10 World’s Best Snorkeling Destinations According to Forbes Traveller
There is a difference between coral reefs and coral reefs.
So before booking a trip and packing fins and snorkel – take a look at my guide to the world’s best snorkeling.
On many popular dive sites, tourists have stepped around and destroyed the beautiful corals. But than there are many places left for those looking for the best bottom experience.
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1. San Blas Islands in Panama
Here you can splash around in a myriad of colorful and unusual corals. Like the endangered Staghorn coral. Large parts of the coral reef have been claimed by the local population, but there are still more than 300 miles of pristine coral. There are also exciting wrecks within easy reach for snorkel tourists — an added plus that qualifies the place as the world’s best snorkeling waters.
Experience a true paradise. Imagine a place similar to Robinson Crusoe’s hideout. The sand is white and fine, the sea feels warm and mild and the palm trees give a nice shade. Snorkeling is excellent and Guna will feed you and show you their islands or just let you relax in privacy. It really is a paradise.
So you’re thinking of holidaying in the San Blas Islands? If you want to find accommodation close to the sights, you can enter your holiday dates and use the filters next to your search results to find something close to the area’s highlights. Guests can choose from 11 hotels and other types of accommodation in the San Blas Islands.
Top hotels and other accommodation options in the San Blas Islands
Guests like the following hotels in the San Blas Islands, and especially their free breakfast:
- Cabañas Demar Achudup
- Cabañas Isla Aguja
- Dolphin Lodge Uaguinega
When is the best time to explore the San Blas Islands?
If you’re wondering when it’s best to go to the San Blas Islands, this weather info might be good to have during travel planning. The warmest months in the San Blas Islands tend to be April and March, and the coldest January and February. The wettest months are November and October, while the driest are April and March.
How much rain and what temperatures you can expect
Average temperatures between January and March are at 33°C during the day and 23°C during the night. The average rainfall is 6 millimeters during this period.
If you travel here between April and June, the average temperatures are 34°C during the day and 24°C at night. The average rainfall is 13 millimeters.
Average temperatures in July to September are 31°C during the day and 23°C during the night. The average rainfall during this period is 19 millimeters.
Between October and December, average temperatures are 31°C during the day and 23°C at night. The average rainfall during this period is 27 millimeters.
The average rainfall during the year in the San Blas Islands is 65 millimeters.
2. Phi Phi Islands in Thailand
There are thousands of different fish and animal species. Large turtles, scorpion fish, dragonfish, leopard sharks and more. It’s like swimming around in an aquarium. The limestone formations create an exciting environment for snorkelers to explore. The best reef is called Hing Klang, between the island of Bamboo and Phi Don.
Phi Phi Islands are located about 48 km southeast of Phuket and are considered among the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. Thanks to the crystal clear waters, it has attracted thousands of tourists and is today one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions. Snorkeling in this fabulous waters is a must during your stay in Thailand. During a day trip you will have time to experience these famous islands and get to know the beautiful coral reefs with its exotic fish in all the colors of the rainbow.
There are many reasons why you should pack your bag and book a trip to Ko Phi Phi.
How to get to Ko Phi Phi
The destination is located 8 km north of Koh Phi Phi Leh and 690 km south of Bangkok, the capital of the country.
If the sun is up, pack a picnic basket, bring a blanket, and get some sun in Ko Phi Phi’s vantage point.
Make sure to schedule a day at the beach. Long Beach and Maya Beach are two of the most popular. Ao Ton Sai Beach and Laem Tong Beach are two other stunning beaches that are also worth going to.
Are you a nature lover? Then you should lace up your training shoes and spend a few hours in the beautiful nature at Viking Cave.
Your trip will not be perfect without an excursion to Tonsai Pier. And trust us, it’s pretty obvious why it’s one of the most appreciated landmarks in Ko Phi Phi.
Want to see everything this destination has to offer? Loh Bagao Bay is a less popular attraction that you may have forgotten about.
Hotels in Ko Phi Phi
It offers accommodation for both backpackers and luxury travellers. If you want to save money, you can visit either Sunwaree Phi Phi Resort or Tohko Beach resort. Maybe you’d rather treat yourself to a really lavish vacation? If you book at Villa 360 or Zeavola Resort, you can expect to be treated like royalty.
