If you want to experience a completely different world (but a trip to outer space seems a little impractical), snorkeling is the adventure you’ve been searching for. One glimpse
underwater and you’ll be hooked—from colorful coral to mystifying creatures, snorkeling lets you see the world from a new perspective. If you want a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, add these top snorkeling destinations to your bucket list.
1. Galapagos Islands
A snorkeling excursion in the Galapagos Islands will introduce you to some of the most unique underwater inhabitants in the world. From marine iguanas to white-tipped reef sharks, you can catch glimpses of unique wildlife swimming about. Sea turtles and sea lions are also quite common (and friendly), so snorkelers can swim right alongside them. Some top spots for snorkeling in the Galapagos include Los Tuneles and Plaza Sur.
You’ll find no shortage of powder-white sand and crystal-clear waters in the Bahamas, making for plentiful snorkeling spots. A top destination is Dean’s Blue Hole, where the sand plummets from about 5 feet to about 600 feet deep just a short distance from the shore. You’ll see all kinds of colorful fish and may even spot a porpoise or dolphin when you snorkel at this unique location.
3. Grand Cayman
On this island, the largest of the Caymans, you’ll find the popular snorkeling destination called “Stingray City.” There’s no better place to find an abundance of these rays, which are fairly friendly despite a menacing name. They’ll actually eat squid bait right from your fingers as they brush up against you in the clear blue waters. This is an exciting and approachable destination for first-time snorkelers, with plenty of guided tours offered daily. The calmest water conditions can be enjoyed in spring and summer.
In Bali, you’ll find tons of shallow areas teeming with Indo-Pacific marine life. Many creatures found in this area have especially unique shapes and colors, including the shrimpfish and chromis. About 60 feet out from the shore, snorkelers can easily view the massive table-coral formations found in this part of the sea. Some of the best snorkeling is located around Menjangan Island, with underwater visibility of over 100 feet commonly occurring between the months of April and November.
The Maldives are known for their beautiful bungalows propped up above the water. The breathtakingly blue waters surrounding these adobes are ideal for snorkeling. You can swim for hours watching the incredible Indian Ocean fish flitter by. Keep your eyes peeled for the unique lionfish, which features spiky, striped fin rays.
The turquoise waters of Belize are particularly inviting for snorkelers, especially since there are plenty of shallow reefs to explore. Soft and hard corals dot the sea floor not far from shore. A number of angelfish, wrasses and other gorgeous marine life can be spotted as you swim. Go just a bit further out and you’ll likely spot nurse sharks, eagle rays and stingrays. Ideal spots for snorkeling in this Caribbean destination include Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Laughing Bird Caye.
Fiji is a top spot for experienced snorkelers. Because it’s subject to stronger currents, those who venture out here should be excellent swimmers as well. If you do make the trek, however, you won’t be disappointed. Fiji’s beautiful reefs are hard to top, especially if you head to a remote region called Bligh Water. You’ll view sea mounts just below the water’s surface, creating a dense cluster of marine life and soft, colorful corals.
Jamaica’s island paradise is made even better thanks to a number of prime snorkeling destinations. While sandy beaches are great for swimming and sunbathing, the rocky shores of Negril make for outstanding snorkeling opportunities. You’ll paddle through magical grottos viewing everything from huge schools of fish to slithering snake eels. Because the waters here are protected, you’ll almost always have calm conditions and excellent visibility.
Maui is Hawaii’s top spot to snorkel, and for good reason. This island features plenty of pleasant, sandy beaches, many of which butt up to huge heads of coral filled with sea turtles and colorful fish. The top snorkeling spot on Maui is Papalaua Wayside Park, where you may be able to spot humuhumunukunukuapua’a, a unique creature whose name means “triggerfish with a snout like a pig.” Start your excursion early in the morning for the best viewing conditions.
10. Catalina Island
If you’re looking for a great snorkeling spot close to the contiguous 48, Catalina Island is one of your best bets. At Lover’s Cove, you’ll discover a protected area with incredible rock reefs and a lush kelp forest. The fish here are used to having visitors, so bringing along snacks invites plenty of nibbles at your fingertips.
Take your next vacation below sea level and experience a fascinating look at underwater life. This is one bucket list item you won’t want to miss.