Aruba snorkeling beaches offer you top conditions to explore the marine life of the Caribbean. With powder-fine white sand and warm, clear waters, this destination is a paradise for travelers seeking underwater beauty; you can discover vibrant coral reefs, colorful tropical fish, shipwrecks and swim with turtles on One Happy Island! With this guide, I help you go snorkeling in Aruba with detailed descriptions of the best spots such as Arashi Beach, Mangel Halto, Boca Catalina, Malmok Beach, Tres Trapi, SS Antilla as well as other recommended sites and make planning your vacation easy with some extra travel tips!
Table of Contents
- What Are The Best Snorkeling Spots In Aruba?
- Aruba snorkeling tours
- What to see while snorkeling in Aruba?
- Where to stay in Aruba for snorkeling?
- Best time to go for an Aruba snorkeling vacation
- Aruba travel tips
What Are The Best Snorkeling Spots In Aruba?
Aruba beaches are considered to be the cleanest and prettiest in the Caribbean. Although there are several beautiful beaches all around the island, there is a big difference between the coastlines.
You need to know that constant refreshing trade winds blow from northeast and southeast, peaking midday. Therefore, the best Aruba snorkeling beaches can be found on the east and west sides of the island. The northern coastline is wild and rocky making the beaches unsafe for snorkeling; they are perfect for kite surfing though.
Top 11 Snorkeling Sites in Aruba
Arashi Beach is a long and wide, relaxed sandy beach on the northernmost of Aruba, close to the island’s famous landmark, the California Lighthouse. It is a quiet beach during the week (but gets busy on weekends) and there is a lot to see under the sea!
You can enter the water in comfort through soft sand anywhere in front of the beach huts and will find pretty hard coral patches as well as colorful fan corals with angelfish, and yellow goatfish groups around not so far from the shore. Since the water is not too deep, this snorkel spot is suitable for beginners and for kids too.
We found the reef the nicest on the right side. To get there, you need to enter the water at the northern end of the beach, where you find pelicans hunting for fish.
Swim about 165-220ft/50-70 meters to reach the reef where you will find an extensive area covered with hard coral species, brain, staghorn, elkhorn corals as well as soft sea fans and gorgonian corals. Also lots of fish including huge shoals of blue tangs. However, I recommend snorkeling in this area for experienced only as the current can be strong.
Boca Catalina (also known as Catalina Cove) is next to Arashi in the Noord area. It is very popular and well-known among local families as well as tourists thanks to top snorkeling conditions including shallow water and rich marine life.
Moreover, if you want to know where to swim with turtles in Aruba, Catalina Cove is the place where you need to go! Just about 20-30 meters from the shore, the sea bottom is covered with seagrass. This is where you can spot green turtles as they feed on seagrass!
This small bay next to Catalina Cove is our top pick to find sea stars! Trapi means steps: there are stairs carved in the rocks here, offering safe entry/exit points to and from the sea. The shallow waters make snorkeling safe and enjoyable here even for beginners.
If you are not a confident swimmer, stay close to shore within the buoys. To find the sea stars, swim right from the stairs! There are plenty of them in front of the big house with an anchor in the yard!
The beautiful Malmok Beach is a popular Aruba snorkeling spot with vibrant coral reefs that is easily reachable from the shore! The area is a narrow, sandy stretch interrupted by rocks.
The clear, shallow water offers great snorkeling with rich sea life: you can see here different types of hard and soft corals, tropical fish, and even turtles. On the top of these, you can snorkel the Baboo shipwreck too which rests very close to the shore with its top part above water.
Malmok Beach is a popular stop for boat tours too so the area can get busy; if you want to avoid crowds, visit this snorkel site in the morning!
Mangel Halto is definitely the best Aruba snorkeling spot if it comes to marine life! We were amazed by the water clarity and the variety of corals here!
Mangel Halto can be found on the southeast side of the island, south of Spanish Lagoon. As it is far from the island’s main tourist area, it is less visited; a perfect spot to relax and enjoy some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean! You can get here the easiest by renting a car or by joining a Mangel Halto snorkeling trip.
Mangel Halto is not only a beautiful beach, but rather a complex area consisting of mangrove forests, a pretty lagoon with crystal clear waters, and the healthiest coral reef you find all over the island.
You can choose different points to enter the sea, even from the rocky shore on the lagoon side, from the wooden dock at the eastern end of the area (there is a parking lot where you can leave your car, this spot is marked as Bao Baranca on the map) or from the sandy mangrove beach next to it. We recommend the latter two as usually there is a current running from southeast to northwest.
