The Maltese Islands are a veritable treasure trove of swimming, snorkelling and diving spots. Situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, the archipelago’s clear waters, as well as an abundance of sea flora and fauna, make Malta and her sister islands an ideal place for those who love snorkelling.
With minimal gear requirements, snorkelling really is the ideal way to sightsee Malta’s little underwater world for as long as you wish! It’s cheap, family friendly, and easy to do. All you need is a mask and snorkel, and a pair of flippers if you wish, and that’s it – you’re ready to go!
Now, on to the fun part. As I said, the Maltese Islands are just chock full of great places to snorkel, but I’m going to make your visit a little bit easier by pointing out the ten best places snorkelling spots on the islands.
10. Paradise Bay
One of the best beaches in Malta, Paradise Bay has a name to match its look, being a secluded little bay away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and having a small sandy beach. Although the beach does tend to get a little overcrowded during the summer season (there’s very limited space on the beach), it is a very nice spot to visit for snorkelling, away from the crowds.
Although the sandy area might be uninteresting to those looking for some marine wildlife, by venturing towards the rocky embankments which enclose the bay towards the West, you can spot a few interesting species of fish and other critters hiding out in their rocky homes.
Getting to Paradise Bay is easy if you have a car. It’s basically at the north-western tip of Malta, just past Mellieħa and close to the Gozo Ferry terminal at Ċirkewwa. There’s a sign on the left of the road, just before the Paradise Bay Hotel building which you can follow until you reach the parking area.. You can also catch the number 101 bus from Mellieħa which takes you directly to the parking area above the bay. Alternatively, you can catch the X1 bus from Valletta which will drop you off near the Paradise Bay Hotel in Ċirkewwa, then just follow the signs to the beach!
Do keep in mind that there’s a long flight of stairs you have to descend to get to the bay, which may not be ideal for everyone.
Set between the islands of Malta and Gozo, Comino is a snorkelling and diving mecca. This tiny island, being only 3.5 square kilometres in length, is car-free and virtually uninhabited, barring one hotel and about 3 people actually residing there.
The island’s main attraction is the Blue Lagoon; boasting the brightest blue waters in the Maltese Islands. The best snorkelling experiences can be had around some of the smaller inlets and caves all around Comino, however.
Being hugely popular with snorkellers and divers alike, Comino’s rocky caves support various marine creatures such as crabs, eels and nudibranch, as well as larger fish like the banded sea bream. Although you can walk across Comino and do your own exploring quite easily (although beware the summer sun and dehydration!), I’d recommend taking a day boat tour (there are several operators) past some of the better spots.
8. Għar Lapsi
A small inlet below an impressive, craggy coastline used by a few local fishermen, Għar Lapsi gets quite busy during the summer months, and is a special favourite amongst locals from the nearby villages. You can find it just outside the limits of Siggiewi, nestled below a stretch of Dingli Cliffs, around 1 km away from the popular tourist site, the Blue Grotto.
A natural, rocky cove with an adjoining cave make up the main swimming area, with the boat houses in the area doubling up as snack bars during the warm summer months. The cave itself leads into the deep open sea, and is extremely popular with diving companies whilst the shallower extraordinary blue-green waters provide a safe, sheltered swim for all those who visit.
With fantastic visibility that allows for great underwater photography, Għar Lapsi’s reefs stretch for 200 metres, creating an ideal snorkelling environment. Some of the fish species that inhabit the area include seahorses, eels and rays amongst others, so if you’re a lover of marine life, this is the place to visit!
Għar Lapsi Bay and Cave are reached by a winding road from just outside Siggiewi. Just drive to the village and follow the street signs to the location! If you’re using the bus, you need to stop at the outskirts of the village and walk towards the sea. Best idea would be to speak to the bus driver so he can direct you to the closest stop.
7. Wied iż-Żurrieq
Situated in the south eastern part of the island, just off the town of Żurrieq, Wied iż-Żurrieq (Żurrieq Valley). The waters here are open and deep, so swimming and snorkelling here is only recommended for confident swimmers. If you are an able swimmer though, this place is definitely for you.
The waters are crystal clear, and although very deep, have amazing visibility, making viewing of the sea bed easy from the surface. The caves, rock formations and cliffs provide ample snorkelling opportunities and more seasoned divers can visit the Um El Faroud Wreck, which is close by and is an internationally acclaimed diving site, perfect for underwater photography. Deeper waters mean larger fish, so if you’re lucky, you might even get to see sting rays, barracuda, octopi, moray eels and various bream!
In summer the small dock does tend to get very busy with boat tours taking visitors to Blue Grotto, so be careful there. Other than that, this place is absolutely beautiful, with panoramic sea views, and a choice of eateries just up the hill, where you can dine on fresh, locally caught fish and seafood!
