North and and Middle Caicos are located in the center of the Turks and Caicos archipelago and are connected by a road causeway. Due to the low levels of development and the extensive south side wetlands on the two islands, the only accessible beaches and snorkeling sites are found on the northern coasts of the two islands.
When compared to the beach snorkel sites on Providenciales, the snorkeling on North Caicos and Middle Caicos comes up a bit short. This is largely due to the beaches being more exposed to the weather and waves, and consequently having rougher conditions and poorer underwater clarity at the shore reefs.
There are many incredible reefs off the northern coasts of the two islands, yet nearly all are only easily accessed by boat, and are too far off shore to safely swim out to.
The Caicos barrier reef, which surrounds and protects the Caicos Islands group, offers an amazing array of wildlife and healthy hard and soft corals.
The shallow reef locations tend to be the best for snorkeling, and support bright yellow and purple sea fans, elkhorn coral, and many other types of soft gorgonians.
Schools of stoplight parrotfish, bluehead wrasse, yellowtail snapper, horse-eyed jacks, French grunts, and blue tangs are common.
Larger fish and animals are also seen, including the southern brown stingray, eagle rays, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, spiny lobsters, nurse sharks, barracudas, and even dolphins!
The tiny creatures can be the most interesting of all. There are banded coral shrimp, garden eels, octopus, damselfish, flamingo tongue cowries, flamboyant marine worms, and the rare zebra-patterned spotted drum.
The offshore reefs that are accessed by boat tend to be much better, with vibrant coral and fish, and exquisite visibility. Unfortunately, the number of water sports and boat charter businesses is limited on these two islands, so it can be difficult to arrange a visit to the quite beautiful and relatively sheltered reefs that are located off the sparsely populated northeast end of North Caicos and Middle Caicos.
Beach Snorkeling Locations on North Caicos and Middle Caicos
Three Marys Cays
The scenic Three Marys Cays on North Caicos typically offers the best beach snorkeling during typical weather conditions. Like most shore reefs on the two islands, this site is best when it’s not too windy. Check the Wind and Wave Forecast. If the breeze is under 12 mph (19 km/h), Three Mary’s Cays will likely be decent.
The cay closest to the beach is the best for snorkeling. Simply explore around its perimeter.
Unfortunately, it’s often too rough for pleasant snorkeling, but during good conditions, there is excellent snorkeling around Dragon Cay. Sharks and some of the other larger sea creatures can often be spotted.
Conch Bar Beach
Similar to Mudjin Harbour Beach, Conch Bar Beach is quite close to the barrier reef and deep water. There is clear blue water and coral gullies to explore.
As with Mudjin Harbour, this beach is only suitable for snorkeling when wind and wave conditions are calm.
The remote Haulover Point area, which is located north of the small Lorimers community, does have some beautiful bay reefs, particularly off Tony Rock. However, it’s important to consider that the area isn’t easy to access, and there will very likely be no one around to assist or notice in the case of difficulties.
The small bay reefs, which are located in the barrier reef, shelter small reef fish and other interesting creatures. Patrolling the shallows in the area are predators, including barracuda, tarpon, grey reef sharks, and tiger sharks.
The ocean conditions off the general Haulover Point and Tony Rock area can be a little rough at times, and the area is only suitable for proficient snorkelers.
Unfortunately, the snorkeling gear sales and rental options on these two islands are quite limited. You may be able to find a basic mask and snorkel in one of the small gift or variety shops, but you won’t have many options to choose from.
We highly recommend bringing equipment with you. Several water sports stores on Providenciales offer great selections of masks, snorkels, fins and vests.
Important Snorkeling Guidelines
- Don’t touch or stand on anything. Coral is a living animal and you will likely kill or severely harm any part you contact.
- Make sure not to brush anything with your fins or gear.
- Don’t take anything. This includes all shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, starfish, and small pieces of coral.
- Please use reef-safe sunscreen when in the ocean.
- Don’t follow closely or chase any sea life.
- Don’t attempt to feed any sea life.