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If you are looking to find cheap snorkeling in St. Maarten, the first thing you should consider is to bring your own gear with you. All of the beaches are public, so if you can find your way onto a beach, you can go snorkeling, for free! That said, not all of us travel with our own gear, and rates can get rather exorbitant quite quickly. At Orient Beach, one rental outfit was charging $25 per hour for a snorkel setup.
Enter Divi Little Bay, next to Fort Amersterdam on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. To get there, drive toward Fort Amsterdam, which is the point just to the south end of Philipsburgh. Park just before the security hut for Divi Little Bay Resort, in the parking spots along the sea wall. From there, you can walk down through the resort to the beach. Divi Little Bay is home to Aqua Mania Adventures, with a beach front shop location, who offer a whole bunch of rentals, from jet skis to paddle boards, guided dives and right down to snorkel gear. As of April 2014, a mask, snorkel and fins will cost you $10 to rent for the day. Of note, they do require a credit card imprint for all rentals.
In the area just in front of the Aqua Mania shop, there are several clusters of underwater boulders, providing nooks and crannies for colorful fish and coral to call home. Follow the shoreline toward the point. There, the rocky surfaces are the haunts for many different fish species. Look up occasionally, as there are long, skinny fish who like to hang out just below the surface. As you move your way around the point, you will find a raft and several boats.
Taking the raft
The bar raft charges $45 to go onto the raft, plus cash for the sandwiches and drinks available. You can take a $5 boat ride to reach the raft, or spend 20 minutes or so snorkeling your way out there. Just in front of the raft there is a guided dive experience site, where you can walk along the bottom of the ocean floor and look at a small sunken boat, as well as a helicopter. Both are visible when you are snorkeling, too! Several day trip boats also bring people to this area to snorkel, but it is very accessible from the beach at Little Divi.
Where to eat
After you work your way back to the main beach, you can stop in for lunch. There is even a shower adjacent to the restaurant at Divi Little Bay and washrooms on the other side of the bar. The restaurant is the perfect place to have lunch, offering up casual diner fare like chicken quesadillas that are heavy on the chicken, fish tacos with mango sauce, nachos, and – of course – gorgeous blended drinks to sip next to the pool. Note that they do not serve food for the whole day, so you will need to time your break in order to be able to eat. Mains run $9-14 and come with sides of salad and fries.
To continue snorkeling, you can move along the beachfront. However if the waves are high with poor visibility, it is unlikely you will see many fish in that direction. If you have had your fill of cheap snorkeling in St. Maarten, simply wash off; then, take approximately an hour to walk up and look at the ruins of Fort Amsterdam and take some pictures. It is an easy 10-15 minute walk from the parking lot. They are just through the end of the resort, onto the point. There are several cannons and a fantastic view down over Philipsburg.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, including on your hands, and reapply it often when you are in the water. A rash guard is a great way to prevent a sunburn, too. Divi Little Bay and Fort Amsterdam should keep you busy for most of the day and provide a great chance to experience an affordable day out and some rather cheap snorkeling in St. Maarten.