Everyone knows that the true beginning of any Caribbean vacation doesn’t start until you take a dip in the Caribbean Sea. The blue waters are breathtaking and invite you to jump in, and once you do, you instantly enter an entirely new world.
The warm and crystal-clear waters, with up to 100 feet of visibility, are full of vibrant marine life of all types of fish. As one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots in the world, visitors can experience underwater adventures not found anywhere else.
Whether you are in the turquoise waves of South Caicos’ to explore the coral reefs or are swimming the Exuma Cays of the Bahamas, get ready to see stunningly diverse types of Caribbean fish swimming around you.
Types of Caribbean Fish You’ll Encounter Underwater
From butterflyfish to the Goliath groupers, visiting on of the top 10 Caribbean islands will put you in contact with some pretty amazing creatures. Here are some of the best.
During its final phase, the Stoplight Parrotfish is emerald green with a variety of other colors on its body. They are the reddish-brown scales, orange to yellowtail and ventral fins, and purple and blue dorsal and anal fins. A distinctive yellow spot above its gill is unmistakable. This parrotfish can be found throughout the region, swimming from 15-80 feet below the surface.
Belonging to the family Boxfish, its unusually square body is the first thing that snorkelers notice. One of the most common types of Caribbean fish, it has white spots all over its body, save for one area in the middle that has a honeycomb pattern. This reef fish can be spotted in waters 15-80 feet deep.
One to two feet long, these grouper fish have brown stripes, a notched dorsal fin, and a black spot near the base of its tail. Consider yourself lucky to see this fish, as years of overfishing have decimated the population severely.
Don’t be surprised if you see this fish far before you see the water. Beautiful and incredibly vibrant, its likeness decorates just about every t-shirt in every souvenir shop from Aruba to the U.S. Virgin Islands. This breathtaking fish has a blue dorsal fin, yellowtail, and speckled patch on its forehead. Majestic in person, the queen angelfish looks and moves like royalty.
Beginning snorkelers can be unnerved at the sight of a barracuda because of the way it reveals its very large set of teeth. While the opening and closing of its mouth can feel like an aggressive display, it’s really how this misunderstood fish pushes water through its gills.
Approach them slowly and you will be surprised at how close they allow you to get. Expect to see them just off the reef, where lucky snorkelers may see their exhilarating hunting skills in action.
Bold, gorgeous, and large, this fish species can grow as big as two feet, with olive green, blue and purple body and light blue accents. Small black lines on its face seem to radiate from its eyes and blue stripes on the snout give it a look that is completely open to each individual’s interpretation but is a sight to behold.
Triggerfish are notoriously shy, and advanced snorkelers know that patience is key and usually pays off with a full view of this beauty.
The Best Caribbean Islands for Underwater Adventure
Turks and Caicos
Renowned for its clear waters, visit Turks and Caicos for amazing scuba diving, wall cliffs, and snorkeling. Grand Turk, in particular, has a mind-boggling continental shelf drop-off of 7,000 feet that is simply incredible and surrounded by yellowtail snapper, parrotfish, and tons of other reef fish. Turn the experience up a notch by power snorkeling your way through Grand Turk’s marine wonderland.
World-class snorkeling can also be found in South Caicos, just minutes from the luxe Sailrock Resort. Here you will find one of the largest and healthiest coral reef systems in the entire world and some of the most beautiful waters too.
Comparatively untouched by humans, this vibrant Caribbean reef system is home to dolphin fish, sharks, barracuda, eagle rays, and more. When you stay at the resort’s private villas or are lucky enough to live there, you get access to their private sailboats for even more exploration.
From its name alone, it’s apparent that Shark Ray Alley is not something any respectable diving or snorkeling enthusiast would want to miss. Off the coast of Ambergris Cay, you will get to encounter nurse sharks and rays for an inspiring and exhilarating experience.
Filled with plenty of tropical fish, the reef is home to everything from filefish to great barracuda existing in harmony and balance.
Thunderball Grotto in the Exuma Cays will have snorkelers diving through the hollow island’s submerged holes only to surface inside a cavern bursting with the sun’s rays from above. While the cave itself is a feast for the eyes, the underwater beauty is sure to leave you speechless. The underwater world is spectacular, with angelfish, yellowtail snappers, and even the invasive species of lionfish.
Divers will happily spend their time exploring the fascinating coral formations in the shallow waters of Aruba. From shipwrecks housing moray eels, groupers, and even octopus to the shores of Boca Catalina and Baby Beach, there are endless opportunities to simply walk into the water and meet some friendly tropical fish.
Dominica’s seabed landscape has been shaped by underwater volcanoes over a very long period of time As you swim through the pinnacles, craters, and geothermal vents spouting mild bubbles of Champagne Reef, you’ll feel like you are swimming in a fishbowl of warm bubbly.
Colorful tropical fish ranging from frogfish, angelfish, squid, seahorses to hawksbill turtles and even octopus can be found in along this reef system. The site can be accessed in the daytime or at night when massive lobsters and crabs come out to patrol the seafloor.
The wondrous types of Caribbean fish you can see underwater will shock, inspire, and delight. Whether you dive into the deep or snorkel the shallow waters, the results will be the same.