Just off the coast of Antigua sits Cades Reef, an underwater park and one of the island’s best snorkeling and diving spots. With clear visibility and a wide variety of sea creatures, a trip to the reef makes an exciting family-friendly break from the beach.
On calm-weather days, visibility at Cades Reef can be up to 100 feet (30 meters) deep. You may even be able to spot an old sunken yacht on the outer reef.
Boat tours offer a convenient way to visit Cades Reef, and typically include round-trip transport, snacks, and use of snorkeling gear. Most tours are led by a guide with knowledge of the reef’s best sealife-viewing locations. Self-guided boat rentals, available for those with some experience driving, allow visitors to explore the sparkling Caribbean waters at their leisure.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Cades Reef is ideal for snorkelers, scuba divers, and families with children looking for an alternative to another day at the beach.
- To round out a day trip to Cades Reef, take a kayak for a spin through the nearby mangrove trees.
- Remember to tote sun protection and plenty of drinking water.
How to Get There
Cades Reef is a short 10-minute boat ride from Carlisle Bay or Jolly Harbor on the south side of Antigua.
When to Get There
Tours to Cades Reef depart year-round. For the best ocean visibility, go when the weather is clear. Antigua’s peak travel season is December through April, so for a quieter visit consider the off-months, even though there will be a slightly higher chance of rain; October tends to be the wettest.
One of the reef’s noteworthy features is the Chimney, a collection of huge coral pillars that create a natural staircase for scuba divers, descending from 40 feet (12 meters) to 80 (24 meters) feet deep. Tucked below the Chimney is a tunnel that divers can swim through and observe sleeping nurse sharks.