3. Safaga in Egypt
Safaga is located on a large bay surrounded by sandy beaches. A long pier stretches out into the water and makes it easy for snorkelers to get out to the corals. You can also get out to the sand island in the middle of the bay by boat. There you get the corals for yourself and can undisturbed swim around among moray ducks, anemones, octopuses and much, much more.
Enjoy the day snorkeling to Sharm el Naga Bay from Hurghada. Sharm el Naga is a beautiful beach, clear water and a varied sea life on beautiful coral reefs. Sharm el Naga offers excellent beach diving and onshore leisure facilities.
The bay of Sharm El Naga has its beautiful coral reefs and its crystal clear waters, sandy beach, a sheltered house reef for snorkeling and diving in pristine surroundings and the perfect place for water sports such as swimming and snorkeling, you can play volleyball, petanque and darts or you can enjoy a horse or camel ride playground specially designed to be safe and entertaining for your child.
Safaga is located 460 km southeast of Cairo, the country’s capital.
Bring a picnic basket and have a relaxing lunch at El Gouna beach or Sharm el Lola beach. Discover the areas around Safaga with an excursion to Soma Bay or Sahl Hasheeh. Soma Bay is 12 miles to the north, and Sahl Hasheeh is 40 km to the north.
Turn your stay in the area into an unforgettable experience with a day of rock climbing or hiking. Both are very popular outdoor activities in these areas.
Spending an afternoon out in the open can be like medicine for the soul. If you want to let go of all the stress for a little while, you might appreciate fishing from land or picnic.
Parasailing is not only a great way to take in the surroundings, but also offers adventure, excitement and a chance for you to fly.
It’s always nice to stay close to the water, but it’s much more fun to be on or in it.
It’s not easy to know in advance exactly what you can find inside the doors of the area’s art museums, historical museums and art galleries, but you can be sure that there will be something really exciting!
Bring your camera and get some fresh air at one of the surrounding area’s lovely sights in the open air. There are several open-air museums, outdoor exhibitions, lighthouses and gardens just waiting to be explored.
Let the history lover within you wake up by visiting the surrounding ruins, historic neighborhoods, historic palaces and archaeological sites. They are perfect places to learn about the region’s exciting history.
Are you longing for some peace and quiet? Don’t be surprised if you find what you are looking for among some of the churches, mosques, temples and monasteries located in and around Safaga.
Egypt’s National Day falls every year on July 23 and is celebrated in much of the country. If you will be here on this important day, it will be almost impossible not to get carried away by the exciting atmosphere.
When you’re ready to fly home again, make sure you have extra time to get to Hurghada Intl. (HRG). You will find the airport 60 km north of the central parts of Safaga, and it is the nearest airport.
4. Culebra in Puerto Rico
This is one of the best snorkel waters in the Caribbean. The Playa Flamenco area of Culebra is popular and attracts camping tourists and party goers, but if you take a 20-minute walk away from the most popular parts to Carlos Rosario beach, a world of snorkeling opportunities opens up with colorful fish and corals.
Explore the underground world of Culebra Island during this snorkeling excursion to Flamenco Beach. A perfect snorkeling expedition for beginners or families with small children, the calm, clear, the water makes it easy to snorkel and swim. While on Culebra Island, you can choose to snorkel, swim, use the included stand-up paddleboards, or just relax.
Without a doubt, Aquafari Culebra is one of the most impressive excursions with the clearest waters, pristine beaches and a variety of sea lev that will amaze you. Paddle your way along Puerto Rico’s kayak and snorkeling mecca.
Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling, and with 1,000 residents living in this part of Puerto Rico, you will certainly have many opportunities. From here it is 35 km to the east to St. Thomas and 60 km to the east to St. John.
What’s better than a day at the beach. Two of the region’s most popular beaches are Tamarindo Beach and Zoni Beach. Don’t miss carlos rosario beach and brava beach. They are also usually high on the lists of tourists in the area.
