Best Places to Snorkel Around the World
Did you know that humans have only seen around 20 percent of the underwater world? Don’t worry—it’s not too late to start exploring under the sea. But if you want to dive a little deeper (pun intended) into the underwater world without strapping yourself into scuba gear or a submarine, snorkeling is the perfect activity for experiencing epic underwater delights, such as fish, coral, sharks, shipwrecks, and beyond. Plus it’s safe, affordable, and accessible. And it doesn't matter where you are, as amazing snorkeling destinations exist in every corner of the globe. Here are our favorites.
Koh Tao's beautiful white sand beaches, interesting rock formations, and crystalline water make it one of the best places in Thailand for snorkeling. Dip your head under the waves to see turtles, reef sharks, rainbow-hued coral reefs, and schools of colorful fish. The surrounding islands are worth exploring, too. And if you've really got a taste for marine life, there are plenty of nearby schools where you can get your scuba diving certification.
Maui has upwards of 10 incredible snorkeling spots, ranging from Turtle Town to Black Rock at Ka'anapali Beach to La Perouse, where you can also admire the island's astonishing volcanic landscapes. Maui's marine life spans everything from dolphins and turtles to beautiful coral gardens and Finding Nemo-esque clouds of fish. Like many Hawaiian islands, Maui has incredibly stunning landscapes which you can experience from up above via helicopter or off-road with an ATV.
Related: Visiting Maui for the First Time? Here’s What to See and Do
The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands, about three hours away from mainland Bali, offer some of the clearest and warmest waters in the world, with dozens of snorkeling sites home to breathtaking sights. These tiny, tropical islands are fringed by white sand beaches and palm trees. Only a few meters into the sea, beneath the crystal-clear waters, you'll spot a whole host of underwater statues with turtles swimming by. If you choose to stay on the nearby island of Lombok, check out the secret pink beach while you're there.
Picturesque Makarska is stunning from any angle. But if you take a trip underwater, you'll be treated to a whole different dimension of beauty. This lesser-visited destination is often overlooked due to its pebbly beaches, but it offers 37 miles (56 kilometers) of coastline with plenty of snorkeling spots along the way. Keep an eye out for octopuses and starfish swimming through some of Croatia’s most pristine reefs. It's easy to arrange day trips to and from Makarska or get a little closer to the region’s jagged cliffs with a kayaking adventure.
Palawan offers some of the finest snorkeling spots in the Philippines. Head to the white sand beaches of El Nido or Coron to find black limestone cliffs, interesting topography, and, if you're lucky, even a famed whale shark. Islands in the Philippines are beautiful to cruise between when you're above the water, too, while the underground rivers show you an entirely new perspective of Palawan.
Great Barrier Reef
You may recognize the world-famous Great Barrier Reef from Finding Nemo—and it’s just as impressive as it seems in the movie. With warm waters and snorkeling sites offering caves and caverns as well as pinnacles and monuments, the Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia's most impressive areas. You'll find 3,000 individual reefs and hundreds of tiny islands just waiting to be explored. Check out the nearby Green Island for some magical rainforest views while you're there.
The Maldives as a whole offers incredible snorkeling with nurse sharks, dolphins, squids, and beautiful coral reefs. There are shipwrecks to admire and beautiful house reefs decorating the shores of many Maldivian islands. But Baa Atoll's hundreds of manta rays and ample whale shark population make it one of the top destinations in the Maldives to head underwater. Most other activities in the Maldives are water-related, but you can also explore local islands when you're not enjoying the crystal-clear sea.
Due to the challenging currents, scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands is usually limited to experts. But Galapagos snorkeling offers many of the same sights and is suitable for explorers of all levels. Head to the eroded volcanic crater of Devil’s Crown or check out the Galapagos penguins at Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island. With beautiful beaches to visit, you could easily spend a few weeks exploring these unique Ecuadorian islands.
Mesmerizing Tahiti is a vibrant kaleidoscope of colors underwater, with marine life coming in a dazzling range of shades. Bora Bora is nicknamed "The Aquarium" due to the incredible influx of creatures and coral gardens below the surface. It doesn't matter where you're staying in Bora Bora as its beauty spreads far and wide. The best way to end your day post-snorkel? A sunset cruise through Tahitian waters.
Related: 10 Underrated French Polynesian Islands You Won’t Want to Miss