Chainlink moray eel at Mangel Halto in Aruba

Ultimate Guide to the 4 Best Aruba Snorkeling Sites

Last updated Apr 9, 2022 | Aruba, Outdoor

Alright, I have to be completely honest. I did not have high expectations for snorkeling in Aruba. My husband and I have been to some incredible snorkeling locations like the Maldives, St John USVI, and Belize. When I researched where to snorkel in Aruba before our trip, I was not coming across any snorkeling sites that seemed worth the effort. Well, I am happy to say I was proven wrong. Read on to discover where to find the best 4 Aruba snorkeling sites.

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Aruba Snorkeling Rating System

If you read any of my snorkeling guides, you will find I rate all the sites we check out using my snorkel rating key. Hopefully, this is helpful when you are trying to figure out what sites to prioritize especially if you have limited time. Please see the rating key below. 

Snorkel rating key

Snorkel rating key

Map of Aruba Snorkeling Sites

We explored four different snorkeling sites. As you can see from the map below, most locations were concentrated up north. The most spectacular snorkeling though was on the southern end of Aruba. 

The Top Aruba Snorkeling Sites

Aruba Snorkeling Sites

01- Arashi Beach Snorkeling 

SNORKEL RATING

2 out of 5 snorkel icons

PRO TIPBefore you read on, download an offline Google map of Aruba. That way you will always be able to access where you need to go even if you lose cell signal. We do this BEFORE every trip. 

HOW TO GET THERE

    Arashi Beach was the easiest Aruba snorkeling location to find. Put in Arashi Beach in GoogleMaps, and follow the main highway, L.G. Smith Blvd, north straight to the beach. There is plenty of signage and a huge parking lot. 

    Parking at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Parking at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    After you snorkel, you could stay and hang out on the beach. The wide beach is gorgeous! White powdery sand and turquoise waters. There are several palapas to offer shade, but you have to snag those early. There’s even a little beach shack that offers up some basic items like sandwiches, burgers, salads, fresh seafood, and finger foods, and cocktails. Nice setup. 

    Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Arashi Beach in Aruba

    WHERE TO SNORKEL 

    As you walk towards the water, you can snorkel to the right or left. The snorkeling on the LEFT is fairly easy and will bring you to Catalina Cove, a fantastic snorkeling site. We did not snorkel to the left because the day before we had actually snorkeled north from Boca Catalina Beach to Catalina Cove and stopped right before Arashi Beach. 

    Instead, we snorkeled on the right side of Arashi Beach. Be aware this is considered an advanced snorkel because of the rougher currents. Walk almost all the way to the end of the beach on the right. When you look to the right, you will see where the waves are breaking. Enter the water BEFORE this point and stay to the left of where the waves are breaking. 

    Snorkeling on the right side of Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Snorkeling on the right side of Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Then snorkel to the right parallel to the shore. We snorkeled in the early afternoon, and the waves had kicked up quite a bit of sand. The visibility that day was not great especially during the part from the beach entry to the reef. Maybe if we had gone early in the morning it would have been different. 

    Where to snorkel at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Where to snorkel at Arashi Beach

    ENTRY

    Entry is a little tricky. The water can be choppy and is shallow. Expect to navigate around rocks. Wear dive booties. Only proceed if sea conditions permit.

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW

    We saw a variety of fish including blue striped grunt, parrotfish, and schools of blue tang.

    The coral was actually in decent shape, which surprised me. The types of coral we saw were elkhorn, brain, starlet, and pillar coral. 

    Be super careful navigating this reef. It is shallow, and you will have to maneuver your body around the coral and current. 

    As you can see from the photos below, visibility was not ideal the day we snorkeled due to the waves. Regardless, we still saw some beautiful marine life and coral. 

    School of blue tang at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    School of blue tang at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Snorkeling among yellow grunt and starlet coral at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Snorkeling among yellow grunt and starlet coral at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Elkhorn coral at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    Elkhorn coral at Arashi Beach in Aruba

    DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

    30 minutes 

    02- Boca Catalina Beach + Catalina Cove Snorkeling 

    SNORKEL RATING

    3 out of 5 snorkel icons

    HOW TO GET THERE

    Catalina Cove is where you want to be. There are two possible ways to access Catalina Cove, but one is much easier than the other. The first option is to park at Boca Catalina Beach and then snorkel over to Catalina Cove. 

