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Best Diving in St Maarten

Best Diving in St Maarten

Are you considering a dive vacation to St Maarten? With its azure waters, stunning coastlines, and a plethora of underwater wonders, St Maarten is a haven for diving enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced diver seeking thrilling adventures or a novice eager to explore the underwater world, St Maarten is home to some of the best diving in the Caribbean.

If you’re already planning a bareboat, skippered or flotilla sailing charter to St Maarten, you would be remiss not to consider the many snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities on offer. This is a particularly great place for wreck diving, with 11 sites in total, and there are many coral reefs across the French and Dutch sides of the island (read our St Martin vs St Maarten blog post to learn the difference).

In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey to explore the best diving in St Maarten. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a curious snorkeller, prepare to be enchanted by the breathtaking sights and unforgettable experiences that await you in the crystal-clear waters of St Maarten.

Best Time to Dive in St Maarten

The best time to dive in St Maarten is November-May. You are guaranteed warm waters and high visibility all year round in the Caribbean, but there is a dry season and a wet season. The sea is much choppier in the wet season, so snorkelling and diving are riskier. While the dry season (November-May) is more popular with tourists and crowded, it is also when the waters are gentlest – this is why it’s the best time to dive in St Maarten. For more information, read our blog on the Best Time to Sail in the Caribbean.

1 – Carib Ghost

The Carib Ghost shipwreck, otherwise known as Carib Cargo or RORO, has an interesting story. After being severely damaged by two hurricanes over 1995 and 1996, it was purposely sunk to create an artificial reef. After this was done, the location of the shipwreck was lost and only rediscovered years later, hence why it is commonly called the “Carib Ghost”.

This site is suitable for scuba divers of all levels. Something particularly special about the Carib Ghost is that you can safely enter the wreck – if you have a wreck certification, your guide will let you go inside and explore the bathroom and wheelhouse. This is one reason why Carib Ghost offers some of the best diving in St Maarten. 

The visibility is great around Carib Ghost. Around the wreck, you might see schools of snappers, moray eels and lobsters. Southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, reef sharks and the occasional dolphin have been spotted in the sandy expanses beyond.

2 – Fuh Sheng

This is another of St Maarten’s best wreck dives. Fuh Sheng is a 120ft (36m) long Taiwanese fishing vessel that sank in 1995, and found her final resting place not far from Cupecoy Cay. The visibility is fantastic here – to the extent that you can see the shipwreck from the surface on sunny days – but this is a deceptively deep dive suitable for intermediate and more advanced divers.

Circle this ship from the bow to the stern, and discover the range of reef fish hiding in fissures and pockets. There are likely to be a lot of clinging crabs, arrow crabs, lobsters and moray eels around the ship. In the sand surrounding the wreckage, there are large numbers of garden eels, as well as southern stingrays and reef sharks. 

After visiting Fuh Sheng, we recommend returning to Maho and taking your pick of the beach bars on this southwest stretch. Relaxing with a drink and beachside views is a great way to unwind after taking on some of the most exciting and challenging wreck dives in Sint Maarten.

3 – Little Bay

With white sand beaches and warm, gentle waters, Little Bay (also called Divi Bay, as it sits beside Divi Little Bay Beach Resort) is an idyllic destination and one of the best snorkelling beaches in Sint Maarten. This is a great place for beginners and ideal for families. 

This is possibly the easiest site to get to if you’re interested in snorkelling – you can simply swim out from the left side of the bay, follow the rocks out, and descend once you’re in the right place. For your safety, tow a surface marker buoy with you to alert passing boats of your location. You should avoid snorkelling in Little Bay if there are strong southerly winds. 

Once you reach the reef, you will be greeted with a vast array of aquatic life. The fascinating corals here – including brain corals and maze corals – are a feast for the eyes, and they are teeming with small crustaceans like banded coral shrimp and arrow crabs. Keep an eye out for peacock flounder and porcupinefish, too.

4 – Ile Pinel (Pinel Island)

Found near Orient Bay, on the French side of St Martin, Ile Pinel (or Pinel Island) offers some of the best snorkelling in St Martin. If you don’t want to sail out to Ile Pinel, you can moor in Orient Bay and take the ferry (which runs every hour and a half at peak times). The snorkelling trails are marked with white buoys – swim past these and then down into the coral reefs below.

There are several coral reefs in the waters around this island – we recommend going to the west side of the island, where the waters are calmer, as the east side can be subject to strong trade winds that make snorkelling difficult for beginners ( even though the maximum depth is 11m).

Flurries of small fish will greet you as you swim down, there are lots of small fish here to greet you – you may observe species like wrasses and parrotfish. After you have fully enjoyed the kaleidoscopic beauty of the coral reefs, head back to Ile Pinel, where you can rent kayaking or paddle boarding equipment, or take your group out to dinner.

5 – Creole Rock

On the northeast coast of French St Martin, found between Anse Marcel and Grand Case, is the island of Creole Rock. This imposing island is an oasis that attracts dozens of scuba divers every day, providing some of the best diving in St Martin.

There are several coral reefs around Creole Rock, protected from strong currents by the surrounding rock formations, which make it very accessible to snorkellers and scuba divers alike. Strong swimmers may be able to swim to Creole Rock, but we recommend renting a kayak and paddle to reach this site.

There are so many wonderful reef fish you may see here amongst the gorgonian and brain coral – just a few examples include angelfish, lionfish and honeycomb cowfish. You also may see sea turtles, stingrays, and sea anemones, as well as hear the clicking of chipper nearby dolphins. If you go night diving here (which is an option) the sights may be even more stunning.

Set sail to St Maarten with Sunsail

St Maarten is the perfect destination for your next sailing adventure. With Sunsail, you can plan a rich St Maarten Sailing Itinerary that will see through the best landmarks, towns, beaches and bays. 

Imagine sailing to St Maarten’s best diving spots. Start creating your personalized itinerary today.

Contributor

hannah

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