Anguilla snorkeling is very good off just about every one of the island’s more than 30 beautiful beaches. This is one of the reasons that there are so few PADI certified scuba diving operators—the best snorkeling in Anguilla is readily accessible to snorkelers of all skill levels, often just by wading a bit out into the water.
Shoal Bay snorkeling (Shoal Bay East on the northeastern side of the island) is probably the most popular and most well known. This is one of the longest of the beaches on the island, very easy to get to, and spectacularly beautiful. It is such a good place for the sport because shoals and reefs are located quite close to shore for virtually the entire length of about two miles of sparkling white sand. There are numerous outlets for snorkeling gear along the beach, including from the hotels that are located along the beach. In fact, if you just stand long enough on the sand, a “Beach Ambassador” is apt to appear with mask, flippers, snorkel, a sun bed, a beach umbrella, and cocktail in hand. These are island entrepreneurs (usually young men), many of whom are well known and colorful island characters who earn a small commission from the various beach establishments. They are perfectly safe to do business with. And, if you get hungry, there are plenty of dining spots to choose from. Shoal Bay snorkeling benefits from calm, warm waters, plenty of coral, and myriad colorful tropical fish.
More Shoal Bay snorkeling is available on the exact opposite end of the island where you will Shoal Bay West, home of the most luxurious villas on the island. The beach here is sheltered from choppy seas by the proximity of the neighboring island of St. Martin, only about eight miles away.
While these are the most famous and glitziest parts of the island, some of the best snorkeling in Anguilla can be found along very secluded (virtually deserted) and less well-known beaches. Between Crocus Bay and Shoal Bay Beach is tiny Little Bay Beach, accessible only by boat. You can actually get there from land by making your way to this picturesque spot climbing down a 100-foot rope ladder. Or, you can snorkel here from Crocus Bay, about twenty minutes of wonderfully rewarding Anguilla snorkeling that brings you to one of the most photographed spots on the island. It is, as its name implies, a tiny beach. Surrounded on three sides by high cliffs, it is further isolated by regulations that prohibit boats from dropping anchor offshore, so you can have this little piece of paradise pretty much to yourself.
Sandy Island snorkeling also places you in the environment of the quintessential deserted tropical island. While its not quite officially deserted, this tiny island that is almost all beach possesses a barbecue and seafood restaurant and is a popular spot for an afternoon excursion that includes Anguilla snorkeling and a fabulous dining experience. Come on a Sunday for live reggae and calypso music. This little island is located about two miles off the coast of Sandy Ground Beach, the busiest spot on the coast and the island’s main harbor and port for ships on Caribbean cruises.
More best snorkeling in Anguilla spots will be found all over the island. Most everyone who lives or visits here has their personal favorite, some of which are hidden gems. Barnes Bay, on the northwestern tip of the island just across from Shoal Bay West, is one of the secrets. A long reef starts very close to shore, and you can follow it out to deep water for sightings of giant rays and other larger fish, including sharks. You might also try Scrub Island, just a few hundred feet off the far eastern tip of the island. While it is privately owned, all beaches are by law public so coming here is not an issue with the owners. This island is much bigger than Sandy Island and actually has some interior spaces to explore, including wild goats, the ruins of a hotel, and the wreck of a smuggling plane. There is a beautiful deserted beach here with wonderful snorkeling.
Image: Anguilla Board of Tourism