With summer fast approaching, it’s time to get planning your next getaway. Snorkeling is a great activity for any traveler, opening up the excitement of exploring the underwater world to everybody, including families with children, or those with limited experience.
Once you’re feeling fully inspired for your next snorkeling trip, make sure you’re equipped with the right gear by checking out our guide to buying the Best Dry Snorkels for Diving.
The World’s 9 Best Snorkeling Destinations
To help you narrow down your snorkeling bucket list, we’ve put together a list of some of the globe’s most impressive snorkel sites. Whether you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime marine encounters or to practice responsible snorkeling by staying away from those famous reefs in decline, we’ve got your next destination covered.
1. The Maldives
The Maldives is one of the few places that consistently rates as one of the top snorkeling spots in the world, and it’s easy to see why. In this tropical paradise, you’ll be almost guaranteed to come across manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and sharks at any time of year.
The clear, shallow waters and relaxing resort lifestyle makes the Maldives a top location for anybody, even those without any snorkeling ability.
Whilst you can find good snorkeling almost anywhere in South East Asia, Indonesia’s location in the Coral Triangle, plus its reputation for having some of the healthiest reefs in the world, makes it stand out as one of the best.
In particular, Komodo National Park should be on every traveler’s to-do list, not just because of all of the coral and marine life on offer, but also for the chance to meet the namesake Komodo dragons.
The other popular snorkeling spot in Indonesia is the Raja Ampat Islands, where the collection of over 1500 islands offers numerous hidden caves and lagoons to be discovered.
The Fiji Islands are known for year-round tropical waters and offers breathtaking opportunities for first-timers through to experienced snorkelers and divers.
The Great Astrolabe Reef is one of the largest coral reefs in the world, but unlike its Australian counterpart, Astrolabe’s remote location means you’ll find a greater variety of untouched and preserved marine life and have fewer tourists to compete with.
Other popular snorkel spots in Fiji include Navini Island, which is good for beginners; Rainbow Reef, widely known for the soft coral Great White Wall; Namena Marine Reserve, home to eels and barracuda; and Mantaray Island, where the namesake rays appear for feeding between May-October.
A list of the world’s best snorkeling destinations wouldn’t be complete without including Australia, but there’s so much more on offer than the Great Barrier Reef. The Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is the country’s largest fringing reef and protected by UNESCO World Heritage status.
Unlike other reefs, Ningaloo runs close to the shoreline and an abundance of tropical fish can be found in the shallows, making this a great location for children or beginners to see amazing marine life without too much swimming.
Other options include exploring the Tangalooma shipwrecks, located near Brisbane, or one of the 74 Whitsundays Islands in Queensland.
5. New Zealand
Whilst most people know about the snorkeling opportunities in Australia, credit needs to be given to its neighbor too. New Zealand is home to plenty of great snorkel spots, including the sheltered bays of beautiful Abel Tasman.
Arguably the best location for snorkeling in New Zealand, however, is Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve, near Whangarei on the North Island.
It offers everything from diverse marine life, clear waters, coral fields and the chance to explore ancient volcanic sea caves. Jacques Cousteau even rated Poor Knights one of the top ten diving spots in the world!
Hawaii has long been a popular snorkel destination, but with well-known tourist locations such as the Molokini Crater and Hanauma Bay struggling to cope with the crowds, it’s best for both the preservation of the reefs and your own enjoyment to steer clear of these overpopulated spots.
If you’re on the Big Island, try Kauna’oa Beach for a secluded white sand beach with two coral reefs. During the summer, the water is calm enough to make this a family-friendly snorkel spot.
Honaunau Bay is also great for beginners, as the surrounding lava rock has conveniently worn away into steps, allowing for easy entry into the water. If you’re on Maui, be sure to check out Turtle Town for your best chance at snorkeling alongside the Hawaiian sea turtle.
Mexico is a fantastic destination for spotting marine life. From snorkeling with sea turtles and jellyfish (the kind that doesn’t sting!) in Akumal to pufferfish in Huatulco Bay and even the chance to swim with sharks and whales in La Paz or Cancun, you’re bound to have an unforgettable encounter.
If you’re visiting Cancun, be sure not to miss Museo Subacuático de Arte, the artificial reef home to over 500 sculptures now promoting the growth of natural coral and seaweed.
Whilst Italy might not be everyone’s first thought for great snorkeling, you can still find some stunning sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters that have the feel of a tropical destination, but without the hefty price tag.
Sardinia is one of the best regions for snorkeling due to a large number of beaches and coves in the area, plus the chance to see a range of marine life from octopuses, seahorses, crabs, eels and even sharks. Isola Rossa is especially great for families and beginners, as beaches such as Longa Beach and Li Femini provide easy sloping access into the water.
La Pelosa, located in Stintino, is also worth a visit; it has been dubbed the Mediterranean’s version of the Caribbean thanks to its turquoise sea.
Thanks to its warm temperatures and calm waters, the Red Sea in Egypt is often considered to be one of the world’s best places to snorkel. Here you’ll have excellent visibility of a whole host of marine life, including the Red Sea clownfish.
Tiran Island, located in Sharm-el-Sheikh, is one of the more popular snorkeling spots, offering the chance to swim with sharks, manta rays and barracuda.
The famous Blue Hole in Dahab is renowned for snorkeling amongst preserved coral beds, but due to the depths of the sinkhole, is only recommended to those with some experience.