Snorkeling is one of the best ways to explore a tropical destination. It completely immerses you in the natural beauty of the area and puts you up close to stunning marine life. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, there are countless snorkeling destinations around the world that you need to add to your bucket list.
Before picking where you want to go, make a list of your priorities for a beach trip. Ask yourself what sea animals you want to see, what you want to do when you are out of the water, and what kind of beach and water conditions you prefer. Once you have a general idea of what you would enjoy, it will be much easier to pick because each snorkeling destination offers its own set of wonderful and unique qualities.
Here is a list of our favorites.
Baa Atoll, Maldives
Baa Atoll is known for the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where manta rays and whale sharks gather at Hanifaru Bay. As you submerge yourself in the water, you have a good chance of witnessing the unique formation of barrel-rolling chains of mantas feeding on plankton.
Besides the mantas and sharks, you also have the chance to see schooling reef fish, turtles, eagle rays, and other tropical fish. Surrounding marine life, you will see famous submerged reefs and dramatic underwater landscapes.
To be sure you catch the highlights of this area, the mantas and sharks, take your snorkeling trip sometime between July and October and hop in the water on the day after a full or new moon.
Often considered to be a snorkeler’s paradise, Maui offers sights of colorful landscapes and beautiful marine life, best known for its spectacular coral reef formations, green sea turtles, and large schools of tropical fish. Maui also boasts pristine conditions for all kinds of snorkelers: shallow waters and calm ocean conditions for beginners and drop-offs, ledges, and overhangs for experienced divers to explore.
To spot unparalleled colorful coral reef formations and tropical fish, head to the Coral Gardens. If you were drawn to Hawaii for its dense population of sea turtles, head to Turtle Town.
Lastly, if you are an experienced scuba diver and want to explore the impressive underwater caves Hawaii has to offer, jump in the water at Five Caves, a spot for some of the most impressive snorkeling on Maui.
Koh Tao, Thailand
The most popular way to go snorkeling in Koh Tao is on a “big boat” snorkeling day trip that takes you to the best snorkeling destinations while giving you a beautiful tour of this big island.
Dozens of companies run these big boat tours, so you won’t have a problem finding one. Most tours leave in the morning and get back around 5 pm and include refreshments, snorkeling gear, and a Thai lunch box that you can eat on the boat.
Highlights of the snorkeling tour include:
- Shark Bay: swim with harmless blacktip reef sharks and an occasional green sea turtle.
- Aow Leuk: jump into crystal clear waters and swim past natural and artificial reef structures and spot plenty of butterfly, trigger, needle, and parrot fish.
- Hin Wong Bay: spot the densest populations of fish, including huge schools of sardines and groupers.
- Mago Bay: the shallow reef provides calm waters, making it easy to spot shoals of yellowtail barracuda, damselfish, and candy-colored wrasse.
- Koh Nang Yuan: admire the luxurious and gorgeous private island and hop in the water to watch countless species of fish swim by.
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Holding two different coastlines on the Mediterranean and Red sea, as well as being home to the Egyptian Riviera, there are countless opportunities for top-of-the-line snorkeling in Egypt.
Sharm El Sheikh sits on the coast of the Egyptian Riviera, which is generally considered to be the best spot for snorkeling. Here, you will find healthy, vibrant corals, which are unfortunately difficult to come across, and dense populations of vibrant fish.
You can take a boat from any of the resorts that line the shore and be directly deposited at the reef drop-offs. Most tourists flock to the peninsula in the south of the city, which is home to four snorkeling locations: Ras Katy, Temple Reef, Faraana Beach, and Ras Um Sid.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is sure to leave you speechless. In 1981, UNESCO declared this ecosystem to be a World Heritage Site, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Submerge yourself in the warm water while you explore the caves, caverns, coral, and a vast amount of marine species. Along with seeing the world’s largest coral reef up close, you can spot rare beauties like clownfish, angelfish, batfish, and butterflyfish.
Besides reef fish, you’ll also be able to spot larger species like reef sharks, green and loggerhead turtles, sea snakes, and manta rays. For an even bigger surprise, visit the coral reef between June and December, and you might be able to spot minke whales, dolphins, and humpback whales.
The best-known sites for snorkeling on the reef are:
- Osprey Reef: extended visibility and guaranteed sightings of sharks
- Ribbon Reefs: a chain of ten individual reefs sheltered in warm waters
- Milln Reef: the quintessential spot with three large coral pillars and vibrant fish swimming by
- Flynn Reef: home to Australia’s best coral garden
Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Jump into the warm waters of Nusa Lembongan and come face-to-face with the majestic giant manta ray. You can sign up for a stingray snorkeling trip that will take you on a day-long journey that will take you directly to three of the best snorkeling spots in the area. All the gear will be provided for you; all you need to bring is your swimsuit and a towel.
The first stop is Manta Bay, the hotspot for giant manta ray sightings. Your on-ship guide will point out the rays and give you the proper instructions to safely interact with them.
The next stop is Crystal Bay, home to the clearest water you have ever seen and surrounded by a lush tropical jungle. Here, you will encounter a variety of tropical reef fish in the calm waters as well as larger species such as manta rays, sharks, tuna, or giant trevallies.