    Put Boca Catalina Beach in GoogleMaps and then drive north along the main highway, L.G. Smith Blvd. There is a small parking area right off the main road. 

    A few palapas dot Boca Catalina Beach, which are in high demand! When we parked, another car parked beside us shortly after. The lady raced over to secure the last palapa. We had no need for the palapa; my husband and I were only there to snorkel. But I thought it was funny how people seem to elbow their way to make sure they get that palapa. 

    Boca Catalina Beach in Aruba

    Boca Catalina Beach in Aruba

    The second option is to go a little further north past Boca Catalina Beach and park at Catalina Cove. I could not get Catalina Cove to pull up in GoogleMaps.

    The best way to describe how to find the parking for Catalina Cove is to follow L.G. Smith Blvd and take a left on Arashi Road. The Catalina Cove parking area is right at the “bend” of Arashi Road. See the map under “Where to Snorkel” to help you orient. 

    There is limited parking in front of Catalina Cove, so go early if you want a parking spot. 

    Parking at the Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Parking at the Catalina Cove in Aruba

    WHERE TO SNORKEL 

    If you park at Boca Catalina Beach, enter the water and snorkel to the right towards Catalina Cove. There is not a lot to see right in front of Boca Catalina Beach. 

    If you park at Catalina Cove, you are right where the action is located. You will likely see several boats dumping off tourists here for snorkel tours. Snorkel towards the right around the rocky point. 

    If you are up for it, you can snorkel to the southern edge of Arashi Beach and exit there as we did. Then my husband walked the 10 minutes back to Boca Catalina Beach to pick up our car while I stayed with our snorkeling gear. 

    Where to snorkel at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Where to snorkel at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    ENTRY

    The entry point at Boca Catalina Beach is super easy. It has a nice sandy bottom. The downside is there is not much to see right at the beach, and you will need to snorkel to the right towards Catalina Cove for all the fish action. 

    We did not enter the water at Catalina Cove, but I heard the Cove is a little difficult because it is mostly rocky. 

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW

    The visibility was incredible! We saw plenty of blue tang, sergeant majors, blue striped grunt, French angelfish, white spotted filefish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, and spotted trunkfish. There were so many fish along the shallow reef. And we saw a moray eel! 

    We also saw pillar and brain coral.

    French angelfish at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    French angelfish at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Snorkeling among school of yellow grunt and pillar coral at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Snorkeling among a school of yellow grunt and pillar coral at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Zebra eel at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Zebra moray eel at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Snorkeling among pilar coral and yellow grunt at Catalina Cove in Aruba

    Pillar coral at Catalina Cove 

    DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

    1 hour 

    03- Tres Trapi Snorkeling 

    SNORKEL RATING

    2 out of 5 snorkel icons

    HOW TO GET THERE 

    Tres Trapi (which means 3 steps) is located on the northern end of Aruba, just south of Boca Catalina Beach. The entrance to the area is located right off the main highway, L.G. Smith Blvd. There are plenty of parking spots right outside the Tres Trapi entrance. 

    Tres Trapi Parking in Aruba

    Tres Trapi Parking in Aruba

    WHERE TO SNORKEL 

    The area to snorkel is straight out from the shore along the seabed. 

    Where to snorkel at Tres Trapi in Aruba

    Where to snorkel at Tres Trapi in Aruba

    ENTRY

    Entry is easy. You must navigate down the steps into the cove-like area first before snorkeling out. If the waves are crashing in, the steps can get a little slippery so take your time. 

    Entrance to Tres Trapi in Aruba

    Entrance to Tres Trapi in Aruba

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

    We came here for one reason … to see the cushion sea stars. 

    And we saw NONE. 

    We snorkeled at the end of November. Did we come at the wrong time? Are the current snorkeling guides outdated? Did we not snorkel far enough? 

    If anyone has answers, please let me know in the comment section at the end. 

    What we did see was one playful turtle, so it wasn’t a total loss. Just not what I expected. 

    Turtle at Tres Trapi in Aruba

    Turtle at Tres Trapi in Aruba

    DURATION OF SNORKELING 

    20 minutes 

    04- Mangel Halto Snorkeling 

    SNORKEL RATING

    4 out of 5 snorkel icon

    HOW TO GET THERE 

    Ok, I saved the BEST for last. If you only have time for ONE snorkeling adventure in Aruba, then put Mangel Halto on your list! The snorkeling here was incredible! 

