Best Snorkeling Spots in Turks & Caicos
The Turks & Caicos Islands in the Caribbean are a prime destination for nature lovers, with shallow, crystal-clear water that’s perfect for snorkeling. You’re guaranteed to see a variety of colorful reef fish through your goggles, but larger animals like rays and turtles are also commonly spotted. Here are the best snorkeling spots in Turks & Caicos.
Bight Reef (aka Coral Gardens), Provo
Bight Reef, more commonly known to tourists as Coral Gardens, is easily the most popular snorkeling spot on TCI’s main island of Providenciales, or Provo. It’s only a five-minute drive from most of the hotels and resorts on Grace Bay, and it’s an easy target for beginner snorkelers.
The wide variety of marine life—from pufferfish and moray eels to barracudas stopping by for a cleaning—make the snorkeling pretty great. The tourists who come here in droves make the snorkeling somewhat less great. I’d recommend going early to beat the crowds (and get a parking spot), or in the afternoon when the crowds thin.
The main reef at Coral Gardens has been roped off to protect the coral snorkelers, who can easily damage coral by touching or stepping on it. If you hear whistling from the beach, it’s because someone has swum past the rope and is basically harassing the reef. Don’t get whistled. Observe the reef from a safe distance, where you can still see a ton of fish and coral through the crystal-clear water.
Smith’s Reef, Provo
A few minutes west of Coral Gardens, in the Turtle Cove neighborhood, lies my personal favorite snorkeling spot. Smith’s Reef is bigger, brighter, and more colorful than Coral Gardens, but with half the traffic. Maybe this is because you can’t see the reef from the beach access point—you have to walk a couple of minutes around a bend.
Like Coral Gardens, the biggest chunk of Smith’s Reef has been roped off to reduce stress on the reef. But outside the main reef there are several smaller patches of coral, so there’s more to explore and you’re not stuck in close quarters with whoever else decided to go snorkeling that day.
The coral here seemed healthier than what I saw at Coral Gardens. Smith’s Reef was much more vibrant, and I saw several different colors and species of coral, including fans, branches, and brains. I also spotted hawksbill turtles, glittering jewelfish, and sea cucumbers the size of my arm.
Malcolm’s Road Beach, Provo
If you’re looking for a quiet, secluded snorkel experience, this is it. Malcolm’s Road Beach is on Provo’s rugged western shore, flanked by a couple of distant resorts and…not much else. Despite its remoteness, it’s only a 40-minute drive from Grace Bay. The last 10 minutes or so are on an extremely bumpy 4WD road (I saw one brave soul make it in a Camry, but I wouldn’t recommend taking that risk in a rental car). Malcolm’s Road Beach is also prone to much rougher seas than Smith’s and Bight Reefs. To avoid making the drive and being disappointed, check the ocean conditions before you go on a site like Windy.
Malcolm’s Road Beach is a little different from Smith’s and Bight Reefs because much of it is artificial. Hundreds of five-foot-high concrete “reef balls” were installed here in 2016. Their main purpose is to protect the shore from flooding and erosion, but they have the added benefit of creating half a mile of coral and fish habitat.
The reef balls don’t have a ton of coral yet—it only grows a centimeter or two per year—but you’ll see some baby corals protruding hopefully from the concrete, as well as plenty of fish swimming in and out. The balls themselves make for an eerie, otherworldly snorkeling experience. Confident snorkelers can swim beyond the balls to a natural reef about half a mile from shore.
Triggerfish Reef, Provo
This is part of the barrier reef that protects Grace Bay, Provo’s most popular and developed beach. Grace Bay’s powder-soft sand has earned it a reputation as one of the best beaches in the world, but it doesn’t have much off-beach snorkeling. You’ll need a boat to get to this snorkeling spot, or you can sign up for a half-day tour as I did.
Because this reef was a bit farther out, I saw some beautiful fish species I hadn’t seen while snorkeling off-beach, like midnight parrotfish, horse-eye jacks, and a sneaky flounder (I didn’t notice it hiding on the ocean floor as I swam overhead, but I saw it later in my photos). The highlight was when, just as we were being herded back toward the boat, a massive eagle ray swooped past. They can grow up to 11 feet wide!
Boaby Rock Point, Grand Turk
If you venture to TCI’s quiet, charming capital island of Grand Turk, Boaby Rock Point is your best bet for off-beach snorkeling. Like Malcolm’s Road Beach, the water can get rough, so it’s a good idea to check your wave app before heading here (but if you don’t, it’s only a 10-minute drive back to Cockburn Town). Visitors stopping here on a cruise can also walk to this snorkeling spot from the Grand Turk Cruise Center.
Like any beach on Grand Turk, Boaby Rock Point is refreshingly quiet compared to the beaches of Providenciales. Three small reefs right off the beach offer easy, shallow snorkeling, where you can spot a variety of coral, sea fans, and fish.
The even smaller island of Salt Cay is best reached by boat from Grand Turk. Few tourists spend the night here, since there are only a couple of lodging options and not much to do—at least, on land. Take a snorkeling excursion or boat charter here, and you’ll find pristine, nearly untouched reefs in areas like Northwest Point, Deane’s Dock, and Balfour Town Beach. From January to April, you might even get the chance to snorkel alongside migrating humpback whales.
Hit all the Best Snorkeling Spots in Turks & Caicos
With its clear water and plentiful marine life, the Turks & Caicos Islands are a snorkeler’s paradise. If you’re an avid snorkeler like me, you’ll want to hit as many of these snorkeling spots as possible—which is pretty easy to do, given TCI’s small size. Even if you’re planning to spend most of your time lounging in a beach chair with pina colada in hand, or trying more adventurous sports like kitesurfing and parasailing, be sure to make time for a half-day at one of these snorkeling spots to experience TCI’s unparalleled underwater beauty.