Best Snorkeling Destinations in the World

11 Best Snorkeling Destinations in the World: The Ultimate Guide in 2019

Did you know that 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean? There’s an incredible world to be discovered just beneath the surface, why not explore it?

How to Find the Best Snorkeling Destination For YOU

To some degree, what makes the best snorkeling destinations is not really up for debate and that’s because we’ve had time to explore the planet and it hasn’t changed too much in the past million or so years. That said, there are lots of places that you can snorkel that aren’t on this list. Here are the things that you’ll want to pay attention to if you’re thinking about snorkeling in a particular area:

  1. Water Temperature
  2. Water Clarity
  3. Water Quality
  4. Types of Marine Wildlife

Water Temperature

The best snorkeling destinations are in tropical or temperate zones where the water is warm enough to foster a vast array of marine life.

Water Clarity

It doesn’t matter what lives there if the water is too murky to see anything. If you want to snorkel make sure there isn’t too much silt in the water.

Water Quality

I wish this wasn’t an issue but places like the Gulf of Mexico have experienced enough water pollution that it’s unsafe to swim in certain areas. Just make sure that the water is clean enough to snorkel in.

Marine Wildlife

What animals are you partial too? Manta rays? Clown fish? Sea cucumbers? Some places have it all but you’ll want to check first. You can find seals and leopard sharks off the coast of San Diego but you won’t find whale sharks there- The Philippines is a better option if you must see the world’s largest prehistoric shark.

11 Best Snorkeling Destinations in the World

We’ve written an article like this before so you might notice that the best destinations haven’t changed. You might also notice that if you look around the internet, other websites will recommend similar locations. Although we looked around for great places that no is recommending, the truth is that the best snorkeling destinations in the world have been long been discovered and they aren’t exactly well kept secrets.

Here’s the good news, though: 70% of the surface of planet earth is covered in oceans, so there’s plenty of room for all of us to enjoy a serene snorkeling experience.

All that said, here’s a fresh take on the best snorkeling destinations in the world.

1. Galapagos Islands

  • Region: South America
  • Country: Ecuador

This famous archipelago of 15 volcanic islands is famous for a bunch of reasons, not least of which is that it catalyzed Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. That took place mostly on land, though.

Why Choose This Destination?

Snorkeling in this Ecuadorian underwater paradise is sure to produce the same sense of awe and wonder that Darwin experienced. The Galapagos is home to one of the coolest sunken treasures in the Western Hemisphere: The Devil’s Cone, which is a submerged volcano.

The various islands are home to diverse marine life - sea turtles, dolphins, orcas, humpback whales, Galapagos penguins, fur seals, and sea lions. 

The Galapagos Islands are some of the most treasured and protected areas on earth to experience nature and I’ll add that, of my friends who have been there, they unanimously agreed that it was their favorite place to snorkel.


2. Ambergris Caye

  • Region: Central America
  • Country: Belize

Belize shares a border with Mexico and Honduras at the very beginning of the giant isthmus connecting North American and South America (AKA Central America)

Ambergris Caye is the largest island in the country of Belize and is home to the world’s second largest coral reef in the world, rivaled only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Why Choose This Destination?

One of the most popular places to snorkel in Ambergris Caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is home to vast expanses of colorful coral, energetic fish, and even eels. Another great option is Shark-Ray Alley but don’t let the name scare you, they’re only referring to nurse sharks which are nearly toothless and almost never attack.

If Central American island snorkeling interests you, be sure to give Belize’s Ambergris Caye a look.


3. The Maldives

  • Region: Indian Ocean
  • Country: Maldives

The Maldives are hard to find when you look at a map because they stretch across a large expanse of the Indian Ocean roughly 500 miles from the coast of India but they contain hardly any actual land. The nation of Maldives is made up of 26 atolls, which are themselves made up of more than 1,000 coral islands.

Why is this such a great place to snorkel? Tons of shallow water full of contour and not much land.

Why Choose This Destination?

The Maldives are known for their incredible biodiversity. You’ll find a mind boggling 700 different species of fish, sharks, turtles, anemone, coral, you name it.

The crystal clear waters of The Maldives are teeming with life just waiting for you to discover them!


4. Hawaii (The Big Island)

  • Region: Central Pacific Ocean
  • Country: United States of America

People get confused when you say that Hawaii is the best island to go snorkeling. That is because the State of Hawaii consists of the Hawaiian Islands of which there are four: O’ahu, which houses the state capital of Honolulu, Moloka’i, Maui, and Hawaii, which is the biggest of the four. So Hawaii refers to both a state consisting of many islands as well as one island within that state (the island of Hawai’i).

Why Choose This Destination?

If you live in the Western half of the United States or Canada then Hawaii may be the closest place to experience world class snorkeling. That said, not many people realize just how far into the Pacific Ocean Hawaii is. To put it in perspective, Honolulu is about as far away from Los Angeles as New York City (about a six hour flight).

The Big Island of Hawaii has opportunities to snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles, and an array of marine wildlife. Don’t let the distance stop you from exploring this amazing volcanic archipelago.


