Where Are the Best Snorkelling Spots in St Martin?

Known for its stunning reefs and colourful fish, St Martin has some of the best snorkelling spots to discover
Known for its stunning reefs and colourful fish, St Martin has some of the best snorkelling spots to discover | © Jochem Wijnands / Alamy Stock Photo
Michael Karam

Snorkelling in St Martin – the cosmopolitan Caribbean island owned by France and the Netherlands – is an absolute joy. December to May is the most popular time when the weather is hot but not overbearing and there is very little rain – perfect for exploring the reefs and spotting brilliantly coloured fish.

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Baie Rouge in Les Terres Basses

In the west of St Martin, Baie Rouge offers the best snorkelling on the French part of the island, named after its reddish sands. The main attraction is the nearby David’s – or Devil’s – Hole, a dramatic sinkhole that’s 24m (80ft) in diameter that can be accessed from the sea, as well as the 50m (165ft) reef extending from the shore. Swim to the eastern end of the beach and spot hundreds of tropical fish.

There is dramatic snorkelling off the islet of Creole Rock – situated on the leeward north of the island – which is very popular with guided snorkel groups. The most prominent part is the “head”, which is said to resemble the profile of a supine man, while the lesser submerged parts are the rest of the body. Hop on a boat to explore the reef beneath the mini island – the “feet” offer the most vibrant coral, but it is also where the current is strongest.

Happy Bay Beach near Grand Case

Down the coast from Creole Rock is Happy Bay Beach, a secluded and rarely crowded beach – especially before lunch – that attracts nudists and those avoiding the crowds. Access is via a relatively steep trail near Friar’s Bay beach. Happy Bay Beach is recommended for those who wish to snorkel as well as simply spend a day sunbathing on the golden sands – head to the right corner to spot plenty of tiny reef fish. There are no amenities here – aside from the odd refreshment seller – so come prepared.

Tintamarre Island in Orient Bay

The uninhabited Tintamarre Island is the largest of the Orient Bay island group, located 3km (1.8mi) off the northern tip of St Martin. It is a protected marine reserve with very few amenities but its offshore location promises more varied sea life including turtles, nurse sharks and even dolphins. Also off Orient Bay is Pinel Island – reached by boat from the village of Cul de Sac. Like Tintamarre, it is also a protected marine reserve with a designated snorkelling route on the south of the island.

Cupecoy Beach and Mullet Bay in Maho

Cupecoy Beach and the adjacent Mullet Bay are both on the west coast, just inside the Dutch part of St Martin. Cupecoy can be accessed from Sapphire Beach Club, while Mullet Bay is open to everyone. This series of beaches – overlooked by cliffs – has a very liberal vibe and is popular with nudists and gay bathers. The reef is easily accessible on the left side of Mullet Bay beach – look out for puffers, octopus and lionfish.

Dawn Beach in Oyster Pond

On the east of the island is Dawn Beach, famous for its spectacular sunrises – hence the name – and clear waters that make it popular with snorkellers. Swim out from Scavengers Beach Bar to beautiful coral formations, alive with fish and reef squid. However, because it’s on the windward side, it is exposed to the Atlantic swell, so take suitable precautions. It’s not advised for families with young children.

Little Bay Beach near Philipsburg

Little Bay Beach is an easy walk from the capital of St Martin, just past the 17th-century Fort Amsterdam. From here, you can snorkel over six wrecks – including a helicopter – and cannons dating back to the 1500s. Forgot your mask? Buy a spare from the mini-mart at the east end of the beach. Fuel up beforehand with breakfast at the Gingerbread Cafe – or a rum cocktail come sunset.

Indigo Beach near Philipsburg

Located in the south of the island between Philipsburg and Simpson Bay, Indigo Beach is deliberately free of the commercial trapping found elsewhere in the region. This is thanks to the chic, eco-friendly Indigo Beach Bar and Restaurant on its shores. Spot rays, parrotfish and angelfish darting around the colourful coral reef – or take a swim around the small wreck, just poking out of the water.

Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Join us on a sailing adventure in the Bahamas or the British Virgin Islands.
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