Allison Sheffieck

4/3/20235 min read

Last year my husband and I had the privilege of visiting Aruba for the first time courtesy of his parents who paid for the whole thing, thank you Tom and Lori. Aruba is such a stunning little island and while typically considered an expensive place to visit there are still plenty of things to do on a budget or for free. We opted to rent a car for a few days as there were many off shore snorkeling sites I wanted to see and let me tell you they did not disappoint

Below are our favorite free snorkeling sites in Aruba, all of which offer free parking (as of May 2023) and are easy to reach! I recommend arriving in the morning to all of the sites as the animals are most active when there are less people.

Short on time? Here are quick links to each place!

  1. Tres Trapi

Tres Trapi is a small cove that has three steps carved into the rock hence the name Tres Trapi or Three Steps. We got here around 9 am and were the only people there. We parked our car under a tree on in the small gravel parking lot. There are no marked spots but people just kind of parked where they could however, parking is free.

This was our favorite location because of the sea turtles. There is not much of a reef here, it's mainly beautiful clear water that you can see straight to the bottom. The visibility here was amazing and with the sand being so white the marine life stood out well. We saw a few sea turtle right away that were grazing along with many eels, Triglidaes, bar jack and Bermuda chub. If you swim out about 100 meters cushion sea stars can be spotted about 10-13 ft below the surface. We unfortunately did not swim out far enough to see them but many people have reported spotting them.

We swam around here for about an hour watching the turtles and enjoying the scenery. By about 10-10:30 am there were a lot more people here mainly locals and a few diving instructors. This is a beautiful spot to enjoy the water and hang out however, if you are coming to see the sea turtles definitely come early.

Distance from Palm Beach Hotel Area: 5-10 minutes

  1. Baby Beach

Baby Baby, officially known as Klein Lagoen, got its nickname because the water is so calm that its safe for small children. This peaceful lagoon is located at the southernmost tip of Aruba and is located just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela. This half-moon shaped beach is manmade and was specifically created to provide a safe haven for families swim.

On the left side of the lagoon is a coral reef where you can swim around. A variety of marine life can be spotted here including: barracuda, squid, parrot fish, blowfish, angelfish, eels, and many other smaller fish. The visibility is not always the best so it's advised to go in the morning before the water is stirred up too much.

We spent a half day hanging out at the beach and snorkeling then ate lunch at The Rum Reef Bar and Grill. This is the restaurant on the hill it offers fantastic views of the lagoon and also has a small pool that customer can use. There are also three other restaurants in the vicinity.

Distance from Palm Beach Hotel Area: 45 minutes

  1. Mangel Halto

Photo by: Raoul Creos

Located between the mangrove trees is Mangel Halto, a favorite spot for locals and a lot less touristy. The water here is about waist deep in most places and offers fantastic snorkeling or diving. The visibility here is amazing and there were tons of beautiful healthy corals. If you swim out far enough you can see where the sea floor stars to drop however, be attentive to boats driving by. Some of the marine life that can be seen here include: Parrotfish, pufferfish, clownfish, coral (fire and brain). This is definitely a must see if you're looking for a more quiet place or to get away from the touristy areas!

Distance from Palm Beach Hotel Area: 21 minutes

  1. Boca Catalina

Boca Catalina is one of the best places to spot sea turtles. There are seagrass beds located about 100m from the shore where you can find them grazing in the morning. As with all locations arriving in the morning is your best chance to see the turtles as they tend swim away when there are more people. You can also swim to Boca Catalina from Tres Trapi (which is what we did), Malmok Beach or Arashi Beach.

You can enter the water from the sandy beach and swim directly out for the turtles. If you swim north of Boca Catalina Beach you will find a rocky area that many corals and sponges have populated. You can expect to see numerous species of fish including: boxfish, needlefish, wrasse, butterflyfish, angel fish and even barracuda.

Visibility here is typically good especially in the morning and the waters are usually tame. If you are a strong swimmer and feel comfortable there is even more to see beyond the buoy line however, beware of tour boats in the area.

Distance from Palm Beach Hotel Area: 10 minutes

  1. Malmok Beach

Malmok Beach beach has two sandy beach access points where you can enter the water. While these beaches are sandy there are some rocks in the water so it is best to wear some sort of shoe (we usually wear our chacos because they are easy to swim in and dry fast) or just be cautious of where you're stepping. This stunning rocky beach is close to Boca Catalina and Arashi and be accessed from the shore or by swimming from one of the other locations.

While most of Malmok Beach has a sandy bottom if you follow along the rocky shoreline you will see various marine life on the rocks including: feather duster worms, angel fish, blue tang, banded butterflyfish and sand diver lizardfish. Swimming further out you can expect to see scattered tube sponges and schools of fish. This location is heavily visited by tour boats and unfortunately the fish are used to being fed. As always visibility and marine life activity is always best in the morning before large tour groups arrive.

Distance from Palm Beach Hotel Area: 10 minutes