Snorkeling is definitely one of our recommended activities on Providenciales. The Bight Reef and Smith’s Reef are the two main snorkeling sites accessible from the beach. The Bight Reef is easy to access, but the more difficult to find Smith’s Reef offers much more to see. Snorkeling on a boat cruise can be excellent and better than the beach reefs, but it depends on where your captain takes you. One of the dedicated snorkeling trips available from a dive company will usually give the best underwater experience.
5 star rating for Snorkeling by Visit Turks and Caicos Islands
The gullies and sea fans of the Providenciales barrier reef.
Providenciales offers some great snorkeling right from the beach. Generally, the best snorkeling reefs are off the north coast, but there are quite a few interesting sites elsewhere as well. See detailed information on the main locations below. If your schedule allows, it’s worth waiting for calm and sunny conditions as your snorkeling experience will be more enjoyable.
A good snorkeling cruise will typically be better in several ways than the experience at one of the reefs near the beach. Visibility is almost always far superior, reef and coral formations are usually much better, and you’ll also have a greater chance to see some of the larger sea animals. However, one of the decent shore sites on Providenciales (such as the outer reef at
Smith's Reef) will typically offer a wider selection of approachable reef fish and small creatures, along with the obvious benefit of not costing anything.
One of the dedicated snorkeling trips (usually traveling out to the south edge of the Caicos Banks) offered by the local
scuba diving companies will usually give by far the best underwater experience compared to a combination beach and snorkeling cruise. Most boat tours include the use of equipment, although quality and condition vary.
Reef Safe Sunscreen:
Please use reef safe sunscreen when in the Turks and Caicos. Common types of sunscreen that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate cause lasting and significant damage to corals and reefs. Over the last decade, reefs and coral in the Caribbean have seen a signifcant decline due to these products.
The Best Beach Snorkeling Locations
Providenciales has two great and easy to access locations for beach snorkeling: the
Bight Reef, and
Smith's Reef. Both are located on the central north coast of Providenciales in the
Turtle Cove areas, and are adjacent to the west of Grace Bay. The Bight Reefs tends to be the best spot for sea turtles, parrotfish, and sting rays, and Smith's Reef is best for small tropical fish and eagle rays.
The Bight Reef is generally the best place to start, as the reef starts directly off the beach. Smith's Reef offers far more to explore, yet is spread over quite a distance of coast.
The remote west coast of Providenciales hides some amazing snorkeling sites and vibrant reefs, yet due to the difficulty of access, these sites are best for experienced snorkelers.
The beautiful Malcolm’s Road Beach combines inviting blue water, spur and groove reef formations, and a complex artificial reef system that shelters fish.
Northwest Point also has some amazing reefs and sea fan beds, yet land access is quite limited, so it’s best to visit on a boat charter.
Keep in mind that along with being secluded, the west coast ocean conditions can also be a bit more volatile at times. This side of the island is typically sheltered from the wind and is consequently calm, yet the close proximity to the deep open ocean means that the area is more exposed abnormal ocean swells. There will probably be no one around to help if you run into difficulties.
Another great place to snorkel for those comfortable in the water are some of the mangrove wetland islands in the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve (which includes the iguana attraction of
Little Water Cay), and especially the main channel into
Mangrove Cay. During incoming
tides, the water clarity is quite nice, and the overhanging red mangrove canopy in the water shelters fish, and juvenile turtles, sharks, and stingrays are common as well. When compared to the typical
barrier reef and bay reef Turks and Caicos snorkeling sites, the mangroves offer a truly unique underwater setting.
Due to the consistently clean and sandy bottom of Grace Bay Beach, there are no snorkeling reefs within easy access of the beach.
Spectacular snorkel sites can be found on the barrier reef off of Grace Bay, such as at the popular
Leeward Cut Reef, yet these locations are over half a mile off the coast, so it’ll be necessary to take a
Bandtail Puffer Fish at Smith’s Reef, Providenciales.
Many of the water sports and gift shops in Grace Bay sell snorkeling gear, and prices range from approximately $30 for a basic quality mask, snorkel and fins, to $70-100 for a high-quality set. We recommend visiting one of the dive shops to get the best selection and advice on gear and fitment. Snorkeling gear is also available for rent from most dive shops and at the
Snuba stand at
The Bight Reef (Coral Gardens).
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 flippers or gear.
Don’t take anything. This includes all shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, starfish and small pieces of coral.
Don’t heavily coat yourself with sunscreen or other lotions before snorkeling.
Don’t follow closely or chase any sea life.
Don’t attempt to feed any sea life.
All of the snorkeling sites listed here are in
national parks and it is illegal to fish or collect conch and lobster. Penalties can be harsh.
Flamingo Tongue sea snails on soft coral at Smith’s Reef, Providenciales.
Power boats and reckless operators are the greatest danger to snorkelers. Although all of the sites we list are in national parks with regulations on vessel speed, boaters commonly ignore these rules. Generally, the areas around the reefs are safe, but be vigilant in open water far from shore.
Currents, waves and rough conditions are another concern. Generally, the popular snorkeling sites in
The Bight and
Smith's Reef have rather tame conditions, but locations off the east and west coasts of Providenciales (such as at the
Northwest Point National Park) are subject to currents and rough surf at times. Beginners and unsure swimmers should consider using a snorkeling vest.
Although quite a minor risk, Lionfish are probably the biggest sea life threat to swimmers. The Lionfish are an invasive predatory species from the Indo-Pacific and are quite damaging to the native fish and reefs. The fish are predators and although only reaching a mature length of about 14 inches, they consume an incredible amount of the smaller reef fish. The danger to humans come from the venomous spines on the back of the Lionfish. The stings are usually just very painful, but in the worst case scenarios can cause temporary seizures or paralysis. Fortunately, the lionfish are not aggressive to humans and only sting in defensive situations. They are almost always only found close to the reef.
Peacock Flounder on the sandy bight sea floor. These interesting fish are actually not uncommon around Providenciales, but often go unnoticed due to their excellence at camouflage.
Very small jellyfish are occasionally seen around Providenciales. The jellyfish usually appear in large groups, but tend to disappear after a couple days. The stings from these jellyfish tend to cause small itchy welts and are more of a nuisance than any danger. It’s extremely rare to see Portuguese-Man-Of-Wars or the larger types of jellyfish here.
Although they can look scary,
sharks and barracudas should be considered harmless to snorkelers. The only known cases of shark attacks on snorkelers in the Turks and Caicos are a couple of incidents that happened to spear fishers (spear fishing results in blood and thrashing fish and is illegal here) far from shore and the attacks weren’t fatal.
Underwater camera choice on Providenciales is unfortunately limited to two options: rental of an underwater camera from a dive company, or the purchase of GoPro with an underwater housing (available from a few watersports shops in Grace Bay). The other islands in the country really don’t have any options.