Under the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea off Jamaica’s north coast lies a hidden world rich in biodiversity.
Go swimming in Montego Bay to discover coral reefs bursting with color, diverse schools of fish and vibrant sponge clusters.
Rent some snorkel gear and then dip beneath the waves to experience the beauty of it all.
Read on for the essential guide to swimming and snorkeling in Montego Bay.
Does Montego Bay Have Nice Beaches?
Yes, Montego Bay does have some nice beaches, although these cannot compare to Negril, which has the best beaches in Jamaica.
For instance, Doctor’s Cave Beach is a very nice private beach that charges a small entrance fee. Although typically crowded on cruise ship days, Doctor’s Cave Beach is large enough with plenty of room for snorkeling near the coral reef.
Where Can You Swim in Montego Bay?
There are plenty of good places to go swimming off the coast of Montego Bay. These include:
- Doctor’s Cave Beach: This is the most famous beach in Montego Bay, and with good reason. Situated right on the Hip Strip, it is very accessible and smack in the middle of the action. It is an amazing beach that offers good snorkeling, food, showers and umbrella and chair rentals.
- Cornwall Beach: Although it is situated right next to Doctor’s Cave Beach, and separated by just a small wall, Cornwall Beach is much more spacious and tranquil. This makes it ideal for visitors in search of a less crowded beach experience.
- Montego Bay Marine Park: The Montego Bay Marine Park encompasses a large section of seawater, along with several beaches, most of which are protected to preserve their natural beauty. The marine park is a great place to go swimming and snorkeling in Montego Bay.
- Gloucester Avenue: Also known as the “Hip Strip,” Gloucester Avenue is home to lots of sandy beaches. However, it is best known among locals as the home of Dead End Beach. Because this beach has yet to catch on with tourists, you can expect a bit more tranquility here.
- Rose Hall: The beach at Rose Hall offers visitors a luxurious and stunning private beach to enjoy. Moreover, history buffs will love the location of the beach which rests on the grounds of a historic 18th century sugar plantation.
- Aquasol Beach Park: This beach is a great choice for traveling families, as it offers lots of watersports, including water walls and trampolines for children to enjoy. For visitors who want to relax, chair and umbrella rentals are available.
- Walter Fletcher Beach: Located next to Aquasol Water Park, the Walter Fletcher Beach features a gorgeous barrier of coconut trees that offers a great privacy shield from the busy road located nearby.
Is the Water Clear in Montego Bay?
In any ocean, water clarity is dependent on the absence of waves.
As such, on a clear sunny day when the water is relatively calm, the Caribbean Sea around Montego Bay will be crystal clear and blue. However, on a stormy day when the ocean experiences strong currents and rough tides, the water will become murky. Snorkelers will therefore need to wade far out before the water clears up.
Unfortunately, the seaweed that covers a lot of the Caribbean Sea floor around Montego Bay constantly washes in with the tide onto the beaches. Resort staff therefore have to work hard to keep this to a minimum and maintain a beautiful beach.
Moreover, Montego Bay is located on the northern coast of Jamaica, and snorkeling on reefs on the northern coast of any island can be challenging. This is because there is typically a strong off shore current in some places, as well as afternoon winds that can ruin your excursion with poor visibility.
Is Snorkeling Good in Montego Bay
Yes. Montego Bay has decent snorkeling with a good diversity of marine life, and somewhat healthy coral in places.
Snorkelers can enjoy swimming in the calm and shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea at Doctor’s Cave Beach, as they soak up views of the enchanting coral reefs and colorful fish.
Tips for Snorkeling in Montego Bay
When snorkeling in Montego Bay, be sure to follow these simple safety rules:
- Be aware of the current and be mindful your location. You don’t want to get too far away to have enough energy to swim back to shore.
- Wear a waterproof watch so that you don’t lose track of time. It’s easy to do so when underwater.
- Never feed the fish or touch the marine creatures or coral. Their protective layers can easily get stripped away.
- Do not walk or stand on the reef and tread carefully on shallow waters around the reef.
- Watch out for sea urchins and spines. Shuffle your feet to avoid stingrays.
- Avoid jellyfish, fire coral and other sea creatures that sting.
- Never wear jewelry. Caribbean fish, in particular barracudas, are drawn to shiny objects that resemble small silver fish – their natural prey.
- Never reach into holes and crevices as they might be an animal’s home, moray eels especially.
- Never remove anything from the reefs and diving sites; it is illegal to do so.
When is the Best Time for Snorkeling in Montego Bay?
Montego Bay is a year round destination for snorkeling. The Caribbean Sea in Jamaica stays warm all year, so you can snorkel comfortably whenever you go.
That said, the best snorkeling is between June and September, when there are warm sunny days and little wind or rain. This is when the water is the most calm and visibility is best.
Are There Sharks in Montego Bay?
Yes, there are sharks in Montego Bay.
However, there is no need to worry about your vacation in Montego Bay being ruined by sharks. This is because the most common sharks in Montego Bay are nurse sharks, which are docile creatures that normally live at the bottom of the sea.