Is it time to recharge the batteries? Then the beautiful views of culebra National Wildlife Reserve and Luis Peña are perfect for you. Punta Melones is also a reserve with a bustling natural life that you can’t miss while you’re here.
Hotels in Culebra
In Culebra you should book accommodation well in advance as there are only 9 properties here. If you book into one of recommended accommodations, the experienced staff will make you have a wonderful stay. Club Seabourne Boutique Hotel and Culebra Moon Villas are worth looking at.
5. Salty Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean
If you like stingrays and the strange “elk horn” corals, Salty Cay is a place for you. An additional plus is the British frigate HMS Endymion, which was wrecked in 1790. Now it is a little more than ten meters deep and is easy to snorkel on. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the chance to swim with humpback whales. The animals visit the waters around the islands during the winter months.
It should come as no surprise that the most popular activities in the Turks and Caicos islands revolve around the water. Diving has been immensely popular in the region. The most popular areas to dive are outside Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay, but many other places are scattered around the islands. Western Caicos Marine National Park is also a very popular diving spot.
The coral reefs in these islands are truly stunning, and divers encounter vast shoals of fish, gray reef sharks, nurse sharks, turtles, octopuses, eagle rays, gray reef sharks and all sorts of other critters. In addition to diving and snorkeling are popular activities in the Turks and Caicos Islands sailing, parasailing, games, golf, shopping, restaurants and fishing. Some of the most populated areas boast amazing spas and salons as well.
Hotel Turks and Caicos: If you want to experience paradise on earth, a holiday in the Turks and Caicos Islands should be at the top of your list of places to visit. This beautiful island strengthens body, mind and soul as you explore its empty beaches. Have a wonderful holiday when you stay at one of the most popular hotels on Turks and Caicos. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or a family trip, your dream Caribbean vacation can become a reality when you stay at world-class resorts in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Large selection of hotels
Hhotels in turks and caicos islands are from five-star hotels, all-inclusive hotels and luxury hotels to boutique hotels. There are over 40 different islands among the Turks and Caicos islands waiting to be explored. The hotels in Grace Bay are located in a popular tourist area where there are many different aparthotels and hotels on the beach. It’s the perfect place for a romantic getaway with your sweetheart. The hotels in turks and caicos have a variety of accommodations, including standard rooms and luxurious suites with butler services.
Much more than just beaches
This picturesque island is full of adventure. You don’t have to lie on the white sandy beaches all day if you don’t want to. Go exploring, because there are lots of things to do. Grand Turk and Salt Cay have among the best diving in the world. After an afternoon of scuba diving, swing by Porter’s Island Thyme to experience some of the best seafood and drinks. Visit the Northern Caicos to explore the largest cave network in the Caribbean, or spend the day hopping by ferry.
6. Saint John on the Virgin Islands, USA
Saint John is a national park and the reefs are protected from exploitation and destruction. Snorkelers, however, are welcome. The corals are liberated from sediment and bottom sludge that ruined the experience on many other coral reefs in the Caribbean. In Trunk Bay near Saint John there is a snorkel trail where beginners are guided to the colorful attractions underwater.
Saint John is one of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the majority of the island is a national park, providing opportunities for lots of hiking and wildlife spotting. Of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, this one is my favorite – you have lots of hiking trails in the park, lots of beaches, snorkeling opportunities, delicious and affordable food and great nightlife. It is also the most budget-friendly in the Virgin Islands. With only about two thousand people living on the island, it is a small community that really knows each other. You’re going to run into people over and over again. It has the most relaxed feel and the one you probably want to spend the most time on.
Visit the beaches
Trunk Bay is the main tourist beach, while Solomon’s Beach is known for nudity. The honeymoon beach is nearby and small, Hawknest and Watermelon have good snorkeling, you can rent tents or bungalows on the Cinnamon Boat, Maho is quiet and quiet, and Oppenheimer beach is abandoned (with deck swing).
Visit Annaberg Plantation
Once an active sugar-producing factory, all that is left of this 518-acre plantation is ruins. They are protected by the Virgin Islands National Park and are open to the public. The wind is of particular interest and was built between 1810 and 1830.
