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Best Snorkeling Spots in Turks and Caicos

DATE POSTED:December 3, 2019
Mudjin Harbor is one of the best spots for snorkeling in Turks and Caicos.
Mudjin Harbor is one of the best spots for snorkeling in Turks and Caicos. (Shutterstock /)

With its pale blue waters, blindingly white sandy beaches, and just about perfect year-round climate, Turks and Caicos is an ideal tropical vacation destination. But beyond the luxury resorts and spa treatments, the Caribbean archipelago is a must visit for fans of snorkeling.

Shallow, clear waters make this a perfect spot to take in the colorful barrier reefs and active marine life below the surface. For anyone planning a trip to Turks and Caicos, you may want to take these locations into consideration.

Smith’s Reef

With conveniently accessible beach access and shallow waters, Smith’s Reef is well regarded as one of the best shore snorkeling spots in Providenciales. Located near Turtle Cove, snorkelers can expect to take in marine life such as stingrays, butterfly fish, damselfish, indigo hamlets, parrotfish, sea turtles, barracudas, crustaceans, and groups of small squid. The reef is said to be most active just before sundown, when lucky snorkelers might even spot the occasional octopi.

The scenery varies from reef to reef, and Smith’s Reef can be accessed by three public beaches, all of which provide unique experiences. North Access has the best views of vibrant coral, while East Access has shallow water ideal for kids and beginners, and Central Access boasts two reefs that extend to the beach where vibrant sea grass and parrotfish can be found. Underwater placards can help identify specific points of interest for those not accompanied by a tour guide.

Bight Reef

Like Smith’s Reef, Bight Reef also has convenient beach access, which can be easily found just by walking along the shoreline to the clearly marked snorkeling locations. The reef even features a snorkel trail with markers along the ocean floor to guide you to the coral, making it a perfect location for beginners and children. Many travelers report seeing both green and hawksbill turtles along Bight Reef, along with a wide variety of colorful fish and stingrays.

The waters of Bight Reef tend to be relatively peaceful, however visitors are encouraged to check the weather forecast before embarking on a snorkeling expedition, as the winds can stir up the sand and affect underwater visibility. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, locals serve up a fish fry on Thursdays in a nearby lot with free parking.

Mudjin Harbor

Originally named "Bermudian Harbor" after the British territory it resembles, Mudjin Harbor is a gorgeous, three mile stretch of beach located on the north coast of Middle Caicos. However, while the harbor boasts some of the most exceptional snorkeling in the Turks and Caicos, it is not recommended for beginners. Sudden changes in tides can cause rough, unfavorable conditions for swimming despite the fantastic underwater views. Some visitors may also be wary of the presence of looming grey reef sharks near the coast, despite the fact that they are mostly harmless to humans.

Those who brave it out are rewarded with spectacular views of marine life including starfish, parrotfish, and grouper— and Mudjin Harbour is also home to two popular caves. A massive, open-faced cave fronting the beach provides great respite from the sun, while explorers can locate a smaller hidden by following the stone path along the top of the cliffs. When the path becomes stairs that disappear into the ground, you’ll know you’re in the right place.

Grand Turk

The capital island of the Turks and Caicos archipelago, Grand Turk provides several unique snorkeling options for visitors. Some may want to charter a boat expedition and head out to sea, as many of the reefs with beach access are too deep for decent snorkeling or are inundated with rocks and seaweed. However, those who can get past that can take in spectacular views of parrotfish, horse eye jacks, and butterflyfish.

Governor’s Beach, Cockburn Town Beach, and Gibbs Cay— the latter of which is popular for southern brown stingray sightings— are probably your best options for beach snorkeling on the southernmost point of Grand Turk. Two medium sized reefs extend roughly 300 feet from the beach, and on calm days these can be an ideal spot to check out the vibrant coral. On the land, Grand Turk is home to wild horses and donkeys.

Salt Cay

Salt Cay has a personality that could only be described as “quaint.” As the smallest and least inhabited island in the Turks and Caicos— at just 2.6 square miles and a population of 108— you’ll find none of the typical luxury resorts that populate the rest of the archipelago. In fact, there are there are no paved roads and few cars on Salt Cay, and just three small restaurants serving up fresh seafood. The island also bears a unique weather-beaten landscape due to constant exposure from the tradewinds.

There are several options for snorkelers visiting Salt Cay, although boat excursions come recommended to see reefs which are otherwise inaccessible. There’s North Bay Beach, where you’ll find small reefs just off the shore; Balfour Town Beach, which has calmer waters but less coral and marine life; and South Point, where snorkeling can vary depending on weather conditions. Between the months of January through April, snorkelers might even spot migrating humpback whales in the waters of Salt Cay.