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Couple sitting on boat in St. Martin getting ready to snorkel

Best Diving and Snorkeling in St. Maarten

If you’re planning a sailing charter in the Caribbean, you cannot go wrong with St. Maarten. This delightful island offers a balmy climate, crystal-clear blue waters, and a melting pot of French, Dutch and Caribbean cultures to explore.

Any St. Maarten sailing itinerary should include some diving and snorkeling excursions. With a range of pristine coral reefs and awe-inspiring shipwrecks, St. Maarten offers some of the best diving in the Caribbean, if not the world. In this blog post, we will unveil five of the best dive sites in St. Maarten, from The Fishbowl to Friar’s Bay Beach. Get your gear, and let’s dive in.

How is the diving in St. Maarten?

Divers find fantastic opportunities in St. Maarten. If you love snorkeling and scuba diving, every site offers a unique blend of beauty and excitement. The coral reefs are lush underwater wonderlands, full of diverse fish and aquatic plants. St. Maarten also boasts 11 wreck sites, so wreck divers could spend an enormous amount of time exploring the shipwrecks and surrounding artificial reefs. 

With as many diving spots perfect for beginners as there are for intermediate and advanced divers, St. Maarten is a great place to dive for everyone. 

Best time to dive and snorkel in St. Maarten

St. Maarten experiences wonderful sunny weather and warm, clear waters all year round. This said, November-May is considered the best time to dive in St. Maarten – these are the best months to swim with whales and sharks, as well as the driest months of the year. 
June and July are wonderful for visibility, but the weather is especially hot and may not be suitable for everyone. If you’re visiting St. Maarten from June-November, make sure to check the weather forecast before sailing or diving, as this is hurricane season in the Caribbean and the waters may be far choppier than normal. To learn more, read our Best Time to Sail in the Caribbean blog.

The Fishbowl

The Fishbowl offers some of the best diving in St. Maarten. Found within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, a protected marine area that spans 8000 acres of ocean space, this large circular-shaped reef has an average depth of 60ft (18m) and great visibility over 100ft (30m), making it a great space of scuba divers of all skill levels. 

This dive site is named aptly; the marine diversity here is fantastic, and you will encounter multitudes of different fish. It would be impossible to name all the fish you might see here, but some exciting spots include honeycomb trunkfish, scrawled filefish and spiny lobster. Larger fish like reef sharks and barracuda can also be seen swimming around. 
Look out for two enormous coral arches here that you can swim through, one of The Fishbowl’s unique attractions. Close to the harbor and other popular dive sites like Big Momma, The Fishbowl is very easy to reach and a fantastic destination for sustainable tourism – read Our Ocean Promise to learn what we’re doing for sustainable travel

Big Momma

Big Momma is a feat of Mother Nature. This sandy expanse surrounded by enormous coral reefs is a great place for shark diving, and is widely considered to have some of the best scuba diving in St. Maarten. 

While adventure dives like this are not usually recommended to beginners, the easy average depth here of 40ft, generally weak currents, and experienced guides around to supervise make Big Momma accessible no matter your skill level. 
Sharks have been the main attraction here – Caribbean reef sharks are most common, and you might also spot an Atlantic sharp nose shark if you’re lucky. Several large fish like grouper and barracuda are frequently spotted here, as well as parrotfish, squirrelfish and shrimp hiding in the elkhorn coral.

Proselyte Reef

Located in Great Bay, Proselyte Reef is possibly the most popular of the wreck dives in St. Maarten. This artificial reef covers the wreck of the HMS Proselyte, a Dutch frigate vessel from the 1770s – the crew mutinied and handed it over to the British, after which it hit the Man of War Shoal in 1801 on a journey to St Kitts.

Now lying starboard side in the sandy seabed, only 50ft (15m) below the surface, everything from this wreck (right down to the guns that were onboard) is completely crusted in hard coral. Unique artifacts you might spot amongst the wreckage include giant anchors, barrel hoops, cannons and cannonballs that were thrown overboard.

A canyon drop-off nearby provides the perfect hiding place for a variety of fish species, from triggerfish, crabs and conches, to stingrays and barracudas. Green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles are common sights here, as well as nurse sharks and Caribbean reef lobsters. Proselyte Reef definitely offers some of the best diving in St. Maarten for wreck divers.
Falling in love with the sound of diving in St. Maarten and want to uncover the treasures of other Caribbean islands? Take a look at our blogs on the best snorkeling spots in the BVI and the best diving in St Thomas and best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean.

Dawn Beach

Dawn Beach is one of the best places to go snorkeling in St. Maarten. This snorkeling beach is a long, luxurious stretch of pristine white sand and cerulean waters, located on the Dutch side of the island. 

If you swim out opposite the Westin Hotel, you will soon be met with a vibrant coral reef – since it runs parallel to the coastline, at an average depth of 24ft, it is very easy to navigate. Among schools of Caribbean reef squid, you may see parrotfish, goatfish and snappers at Dawn Beach.

Note that the easterly location means that this site isn’t suitable for snorkeling if there are strong trade winds or big swells. This is best for intermediate and advanced swimmers, so if you’re not too confident in your swimming ability yet, you can simply enjoy the beach! Dawn Beach is not as busy as popular tourist areas like Maho or Simpson’s Bay, so it’s a great place to relax and sunbathe.

Friar’s Bay Beach

Friar’s Bay Beach, on the northwest side of the island, is our final choice for the best diving in St. Martin. There are diverse opportunities for passionate scuba divers here – whether you’re interested in a challenging wreck drive or an easy-breezy reef dive, you can’t go wrong at Friar’s Bay.

We are particularly partial to the reef at Friar’s Bay. The coral-encrusted rocks along the coastline are accessible to snorkelers and divers of all levels of experience. On the right of the bay, you’ll find this shallow reef teeming with life – a couple of notable sightings include barracuda, arrow crabs, coral shrimps and sea anemones. For safety, make sure to tow a marker with you out here, so passing boats are aware of your location.

There is a wonderful view of Anguilla from Friar Bay Beach, and a range of great cafes and bars to lounge in after your dive. Kali’s Bar is perfect if you’re looking for hearty Caribbean food and cool refreshing drinks.

explore the best diving in St. Maarten with The Moorings

With the options of bareboat, power and crewed charters, you’re completely in control of your vacation. Whether chartering the yacht yourself is your bliss, or the option to have your every need catered for by a dedicated crew, The Moorings provide fully-equipped yachts in fabulous charter destinations across the globe.

If these sites for the best diving in St. Maarten have inspired you, start planning a St. Maarten sailing charter today by building your quote.



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