Snorkeling gives a clear line of sight into the underwater cities teeming with coral, sharks, fish, and other marine species not seen every day. The best snorkeling destinations are typically near islands brimming with white sand and ample wildlife or in sunny countries or islands. These incredible destinations offer some of the best beaches in the world for snorkeling.
Best Beaches in the World for Snorkeling
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, choosing the right location to explore can be tricky. You’ll want to go somewhere where you can have a fantastic experience, but popular destinations may be overcrowded. Consider some of the options on our list of the best beaches in the world for snorkeling.
1. Republic of Palau
Palau is a cluster of islands southeast of the Philippines in the Micronesian region of the Western Pacific. The amalgamation of islands harbors miles and miles of variegated coral reefs brimming with jellyfish, barracudas, manta rays, and reef fish. Since Palau remains less inhabited than other regions, the reefs offer an unobstructed, more natural location for snorkelers.
2. Poipu Beach, Kauai
Triggerfish, parrotfish, flounder, and surgeonfish swim beneath snorkelers’ feet in Poipu Beach. Their lives, as well as other marine species like green sea turtles and manta rays, coexist with the human onlookers. A few feet outside of the snorkeling coast, monk seals clap and chatter, entertaining themselves, and the snorkelers, during their day-to-day sea activities.
3. The Seychelles, East Africa
Water in the Seychelles resembles that of a crystalline magnifying glass. It only takes one look at the water to see an underwater aquarium complete with hawksbill turtles, pufferfish, and spinner dolphins.
4. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Many snorkelers long to visit the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef sprawls over 1,400 miles and encompasses more than 2,900 reefs within the system. Perhaps the world’s most famous reef, it contains eight of the most popular species, also known as the Reef’s “Great Eight”—clownfish, giant clams, manta rays, Māori wrasse, potato cod, sharks, turtles, and whales.
The Great Barrier Reef holds the record for the largest coral reef system in the world, but Honduras showcases a part of the second-largest reef system. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System stretches 700 miles, providing homes for barrel sponges, seahorses, eagle rays, and hawkbill turtles.
6. Dahab, Egypt
The Blue Hole, a striking 394-foot sinkhole beneath the water’s surface, is a leading snorkeling destination in Dahab, Egypt. Globetrotters meet in the water to gaze at the species lingering near and inside the vertical coral walls. Swimmers have reported sighting devil scorpionfish, clownfish, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and eagle rays while snorkeling.
7. Hanauma Bay, Honolulu
Inside a volcanic cone lies an idyllic beach. Hanauma Bay appeals to snorkelers because of its crystalline waters and wealth of marine species. Eels, green turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, and innumerable coral species inhabit this Hawaiian bay.
8. Crystal River, Florida
Before swimmers grab their designated snorkels and plunge under the water, they can spot sea cows here. According to the diving experts at Fun 2 Dive, Crystal River remains the sole place in the United States where individuals can swim with manatees without legal repercussions.
9. Sand Harbor, Nevada
Away from the fast-paced city of Las Vegas is the calmer, more serene Nevada town of Lake Tahoe. It offers a couple of spots to bask in the sun or soak in the water, and we think Sand Harbor is the optimal spot for snorkel aficionados. The islet houses gargantuan rocks around the water, fashioning a gorgeous backdrop in any swimmer’s eyes. Through these ornamentations, visitors can find multiple swimming holes.
10. Sharks Cove, Hawaii
Sharks Cove’s misnomer may detract galeophobic (shark-fearing) people from visiting, but the shallow tide pools lined with smooth rocks are safe. The sharks here reside in deeper waters. Species that do occupy the sandbars include the Hawaiian humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻas, needlefish, eel, and sea turtles.
11. Santa Catalina Island, California
Bass weighing up to 400 pounds wriggle in front of snorkelers. Octopi flutter their eight limbs. Bat rays float through the California water, entrancing the snorkeler. Santa Catalina Island displays a picturesque snorkeling setting with miles of coast trotting down one side and sturdy palm trees peppering the mountains on the horizon.
