We are just back from this lovely Dutch Caribbean island and will share our Aruba experience with you in the coming posts. Of course we will tell you which are the best snorkeling beaches and also provide you some general information. But as snorkeling with turtles in Aruba is a popular activity, we thought the best is if we start with a short where-to-see-turtles guide.
Snorkeling with turtles in Aruba – we have seen them on these beaches
Aruba is a tiny island, so it is really simple to drive around and almost all the beaches are easily accessible. It depends on your personal priorities, which beach will be your favorite. But if you’d like to do some snorkeling with turtles in Aruba, we recommend to visit these beaches below. The list is based on our own experience, we have seen turtles on these beaches:
Top 5: Boca Grandi
Located on the eastern side of Aruba, Boca Grandi is a nice white sandy beach visited mainly by kite surfers. Steady trade winds and challenging waves making this beach rarely accessible for snorkelers and swimmers. But if you are lucky to be here on a less windy day, your reward will be snorkeling with turtles. We went to Boca Grandi just see the beach, did not plan to go snorkeling. But we met 2 boys who just finished snorkeling and told us they have seen 7 turtles. So of course we grab our gear and were in the water in 5 mins! They were right, we found a few turtles just around 40-50 meters from the shore! Also a few hard and soft corals, but reef is not so nice here.
As I mentioned, Boca Grandi usually is not a safe place to snorkel. But since we visited Aruba during hurricane Maria activity, there was absolutely no wind. If there is a hurricane in the Caribbean, it takes the wind from the region for a couple of days. That’s why Aruba was not windy at all for a few days.
Note: Swimming/snorkeling for confident swimmers only even by nice weather! The current is strong here!
Top 4 : Arashi
Powder soft white sand, superb snorkeling in peaceful water and turtles! Do you need anything else? One of the northernmost beaches on the island, with plenty of parking and free beach huts. Normally the sea is calm here, we experienced bigger waves only 1 day during our stay. The lagoon is safe to snorkel, not that deep. You will find colorful tropical fish like French Angelfish and Blue Striped Snappers. Also some hard corals, and plenty of soft corals, sea fans. The reef is the nicest on the right side of the beach, approx. 200 meters from shore. This area is recommended for advanced snorkelers. It could be difficult to navigate between the corals in the relatively shallow water, and swim back to the shore if there is any current. Turtles can be spotted on the left side of the bay, search for sea grass patches!
Top 3: Mangel Halto
Our number 1 snorkel spot in Aruba! Stunning marine life, nice healthy corals! Mangel Halto is located on the southeast cost, south of Spanish Lagoon. This beach offers a unique view: turquoise lagoons surrounded by mangroves. Definitely a place to visit if you are on the island and even if you would like to do some snorkeling with turtles in Aruba! Water is shallow initially, you might need to walk a bit till you reach deeper water to be able to put your fins on. To reach the reef, you need to swim out straight, approx. in line with the yellow buoy. In these nice coral garden, you can spot turtles as well as many tropical fish or even a big moray eel!
Top 2: Malmok Beach
Located on the north coast, just past the high rise hotels, this long rather rocky beach is very popular by snorkelers. Many snorkel boats bring their guests here to enjoy nice corals and snorkeling with turtles in Aruba! Tour boats usually arrive in the afternoon, so go early in the morning. It becomes busy and noisy once the boats arrive. There are two smaller sandy beaches on the rocky Malmok coast, safest is to choose one of these to enter the warm Caribbean water. Snorkeling is easy and safe, current is slight. The reef just runs parallel with the shore in 3-5 meters deep water, easy to observe the marine life and search for turtles!
Top 1: Boca Catalina
It is one of the best beach and also one of the best spot if it comes to snorkeling with turtles in Aruba. Located in a residential area, just a few miles north of busy high-rise hotel area. Boca Catalina is a 350 meters long beach, mainly sandy but get rather rocky at some points. You can find stairs carved into rocks providing easy and safe access to the sea.
Boca Catalina is a beautiful protected cove; the water is warm, crystal clear, with little swell. Best is in early mornings when the winds and currents are calmer. Perfect spot to relax and searching turtles! There are extensive areas covered with seaweed, turtles can be spotted there. You need to swim a bit over the buoys to reach this area.
Boca Catalina extra tip: we found many-many sea stars in front of the big white house with the anchor in the front yard, lovely spot to snorkel!
+1 extra tip: Rincon
We found Rincon unexpectedly while driving around and exploring East Aruba. Strange, that the blue board with the name of the beach and other warning signs were damaged. It seemed somebody broke it intentionally, since all the pieces were around, in the sand. But the place looked quite nice with pretty colorful wooden houses, so we decided to go around.
The beach was totally empty, no tourists around, but we met a friendly local man who was happy to answer our questions about the area. He said, that Rincon is a place visited by locals mainly, they built the colorful chalets as weekend houses. The beach is safe by calm sea only: it is rocky, not easy access to the water, but if you are lucky enough to be there when the sea is flat, you might see nice sea life and turtles! He was right, we spotted 4 turtles from the shore feeding on seaweed in very shallow water.
Photos in this post were taken:
Notes and thoughts:
Although we were happy to see many turtles during our stay in Aruba, we have experienced something sad as well. Seabob tours are quiet popular around the island, but we feel some of these tours are not showing enough respect toward turtles. As you know, turtles breathe air; they need to come to the surface to breathe oxygen. If you are a responsible snorkeler (and we are sure you are!) you know that the first rule is do not touch, only observe marine life. While snorkeling with turtles in Aruba at Boca Catalina, we were said seeing groups following turtles with underwater scooters. Poor turtles wanted to come up for air, but the Seabob group was just circling around trying to get closer and closer to them. Turtles were absolutely scared and panicked how to come up to breathe.
Please show respect towards marine life! Never attempt to reach out, touch, chase, ride, harass, feed or otherwise disrupt the natural behavior, be a responsible snorkeler!