6. Wied il-Għasri (Għasri Valley) – Gozo
Moving North West to Malta’s little sister island Gozo, is Wied il-Għasri. This Għasri Valley beach is a long, narrow, deep inlet (approx. 300 meters long), surrounded by small caves situated further along the coast of Marsalforn. As it is surrounded by cliffs, the place is truly a stunning area to visit, even if you’re not planning to swim! It can be accessed through a dirt track road past the salt pans after Marsalforn’s Xwejni Bay.
The scenes at Wied il-Għasri are absolutely spectacular, and the snorkelling is just as impressive, with tons of little sea creatures to see, crystal clear waters (meaning very good visibility) and some amazing sea caves to explore. The pebble beach is actually quite small, and does not accommodate for many sunbathers; even so, if you do make the effort to get here, you’re likely to find a fair spot to set your things aside before diving into the turquoise coloured waters.
This beach often has very calm waters, due to its sheltered position within Għasri valley, and is truly a unique and beautiful hideaway. Saying that, you should be weary of occasional swells if visiting, especially during shoulder season when it’s more windy (April/May & September/October).
Getting to Wied il-Għasri is not as straight forward as getting to the more touristy beaches on the islands so you’ll need a better alternative for transport than walking. If you’re using public transport, you’ll have to stop at Marsalforn and walk to the valley. If you choose to walk, expect a 30-45-minute hike, which I wouldn’t recommend attempting during the summer midday hours. It makes for a lovely winter stroll though!
5. Daħlet Qorrot – Gozo
Located in the North East of Gozo, this charming pebble beach is nestled between the Northern cliffs facing off the island. It is accessed via the village of Nadur and is loved by locals and foreigners alike.
There’s a concrete platform providing ample space for sunbathers to enjoy, and the surrounding cliffs and rocks provide shade for those who prefer a cooler setting.
Daħlet Qorrot is a tranquil area, surrounded by natural scenery, including a number of sea caves and large rock formations. This makes it ideal for snorkelling as the latter provide a perfect home for a number of fish and marine creatures.
4. Mġarr ix-Xini – Gozo
Another small, secluded and absolutely gorgeous beach in Gozo is Mġarr ix-Xini. Also set within a creek and a steep sided natural valley, this beach boasts extremely clear waters which are home to a variety of sea critters of various shapes and sizes.
A pebble beach surrounded by high rocks on both sides of the bay, and some great cliffside caves to boot; this place has some great snorkelling opportunities and is very picturesque. It’s so ridiculously pretty it’s been featured in a fairly recent Hollywood movie, By The Sea (2015), starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
You can reach Mġarr ix-Xini by driving from Sannat or Xewkija; just follow the road signs. In cooler weather, a hike from the villages, around the valley to the beach offers some unique and stunning views. Definitely worth the effort even if you don’t plan on snorkelling.
3. St. Peter’s Pool
St. Peter’s Pool is a stunning natural pool, with crystal clear turquoise waters, ideal for the snorkelling explorer. It is located close to Marsaxlokk, at the tip of Delimara Point in the Southwest of Malta.
This place isn’t the easiest to find (although still easier to access than Fomm ir-Riħ), but getting there is totally worth it! You’ll need a car or at least a bicycle to get here as it’s quite remote. Having clear, deep waters with a beautiful azure and light green colour, and various species of beautiful fish inhabiting the rocky area, St. Peter’s Pool offers plenty of opportunities for snorkelling as well as diving.
The flat rocks around the pool are a perfect place to sunbathe, whilst higher rocks would shield you from the strong sun rays, should you prefer a shady little corner to rest in. Due to its more secluded location, the “pool” is rarely very crowded, although it is a favourite amongst most locals living in the nearby villages.
There are ladders installed in the rock face to give you easy access to the water, although the more adventurous tend to find a nice deep smooth to dive into the crystal clear waters.
2. Imġiebaħ Bay
Imġiebaħ Bay is a sandy, remote and secluded beach in the north-eastern part of Malta, within the limits of Mellieħa. The emerald green waters of the beach are crystal clear, with fairly pristine and untouched surroundings. Even though the area has become popular with several locals, the number of beach-goers here is still relatively small, so if you do choose to visit Imġiebaħ Bay, you’re likely to find a quiet spot to have all to yourself.
To get there, drive past Selmun Palace, before you enter Mellieħa. Take a left the minute you see the ages-old palace, then there’s only one road leading to the area so you can’t really miss it. Keep going down this narrow road until the first crossway; take a right and just keep on following the dirt road until you find yourself at the end of it.
Do know that it’s not an easy drive as the road is very narrow (in fact unless you’re driving a small car or if you’re not a confident driver I’d recommend parking near the chapel or even Selmun Palace and hiking it down to the bay).
