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The island nation of Jamaica is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean. While reggae music supplies the vibe, white sandy beaches set the scene, it’s the crystal clear waters and vibrant reef system that makes Jamaica a top choice among those who love snorkeling.
Though the island is lined with many vacation hotspots, from the bustling nightlife of Montego Bay to the laid-back beaches of Ocho Rios, for true nature and adventure lovers, there’s no better place to explore the Caribbean’s turquoise waters than off the cliffs and beaches of Negril.
Weather in Negril is a constant 77-84F/25-29C, with an average water temperature of 81F/27C. While conditions are great year-round, the best time to snorkel in Negril is during the off-season, from March to May, when the crowds are thinner and prices are lower, but marine life is still abundant.
Negril is not only a great vacation spot, but it’s the most popular area for snorkeling in Jamaica. Located on the island’s west coast is home to Seven Mile Beach, where you’ll find white sand and crystal clear water.
Negril’s spectacular coral reefs, majestic cliffs, and white sand beaches are home to some of the best snorkeling on earth, but there are a few spots not to be missed when visiting.
Snorkeling in Negril is particularly good on the west end, where crowds are generally sparse and gear rental is reasonably priced. An hourly rate of $5 USD is typical, while guided tours, though sometimes a bit more pricey, are worth every cent.
Negril also offers many glass-bottomed boat tours, a great way to admire aquatic life while you sail the open waters on your way to your snorkeling destination.
Negril’s shallow reefs are perfect for novice snorkelers taking their first-ever plunge. With wondrous formations, technicolor coral reefs, and majestic underwater cliffs teeming with diverse marine life, Negril delivers spectacular snorkeling for all ages and levels.
About an hour from the Montego Bay International airport, visitors to this westernmost side of the island will feel like they’ve stepped into a world all its own.
And if the world on land feels like a fantasy, the seemingly extraterrestrial world under Negril’s crystal clear waters, gives snorkelers a sensation of being far removed from the everyday. Negril’s meditative state surrounds swimmers and divers alike, as calm warm waters envelop you in an otherworldly feeling only surpassed by the captivating views.
Beneath jade and turquoise-colored waters, snorkelers can expect to see unique and interesting marine species like clustered dwarf tube sponges, schools of tiny tropical fish, stingrays, Hawksbill turtles, and nurse sharks.
One of the most popular snorkeling destinations in Jamaica, the Rockhouse Hotel, is a picturesque resort, home to underwater caves and rocky cliffs. Considered the island’s number one snorkeling destination for underwater photography, this oceanfront resort is an underwater oasis for snorkelers, as the caves and grottoes are alive with fish that you would only otherwise see in aquariums. In fact, some scenes from the movie 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea were shot here!
The Negril Reef is very shallow, making it perfect for novice snorkelers. As you explore below the depths, expect to see swarms of tiny jellyfish floating through the clear water. But don’t worry. These mesmerizing creatures are as harmless as they are spectacular. Below, the ground is covered in an array of urchins, conch shells, and sea fans. Take a trip out to the reed in a glass bottom boat for an experience unlike any other on earth.
If you’re looking for a secluded snorkeling spot in Negril, Booby Cay Island is just the place. Sitting just off the coastline, the island gets its name from the booby birds that inhabit it. Snorkeling at Booby Cay is nothing less than spectacular, as the coral reefs are home to thousands of colorful marine creatures including starfish, conch, rays, and octopi.
A quick fifteen minute boat ride from Bloody Bay or Seven Mile Beach will take you to the small island where you can spend a relaxing day experiencing the laid-back vibes, snorkeling the azure depths, listening to reggae, and enjoying the sundrenched sandy beach. Enjoy a freshly caught lunch prepared by local cooks who sell freshly caught lobsters and conch, served on a bed of native palm leaves.
Adventure seekers will love exploring the caves beneath the exclusive Caves Hotel. Home to some of the largest caves on the cliffs of Negril, these ancient structures are a popular snorkeling destination because of the hidden coves in which visitors can swim and explore on their own.
Home to an abundant array of vibrant sea creatures including rays, octopus, living coral, sponges, and schools of tiny tropical fish, The Caves Beneath The Caves is a snorkeling destination not to be missed.
The beautiful Bloody Bay in Negril is a popular destination for island tourists and locals alike. Activities along the bay include shopping, swimming, parasailing, paddle boarding and most of all, snorkeling. Offering soft sand and clear waters, the reef in Bloody Bay runs close to the shore, providing excellent underwater views of tiny tropical fish, sea stars, and crabs.
Because of its shallow waters, calm currents, and bathtub-like temperatures, Bloody Bay is an excellent spot for novice snorkelers and families with small kids.
No Negril snorkeling vacation is complete without visiting Half Moon Beach, a secluded beach where the setting is intimate, the vibe is chill, and the tourists are minimal.
Not only is Half Moon Beach one of Negril’s most popular beaches, it is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling destinations among locals. Located about 15 minutes from Skylark, this beach boasts some of the most beautiful, undisturbed coral reefs in Jamaica.
Because of the close distance to the shore, there are a lot of sea urchins in the shallows, so beach shoes are recommended.
Located on Negril’s West End, about ten minutes from Seven Mile Beach, is Xtabi Resort, a small resort with private huts perched on the edges of the cliffs. Meaning, “Meeting Place of the Gods,” Xtabi (pronounced ex-tabee) is probably one of the best-kept secret snorkeling destinations in the Caribbean. While the resort itself is a great and very reasonably priced place to stay, you don't have to be a guest to swim or snorkel.
Visitors can either walk down naturally carved steps or dive right into the cove from the cliffs. After exploring the underground caves and taking in the underwater views beneath the jade-colored waters, sunbathing on one of the naturally formed platforms beside splashing waves is a Jamaican experience not to be missed. After a day of snorkeling, stop into the outdoor restaurant for an authentic Jamaican lunch and stay for cocktails to experience the best sunset on the island.
Visitors who come to Negril come back year after year for the views above and below the surface. Negril’s local hospitality, breathtaking sunsets, chill vibes and magnificent views are like no other place on the island – or, for that matter, on earth. Like the locals say, “soon come” and stay a while.