Explore the best snorkeling destinations around the world, from the Maldives to Maui, Thailand to Australia 🌊
Snorkeling is one of the best ways to explore the magic of the underwater world. With just a mask, snorkel, and fins, anyone can dive into dazzling seas teeming with tropical fish, coral reefs, sea turtles, rays, sharks, and much more marine life. We’ve compiled the ultimate list of the best snorkeling destinations across the globe, from remote islands to vibrant Caribbean reefs. Grab your gear and prepare for a magical aquatic adventure.
Best Snorkeling in the Maldives
The Maldives, consisting of 26 atolls and over 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, offers some of the planet’s finest snorkeling. Its UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves provide encounters with reef sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and even the occasional dolphin. Don’t miss snorkeling at the Baa Atoll, where resorts like the Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru offer access to swimming among magnificent manta rays. With over 1,200 islands surrounded by coral reefs, the Maldives provides snorkelers with a dazzling diversity of marine life.
Spectacular Hawaii Snorkeling
For incredible snorkeling, Hawaii’s reefs and bays allow close encounters with sea turtles, tropical fish, dolphins, and manta rays. Top snorkeling spots in Maui include crescent-shaped beaches like Makena Landing Beach and Maluaka Beach where you can observe Hawaiian reef fish, moray eels, and coral. Take a day trip to Molokini Crater off Maui’s southern shore to snorkel amid forests of coral. The island of Oahu has popular snorkeling at Hanauma Bay where you can explore the bay’s stunning marine diversity.
Snorkeling Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
As the largest coral reef system in the world, Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef stretches over 133,000 square miles with over 3,000 individual reefs and islands. It contains an astonishing 1,500 fish species and stunning coral formations. Many boats offer day trips for snorkeling various spots along the reef from locations like Cairns and Port Douglas. For an easy snorkeling experience, head to Heron Island on the southern edge of the reef. Its beaches grant easy access to encounter over 60% of the reef’s fish species.
Best Caribbean Snorkeling
With vibrant coral reefs and calm, clear waters, the islands of the Caribbean Sea provide world-class snorkeling. Bonaire is renowned for its flourishing coral reefs, emitting an otherwordly glow beneath the waves. Shoreline access points allow you to snorkel straight from beaches like 1,000 Steps Beach. Similarly, Curaçao’s unspoiled bays feature magnificent coral gardens brimming with tropical fish. US Virgin Islands like St. John and St. Croix contain spectacular reefs for snorkeling within the islands’ preserved national parks.
Snorkeling in Indonesia & the Philippines
For snorkelers seeking reef sharks and stunning coral, Indonesia and the Philippines offer superb snorkeling adventures. Indonesia’s island of Bali provides access to snorkeling sites like Nusa Lembongan where you can swim with manta rays gliding through the clear waters. The island of Palawan in the Philippines dazzles with its shallow bays, teeming with tropical fish, that you can snorkel straight from the beach. Don’t miss world-famous sites like the Coral Gardens thriving with clownfish and the Blue Lagoon where reef sharks flourish.
Malta, Greece & Israel Snorkeling
The Mediterranean Sea offers scenic snorkeling in locations like Malta, Greece’s Ionian Islands, and Israel’s Red Sea coastline. Malta contains overwater caves, shipwrecks, and coral cliffs to explore. Ionian Islands like Zakynthos provide encounters with sea turtles, fish, and ancient amphora amid picturesque coves. Israel’s Red Sea snorkeling accesses coral reefs bursting with vivid anemones and tropical fish. These Mediterranean destinations offer snorkeling adventures steeped in natural beauty and ancient history.
Mexico & Central America Snorkeling
The coral reefs of Mexico and Central America provide remarkable snorkeling opportunities. Along Mexico’s Riviera Maya, sites like Akumal Bay and Cozumel deliver world-class snorkeling with sea turtles, rays, and reef sharks. Belize contains the magnificent Belize Barrier Reef teeming with nurse sharks, angelfish, sea fans and sponges. Roatan in Honduras grants reef access straight from the beach at spots like Infinity Bay Beach. From ancient underwater ruins to encounters with whales and dolphins, Mexico and Central America offer snorkelers tranquil bays, vibrant reefs, and amazing marine diversity.
