. These conditions can make it difficult to enjoy a calm snorkeling expedition in crowded beaches. The loud noises of many people on the crowded beaches can also scare some of the marine life away and make it difficult to spot them while snorkeling.

Snorkelers with skill levels of all types would enjoy snorkeling more on the French side than the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. The border division on the island of St. Martin is free to pass through so snorkelers still have the option of snorkeling on the Dutch side.

What are the tours that provide snorkeling events in St. Martin?

There are many tours that provide snorkeling events in St. Martin. Some of the best tours in Saint Martin organize trips to snorkeling destinations for both beginner and experienced swimmers. Listed below are some of the tours that offer snorkeling events in Saint Martin.

  1. Captain Bob Most Popular Speed Boat, Snorkeling, and Beach Tour with Lunch.
  2. Saint Martin: Full-Day Private Speed Boat Charter.
  3. The Original Eco Tour Full-Day Around the Island of Sint Maarten.
  4. Full-Day Snorkeling, Beach and Island-Hopping Excursion/Tour.
  5. St. Maarten Motorboat Cruise: Long Bay, Creole Rock, and Tintamarre Island.
  6. Island Snorkeling Delight from St. Maarten.
  7. Tropical Catamaran Snorkeling, Sailing, and Happy Day.
  8. Island Adventure with a stop at Tintamarre to swim with Turtles.

What are the nearby hotels in snorkeling spots in St. Martin?

The nearby hotels in snorkeling spots in St. Martin are conveniently located in areas that make it easy to access a good snorkeling beach on the island. The best hotels near snorkeling spots can be found on both the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten. Some of the best hotels in Saint Martin that are near snorkeling spots are listed below.

1. Sapphire Beach Club Resort – Cupecoy and Mullet Bay

Sapphire Beach Club Resort is located within a 5-minute walking distance to Cupecoy beach and a 13-minute walk to Mullet Bay. This resort is situated on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Sapphire Beach Club Resort provides quick access to two of Saint Martin’s best snorkeling beaches.

Sapphire Beach Club Resort is a 3-star resort with some good facilities. Some of the facilities at Sapphire Beach Club Resort are listed below.

  • Area shuttle for an additional charge for guests who would like to take a shuttle to go on their snorkeling beach visit.
  • A restaurant and poolside bar to buy some meals and refreshments to take on your snorkeling trip.
  • A swimming pool for some pre-snorkeling water activity.
  • Spa services to help relax after a fun day of snorkeling.
  • A 24-hour front desk that can provide information on snorkeling in the area.

The reviews from guests who stayed at Sapphire Beach Club Resort revealed that they found the staff to be friendly and helpful with any inquiries made. Guests also enjoyed their stay in the spacious rooms which offered spectacular views of St. Maarten.

The Sapphire Beach Club Resort can be a choice of accommodation for visitors looking to snorkel at the nearby beaches and have a comfortable place to return to for the night. The average price of spending a night at Sapphire Beach Club Resort is $170 (€149).

2. Oyster Bay Beach Resort

Oyster Bay Beach Resort is situated within an 8-minute walking distance from some fun snorkeling activity at Dawn beach. This resort is situated on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.

Oyster Bay Beach Resort is a 4-star resort with some good facilities available to snorkelers who choose to stay at this resort. Some of the facilities that are offered at Oyster Bay Beach Resort are listed below.

  • Snorkeling services are offered including snorkeling gear for rent.
  • Taxi and car rental services for guests who would like to explore more of St. Maarten’s snorkeling beaches further away from the resort.
  • A pool for swimmers who would like to improve their skills before snorkeling in the sea.
  • A spa to relax after some snorkeling activity.
  • A restaurant to enjoy some meals before or after a snorkeling expedition.

Oyster Bay Beach Resort received some positive online reviews for its incredible dishes. Visitors also found the car rental service helpful for exploring the island of Saint Martin.

Oyster Bay Beach Resort charges an average price of $265 (€232) per night.

3. La Playa Orient Bay Resort

La Playa Orient Bay Resort is at least a 10-minute drive to Cul de Sac. Cul de Sac is a ferry point for trips that are taken on the sea waters from the northern French side of St. Martin to offshore islands like the Orient Bay Islands and Pinel island.

La Playa Orient Bay Resort is a 4-star resort that offers relaxing accommodation to retreat to after a snorkeling expedition on some of Saint Martin’s beaches. Some of the facilities offered at La Playa Orient Bay Resort are listed below.

  • Onsite restaurant with a provision of kids’ meals for some refreshments and meals before or after a snorkeling tour.
  • Taxi and car rental services for a drive up to Cul de sac or other snorkeling destinations.
  • A 24-hour front desk where guests can make inquiries about the available snorkeling opportunities.
  • A pool to use as a warm-up for snorkeling activities.
  • Spa services to enjoy a much-needed massage after some snorkeling activity.

The online reviews given on La Playa Orient Bay Resort revealed that guests enjoyed the diverse cuisines which left them energized for a day of activity on the island. Guests who stayed at La Playa Orient Bay Resort also enjoyed the calm and tranquil environment that allowed them to relax in peace.

The average cost of spending a night at La Playa Orient Bay Resort is $400 (€350)

4. Grand Case Beach Club

Grand Case Beach Club is located within a 13-minute walking distance to a boat hire that takes you to Creole Rock for some exciting snorkeling activity. This beach club is situated in the northern French town called Grand Case in St. Martin.

Grand Case Beach Club is a 3-star resort that offers facilities that can be useful for visitors who are looking to spend time snorkeling in Saint Martin. Some of the facilities that Grand Case Beach Club offers are listed below.

  • Boating tours to ideal snorkeling destinations.
  • Snorkeling services include snorkeling gear for rent.
  • Taxi and car hire services for guests who would like to snorkel at distant beaches in Sint Maarten.
  • A restaurant for tasty meals to enjoy at the resort or to pack for lunch on a snorkeling tour.
  • A pool for beginners to practice swimming before they snorkel in the open seawater around St. Martin.

The Grand Case Beach Club has positive online reviews for the spectacular sunset views over the Saint Martin’s surrounding Caribbean Sea. Reviewers were also impressed by the excellent service from the staff and the wonderful meals from the on-site restaurant.

Grand Case Beach Club provides snorkeling-friendly accommodation for an average nightly price of $400 (€350).

Our full extended review of the Grand Case Beach Club has more information here.

5. Hommage Hotel & Residences – Baie rouge

Hommage Hotel & Residences is located within a 16-minute walking distance and a 2-minute car ride to the exciting snorkeling destination of Baie Rouge beach. Hommage Hotel & Residences is located on the French side of St. Martin in the area of Terres Basses.

Hommage Hotel & Residences offer a relaxing stay for visitors who are looking to snorkel in Saint Martin. Some of the facilities that Hommage Hotel & Residences offer are listed below.

  • A poolside bar for some tropical refreshments to enjoy after taking a snorkeling trip.
  • A sauna for guests to relax after some exercise in the water while snorkeling.
  • An infinity pool to enjoy some water activity on the days you cannot go out snorkeling.
  • A 24-hour front desk that can answer your questions about snorkeling in St. Martin and where to go.

Some of the reviews given on Hommage Hotel & Residences showed that guests enjoyed the luxurious and quiet nature of the resort. Hommage Hotel & Residences also impressed guests with the high standard meals they offer at their on-site restaurant.

Hommage Hotel & Residences offers accommodation for an average price of $228 (€200) per night.