Bucket List Worthy Hot off the Press
Some of the world’s best scenery can’t be seen from solid ground. And snorkeling is more than just a way for resorts to squeeze a few extra bucks out of their visitors; it can give you a glimpse into a breathtaking underwater world many people never get to see. So next time you’re planning a getaway, consider choosing one of these 28 top snorkel spots around the world, or grab your snorkel and discover one of your own.
The Fernando de Noronha archipelago is a World Heritage Site, which means as a visitor you’ll enjoy the beauty of its carefully preserved waters and beaches. In fact, the waters are so clear that underwater visibility is said to reach up to 50 meters. Even better, this cozy archipelago is located off the coast of Brazil in the comfortably warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s no secret the Galapagos Islands offer some of the world’s most amazing untouched natural scenery, but what’s under the surface often goes unnoticed. Plaza Sur, also known as South Plaza Island, is small in size, but it offers big underwater thrills. Share your snorkeling experience with the over 1,000 sea lions that inhabit the area, including the playful young ones that are as interested in your company as you are theirs.
Sipadan Island — home to more than 3,000 fish species alone — is known as one of the richest marine habitats in the world. But fish aren’t all you’ll find while snorkeling off of Malaysia’s sole oceanic island. Vibrant living corals, green and hawksbill turtles, eagle rays, manta rays, whale sharks and countless other forms of marine life call the crystal waters around Sipadan Island home.
Rurutu is a small island lying 572 kilometers southwest of Tahiti offering some of the most unforgettable humpback whale watching in the world. Between the months of November and August, humpbacks stop in the waters near Rurutu to give birth and nurture their young.
Avid snorkelers know that a trip to the Great Barrier Reef is a must. And when you make the trek to the world’s largest coral reef system, you’ll want to visit Norman Reef, an area regarded as one of the most vibrant underwater scenes along the entire reef system with up to 30 meters of underwater visibility.
Only 49 of San Blas’ roughly 355 islands and cays are inhabited, which means you get all of the uncrowded, unforgettable snorkeling experiences to yourself. The waters are warm, crystal clear and full of sea life, making the islands of the San Blas Archipelago famous as one of the best snorkeling destinations in the world.
Southeast Africa is more well known for its on-land safaris than its underwater adventures, but you may opt to spend a number of days in the sea when you find the Seychelles islands. The 155 islands that make up Seychelles, which lies 1,500 kilometers from mainland Africa, offer some of the worlds best uncrowded snorkeling experiences. Hire a boat and a guide to find some top spots without having to spend your day guessing.
Bonaire is one of the most well known diving destinations in the world, but it offers just as much beauty for travelers who want to stay closer to the water’s surface. For a small fee of $10 per year, snorkelers can enjoy the pristine waters, coral and sea creatures that have been protected by the Bonaire National Marine Park.
Nicaragua’s Corn Islands have an interesting pirate history, but all of the real treasure still remains underwater. The snorkeling is world class on both islands — Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island — with sightings of sea turtles, nurse sharks, barracudas and spotted eagle rays common. Stick to the bigger island if you’re interested in a less crowded vacation and snorkeling experience.
Egypt’s Red Sea is famous for its magical snorkeling scenery, and Safaga offers what is argued as some of the best. Although Safaga is a resort area, it tends to be much less crowded than other snorkeling destinations in the Red Sea. And as a bonus, it only takes a few hours to get from your resort in Safaga to some of Egypt’s most recognized pyramids and the Great Sphinx.
The Bahamas’ Long Island is home to what is expected to be the deepest “blue hole” in the world known as Dean’s Blue Hole. A blue hole develops when the roof of a cave system collapses, and a deep space in the ocean is formed. Dean’s Blue Hole is roughly 180 meters deep, and it’s a great place for spotting dolphin, tarpon, jacks, turtles and a number of small reef fish.
Some of the best things come in small packages and the Laughing Bird Caye National Park is one of those things. It’s only .73 hectares in size, but that small area is jam-packed with above and under water beauty. Snorkel over vibrant coral beds, through offshore caves and come up for air to watch the brown boobies and pelicans nest.
A river in Florida may not sound like one of the best snorkel spots in the world, but when you dive into the pristine waters of the Crystal River to swim with social West Indian manatees, you’ll probably never want to leave. Have a guide instruct you on how to interact with the gentle manatees (you’re only allowed to make contact if the manatee initiates it with you), because one may decide to stick around and enjoy your company for a number of minutes.
