Ten Great Places to Snorkel

    Not only is snorkeling a great way to explore, but it's an introduction to the water that can open an enthusiast to other water sports.

    One of the easiest outdoor activities to get involved with is snorkeling, as it allows you to explore the beauty the sea has to offer without the certification necessary for SCUBA diving. When traveling outside of the U.S., the snorkeling opportunities seem to be endless, but here are our picks for the top 10 locations.

    Anegada (British Virgin Islands): A large number of sunken ships is what draws most visitors to Anegada. Though this can be a difficult location to reach, those who decide to make the trip are provided with ideal snorkeling conditions. Your hotel or a local dive shop can set up transportation to the north shore where the waters are the calmest, and also provide rental equipment if you do not have your own. This Caribbean hot spot boasts turquoise waters and white sand beaches that comprise the perfect tropical snorkeling experience.

    Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles): This area has been designated as a national marine park for more than 30 years, making it a well-maintained location to snorkel. The Caribbean waters are clear, allowing the colorful fish and sea life to be observed easily. Many of the snorkel locations in Bonaire are directly off the shore, making it a convenient destination for beginners who want to go out for short periods of time. If you’re ready to move on to more challenging waters, take a short boat ride out to additional snorkeling locations.

    Champagne Beach (Dominica): Located in the Caribbean, this snorkeling haven is home to much of the sea life that has died off elsewhere in the sea. Because of the island’s nine active volcanoes, snorkelers can see bubbles of hot water rising to the surface during their swim. There are so many locations to visit and a variety of marine life that one day may not be enough to see it all. This is a location where you’ll feel at peace with the water, as it’s remote and less developed than many more commercial snorkel locales.

    Cozumel (Mexico): There is an array of snorkeling sites to visit when traveling to Cozumel, from near-shore locations to those that require minor boat trips. Some of the most popular destinations are Palancar, Dzul-Ha, and a sunken Convair airplane that is leftover from a film shot in the 1970s. The north side of the island tends to have stronger currents, which are recommended for advanced swimmers only. While the southern end also has strong currents, they are much calmer than the north side, providing a great starting spot for beginners.

    Les Medes Islands (L’Estartit, Spain): On the Costa Brava on the northeast coast of Spain lies this snorkeling nook, unknown by many except those living in or surrounding the town. With a number of dive shops, the archipelago of Les Medes, which is about a mile off the shore, has some of the most colorful and exotic life in the Mediterranean Sea. Opportunities to snorkel in these waters are available year round, which take visitors to this national wildlife reserve that is comprised of seven islands uninhabited by people.

    Lord Howe Island (Australia): Located in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, this island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with unique animals and is home to the southernmost barrier coral reef. The Lord Howe Island Act of 1981, protecting most of the island, with waters preserved by the Lord Howe Island Marine Park. There are almost 500 species off the island’s shore to examine and because of the limit of people allowed, you feel as if you’re truly alone with the reef.

    Papalaua Wayside Park (Maui, Hawaii): The eastern end of this location is known as “Coral Gardens,” describing the coral seen easily through clear waters, spotted with bright yellow butterfly fish and sea turtles. As one of the less populated snorkel locations, people are able to explore without risking invading the space of others. The shoreline is made of soft sand, so taking breaks on the beach to enjoy the scenery between swims is a great option.

    Raja Ampat (Indonesia): For many years this section of the archipelago was only open to snorkelers via a multi-day trip where you lived on a boat while not in the water. But now, the Misool Eco Resort is offering snorkeling to visitors just outside of their bungalows located in shallow waters. There are more than 1,500 documented species in the waters, giving people a variety of marine life to seek out. One of the biggest appeals in this area are the many colors of reefs, which are lively in tones of pink, orange, and purple.

    Stingray Island (Grand Cayman Island, Caribbean): This is the island’s most popular snorkeling destination, and arguably one of the most famous in the world. With crystal clear water, the southern stingrays are able to be observed with close-up intensity. Spring and summer are the best times to visit Grand Cayman, as the waters are calm. The stingrays are harmless, except for the occasional “suction wound” from their mouth. These will not hurt, but more so surprise snorkelers. To avoid the crowds, check with the front desk of where you’re staying and research when the cruise ship stops are.

    Utila (Honduras): This island is the smallest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, well known as the place to go to see whale sharks in their natural environment. These animals are between 25 and 50 feet long, but only feed on plankton and small prey, so swimming with them poses no danger. While you can arrange boat snorkeling through most of the dive shops in the area, snorkeling just off the shore is also an option. Some of the best places to visit are Blue Bayou and the South Shore, though only boat access is available for the latter.

    Image from Masato Ikeda on the Wikimedia Commons

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