12. Biscayne National Park, Florida
Combine environmental awareness with a passion for marine activity at Biscayne National Park, and you’ll be in heaven. This park in Miami, Florida permits guests to snorkel around a derelict shipwreck. Swimmers can find spiny lobsters, bottlenose dolphins, upside-down jellyfish, and tarpon during their quests.
13. Venice Beach, Florida
Snorkel through the “shark tooth capital of the world” on this exquisite beach near Sarasota. Venice Beach’s water tends to fall on the choppier side, but waiting out for calmer waters can pay off when you’re finally able to discover the endless supply of shark teeth under the water.
14. San Cristobal, Galopagos
Giant iguanas slither across the white sand beaches in San Cristobal, Galapagos, and many sea lions live here as well. Another resident species is the giant tortoise for which the islands were named (more existed when the land was first discovered). Under the water, snorkelers revel in sights of white-tip reef sharks, sea lions, and turtles
15. Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll, Maldives
Hanifaru Bay prides itself on presenting visitors with ongoing streams of manta rays surrounded by spotted whale sharks. The manta rays and whale sharks feast on the abundant plankton in this underwater paradise inundated with coral reefs.
16. Koh Tao, Thailand
Step away from the extensive, overcrowded beaches and waterways and explore the smaller island of Koh Tao. For most of the year, Koh Tao gives snorkelers warm, comforting water and a clear view of large sea turtles, black-tip reef sharks, and unparalleled glimpses of said reefs.
17. Tofo Beach, Mozambique
A sandy shore juts out to the cerulean sea at Tofo Beach. Tread water among gentle giants at this blissful beach. The Mozambique landing place harbors a home for whale sharks and manta rays year-round.
18. Turtle Town, Hawaii
Centuries ago, underwater volcanoes erupted and spilled magma onto the sea floor. This natural occurrence created rocky residences for the thousands of turtles that give “Turtle Town” its name. Alongside these green creatures swim octopi, angelfish, and moray eels.
19. Silfra Fissure, Iceland
Hover between two continents in one of the clearest bodies of water in the world. In the middle of Thingvellir National Park in Iceland, this glacial meltwater invites snorkelers to explore the middle ground between the Eurasian and the North American Tectonic Plates. Snorkelers even imbibe the pure water of The Silfra fissure.
20. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Rolling green mountains and volcanoes spring up around turquoise water paths. Monolithic lizards, or Komodo dragons, roam about the island, gifting the name to the archipelago. Beneath the water’s surface, colonies of coral habitats cuttlefish and copious kinds of reef fish, while manta rays and turtles glide around the underwater metropolis.
21. Bora Bora, Matira Beach, French Polynesia
Though the current in Matira Beach, Bora Bora leans toward the choppier side than other locations on this list, the sights make the tough swim worth the extra leg work. Swimmers can marvel at the see-through water before plummeting beneath the surface for an up-close study of coral gardens, stingrays, surgeonfish, and spotted eagle rays.
22. Ambergris Caye, Belize
Along the Mesoamerican Reef, or the Belize Barrier Reef—the second largest reef system in the world—is an offshore island entitled Ambergris Caye. Flamingo tongue snails and Christmas tree worms dilly-dally inside the coral reefs present in Ambergris Caye, and nurse sharks and sting rays drift by human snorkelers.
23. Ras UM Sid, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
Ras Um Sid is one of those breathtaking underwater landscapes that appear almost too ethereal to be real. Giant clams scale the coral walls adorning the reef along with angelfish and butterflyfish entrancing snorkelers. Keep an eye out for the Red Sea’s native species, like the yellowbar angelfish, rusty parrotfish, or the Red Sea anemonefish.
24. Balicasag Island, Philippines
Multicolored fish swim up to snorkelers underwater in Balicasag Island. The gilded creatures, ranging from clown fish to fusilier to parrotfish, live beneath the blue-green water, among other species like sea urchins, sponges, and green turtles meander through the island’s water.