The snorkeling scenery at Buck Island Reef National Monument is something worthy of a postcard, and the underwater trail makes it easy to navigate. The national monument was actually created to preserve this pristine Caribbean marine garden, and the preservation efforts have made it a magical place to enjoy under the water’s surface and above.
Menjangan Island is part of the West Bali National Park, and although it is uninhabited, you can still enjoy day trips to its coral and fish filled waters. Menjangan means “deer” in the local Indonesian language, so don’t be surprised if you see the animals roaming free about the island.
Huahine is made up of two islands, Big Huahine and Little Huahine, in French Polynesia. The islands are surrounded by a coral reef and small islets that are ideal for snorkeling. Even better, Huahine tends to be less crowded with tourists than other parts of French Polynesia, so you can enjoy a taste of tropical paradise all to yourself.
Uepi Island is just 2.5-kilometers long and 600 meters wide, but what the island lacks in size it makes up in marine life. The Marovo Lagoon, one of the largest saltwater lagoons in the world, offers the deep ocean for divers on one side and a more serene snorkeling area on the other. Stick to the latter, and you’ll enjoy warm, shallow waters full of sea life.
If you’re headed to Australia to snorkel, you’re probably headed to the Great Barrier Reef, but the country is home to countless other supreme snorkel spots. Ningaloo Reef is on Australia’s north coast, and the uncrowded atmosphere and vibrant underwater atmosphere are well worth a trip to the Land Down Under.
No visit to Grand Cayman Island is complete without a trip to Stingray City. Although you won’t find Stingray City without a crowd (it’s one of the most popular snorkel spots in the world), watching flocks of stingrays glide through crystal clear water is well worth feeling a bit “touristy” for a day.
Hawaii should definitely be on your snorkeling bucket list, and Kealakekua Bay should probably be the first place you visit. Kealakekua Bay offers an off-the-beaten-path snorkel destination that requires an adventurous hike or paddle to access. But the reward of sea turtle, dolphin and whale sightings during your snorkel is well worth the journey.
One of the best things about snorkeling in Honduras’ smallest Bay Island (Utila) is that you can throw on a mask and snorkel and see gorgeous underwater scenery just about any time you please. Because many snorkel spots can be reached simply by walking straight off the sand at your resort, you don’t always need to go through the hassle of hiring a boat and heading out to sea. Although, there are a number of excellent snorkel spots accessed by boats as well.
Bocas del Toro is a province on Panama’s Caribbean coast including the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Almirante Bay, Chiriquí Lagoon and a section of the country’s mainland. Almirante Bay’s protected reefs with crystal clear waters rarely see waves, so you can snorkel at almost any time of day. But the Bocas del Toro islands are littered with lively reefs and marine life, so grab a guide and start exploring.
Belize has long been a favored diving destination, but you don’t have to be a diver to enjoy the country’s mesmerizing underwater scenery. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is just a 20-minute boat ride from Ambergris Caye, but you’ll feel worlds away when you swim among the nurse sharks, stingrays, jacks, corals and cartoonish turtle grass.
The Similan Islands feel much farther away from bustling Phuket than the 84 kilometers that separate the two. Koh Similan, or the Similan Islands, are famous for the pristine blue waters that make diving and snorkeling a dream. And with nine islands to explore, you just might be able to find a snorkel spot all to yourself.
Honduras often falls under the radar as a snorkel destination, but that’s a good thing when you’re looking for an uncrowded paradise-like setting. Take a short, 45-minute boat ride from Roatan to Pigeon Cay, and you’ll arrive at crystal-clear tropical waters that are home to elkhorn coral and an abundance of reef fish.
You don’t even have to plan a vacation to the Bahamas to snorkel the Bimini Islands, because they can be accessed by an easy, 30-minute flight from Fort Lauderdale too. It’s not reef fish or coral you come to see when snorkeling in the Bimini Islands, it’s the multitude of friendly dolphins who swim, jump and play in the shallow waters with you.
True snorkeling junkies should make a reservation at the RockHouse Hotel in Negril, where you’ll exit your waterfront bungalow and dive into calm waters with unique underwater wonders like the harmless snake eel.
Seahorses, octopus, crabs, golden sponges and other underwater creatures that may be tough to find in other European snorkeling spots are in abundance in Makarska’s pristine Adriatic waters. And best of all, snorkelers who are fearful of sharks and barracudas can enjoy their underwater sightseeing without worry.