A Shallow Sea Filled with Possibilities
With 700 islands and 5,000 square miles of underwater real estate to discover, the hardest part of a Bahamas snorkeling adventure is narrowing down the choices. Coral reefs teeming with fish life? That's a given. But what about a drift over a shipwreck in the company of reef sharks—don't worry, they won't bite. Or a trip into the sea cave from the James Bond film Thunderball. You can meet up with dolphins and turtles on sand flats, plunge into the waters of a blue hole, or explore fish nurseries in mangrove channels. The only bad choice would be not planning enough time to discover the full diversity of the Bahamas' underwater world.
- Best for: Solos, couples and families, beach lovers and adventurers
- Best season to visit: Year-round, with some areas exposed to cold fronts in winter months
- Weather: Sub-tropical climate similar to Florida, with warm water temperatures in summer, becoming cooler in winter when cold fronts pass
Snorkeling in the Bahamas Overview
Good snorkeling opportunities can be found around most every island in the Bahamas. In some cases, these sites can be reached from shore, but many of the best locations will require a boat ride. A number of dive resorts and tour operators run dedicated trips to sites that are too shallow for scuba divers, but ideal for snorkelers.
Snorkeling in the Bahamas Tips
While coral reefs are usually the star attraction on snorkeling excursions, the Bahamas offers a number of additional unique experiences. These include shipwrecks in shallow water, tidal channels, blue holes, rock grottoes, sand flats and seagrass beds. Each of these landscapes showcases a different aspect of the underwater environment.
Best Places for Snorkeling in the Bahamas
The reefs at Coral Caverns are covered in rainbow hues of sea fans and sponges. Snorkeling off the southwest coast of New Providence Island yields shallow shipwrecks, shark sightings and an underwater sculpture park. At Eagle Ray Run, dozens of rays swim information like jet fighters. Huge stone blocks at the Bimini Road are said to be part of the lost city of Atlantis. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park encompasses 21 miles of protected reef. A short swim from the beach at Paradise Cove leads to underwater drops offs and unique coral formations.
What to Pack for Snorkeling in the Bahamas
If you have personal snorkel gear, pack it in a nylon backpack or mesh carry bag to keep things organized aboard the boat. Neoprene boots and open heel fins with straps work well for wading in from the beach, but slip-on fins are more convenient for boat trips. Don't forget sunscreen and a light cover up for time on the surface.
Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina
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Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry/Exit Requirements: All U.S. Citizens are required to present a valid passport. No visa is required for American citizens. All persons, six years and over leaving the Bahamas, pay a Government Departure Tax of 29.00 which should be included in your international airline ticket taxes.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into the Bahamas. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at Traveler's Health CDC The Bahamas.
Culture and Customs
Though still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Bahama's English heritage is obvious only in the historic architecture of Nassau, a love for the Queen, and the nation's parliamentary system of government. The cosmopolitan resorts of Paradise Island and Grand Bahama may be more spiritually aligned with Miami or Las Vegas, but move into the Out Islands and you transition to island time, where the phrase “soon come” is the mantra for a relaxed, welcoming way of life. The big event on the calendar is Junkanoo, which is celebrated from December's Boxing Day to New Years Day. Every island stages a celebration, but the big show happens in Nassau when thousands of lavishly costumed revelers march through the streets to the accompaniment of horns, goombay drums and cowbells. Come March, the island sailboats are packed with passengers headed for the National Family Island Regatta in Georgetown. Here, crews from across the archipelago race traditional island sloops by day, then party the night away at Regatta Village Cricket season lasts from March to November, and ongoing commentary of the matches fills the local airwaves.
Celebrated since the 17th century, Junkanoo has grown into a large, organized event with groups that compete for cash prizes for best music, best costume, best dancing, etc. Traditionally held on New Year’s Day, Boxing Day and Independence Day, parades are also held during the annual “Junkanoo Summer Festival” and the “Just Rush” competition. Many hotels also offer Junkanoo shows for their guests throughout the year.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in the Bahamas is 120 volts/60 cycles, which is the same as the U.S. and all U.S. appliances are compatible. the country code/area code for the Bahamas is 242. The local phone company BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) should be available on your cell phone, so check with your carrier for costs for calls and data while in the Bahamas on roaming. There are many public hotspots, and you will find most hotels offer WiFi, as well as many bars, restaurants and shops.
Tap water is safe to drink on the main islands of the Bahamas. Bottled water is available for purchase.
Language & Currency
English is the official language, however you may hear locals speaking "Bahamian English" which has a mixture of African influence, island dialect and the Queen's diction. The H is often dropped so thanks sounds like tanks. The local currency is the Bahamian dollar (BSD) but U.S. Dollars are accepted everywhere. The Bahamian and the U.S. dollar are equivalent so as a visitor you don’t need to exchange any money. Credit cards are accepted at most locations on Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island. Cirrus and +PLUS ATMs can be found on Nassau, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and most of the major Out Islands.
The Bahamas are in the Eastern Time Zone. The Bahamian Islands do observe Daylight Savings Time. They are 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 during Eastern Standard Time) and 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time during Daylight Savings Time (-4 Eastern Daylight Time).
Location, Size and Population
The Bahamas are located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the eastern edge of the Caribbean. They are approximately 45 miles Southeast of Florida. The Bahamian Islands are made up of approximately 700 islands and 2,000 cayes of which about only 30 are inhabited. The islands are north of Cuba, northwest of the Turks and Caicos, and Southeast of the Florida Keys. The size of the Bahamas is approximately 5,382 square miles with a coastline of 1,368 square miles. The capital city of the Bahamas is Nassau, located on New Providence and is approximately 80 square miles. The population of the Bahamas is 392,575 (2016).