US Snorkeling in Florida & More
While the Caribbean offers the best coral reefs stateside, excellent US snorkeling can be found from Florida to Hawaii. Florida’s Key Largo contains North America’s only living coral barrier reef, brimming with tropical fish, sharks, rays, and sea turtles. On the US West Coast, La Jolla Cove in California allows you to snorkel amid swaying kelp forests, leopard sharks, sea lions and more. With a wet suit, you can find great shore snorkeling across the US.
Amazing Snorkeling in Brazil
For those seeking warm waters teeming with tropical fish, Brazil’s Ilha Grande provides some of the world’s best places to snorkel around its beautiful coves and beaches. Snorkelers can spot seahorses and an abundance of colorful fish in the Lagoa Azul, a tranquil lagoon surrounded by lush forests. With coral reefs accessible straight from the island’s shores, Ilha Grande offers snorkeling adventures that rank among the world’s best.
Snorkeling in Thailand
Known for picturesque islands like Koh Tao, Thailand provides superb snorkeling options, especially for intermediate and advanced snorkelers. At Koh Tao, you can explore the unique underwater granite boulders of the Japanese Gardens, home to elaborate corals and schools of triggerfish. The island’s Aow Leuk beach offers another top Thailand snorkeling spot where you can potentially see baby sharks amid gorgeous scenery above and below the water.
World-Class Snorkeling in Bora Bora
The island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia is ringed by a stunning lagoon, providing easy access to snorkeling straight from your overwater bungalow into sparkling waters. Don’t miss exploring Bora Bora’s southern lagoon tip where reef sharks, rays, and plentiful fish congregate. For an amazing snorkeling experience, tour the manta ray cleaning station on Bora Bora’s east side. With iconic sights above and below the water, Bora Bora offers world-class snorkeling.
Australia’s Whitsunday Islands
North of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands provide remarkable chances for snorkeling Queensland’s tropical waters. At Bait Reef, marvel at the unique Stepping Stones, a collection of flat-topped pinnacles completely draped in colorful corals. Keep watch overhead as well for a potential airplane landing at the islands’ architecturally striking airport runways. For eye-popping coral and exotic fish, the Whitsundays deliver spectacular snorkeling.
Snorkeling Palau’s Jellyfish Lake
For an extraordinary snorkeling experience, the island nation of Palau contains overwater marine lakes like Jellyfish Lake on Eil Malk island. This lake is filled with millions of golden jellyfish that gently pulse through the water. While their stings can hardly be felt, swimming among these monumental gatherings of marine creatures provides an almost surreal snorkeling opportunity accessible by tours from Palau’s main island.
Snorkeling Safety Tips
To safely enjoy the pleasures of snorkeling, follow these basic guidelines:
- Only snorkel in calm conditions without strong waves or currents. Pay attention to weather forecasts and warning flags.
- Use quality gear like masks with tempered glass and snorkels with dry valves. Fins provide propulsion but aren’t essential.
- Snorkel with a buddy and remain aware of their location. Coordinate signals to communicate underwater.
- Apply reef-safe sunscreen to avoid harming fragile coral ecosystems.
- Look but don’t touch coral, which can die from human contact. Avoid stirring up sediment near reefs.
- Learn how to clear your snorkel, mask, and regulator. Practice proper breathing techniques.
- Stay hydrated and extend surface intervals if you feel chilled. Use a flotation device if tired.
- Follow all instructions from tour guides. Let them know if you have any medical conditions.
With preparation and responsible practices, you can safely revel in the wonders of the underwater realm while snorkeling at stunning destinations worldwide. Grab your gear and dive in to explore the aquatic magic beneath the waves.