Go hiking in the national park
Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of the island and has 20 miles of hiking trails. The Leinster Bay trail takes you past ants and coral openings with markers to help you identify animals and plantations. A very popular hike is the Reef Bay Hike. The best track is Ram’s Head Trail. Don’t miss that one.
Renting a boat allows you to visit the island on your own terms. You can bring some snorkeling equipment, but most have all day supply them. The day sailors also provide food and unlimited spirits (although half days do not sail). My favorite day sailing company is Sail Safaris. A half-day tour starts at $85 USD.
Visit Catherineberg Ruins
This page is a sugar and rum factor from the 18th century. Admission is free, and there isn’t much to see, but it’s worth a visit if you’re hiking in the area. The ruins are very well preserved so you get a good sense of how the sugar was harvested and refined on the island. There are some historical signs.
St. John has no hostels, but campsites are popular and cost about $30 USD per night for an empty seat or $60 USD for a cabin. Guesthouse is another budget option, and prices start at $80 USD per night. Hotels start around $200 USD per night. Use Booking.com because they consistently return the cheapest prices. Airbnb is another great option here because there are many hosts. On Airbnb you can rent entire homes (usually studio apartments) at about $100 USD per night, but you’ll find much more inventory from $200 USD and up.
Most casual meals (burgers, salads and sandwiches) cost between $10-15 USD. Dinner with wine costs about $35 USD, as most power grids cost about $20 USD. Food costs around $100-140 USD per week because most food needs to be imported (if you don’t want to live on pasta and canned food – then you spend about $40 USD per week). Most hotels and resorts, however, provide free breakfast, but get your filling for the day. Beer costs between $3-6 USD and cocktails around $8 USD. Skinny Ben, Rhumb Line, The Tap Room and La Tapa are all delicious places to eat.
There are not many ways to get around the island. Renting a car costs about $60 USD per day. Taxi fares are regulated by the government and are between $5-15 USD depends on distance. There is also a bus system operated by Vitran that rarely goes from one end of the island to the other for $1 USD.
7. Makaha Beach Park in Oahu, Hawaii
Makaha Beach Park offers Havaii’s best snorkeling. Visibility is at least 30 meters and you have the chance to meet both dolphins and 200-kilo turtles.
Surf culture is found all over the island, but nowhere is it as strong as in the north of the island, called the North Shore. It was at Waimea Bay that surfers in the 1950s began to take on the really big waves. During the summer the waves are calmer and the beach is suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
On the northeast tip of O’ahu, near Turtle Bay Resort, is Kuilima Cove (Bayview Beach). The location is protected from large waves, making it the perfect place to swim and snorkel. Look for a “Hono,” a Hawaiian turtle.
Next door to Lanikai Beach is Kailua Beach Park with smooth white sand and turquoise blue water. This is one of the best beaches on O’ahu if you want to sunbathe and swim. It is just enough big waves and a popular place for kite and windsurfing. There are picnic areas with shady seats and a volleyball court. There are many dining options nearby to pick up lunch. You can also rent sports equipment for a swim, snorkeling, kayaking or parasailing.
Lanikai Beach is considered the finest beach on O’ahu and it often ends up on lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Here you have the small paradise beach with rolling palm trees, powder white sand and turquoise blue sea. A reef out there makes the waters calm and it is perfect to swim and snorkel here, even during winter time. Feel free to rent a kayak and paddle out to the two nearby islands “Nā Mokulua” (which is a bird sanctuary). Please note that lanikai beach has no facilities and no lifeguards. Parking can be difficult so come early.
Hanauma Bay State Park is a marine nature reserve. In order to protect the marine environment, a fee has been charged for visits for a couple of years and visitors will also see an information film before they are dropped. Hanauma Bay is not only a postcard-beautiful beach in a volcanic crater, but it is the best place on the island to snorkel among tropical fish. There are over 400 species of fish and the chance to see Hawaiian turtles is also great. Snorkel equipment can be rented on site.
The island of Oahu is the perfect place for a holiday with lots of activities that the whole family will be treasured forever.
While Waikiki and downtown Honolulu have plenty of great activities for both adults and children, too many visitors never take time to explore the rest of what this wonderful island has to offer.