If you get into the water from the dock or from the beach, you will be doing a drift snorkel as the current will take you all the way along the reef and you can comfortably exit the water at Mangel Halto main beach.
The nicest corals you find on the outer reef, around the orange buoys. The marine life is extremely rich here; you will see colorful fish such as parrotfish, yellow-tail snapper, sergeant majors, schools of tangs, elkhorn corals, deepwater gorgonians, sponges, and anemones.
What’s more, even a shipwreck lies here: the Kappel Wreck is next to the buoy in the lagoon in relatively shallow water so it is fully visible for snorkelers too.
Aruba is famous for wrecks. There are several ship- and plane wreckages resting at different depths around the island. Most of them are accessible for divers only, but luckily there are some that can be visited by snorkelers too including the famous Antilla wreck, a 400ft/122m long WWI cargo ship.
The Antilla is one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks that lies at 60ft/18m deep water not so far from the shore at the northern side of the island, around Malmok/Tres Trapi. As some parts of the wreck are close to the surface, it is visible to snorkelers too.
By visiting this Aruna snorkel site, you can observe how corals settled on the ship and turned it into an artificial reef attracting rich sea life into the area.
Additional Aruba shipwrecks that are suitable for snorkeling are the Baboo Wreck at Malmok Beach and the Kappel at Mangel Halto. These, especially the Baboo are accessible from the shore so are perfect if you are looking for beginner-friendly shipwreck snorkeling in Aruba.
Baby Beach is a gorgeous half-moon shape shallow lagoon with calm water. It is a favorite beach for families with kids on the southeastern side of Aruba. The lagoon is protected from wind and currents: this means that snorkeling is safe here, although the visibility was not the best when we visited.
One can find small coral pinnacles in the middle, often with turtles around them. Swimming out of the lagoon there is a bigger reef; although the corals are not in good condition here, there are big schools of fish, mainly blue tangs around. However, the currents are pretty strong, therefore it is not recommended for beginners to swim out. Staying inside the lagoon is a safe option.
For your comfort, beach huts are available and there is an onsite restaurant, the Big Mama Grill. Great food with Flintstones experience!
Located in eastern Aruba, Boca Grandi is rather a kitesurfing beach due to steady trade winds, waves, and strong currents. Although there are some days when the wind stops and it is possible to go swimming/snorkeling here too.
The current is tricky though; therefore we do not recommend Boca Grandi for novice snorkelers, but if you feel experienced and find good weather conditions to visit this snorkel spot, don’t miss out on it!
You can see coral pinnacles in the middle of the bay with turtles around them, while the outer reef features sea fans and hard coral colonies. Even if the weather is not good for snorkeling, it is worth visiting Boca Grandi because it is a pretty white sandy beach!
This small beach next to Baby Beach locally known as Nanki. A quiet place with calm water that is perfect for an easy Aruba snorkeling adventure! The water is shallow at first but becomes deeper further out where you will find a small coral reef. Snorkeling is similar to Baby Beach, although some people say they prefer Rogers Beach because it is more relaxed and there are more fish to see.
Eagle Beach is considered the most beautiful Aruba beach thanks to its powder-fine white sand and turquoise, crystal-clear water. It is listed among the number-one beaches in the Caribbean! Since there are no big hotels directly on the beach, it is a perfect place for relaxing and sunbathing.
Sporty ones can do a variety of water sports too! If it comes to snorkeling, you might see some fish but there are no coral formations in this area. However, Eagle Beach is a good place to master your snorkeling skills if you are a newbie or teach your kids how to use their snorkel gear.
Palm Beach is a lively shoreline along the famous High Rise resorts with a long, paved sidewalk in front of them that is perfect for sunrise or sunset walks. Since the whole coast is public, you can freely stay on it except entering the hotel areas. Aruba’s Palm Beach is also famous for its bars and restaurants.
This might be not the island’s best snorkeling spot since it is a sandy beach, but if you still want to put your goggles and fins on, you might try it between the RIU and DIVI resorts, directly facing the police station. It is a perfect shore snorkel spot for beginners, with quite a lot of fish and a few coral patches. If you wish to see more, sign up for an Aruba snorkeling trip at any water sports kiosk at the beach!
Aruba snorkeling tours
People often ask what is the best way to do snorkeling in Aruba? Are the places available from the shore or better to book private snorkel trips? It all depends on your priorities.
