The extensive rocky shores of San Andres and Providencia, surrounded by warm crystal-clear waters, make this beautiful Archipelago an ideal place for snorkelling. There are countless spots around the islands ideal for observing marine life and stunning coral formations. Apart from the sites around the offshore belt near Cayo Tres Hermanos and Cayo Cangrejo, finest dive spots are located on the Providencia’s western flank. Here, the coral reefs are even more remarkable than those around San Andres with brightly coloured corals.
Some of these snorkelling sites are approachable from the land and others just minutes from the shore. For those more secluded you’ll need a boat to take you there. Most Snorkelling and Scuba Diving operators primarily operate out of Aguadulce offering boat dives with a choice of half and full-day tours.
Allan Bay Long Shoal
Allan Bay Long Shoal like Morgan’s Head Bar is part of an old barrier named Lawrence Reef and therefore is very similar to Morgan’s Head Bar too. Pillar corals (Dendrogyra cylindricus) can be found here amongst other coral species.
Aquarium island is located off the western coast of San Andres, just 10-minute ride in a fast boat. These two islands covered with palm trees, sandy beaches, and tourist huts feature basic tourist facilities and are connected by a sand bar passing through chest-high water. The smaller island is home to numerous fish species, and is popular with snorkelers due to its clear warm water, therefore it get very busy on weekends.
Basalt and Palm Cays
Basalt and Palm Cays is located northwest of Santa Catalina surrounded by Octocorals (Octocorallia) and Sponge (Porifera). An area between the two cays is formed mainly by Elkhorn Corals (Acropora palmata), where numerous fish and various marine invertebrates seek protection. Big snappers are usually spotted here but you’ll need a boat to get there.
Catalina Cay mainly formed by Star Boulder Coral (Montastraea annularis) is one of the main Coralina’s ecotourism marine trails. Coral patches offer excellent conditions for snorkelling. Star Boulder coral (Montastraea annularis), Brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformi) are natural environment to the Flamingo Tongue snail (Cyphoma gibbosum). Close observation of what hides beneath the cracks are physically demanding but very amusing at the same time.
Crab Cay is a must-see snorkelling site surrounded by superficial coralline formation, ideal for a first time snorkelling. With spectacular views of reef and cays, this site is one you don’t wanna miss. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
East Up Channel is located 3.7 miles northeast from Santa Catalina. This long coralline barrier is distinctive with its three different coral formations. Pinnacle reef on the front open-sea side and Elkhorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) with Star Boulder Coral (Montastraea annularis) on the internal, wave-protected side of reef. You can swim through the countless channels created over years of transformation. Big Parrotfish and Snapper can be spotted here with occasional sights of Stonefish (Synanceia) and Reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi). Due to its open-sea location and strong currents, this site is best to visit during calm wind conditions.
Hippie’s Place (White Shoal)
Hippie’s Place (White Shoal) is located in the National Natural Park McBean Lagoon protected area that preserves all the different marine ecosystems. In the middle of the lagoon, between Crab Cay and Three Brothers Cay, this coralline patch is found. There is an admission of US$2 to enter but you won’t be disappointed. Giant Star Boulder coral (Montastraea annularis), many different fish species and crystal-clear water make this place magical. Gray rays and Electric rays (Narcine) can be spotted here.
Long Shoal is an extensive shallow base more than half a mile in length often with strong currents. This white-sand sea-bed and intense blue water 10ft deep is home to Octocoral (Octocorallia), Sponge (Porifera), Stony Coral (Scleractinia) and countless species of fish and Seaweed (Algae).
Low Cay (The Lighthouse)
Low Cay is located 9 miles north of Santa Catalina, on the farthest end of Old Providencia reef complex. A distinctive lighthouse rises over the cay, warning sailors of its presence. It is the only coralline cay of this reef complex, derived from the millenary accumulation of Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) fragments. Protected by the reef, water around the Cay is calm, shallow and very clear with characteristic Brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformi) and Mustard Hill coral (Porites astreoides) sea-bed. Damselfish and Parrotfish can be spotted around with occasional sight of Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum).
Maracaibo Reef follows the coastline of Providencia island just 200 ft off shore. To reach it you can either rent a boat or kayak or swim. This beautiful barrier is formed by giant Star Boulder coral (Montastraea annularis) and Brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformi). Due to its proximity to McBean Lagoon a great variety of fish and various species of rays can be found here particularly southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana), Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari), Yellow stingray (Urolophus jamaicensis) and an Electric ray (Narcine). Due to a boat traffic in this area a buoy must be used to indicate your presence. It is also recommended to stay in shallow waters to avoid collision with passing boats.
Margate Place is located near Baptist Church of Smoothwater Bay. It is a patchy lagoon reef formed by Star Boulder coral (Montastraea annularis) and Finger coral (Porites). Daisy stingray (Dasyatis margarita) can be found here in numbers.
Accessible from Fort Bay beach in Santa Catalina, this small beach has clearest and calmest waters in the Archipelago. Swimming all the way from beach to Morgan’s Head is amazing and one of the best snorkelling experience. This site is formed by patchy reefs with numerous cracks and hollows where fish seek refuge. Boulder star coral (Montastrea annularis), Brain Coral (Diploria labyrinthiformi) and Seaweed (Algae) can be found on this coral formation.
Morgan’s Head Bar
Morgan’s Head Bar, part of an old barrier named Lawrence Reef, is located west of Morgan’s Head. Colourful Boulder Star Coral (Montastraea annularis), Octocoral (Octocorallia), Great Star coral (Montastraea cavernosa), Mustard Hill Coral (Porites astreoides) and Brain Coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis) predominate in this area. More than 50 reef fish species and 15 coral species can be found here.
Point of Reef Big Shoal
Point of Reef Big Shoal is located southeast of Low Cay (The Lighthouse). It offers several patch reefs with dense coralline cover, mainly Star Boulder coral (Montastraea annularis). Rare Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) makes visit to this place even more attractive. Due to its isolation from the main islands, coral and fish population grow here in healthy conditions. White Margates (Haemulon album) can be spotted here together with seven different species of Wrasse (Labridae).
The Frenchman is typical patch reef formed mainly by Boulder Star Coral (Montastraea annularis), Brain Coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis) and other. Numerous species of fish can be found here including Creole Wrasse (Clepticus parrae), Parrotfish, Grunt Sculpin (Rhamphocottus richardsonii) or Rainbow wrasse (Halichoeres pictus). This site is great for both snorkelling and scuba diving and is easily accessible.
The Pinnacles (Washer Woman)
The Pinnacles (Washer Woman) is probably Providencia’s most spectacular site for snorkelling. This immense coral formation, shaped by erosion, with its distinctive sets of pinnacles, and numerous small caves will test your lungs and courage. With depths around 30 ft it is also an excellent site for scuba diving. Hidden amongst the small caves beautiful life forms developed its intense tones of red, green and orange.
Timkan Channel is located near Manzanillo and is formed mainly by Elkhorn Corals (Acropora palmata) and Fire coral (Millepora complanata). There is a small area of approximately 215 square feet of Elkhorn corals (Acropora palmata). Occasional strong currents may occur.