Allow yourself a full week to really get to know and appreciate the island. To see and enjoy Oahu, you will probably rent a car, at least for a few days.
Oahu has an excellent public transport system, appropriately called TheBus, with routes covering all the places mentioned here. Low cost four-day or one-month workouts are available for adults and adolescents.
8. Bunaken National Marine Park in Indonesia
In the waters around Bunaken, an unusually large number of fish species swim in an extremely species-rich coral reef. It is the status of the site as a marine national park that has preserved diversity. In total there are more than 2,500 fish species.
Local wooden boats take the divers to fine dive facilities in the area (dive guide included). Opportunities are available for diving courses, diving with Nitrox, rental equipment on site, night dives, own house reef dives (without a guide) etc. and of course snorkeling on Bunaken Island’s fine and intact house reefs easily accessible from the beach and lagoon surrounding the island.
Boasting over 300 coral types and 10 times the number of fish species, Bunaken National Park is the place to be if you want to get close to Indonesia’s marine biodiversity.
Colorful coral reefs, spectacular wall dives, rare fish species and wonderful nature make northern Sulawesi a dream destination. With a unique ecosystem, northern Sulawesi hosts greater diversity of marine animals than anywhere else on Earth. Rare fish species taken from a science fiction movie and amazing diving experiences are what you can expect. The island of Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes and unofficially known as Orchid Island, attracts visitors with its beautiful scenery and hospitable locals. Sulawesi belongs to Indonesia and is located in a triangle between the southern Philippines, East of Borneo and west of West Papua.
The Bunaken area gained national park status in 1991 and is thus one of the first marine national parks in Indonesia. The national park is 89065 hectares in size and includes the islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Montehage and Nain, as well as parts of mainland Sulawesi. More than 8000 hectares of the national park’s area are made up of coral reefs.
The national park’s extremely deep seabed, steep coral walls and large seagrass plains are home to an astonishing variety of species of coral, fish, echinoderms and sponges. The area is one of the world’s most diverse species, and many extremely rare and/or endangered animals, such as broom federates, pearl boats, seven different species of giant mussel, sea cows, whales, dolphins and turtles live in our national park.
Bunaken has a tropical climate with two actual seasons. During the dry season, which takes place from April to October, the wind is southeasterly and the sea relatively calm. The rainy season begins in November and ends in March. Then cool, north-westerly winds that can occasionally bring heavy rain and high seas. The average annual temperature is at comfortable 27 degrees. During the rainy season, the mercury stays around 25 degrees, while temperatures around 30 degrees are not uncommon during the dry season.
The water temperature is fairly constant regardless of the season (27-30 degrees), and on top of the reef where it is shallower, the water may even be warmer than that. Visibility varies between 15 and 30 meters. At Bunaken you can dive all year round.
About 20,000 people live off the natural resources of the national park. In total, there are 26 villages within the boundaries of the park area. The area has been inhabited for more than a century. The people who live here mainly earn their living as fishermen or farmers. On the island, coconuts, bananas and sweet potatoes are grown, and some farmers have even started growing algae and seaweed for export.
9. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
2,500 coral reefs along a distance of 225 000 km. No need to add more. This is a great place for snorkelers.
Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It’s not without reason that this is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions.
If you have a diving certificate or want to learn how to dive , then this is the place to do it. Head out on a day trip to dive among the colorful corals, or join a three-day dive cruise where you can dive up to four dives per day. Why not try a night dive?
Rent a mask and snorkel and explore the island’s colorful coral reefs. Magnetic Island is just a 25-minute ferry ride from Townsville. This is just one of many places where you can experience the amazing underwater world.
The Great Barrier Reef is an abundance of colors and wildlife – and everyone can experience it. Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef is a memory for life and should always be part of the trip to Australia.
Nearly 3,000 coral reefs
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest and longest coral reef and is on unesco’s list of world natural heritage. It stretches 2,500 km from Australia’s northeastern tip to the middle between Bundaberg and Gladstone and consists of more than 2,600 individual reefs and 900 islands. The Great Barrier Reef can also, as the only living organism on Earth, be seen from space.