If you have a rental car and bring your own snorkel equipment, the best is to visit the snorkel beaches privately as most reefs are easily accessible from the shore. Like this, you can decide where you want to snorkel, how long you want to stay in the water etc… If you want a convenient way of exploring the best snorkel places, you can join Aruba snorkeling tours.
Best of Aruba Full-Day Bus Tour
This compact full-day excursion takes you to Aruba’s top attractions. Guided by an experienced local guide, you will be visiting California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel, the Natural Bridge, and the Glass Blow. Closing the day, a refreshing snorkel session is also included at Baby Beach.
Half-Day Catamaran Snorkeling Tour
Discover two of the top snorkel sites of Aruba by joining this half-day snorkel tour! Get onboard a spacious catamaran that will stop first at the Antilla Wreck then at Boca Catalina. What’s more, food and drinks are also included throughout the day; enjoy a yummy breakfast, a delicious lunch, and drinks from open bar!
Mangel Halto and Baby Beach Snorkeling Tour
Immerse yourself into Aruba’s marine life; swim with turtles, explore the Kappel Wreck, and observe colorful Caribbean fish species at two premier snorkel spots; Mangel Halto and Baby Beach. Snacks and drinks are included.
What to see while snorkeling in Aruba?
The underwater world is rich and colorful in the Caribbean and no matter whether you go diving or only snorkeling, there is a lot to see! The sea bottom is covered with different hard and soft corals: huge brain coral colonies, elkhorn, and staghorn corals give a home to tropical fish species.
You can get an insight of what can you expect to see while snorkeling in Aruba if you watch our video:
A wide variety of fish species, like Blue tangs, and yellow goatfish are swimming around in big groups, while colorful parrotfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, groupers, trumpetfish, needlefish, and angelfish play hide and seek between sea fans. But there are bigger sea creatures too: one can see stingrays, manta rays, and you can go snorkeling with turtles too!
Where to stay in Aruba for snorkeling?
Aruba High Rise hotels are popular among holidayers who seek an all-inclusive experience near the best white sandy beaches. If you wish to be close to the best Aruba snorkeling spots and looking for a high-quality resort experience, consider staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, Barcelo Aruba, or the Hyatt Regency which are in Palm Beach but are not so far from Arashi Beach, Boca Catalina and Malmok Beach.
For a more relaxing stay, you can stay in Savaneta too where you can reach easily Mangel Halto and Baby Beach. On this side of the island, there are no big resorts but lovely apartments rented directly by locals.
Best time to go for an Aruba snorkeling vacation
Aruba is a year-round holiday destination with pleasant air and water temperatures no matter the season, so there is no bad time to go! With an average rainfall of less than 20 inches per year, daytime temperatures of 27 °C (82 °F) and constant blowing trade winds, Aruba is one of the most temperate islands in the Caribbean.
The difference between the summer and winter temperatures is just 3.6 °C (38 °F). The sea is warm all year round (26-29 °C, 78-84 °F) making every season perfect for snorkeling in Aruba!
Additionally, the ABC Islands are situated outside the hurricane belt, meaning it is a safe location even in the Caribbean hurricane season. You can experience some thunderstorms during the autumn months, but these usually don’t last too long and you can be rewarded with amazing after-rain rainbows!
Aruba travel tips
The list of reasons why Aruba should be your next vacation is endless. This small island with a total area of 70 square miles, 20 miles (32 km) long and 6 miles (10 km) across offers a lot to see!
The diverse landscape, from heavenly white sand beaches to rugged coastlines is perfect for an easy-going beach vacation but also for active trips including water sports and island discovery! If this is enough, the friendliness of the locals will definitely amaze you, no wonder why Aruba is called One Happy Island! Let us give you some travel tips for your Aruba holiday!
How to get to Aruba?
Aruba is located just 15 miles north of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean Sea. With Bonaire and Curacao, they form the ABC islands, often called Dutch Caribbean as constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Several airlines offer daily flights to Aruba from many different cities. You can get to Aruba with American Airlines from most US airports, while from Europe KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offers daily flights. Caribbean cruises like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Norwegian also stop at Aruba.
How to get around?
One of the best things we liked in Aruba is that the island is small with roads in good condition, so it is pretty easy to go around no matter which area you stay in. Most snorkeling places and attractions are accessible with a normal car, but there are some off-road areas where you need a jeep.
Car rental is affordable, it is easy and safe to drive. Parking is free except for a few areas in Oranjestad (Harbour and downtown). Although we haven’t tried but heard that public transport is also reliable.
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