    Mangel Halto is located more towards the southern end of Aruba. Put “Pos Chiquito Beach Park” in GoogleMaps. Parking is limited, so go early to secure a spot. You will be parking near a huge sign that says “Mangel Halto” in red letters. You can’t miss it. 

    Mangel Halto sign in Aruba

    Mangel Halto sign in Aruba

    WHERE TO SNORKEL

    For beginners, snorkel inside the bay, 

    For advanced snorkelers (and ONLY if the water is calm!), snorkel just outside the 2 cuts in the reef. See the map below for orientation. 

    One of the cuts is marked with a buoy. This is where small boats come into the bay. If you choose to snorkel across that cut and explore that side of the reef, proceed with caution and watch for boats! 

    Where to snorkel at Mangel Halto

    Where to snorkel at Mangel Halto

    ENTRY

    Beginners

    For beginners, it is best to enter the water from the large wooden platform. There is a ladder leading right into the shallow water. 

    Wooden platform with ladder leading down into the water at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Wooden platform with ladder leading down into the water at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    There is also a separate wooden ladder a little further down also leading directly into the water. The bottom is sandy. Easy entry.

    Wooden ladder leading into Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Wooden ladder leading into Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Advanced

    For advanced snorkelers, you can pick a different entry closer to the reef. Walk just a little further south PAST the red “Mangel Halto” sign until you reach the edge of the mangroves. Walk through the trees.

    Snorkeling entrance point to Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Snorkeling entrance point to Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Once you reach the beach, you will see a few palapas and a wooden bridge to the right. 

    Mangel Halto snorkeling entrance point

    Mangel Halto snorkeling entrance point

    This entry point is tricky because the water is super shallow. You will have to walk out in the water towards the right along the rocks for a bit. Wear dive booties! When you finally can put your fins on to snorkel, your body will almost be touching the bottom below you as you do short quick kicks to get out to the reef.

    Shallow snorkel entry point at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Shallow snorkel entry point at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    More Advanced

    I found out later you can do a drift snorkel from one more entry point known as Puerto Chiquito. This entry point is further south of the above two entry points. Shortly after the red Mangel Halto sign, there is a driveway on the right that ends in a dirt parking lot. See the map above again for orientation. 

    The water is exposed at this entry point, so do not attempt it if the waves are big. I understand you snorkel to the left and through the opening of the bay. Then you swim right and let the current take you as you explore the outer reef. Once you reach the reef cuts, you snorkel back into the bay and get out on one of the ladders at Mangel Halto. You obviously need to be a strong swimmer to do this one! 

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

    We saw schools of blue tang, parrotfish, trumpetfish, blue striped and French grunt, damselfish, and 2 eels! The visibility was great on the day we went.

    We also saw a sunken tugboat called the Kappel in about 45 feet of water near the first cut in the reef . The JADS Dive Center sunk it in 2010. We saw a few divers while we were there checking it out. 

    Also expect some beautiful brain coral, massive starlet coral, lettuce coral, and soft coral. 

    Snorkeling among blue tang at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Snorkeling among blue tang at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Fimbriated moray eel at the Mangel Halto in Aruba

    A fimbriated moray eel at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Closeup of chainlink moray eel at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Closeup of chainlink moray eel at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Long chainlink moray eel at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Long chainlink moray eel at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Lettuce coral at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Lettuce coral at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Kappel sunken ship at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    Kappel sunken ship at Mangel Halto in Aruba

    DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

    1 hour

    Snorkeling Gear 

    I strongly advise bringing your own snorkeling equipment. Having properly fitted equipment will greatly enhance your underwater experience. 

    Here are the Top 10 Snorkeling Gear Items that are always in my suitcase when we go on a snorkeling vacation. 

    Snorkeling Gear Isaacs Bay St. Croix

    My snorkeling gear. Photo taken at Isaac Bay in St Croix USVI 

     Final Thoughts

    I did not have high hopes for Aruba snorkeling. It’s always great when a place surprises you and exceeds your expectations. Aruba was that place. If you love snorkeling, please check out Catalina Cove and Mangel Halto. Even better, do like we did, and pair your Aruba trip with Bonaire for a fantastic snorkeling vacation! 

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    Have you snorkeled in Aruba? What were your favorite sites? 

    Let me know in the comments below!

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