When we think of sailing in the British Virgin Islands, we think of four things: awe-inspiring beaches, brilliant sunsets, complete and utter relaxation and epic snorkeling. If you’re like us and love being under the water as much as above it, then you’re in the right place as we break down some of our favorite snorkeling destinations in the BVIs. In our opinion, an epic snorkel destination is one that has a great mix of hard and soft corals, abundant sea life, easy accessibility and beautiful shells to discover on the seafloor. While there are dozens of spectacular snorkeling sites within the BVI, we’re going to keep our list brief and only list our absolute favorites. With that, let’s get to the list!
The Indians at Norman Island
Normal Island is a terrific first stop when beginning your sailing adventure from Road Town on Tortola. It’s a quick and straightforward sail and the Bight is a calm bay to get your sea legs. Just to the north of Norman Island is the Indians. Easily recognizable with four rocks cresting thru the sea, the Indians is teeming with sea life. Under the water, these four rock pinnacles create a myriad of channels covered with hard and soft corals. The sea fans are spectacular when you can catch them dancing in a glimmer of sunlight from the surface. There is even a coral tunnel brave souls can snorkel through. Depths range from 10 to 40 and you will almost assuredly see plenty of blue wrasse and other colorful fish. While there are several mooring balls at the Indians, they often fill up quickly so make this an early morning visit. It’s one you will never forget.
The Caves at Treasure Point on Norman Island
And while you’re at Norman Island, why not snorkel the very spot that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island. Myth has it there is still treasure hidden in the caves that line Treasure Point. In reality, we already found it all but we may have left you a coin or two to keep you coming back! Water depths out in the open range from 20-30 feet and are teeming with fish. Several caves await your exploration, we’d recommend bringing a waterproof flashlight if your have one as several of the caves go far enough back that they get pretty dark. Our recommendation would be to plan this trip a little before sunset so that when you exit the caves you’re bathing in an orange glow from the setting sun. A fun trip to tell your friends and family about when you return.
The reef that surrounds Saba Rock and Eustacia Sound are full of seashells of every kind imaginable. We found helmets, trumpets, tulips, conchs and more. We also found several manta rays circling the depths and numerous groupings of sea stars. The water here varies from only a few feet to 20 feet deep. It’s an easy snorkel with a great bar and restaurant on Saba Rock to visit afterwards to share your snorkeling discoveries.
Cow Wreck Bay on Anegada
While most will know this little piece of paradise as Cow Wreck Bay, we will always refer to it as Conch-a-Palooza. In no spot before or since have we ever seen so many conch shells in one place. Big conchs, little baby conchs, conchs rolling up on the beach, conch’s lining the the perimeter of the bar. Literally everywhere you looked above or below the water we found beautiful conch shells. The bay itself can be a little rough at times and there may not be an abundance of coral gardens in the immediate area, but if for no other reason, go for the shells, you won’t be sorry. And as an added bonus, Concha-Palooza (aka Cow Wreck Beach) is on Anegada, one of the most stunning, private and tranquil spots in the BVI. The sunsets here were unmatched and the seclusion is a welcome change from Virgin Gorda.
The Baths on Virgin Gorda
And speaking of Virgin Gorda, while being very popular and crowded, the Baths are a must see for anyone visiting the BVI. Huge monolithic stones, seeming flung from the heavens, dot the shoreline. Interwoven amongst these giants are brain and staghorn coral and fish of all types. Don’t be surprised if you see a friendly turtle enjoying the view too. When you’ve finished your snorkel adventure, make your way to land and and climb in and around the boulders. Small passageways are around each turn while ladders will guide you to amazing vantage points. One of our favorite things to do at the Baths was take the SUP out and paddled around the boulders and find our own private bay. The Baths are a bucket list item for many and for good reason.
Cistern Point off Cooper Island
Cooper Island is a charming little island on the Southern side of the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Home to the Cooper Island Beach Club, Cooper Island is surrounded by several reefs all good for snorkeling. Our favorite is Cistern Point, which is named after the rock that rises out of the water here. While one can ride their dinghy and tie to a few local moorings, we opted to make the hundred yard snorkle from our catamaran. Amazingly, the first surprise we saw under the water were starfish lining the seafloor in every direction. We enjoyed swimming over dozens of them in every color you could imagine as we made our way to Cistern Point. Nowhere else in the BVI provided us with a better selection of sea life. We saw numerous turtles, spotted rays, nurse sharks, puffer fish and countless shells on the seafloor. The water depth varies from 10 to 40 feet here and there is truly something for everyone.
The RMS Rhone off Salt Island
The wreck of the RMS Rhone is a special snorkel and dive site in the BVIs. The wreck, washed up in an 1867 hurricane, lies in 10-100 feet of water. Snorkelers will enjoy the shallower sections where you can swim down to its propellers and peak inside the ship itself. The wreck is split into three sections, all well preserved. You’ll find it is now home to numerous corals growing in and around it while fish and sea life now call it home. The Rhone is now a marine park that is part of the BVI National Parks Trust. The site is a little exposed to the south and can be a little rough, so visit in the morning if possible.
Coral Gardens off Dead Chest Island
Dead Chest Island, located just off Peter Island, is home to the Coral Gardens. This is your classic BVI snorkel destination, home to numerous soft and hard corals including lots of gorgeous sea fans. You will also discover most types of fish swimming amongst you. Depths range from 15 to 30 feet. If you’re lucky, you may even find some giant lobsters as we did on our last visit.
So there you have it, our top 8 awe-inspiring snorkel destinations in the BVI. We hope you have a terrific time exploring these and all the other sites the BVIs.