The clarity of the water, the stunning array of coral reefs, and the shallow resting places of several wrecks make snorkeling in the waters around Bermuda—both inshore and offshore—particularly worthwhile. You can snorkel year-round, although a wet suit is advisable for anyone planning to spend a long time in the water in winter, when the water temperature can dip into the 60s. The water also tends to be rougher in winter, often restricting snorkeling to the protected areas of Harrington Sound and Castle Harbour. Underwater caves, grottoes, coral formations, and schools of small fish are the highlights of these areas.

Some of the best snorkeling sites are accessible only by boat. As the number of wrecks attests, navigating around Bermuda's reef-strewn waters is no simple task, especially for inexperienced boaters. If you rent a boat yourself, stick to the protected waters of the sounds, harbors, and bays, and be sure to ask for an ocean-navigation chart. These charts point out shallow waters, rocks, and hidden reefs.

For trips to the reefs, let someone else do the navigating—a charter-boat skipper or one of the snorkeling-cruise operators. Some of the best reefs for snorkeling, complete with shallow-water wrecks, are to the west, but where the tour guide or skipper goes often depends on the tide, weather, and water conditions. For snorkelers who demand privacy and freedom of movement, a boat charter (complete with captain) is the only answer, but the cost is considerable—expect to pay upward of $550 for three hours and up to six people. By comparison, half a day of snorkeling on a regularly scheduled cruise generally costs $65 to $85, including equipment and instruction.

Snorkeling Sites

John Smith's Bay. The popular snorkeling spot off the south shore of Smith's Parish has several reefs close to the shore as well as the added safety of a lifeguard overseeing the beach. Beware, this site occasionally experiences rip currents. South Shore Rd., Smith’s Parish.

Tobacco Bay. A beautiful bay tucked in a cove near historic Fort St. Catherine's beach offers wonderful snorkeling, public facilities, and equipment rentals, and there's a snack bar near the shore. This site is the most popular in St. George's, often hosting concerts, parties, and other events; it can get crowded. To get here from the Town of St. George, follow signs up the hill past the Unfinished Church and over the hill. The walk is about 15–20 minutes. 9 Coot's Pond Rd., St. George’s, Saint George’s Parish.

Warwick Long Bay. On the south shore in Warwick, this ½-mile (1-km) of beach—considered the longest on the island—is usually secluded and quiet. It's the perfect spot to check out Bermuda's underwater life without bumping into any other snorkelers. You'll have plenty of room to explore, and there's an inner reef very close to the shore. Visitors should exercise caution here, as strong winds and a steep drop-off at the beach make the surf a bit tricker to traverse. A concessions stand is open during summer months. South Shore Rd., Warwick Parish.

West Whale Bay. Tiny West Whale Bay, off the western shore near the Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, is quiet and usually uncrowded, and a good spot for snorkeling. You can also explore the history of the West Whale Bay Fort and Battery, catch the local sunset (without the crowds), or view the humpback whales that pass by the island on their annual migration at the end of winter and beginning of spring. The beach disappears during high tide, though, so check tide times first. Whale Bay Rd., Southampton Parish.

Snorkeling Cruises and Outfitters

Snorkeling cruises, offered from April to November, are a less expensive albeit less personal way to experience the underwater world. One of the area's most interesting snorkeling spots is the wreck of the HMS Vixen. Much like an iceberg, the bow of this gunboat, which was sunk on purpose off Daniel's Head in 1896, crests the surface; the body of the ship lies beneath, proving a suitable home for a local sea life. Look but don't touch! You may be tempted to snap a selfie at the boat's apex, but this landmark is protected. Snorkeling is allowed, but scuba diving requires a permit. Also see the Boating section in Activities, since other boats can offer snorkeling.

Fantasea Bermuda. You're spoiled for choice with this one-stop recreational company with snorkeling tours, diving, sightseeing cruises, glass-bottom boat trips, and even banana-boat rides. You can choose a three-hour Catamaran Coral Reef Snorkel aboard a luxury catamaran or a 90-minute rum-tasting sunset sail. The whale-watching tours in March and April are immensely popular, when you can get close to the majestic humpbacks as they migrate north. Take your pick of a cruise-and-kayak or boat-and-bike ecotour for a closer look at some of the prettiest spots on the island. Most tours depart from Dockyard, near the cruise ship terminal. Dockyard Watersports Center, North Arm, Dockyard, Sandys Parish, MA01. 441/234–3483; From $60 for sunset sail; $70 for 3-hour snorkel sail.

Captain Kirk's Coral Reef Adventures. Pick your adventure with Captain Kirk's Coral Reef Adventures, but regardless of which option you want, prepare for memorable hours with a wide option of boats and tours. Depending on the weather, you can choose to stop at two of three exciting locations: a shipwreck, a secluded island beach, or one of Bermuda's beautiful coral reefs. Or book a day out fishing on the Jolly Roger. Snorkeling equipment, masks, and vests are provided; plus you can peer into the turquoise waters right through the glass bottom of some of the boats. The 31-foot Pisces holds up to 20 people and departs from Dockyard. Royal Naval Dockyard, North Arm, Dockyard, Sandys Parish, MA01. 441/236–1300; From $50.

Snorkeling Equipment Rentals

Bermuda's clear water is perfect for snorkeling, whether you seek out spots yourself or take a snorkel cruise. Snorkeling equipment and, sometimes, underwater cameras are available for rent at most major hotels and at several marinas here, and sometimes right on the beach. A deposit or credit-card number is usually required when renting equipment. Equipment may be a bit costly, but the experience is well worth it.

Rum Bum Beach Bar. Snorkel gear, umbrellas, and sun loungers are available to rent at this beachside bar and restaurant at the entrance to Horseshoe Bay Beach. Rentals must be returned by 5 pm. Horseshoe Bay Beach Park, 94 South Shore Rd., Southampton Parish, HMAX. 441/238–0088; $20–$25 for 1-day snorkel and mask rental; $20–$25 deposit.