What's a great place to snuba?
November 4, 2016 7:42 PM   Subscribe

What is the prettiest place for snuba (or failing that, snorkeling) on a December vacation?

I tried snuba in Turks & Caicos and really loved it. I think it was $80 for an hour which seemed worth it, although next time I'd like to do it for longer.

I have vacation coming up in early December. I usually like someplace more exotic than, say, The Keys, but I can't get a handle on how many places offer snuba. For example Cuba would be awesome, but it doesn't seem set up for that kind of experience.

Duck Key? Belize? Any place you've really been blown away by a snorkeling/snuba trip?
posted by critzer to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Belize snorkeling wasn't as great as I'd hoped, although I was way out in the reef (so I think that was as good as it gets.)

A woman I met on that trip, whose whole deal was snorkeling all around the Caribbean, told me that the very best was in Bonaire. I haven't been there yet but it's high on my list.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:12 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been to Bonaire and loved it!! Amazing fish, warm water, friendly but not-crowded land-stuff. Was there in December/January, though, and some years back... might have changed.
posted by The otter lady at 8:36 PM on November 4, 2016

In mid to late December I'll be snorkeling and scuba diving in St Croix. I think the only SNUBA place is in Christiansted, but the Fredericksted pier is world-class amazing even for snorkeling. If $80/hr isn't excessive, why not just get your PADI cert and go full SCUBA? I did my checkout dives in Fredericksted last February with N2 The Blue, and I'm pretty sure they do a more basic discover diving program that doesn't require all the study that would probably take you out to the piling or under the pier.

Further up the coast there's a place mrs straw and I snorkeled put over some boats that sank in Hurricane Hugo (that was spectacular, got swarmed by a huge school of fish, saw a sea turtle), and pretty much any beach we went in at had a good reef to go lie face down over and watch the creatures and coral.

The Christiansted side of the island is dryer and more expensive, the Fredericksted side is rainier and cheaper. Check for cruise ship days, because the Fredericksted pier is unavailable for snorkeling then. I'll be staying at Mt Victory Camp in the rain forest.
posted by straw at 8:47 PM on November 4, 2016

I've never snuba'd in Bonaire but have been both diving and snorkeling there. It's been a while and while I think it's suffered some reef degradation it is an incredible place and you can see really excellent stuff without having to go too deep. One one dive I saw turtles seahorse and an octopus and didn't get below 35 or so feet (made a standard tank last almost an hour and 50 minutes which I could never have done at 70+ feet).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 5:44 AM on November 5, 2016

One note is that there isn't a ton to do in Bonaire other than the diving/snorkeling. It's been developed a lot more since my parents started going 20+ years ago but it's still very small and hyper focused on diving. There are hardly beaches to speak of because geology.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 5:45 AM on November 5, 2016

Oh, also: If you choose to go the full SCUBA route (I went PADI, my dad used one of the other ones and even though N2TheBlue did cross-certification there was a little confusion, so it's better to just use whatever your checkout shop is going to use): Do as much of the classroom and basic pool sessions as you can in your local dive shop. That way the checkout dives will be a little bit of review, but you'll get more actual sightseeing rather than just skills demonstration as you do the open water portions. And it's cool to have a local guide for your dives, there's a lot of "that's a pretty fish" or "that's a scary looking fish" that gets more interesting when the guide can write on a slate, and not freak out at the big nasty lookin' barracuda.

Fredericksted Pier is still the only place I've open-water SCUBA dived, but I got my cert 'cause my uncle was raving about it, and he's dived in a lot of places, and my Dad needed a diving buddy. As I said, the snorkeling there is similarly spectacular (those tanks in the touristy aquariums that you thought were concentrated? Yeah, it's piling after piling of amazing coral and anemone and brilliantly colored fish), and you probably get 80% of the experience just up on the surface. Being 40' down is cool and all, that's where the octopus and turtles and stuff are, but it's still awesome at the surface.

If you do choose St Croix: We dived and snorkeled around the pier in Fredericksted, snorkeled at the little beach where Creque Dam road intersects Highway 53 (the nephews liked the water there, the reefs were cool, but not as spectacular as elsewhere), the sunk boats were up at Butler Bay, and another day went up to the north shore somewhere.

There was a slight rip at the reef on the north shore, and it was fairly shallow, making kicking for swimming a little hard in some places (don't want to hit the bottom and damage the coral or touch anything spiny), so we'd walk up the beach about quarter mile, get in out over the reef, let the current carry us east while we gently floated ogled the fish, swim back in, repeat.

In February this year, I did my first half day of diving and all of my snorkeling without a wetsuit, mrs straw got kinda chilly on the north shore day, a thin wetsuit vest or shorty would be good if you're gonna spend all day in the water (obviously if you're diving you'll want a wetsuit, period. I mean, I'm pretty temperature flexible and the morning wasn't bad, but by lunch I was chilly enough to rent one).
posted by straw at 11:25 AM on November 5, 2016

I snorkled for the first time in Maui, near Molokai. It was amazing! Also excellent snorkeling right off the beach near our condo, which was between Wailea and Kihea. Anemones, trumpet fish and turtles were highlights. Snuba was also heavily advertised, but I didn't do it.
posted by Pleased_As_Punch at 2:21 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best snorkeling spots I've been to:

Cozumel, Mexico - perfectly clear water, lots of colorful corals and fish. Easy spots to snorkel right off the beach, or you can take a boat tour. Lots of fun stuff to do on the island, too. Plenty of easy dive spots if you want to go for an exploration dive (that's where you go out with a dive instructor, not part of a certification course).

Xcalak, Mexico - (it's not far from Belize) Go out for a boat tour with the local dive shop, XTC. Manatees, tarpon schools, lots of big coral. Reef is pretty far from shore, and is a marine reserve. I was staying at a beachfront resort with an ocean kayak that I went out on with a friend, the reef is ~a 30 minute paddle from the shore. This is a super tiny town, it's pretty much just vacation homes and divers.

Utila, Honduras - great shelf drop off right off the beach at the end of the strip of dive shops, so you have a gorgeous wall of huge coral to explore with a dark blue backdrop of open ocean beyond. You can also do boat tours. Island culture is very laid back and the island is really beautiful to explore as well.
posted by ananci at 7:38 PM on November 5, 2016

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