You can also get there by boat or kayak if you’re in an adventurous mood.
Once you do get to the bay you will release that your efforts were not made in vain; the bay is absolutely stunning, with some fantastic snorkelling opportunities.
There are no facilities on the beach itself as it is secluded and surrounded by natural landscape, so make sure to take water and something to eat with you if you’re planning on spending the day.
1. Fomm ir-Riħ Bay – Malta
This little bay in the limits of Baħrija, is truly a snorkelling gem. It is one of the most remote beaches on the island, considered to be one of the most natural, and wildest parts of the island, so getting there won’t be as straight forward as arriving at the more popular bays, but the trip there is definitely worth the effort.
There’s a relatively steep, and sometimes slippery trek down to the beach from Baħrija, but at the end of the walk you’ll find one of the prettiest bays on the island. If you’re lucky enough, you might even have the whole pebble beach to yourself! The waters there are crystal clear, with rocky and sandy areas to explore, abundant marine critters to admire and the most amazing coastal and sunset views on the island. Just remember, you have a steep climb back home, so only visit this beach if you’re fit enough to experience moderate exertion, especially with Maltese summer temperatures reaching highs of 36 degrees Celsius (even higher on occasion).
Although the sea here is clean and very clear, it is only advisable to swim in the area when the sea is calm as when it is windy, the waters could get very rough and quite dangerous.
To get to Fomm ir-Riħ you must have a car or motorcycle available, as public transport does not reach the area. You would have to drive through the town of Rabat, following the signs to Baħrija, a small coastal village in the west of the island. Once you’re in Baħrija, it shouldn’t be difficult to find you way to the little parking area which leads to the pathway to the beach.
Other options for snorkelling
There are several other great snorkelling opportunities around the islands, so best thing to do is to get out there yourself and explore to your heart’s content! I’m sure you’ll find a favourite place of your own in no time!
Do you know of a good spot you’re willing to share with others? Leave a comment below!
A few tips for snorkelling in Malta
Although snorkelling is an easy, fairly laid back activity, there are a couple of things to consider for your safety and getting the most out of the experience.
- Always snorkel with a buddy, that way, you can have each other’s backs should something go wrong.
- Always keep an eye on the weather and make sure the conditions are suitable for snorkelling. When seas are calm and easily manoeuvrable, special care must be taken with undercurrents so look out for any warning flags on your visit, especially on breezy days.
- If you do get caught in a current, never swim against it, but rather swim diagonally across it.
- Avoid snorkeling at dusk or dawn (when light and visibility are low) and try to avoid murky water (for obvious reasons).
- Use sun protection!! If you’re going to be spending a whole day snorkelling, try to cover yourself up with a t-shirt and cap. If you want to go bare backed, put on ample sun block. The UV index can ride to above 12 on the Maltese Islands in summer; a nasty sun burn or sun stroke is definitely not the way to spend your beach holiday!
Where to get snorkelling gear in Malta
You can find cheap snorkels in most seaside gift shops and lidos/beach clubs around the island (especially if you’re not very picky about the mask quality). If you’re looking for higher quality equipment, a number of dive shops can also be found in Malta and Gozo, especially around seaside towns such as Mellieħa, St. Paul’s Bay/Buġibba (most dive shops are here), Sliema and Marsaskala.
Here’s a short list of the most popular places to get your snorkelling gear, should you wish to purchase higher quality snorkel equipment:
- The Dive Malta Centre – Address: San Giljan Aquatic Sports Club, George Borg Olivier Street,, St Julian’s STJ1083 Phone: +3567952 5308
- Dive Systems Malta – Address: Tower Point – Exiles Tower Road, Sliema SLM 1601 Phone: +35621319123
- Scuba Systems Ltd – Address: 14/2, Marine Apartments, Gerry Zammit Street, Il-Gżira GZR 1662 Phone: +35621319448
- The Dive Warehouse – Address: 6 Triq Anton Inglott, L-Imsida 1180 Phone: +35627658035
- Divewise – Address: Triq Dragunara, San Ġiljan Phone: +35621356441
- Bezz Diving Malta – Address: C/o Sandy Waters Court, Marfa Rd, Mellieha Phone:+356 99273123
- Sea Shell Diving Centre – Address: Triq Il-Marfa, Il-Mellieħa Phone: +35621521062
- OK Diving Malta – Address: Sirens, Triq San Geraldu, St Paul’s Bay SPB3341 Phone: +35699740479
- Dive On Malta Diving Center – Address: Triq is-Sajf, Buġibba SPB2601 Phone: +35627509592
- Divemed – Zonqor Point, Marsaskala Phone: +35621639981
The above mentioned shops also offer great snorkelling excursions around the island. So if you’re unsure of where to visit, they’ll be able to offer your a snorkelling day package or tour if available.