The last stop on the tour will immerse you in the habitat of the widest marine life biodiversity. The vast range of fish in Mangrove will make snorkeling in these waters feel like being submerged in an aquarium.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Known for its overwater bungalows, Bora Bora is a water lover's paradise. There are a variety of options for snorkelers who come here, including calm lagoons for beginners and spots outside the reef for advanced snorkelers to spot sharks.
The snorkeling spot nicknamed the “Aquarium” is sure to impress snorkelers of all skill levels. Located near the pastel coral gardens off of the southern end of Motu Mitiaau, the water is calm, clear, and home to thousands of vibrantly colored fish.
The water can not get more clear or picturesque as it is outside of Teavana Pass. This area looks like a Bora Bora postcard, with water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Not only can you watch sea life pass you by, but you can watch them swim off into the distance that seemingly goes on forever.
Punta Mita, Mexico
This area of Mexico boasts perfect air and water conditions year-round, making it a wonderful choice for a snorkeling vacation. Feel free to take your personal gear and explore the water or sign up for one of the many scuba diving or snorkeling tours.
These tours will take you to many pristine locations, such as:
- Banderas Bay. Here, sea life thrives thanks to restrictions put in place to maintain the health of the environment. After hopping in the water, you’re likely to see whales, dolphins, rays, sharks, over 100 species of fish, and a guaranteed sighting of the coral reef.
- El Morro. This location reaches down over 150 feet and offers several caves and a 50-foot tunnel to explore, as well as opportunities for wall-diving. Keep your eyes peeled for manta rays, eels, sea horses, sharks, sea turtles, and dolphins.
- La Cortina. This is a more remote option of the Pacific Ocean, but it stretches down 120 feet and is home to schools of tuna, sailfish, and various sharks.
- Anclote Beach. These calm, clear waters are perfect for a relaxing day of snorkeling. Rent your gear right on the beach and hop in the water to watch schools of brightly colored tropical fish swim by.
The Florida Keys is home to the country’s only living coral barrier reef, which lures in thousands of snorkelers and scuba divers every year. The reef also attracts an abundance of starfish, from blue-striped grunts to green moray eels. Besides admiring the coral reef, many divers enjoy exploring the coral-encrusted shipwrecks that sit beneath the water.
Whether you are only comfortable diving in shallow reefs or are interested in exploring deeper reefs and testing your diving skills, the Florida Keys has a destination for you.
Grenada, The Caribbean
Boasting accessible coral reefs and the world’s first underwater sculpture park, Grenada is understandably an extremely popular destination for Caribbean snorkelers. The warm sea and clear water will make your dive comfortable, while the coral reefs, statues, and colorful fish will make it exciting.
Some of the best spots in Grenada to explore the underwater world are:
- Underwater Sculpture Park. Completed in 2006, this underwater park includes beautiful statues designed by British Sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor. And no less than 50 feet away from the sculptures sits a coral reef that attracts a variety of tropical fish.
- Lavera Beach. After jumping into the beautiful blue water, you will easily spot coral reefs and seagrasses. Many snorkelers visit this spot to admire the sea turtles that frequently pass through.
- Dragon Bay. This snorkeling spot is home to unique volcanic rock formations and some of the best-preserved coral reefs in Grenada. On top of that, you will also have the chance to come close to colorful fish, octopus, eels, lobsters, and seahorses.
How To Prepare for Your Snorkeling Experience
Now that you have your snorkeling destination picked out, it’s time to pack!
When you are underwater, you want to be focused on swimming with colorful fish and admiring coral reefs. You want to enjoy the dive site rather than worrying if you are accidentally flashing the marine life and nearby swimmers. When picking your swimsuit for diving, leave the lightweight bikini behind and opt for a more secure, full-coverage one-piece.
Most surfers, divers, and snorkelers choose to put a wetsuit on top of their regular bathing suits. These suits come in handy when snorkeling in cool waters because they keep you nice and warm. Sporting a swimsuit under a wetsuit allows you to head in and out of the water without needing to make a full outfit change every time. Plus, if you’re renting a wetsuit, you’ll definitely want to wear a swimsuit underneath.
Our Amalfi piece is totally comfortable but won’t put you at risk of a strap coming undone or the bottoms riding up.
If the water is super warm and you might do some beach lounging later, a two-piece swimsuit is a flawless choice. Opt for tropical prints like The Molokai Top, featuring palm leaves. Perhaps most importantly, it’s made from recycled nylon, so you know you’re helping protect the environment you’re snorkeling in.
You can choose to bring your own pieces of gear or use those that are provided for you on a snorkeling tour. Just be sure you have a mask, fins, and a snorkel: it’s as easy as that!
Additionally, if you have longer locks, you might want a way to keep your hair out of your face. You can throw it back in a ponytail or keep a bandana handy to tie around your head before jumping in the water.
If you are going on a day-long snorkeling tour, you are going to need some supplies for the boat ride in between destinations. The sun will most likely be beating down on you while you are out on the water, so having a large Palm Straw Hat and oversized sunglasses will make the journey more comfortable and protect your face from the sun.
Now, all that’s left to do is book your tickets, pull out your suitcases, and dive into your next incredible adventure!
Great Barrier Reef | UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Giant Manta Ray | NOAA Fisheries
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Shipwreck Trail | Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary