[This post was originally written in 2008, but has been updated a bit since. The comments are highly recommended as subsequent visitors have added much useful information.]
There's very little good information about snorkeling around Nassau/New Providence, so I thought I'd write a page about it. Actually, the few references to snorkeling one finds about Nassau frequently mention Love Beach, but they don't really give you any details. Well, here are some details.
For starters, although some references to Love Beach mention that the best spots are about a mile offshore, I don't have a boat and I haven't felt like swimming quite that far, so my notes are all for pretty near-shore excursions. Which hopefully is a plus because you can literally walk into the water and be seeing the fishies in about 10 seconds.
Love Beach is, as they say here, "out West," which means west of downtown Nassau. In this case, way West. It's a pretty quiet beach mainly with private homes/condos on it, although at the east end of Love Beach sits the Compass Point hotel. If you have your own transport, getting here is easy, just drive west on Bay Street until you get here. If you don't have transport, good luck. I guess you could take a cab, but I don't know how you'd get back (no cabs out here!). There is a bus (I think weekdays only, not sure), the #10, that runs along Bay Street from Nassau. However, most #10s don't go all the way out here. You'll have to ask every #10 driver if they will come all this way (say "Compass Point/Love Beach"). About a dozen different private companies run the 10, the only one that for sure comes out this far every time is Western Transportation (I think they leave downtown from in front of the Sheraton).
When you get here, your next challenge will be accessing the beach. As far as I can tell, there is no public access to this beach. So I guess I'm writing this for those lucky enough to know someone here, be staying at Compass Point, or have some other means to access the beach. [You might be able to purchase beach access at a beachfront complex called Nirvana, it's the large purple building around the bend after Compass Point. It's worth a try if you can't find another way to get to the beach.] It is true that, say, if you were to go to the bar at Compass Point to have a drink, then happen to exit the hotel compound along the beach trail to the west, you'd find yourself on Love Beach. I did also see, next to some new construction just west of Compass Point along Bay Street, a curious little stairwell that looks like it leads from the street to the beach. There might be a gate on that tomorrow, who knows. Also, there really isn't much of any place to park along Bay Street out here so if you do drive yourself good luck there too.
Assuming you have somehow managed to access the beach, here is where you'll find some of the better snorkeling I've seen. It's all at the west end of the beach, so if you enter from Compass point, you'll have to walk about 15 minutes to get there. [I should note that this is the part of the beach I've covered personally, I could be missing the best places, who knows?]
The aerial photo above (thanks, Google, for the maps!) marks out where I suggest you go (click it for a larger version). The white fishes mark the spots where I've tended to see more fish. I'm marked the color of the houses that are right on the beach there so that you can orient yourself against the shore. If you enter from my entry point, just swim out about 10 feet and start floating west. There are some good rocks that the fish congregate around as you float on down past the three large buildings. When you get to the third house and the old steps into the water, you'll be at one of the best close-in locations... just around the point of rocks (debris?) there, you'll find a couple of small depressions in the bottom, where there are reliable a ton of fish swimming around. From there, I recommend that you head direction out to sea, you'll swim over a bunch of nothing, until you get about 200 feet out, where the rocky seabed rises nearly to the surface again, and there are great cracks in the large rocks and lots of fish again. This area extends mainly to the west, again, once you are out there. The fish here are pretty much the same as closer in, maybe a few larger fish. There are larger corals here, a few nice large fan corals and some of those weird giant ball corals, that you won't see closer in. If the water is murky closer in (happens occasionally) the areas further out tend to be clearer. Note: watch out for boats and jet skis. They come in this close frequently. So I recommend surfacing every couple of minutes to look for boats approaching.
You can also swim east from the suggested entry point. Generally, I've seen less fish there, but there are some, and you stay closer to shore if that makes you feel better. Generally lone fish, though, not any small schools, like you are apt to see if you go west.
It's not a terribly large area, for the quick snorkeler, you might do it all in 30 minutes. At the longer end, probably 2 hours max. Don't forget the sunscreen! (oh, there's almost no shade on this beach, btw).
Here is what I've seen, to the best of my knowledge, not being very expert in the fish area. Besides fishes, there are some nice corals (if you like shades of brown and green, a bit of purple) but I wouldn't come for the corals. Have also seen sea urchin, conch (one small one!) and large starfish... but very few of all of those.
The blue tangs are the friendliest fishes, there are lots of them and they are not to scared of humans. Most of the fish watch you warily but don't seem to mind if you float right on by. I've found that the longer you hang out, the more you see.
The charts below have black check marks next to the fish I've seen:
Click on Images for larger version.
In addition, I have seen our evil friend the Lion Fish (below). Poisonous spikes can seriously harm humans; it has no predators in the Caribbean. It's not native to the Bahamas, and is starting to pop up everywhere.
The text of this post is copyright 2008 by Ken Thompson. The photo copyrights are held by the individual holders. No part of this post can be reproduced on any commercial web site or reproduced in any way for commercial purposes. So there.
Please continue reading the comments, as people have added useful information there.