The best snorkeling in Dominica

From underwater volcanoes to pristine coral reefs, the Caribbean’s Nature Island is full of unique snorkeling spots. Here’s where to find the best locations.


Located in the Lesser Antilles between Martinique and Guadeloupe, the mountainous island of Dominica is a dream destination for adventurous travelers and nature lovers.

The island’s unspoiled reefs, volcanic craters, geothermal activity, rich biodiversity, and clear waters make for a stunning underwater landscape with incredible snorkeling and diving. If you’re planning a visit to the Caribbean’s ‘Nature Island’ and want to do some snorkeling, here’s where you’ll find the best spots.

Champagne Reef

This unique snorkeling site south of Pointe Michel allows visitors to snorkel above an undersea volcano and observe volcanic gases rising to the water’s surface. As the name suggests, swimming through the bubbles emerging from the warm seafloor will make you feel as though you’re snorkeling in a giant glass of champagne.

The reef is located within the Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve on the southwestern end of the island and is easily accessible from shore. This protected area is rich with marine life, including parrotfish, seahorses, soft corals, and sponges, as well as many interesting rock formations. The beach here is rocky, so make sure to pack appropriate footwear.

Since Champagne Reef is one of the most popular snorkeling sites in Dominica and is a favorite spot among cruise ship passengers, it may be crowded on your visit.

overview of scotts head beach in dominica
Scotts Head Beach and the reefs off of it are a must visit.

Scotts Head Beach & Soufriere Bay

Soufriere Bay is an extinct volcanic crater containing one of the Caribbean’s most pristine scuba diving and snorkeling environments (1). The sea here is teeming with marine life, including stingrays, lobsters, pufferfish, parrotfish, barracuda, bay shrimp, and even tuna and dolphins in the deeper areas.

This snorkeling spot has relatively calm waters thanks to Scott’s Head Peninsula, which protects the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean’s rougher waters. There is a designated area near the beach set aside for swimming and snorkeling, as well as several dive sites marked with buoys.

Since the seafloor plunges to awe-inspiring depths not far from shore, this site is not recommended for beginners. While there’s plenty to see in the shallows, those who venture into deeper waters will have views of cliffs adorned with coral and sponge gardens and underwater pinnacles known to be among the most beautiful in the world.

The beaches at Scotts Head and Soufriere are some of Dominica’s best, so make sure to allow time after snorkeling to relax on shore and take in the stunning scenery. The area is rarely crowded, making this a perfect destination for experienced snorkelers seeking a quieter and more private outing.

There are restaurants, bars, and other facilities in the small fishing village of Scotts Head and the nearby town of Soufriere. If you want to rent snorkeling gear or book a guided tour, you can do so at various dive centers in Soufriere.

Cabrits National Park Cannons
There’s more than just snorkeling at Cabrits National Park.

Cabrits National Park

Cabrits National Park is located on a peninsula near Portsmouth on the north side of the island. It is an excellent stop for those interested in learning about Dominica’s history and doing some hiking in addition to snorkeling.

The park protects Dominica’s coral reefs, tropical forests, wetlands, and historical sites. Visitors can snorkel in the turquoise bay and view a wide variety of fish and other marine life, tour Fort Shirley, a British garrison built in the 1700s, and hike some of the gorgeous coastal trails, including a section of the 115-mile-long Waitukubuli Trail.

Visiting Cabrits National Park requires a small entry fee of around US$5. For the best views of the surrounding area, hike to the top of the park’s two green peaks, which are extinct volcanoes.

Salisbury Beach

Salisbury Beach is located within the Salisbury Marine Reserve on Dominica’s west coast, between Mero and Baroui. The area is home to three different coral reefs, one of which is easily accessible from shore and best for snorkelers.

The beach is small and has few amenities, but there is a beach bar, a dive center, and plenty of palm trees that provide natural shade.

This hidden tropical paradise is ideal for snorkelers seeking to get off the beaten path. The quiet, sandy beach is a great escape from the crowds, and the nearby village of Baroui offers a chance to experience local Dominican culture.

reefs in soufriere bay
Soufriere Bay has vibriant reef in shallow water to snorkel on.

Secret Beach

This secluded beach at the southern end of Prince Rupert Bay near Portsmouth is accessible only by paddling or swimming ashore, making it perfect for nature lovers seeking a relaxing getaway.

The rocky outcrops, dense tropical vegetation, and azure waters all contribute to the allure of this enchanting location. You may recognize the beach if you’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean since it was used as a filming location for the movie.

Snorkelers can observe sea creatures like stingrays, eels, and tropical fish swimming around the volcanic rock features and explore several sea caves. If you prefer, wait for low tide to explore some of the caves on foot.

The bay’s calm waters make this spot an excellent destination for kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and other watersports. Staying at Secret Bay, a luxury eco-resort, will give you free access to kayaks snorkeling gear, or you can rent them at Ripaton Beach and Coconut Beach (located about a mile away).

Tips for snorkeling in Dominica

When to visit

The best time to visit Dominica is from December to May, although snorkeling and diving are possible throughout the year.

Dominica has a warm, tropical climate with a relatively consistent temperature year-round. Average highs reach around 90°F (32°C) in the summer and 84 to 86°F (29 to 30°C) in the winter (2).

February to April are the driest months and the most popular time to visit Dominica. The rainy season falls between June and November, with hurricanes and tropical storms most likely in August and September.

Water temperatures are also relatively stable, ranging from around 79°F (26°C) in the winter to 83°F (28°C) in the summer (3).

What to do

When planning your visit, make sure to allow enough time to explore the island. Dominica has a diverse landscape, with ample opportunity for outdoor adventures. When you’re not snorkeling, you can enjoy activities such as scuba diving, whale watching, hiking through tropical rainforests, canyoneering, swimming under waterfalls, and exploring hot springs.

If you’re visiting on a cruise ship and want to see as much as possible in a single day, there are guided tours from Roseau that combine snorkeling at Champagne Reef with some of the island’s other main attractions, such as Trafalgar Falls and Titou Gorge.

What to bring on a snorkeling trip

Although you can rent snorkeling equipment in Dominica or book a guided tour that includes gear, bringing your own mask, snorkel, and fins will provide you with a better fit and improved comfort. Take a look at our best travel snorkel gear article to find a travel-friendly snorkel set that won’t take up too much room in your luggage.

In addition to your mask, snorkel, and fins, you should pack comfortable swimwear, a rash guard, boardshorts, and reef-friendly sunscreen. Because of Dominica’s deep waters and rocky coastline, you’ll also want to consider bringing a snorkel vest (see our recommended products here) and snorkeling booties or water shoes.

For more packing tips, check out our post about what to wear snorkeling.

Conclusion

Dominica has some of the most pristine snorkeling and scuba diving sites in the Caribbean. Whether you are exploring sea caves or swimming through bubbles from an underwater volcano, Dominica has many opportunities for unforgettable snorkeling adventures.

Resources

  1. “Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve.” UNESCO, https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/6022/.
  2. Niddrie, David Lawrence and Momsen, Janet D. “Dominica.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Jan. 2018, https://www.britannica.com/place/Dominica.
  3. Mack, Catherine. “Best Time to Visit Dominica.” Responsible Travel, https://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/dominica/travel-guide/best-time-to-go-to-dominica.
Rebecca Jambrovic

About the author

Rebecca Jambrovic

Rebecca lives next to the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, where she guides kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and snorkeling tours. She is passionate about outdoor activities and enjoys writing pieces that inspire others to get outside.

Subscribe to our newsletter

The latest articles, guides, and resources, sent to your inbox monthly.

© 2021 OutsiderView. All rights reserved.