Pick the wrong snorkeling spot and you’ll be disappointed. Some of what was once the best places to snorkel in the world has become overcrowded tourist spots, with more flippers and first-time snorkelers than colorful fish and coral.
From the shores of Caribbean islands to remote spots in Asia, here are some of the best snorkeling spots in the world, where you can still have a little piece of the ocean all to yourself.
Best Places to Snorkel in the United States
You don’t have to leave the country in order to find an awesome snorkeling spot. Skip renewing your passport this year and head to some of the United States’ best places to snorkel.
The Big Island of Hawaii, for example, offers an abundance of great snorkeling spots. Three of the best? Try Kahalu’u Beach Park, Kealakekua Bay or Honaunau Bay.
The first is a good snorkeling spot for those who are new to snorkeling, as the low tide and shallow and sheltered waters make for a comfortable, yet still rewarding experience.
Kealakekua Bay is filled with fascinating sea life, including dolphins and sea turtles. Honaunau Bay is popular, but for a good reason — the waters are calm, usually about 20 feet in depth and filled with easily visible sea life.
If Caribbean waters are calling your name, St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a good pick for best places to snorkel in the region. This tropical hideaway doesn’t require a passport for U.S. citizens, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away from the mainland once you step into these cerulean waves. Try Cane Bay Beach or Jack’s Bay, or, for a totally unique experience, try the nighttime diving off Frederiksted Pier.
If your travel plans are keeping you closer to home, Key West, Florida, offers some of the best snorkeling closest to the U.S. mainland. Get a dose of history and snorkeling all at the same time when you take a boat out to Dry Tortugas National Park and enjoy the snorkeling near historic Fort Zachary Taylor.
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Best Places to Snorkel in the Caribbean & Latin America
Of course, heading further south, you’ll find some of the best snorkeling in the world not only in the Caribbean but off the coasts of Central and South America as well.
The Galapagos Islands off Ecuador is one snorkeling spot you don’t want to miss if you consider yourself an avid snorkeler. The biodiversity hotspot offers up scenery you won’t find anywhere else. Just note — if you want to snorkel here, you’ll want to start saving up. The Galapagos Islands is a notoriously expensive, albeit popular with the luxury crowd, travel destination.
For snorkeling somewhere a little more budget-friendly, hop a flight to the Dominican Republic.
This affordable destination boasts one of the best places to snorkel, a short boat ride north of the coast. There, the Silver Bank, a submerged bank in the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the only places where you can swim alongside humpback whales in one of their natural breeding and calving habitats.
Another very affordable snorkeling destination is Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Fly into and stay in Cancun and then take a day trip (or more — you certainly won’t want to leave once you’re there) to Isla Holbox, an island free from motorized vehicles and home to abundant nature both on land and in the water. While snorkeling, you’ll likely spot sea turtles and whale sharks.
Best Places to Snorkel in Africa
Think there’s no place to snorkel in Africa? Think again. Africa’s east coast provides ample snorkeling opportunities.
While most people think of tourism in Egypt and might assume it’s limited to the pyramids and other such attractions, Egypt actually claims a healthy tourism scene along the Red Sea, where resort towns offer many experiences similar to what North American tourists enjoy in the Caribbean. Two of Egypt’s resort towns that offer some of the best snorkeling spots include Hurghada and Marsa Alam. The former’s best snorkeling is found in its Giftun Island National Park, while the latter’s is often found in its Abu Dabbab Bay.
You could also choose to visit the Seychelles, a lovely archipelago that’s become somewhat of a popular luxury travel destination. Located off the coast of East Africa, the Seychelles’ 115 islands in the Indian Ocean are home to coral reefs, nature reserves and rare sea life, such as giant Aldabra tortoises.
Best Places to Snorkel in Australia
Snorkeling in Australia is most typically associated with the Great Barrier Reef, but Australia is a big place. Where do you go in this country-continent in order to actually see some of the best of the Great Barrier Reef once you’re in the water?
If you want to fit a snorkeling excursion into a broader trip to Australia, you may want to consider booking a snorkeling tour out of Cairns. The city offers plenty to do for travelers beyond simply snorkeling and a visit easily fits into a larger exploration of the country, while still providing easy access to the Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re traveling to Australia specifically for snorkeling, you might want to check out some of Australia’s best island snorkeling spots, off the Whitsunday Islands and Moreton Island. The former is a collection of 74 islands near Queensland, attracting Great Barrier Reef snorkelers and a fair number of yachters, while the latter is also located near Queensland, with 95 percent of the island comprised of national park.
Best Places to Snorkel in Asia
Heading north from Australia, you’ll find quite a few best places to snorkel throughout Asia.
Indonesia claims two of the best snorkeling spots in the world — Raja Ampat and Komodo National Park. Raja Ampat is an archipelago with shallow reef systems and an amazing amount of biodiversity. Snorkel alongside large schools of barracuda, turtles, rays, juvenile sharks and other creatures you may have assumed you’d only ever see on television. At Komodo National Park, the snorkeling easily rivals the experience you’ll have above the water, visiting the Komodo dragons, thanks to the waters’ exquisite reefs and abundant sea life.
Finding the Best Snorkeling in the World
It doesn’t have to be difficult to find your own spot of ocean where you can still see beautiful marine life in the wild, untouched, unharmed and free from over-tourism.
Whether you’re a new snorkeler or a long-time fan of the activity, you’re sure to find a snorkeling spot for you among these 18 snorkeling destinations:
- Kahalu’u Beach Park
- Kealakekua Bay
- Honaunau Bay
- Cane Bay Beach
- Jack’s Bay
- Frederiksted Pier
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- The Galapagos Islands
- Silver Bank
- Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
- Giftun Island National Park
- Abu Dabbab Bay
- Whitsunday Islands
- Moreton Island
- Raja Ampat
- Komodo National Park
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