5. Eil Malk Island

  • Region: Pacific Ocean
  • Country: Palau

Just Southeast of The Philippines is the island Nation of Palau and within Palau’s chain of islands is an island called Eil Malk (also known as Mecherchar island). It’s one of the best snorkeling destinations in the world.

Why Choose This Destination?

What makes this island such an incredible snorkeling destination is that it has one of the only marine lakes in Palau that are open to snorkeling; and a marine lake, if you don’t know, is a lake mostly separate from the ocean but still has some connection too it via tunnels or cracks in the rocks and soil, so their salt content is usually lower and thus support different types of semi-marine life.

If that sounds like a snorkeling experience unlike any other, you’re right, it is!


6. Buck Island, U.S. Virgin Islands

  • Region: Caribbean Sea
  • Country: United States Territory

In the brilliant blue waters of the Caribbean between Puerto Rico and Monserat sits a U.S. Territory called the Virgin Islands. Just off the coast of the mainland of this U.S. Territory is a place called Buck Island.

Why Choose This Destination?

Buck Island is a national park but not like any you’ve ever been to. The island is only 176 acres, enough space for a small cattle ranch, but the acreage of protected submerged lands (ocean) is more than 18,000 acres. It’s an underwater national park!

Crystal clear waters, biodiversity, even a rare species of pelican -- need I say more?


7. Great Barrier Reef

  • Region: South Pacific
  • Country: Australia

Book yourself a flight to the only country that is also a continent for an ocean adventure down under. You’ll want to fly into Brisbane and go north from there to access the world's largest coral reef ecosystem in the world- The Great Barrier Reef.

Why Choose This Destination?

The Great Barrier Reef speaks for itself. It’s one of the most well known ocean features in the entire world and for good reason.

This massive reef, strung together by thousands of individual reefs, stretches more than a thousand miles, is home to every kind of shallow water marine life imaginable, and it’s even the cause of many shipwrecks, some of which you can snorkel to!


8. Ilha Grande

  • Region: South America
  • Country: Brazil

Brazil’s rich history is full of maritime wonders. The shores of this former Portuguese colony were plagued with pirates and the only remnants of the conflict exist underwater. Luckily, you can snorkel and see some of them in Brazil’s Ilha Grande, an island located near Rio de Janeiro, which is where you would fly into if you end up choosing to snorkel there.

Why Choose This Destination?

This jungly island destination teems with life on land as well as in the water, so you get the best of both worlds.

The snorkeling, though, is world class -- sea horses, turtles, you might even see monkeys next to the water's edge!


9. Palawan

  • Region: Western Pacific Ocean
  • Country: The Philippines

You’ll notice that archipelagos, or chains of islands, make up a lot of this list. They tend to be great snorkeling spots because archipelagos provide terrain and contour for a vast array of marine life that is distinctly different from the open ocean.

The Philippines, a large island nation north of Indonesia is one such archipelago.

Why Choose This Destination?

How about whale sharks- does that do anything for you? They’re the largest of the shark species yet they are filter feeders (hence their name) and eat only microscopic organisms.

But if that isn’t your cup of tea there are plenty of coral reefs filled with colorful fish, starfish, and the like. No matter what you’re looking for, Palawan is one of the best snorkeling destinations out there.


10. Komodo Island

  • Region: Western Pacific Ocean
  • Country: Indonesia

Komodo Island, part of the island nation of Indonesia, is only 200 miles east of Bali, a popular tourist destination in Malaysia. The waters surrounding komodo Island have thousands fish species, a dozen or so whales species, hundreds of coral species and that’s only the tip of the iceberg (or tip of the coral reef I should say).

Why Choose This Destination?

Look, I know you’re here for snorkeling, but you can’t tell me that you don’t want to see the world’s largest lizard, a 9 foot long remnant of the dinosaurs known as the komodo dragon. Komodo island has 4,000 of them. The snorkeling around Komodo Island is as good as any but you won’t find this massive lizard anywhere else in the entire world.


11. Ghar Lapsi

  • Region: Mediterranean Sea
  • Country: Malta

This is a deep pick that you won’t find on many other snorkeling destination lists but I’ll tell you why I think it should make the cut:

Grottos.

These naturally occurring caves are all over the Mediterranean and the tiny island of Malta is home to the world famous Blue Grotto.

Why Choose This Destination?

The waters around malta may not have the same level of biodiversity but the rocks, caves, and cliffs that sprawl around this Mediterranean paradise are entirely unique to the region and are breathtaking to witness.


Snorkeling is a Unique Experience

The act of breathing through a tube attached to your mouth was cumbersome at first but you finally got the hang of it. Breathing in the water is now second nature for you (as it is on land) freeing your mind to enjoy the incredible underwater world that can only be explored via snorkel.

You made up your mind to visit some of the best snorkeling destinations in the world and you made it happen. Pat yourself on the back!

11 Best Snorkeling Destinations in the World: The Ultimate Guide in 2019

You were a little scared at first, the water was a little cold, but you’ve forgotten about all of that.

Your mind is completely empty, totally at peace, as you effortlessly kick along the surface of the water. “What an incredible planet this is,” you think to yourself as you exhale a deep breath of ocean air through your snorkel.

If you’re interested in traveling the world and finding the best places to snorkel you can’t go wrong with any of the above locations.

Here’s to discovering a new world!

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