Far from land
Corals come in a large number of different shapes, both hard, soft and in large collections that sway gently by the waves. Thousands of fish of all sizes, patterns and color combinations inhabit the reef and help make it one of the world’s most beautiful places. Most of the reef is located many km from land and is not visible from the coast.
Overnight on an island
A great way to really experience the Great Barrier Reef is to stay on one of the fantastic islands along the Barrier Reef. It distinguishes between 2 types of islands, ‘coral islands’ and ‘green islands’. Coral islands are the islands located directly on the Great Barrier Reef and that allow you to explore the reef directly from the beach. Examples of such islands are Heron Island, Lady Elliott Island, Green island and Lizard island. The ‘green islands’ are not directly on the Great Barrier Reef but instead have stunning rainforest, lovely beaches and other attractions. From here, you can then take a day trip to snorkel or dive. Examples of these islands are Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Magnetic Island and Daydream island. The islands are available in all price ranges from affordable to pure luxury. The advantage of choosing an island instead of living ashore and taking day trips is that you get both a reef experience and an island experience at the same time with all that it entails, it feels a bit more luxurious.
Many ways to experience the reef
You can experience the Great Barrier Reef in several ways. You can choose to stay on one of the few unique coral islands where you can walk directly from the beach to the reef, you can choose to go on a day trip from Cairns, Hamilton Island or the Whitsundays or you can choose to take on a multi-day cruise where you experience several parts of the reef and where no day tourists come, then you have plenty of time to snorkel and maybe even dive.
Even if you’ve never snorkeled before, I strongly recommend that you try when you’re on the Great Barrier Reef. All cruises, day trips as well as longer tours have trained guides on board who can teach you how to snorkel even if you’ve never tried it before. It is also worth remembering that the water in Australia is warm and nice so snorkeling is usually an incredibly beautiful and enjoyable experience. During their winter, May-September, the water temperature is about 20-24 times, which means that you can easily travel here during the Swedish summer. In addition, the weather is much more stable.
Discover the reef from the air
If you don’t want to snorkel, there is always the opportunity to experience the reef from a glass-bottom boat, from a helicopter or seaplane. It’s just from the air you get an approximate idea of how big the reef really is.
Facts about the Great Barrier Reef
- The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s longest reef and living organism
- The reef stretches over 2,500km along australia’s east coast
- The reef consists of more than 900 islands and 3,000 coral reefs
- The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 400 different species of coral
- Over 1,500 species of fish and countless sea turtles, birds and whales live on the reef
10. Florida Spring Holes, U.S.
If you’re not afraid of aligators, the springs offer a different freshwater diving experience. Visibility is unusually good in the crystal clear water and animals and plants different in comparison to places with salt water.
With more than 700 crystal clear feathers, endless summer days and a variety of lush landscapes, Florida has the perfect combination for a summer excursion to its pristine swimming holes. Lucky for us, Florida is spoiled by choice with refreshing swimming holes located a short driving distance from each other, making it easy to make multiple pit stops. Starting from the Panhandle and ending in Central Florida, explore some of the most immaculate spots to take a dip in the Sunshine State.
If slanging adventures and watering through crystal clear spring-fed water sound like a good idea for you, the Blue Hole in Ichetucknee Springs State Park is an absolute must. It is miles of lush shaded hammocks and is the largest of nine impressive springs in the area.
Ocala is a city in Marion County, Florida, United States. The city has beautiful natural landscapes that stand in perfect contrast to the modern shops, hotels and beautiful Victorian-style houses from the 1930s. I recommend visiting the Appleton Museum of Art, which has an exclusive picture and sculpture collection, and Don Garlit’s Museum of Drag Racing (a car museum) but it’s also interesting to get to know the Discovery Science Center, which has various exhibits throughout the year.
If you enjoy activities in the open air, don’t miss a visit to the Ocala National Forest that still preserves a vast pine forest with beautiful rivers, streams and lakes. Here there are several different areas suitable for camping and roads where you can hike or cycle, among other activities. I also advise you to get to know the amusement park Silver Springs, which had the first boat with transparent bottom to be able to look at the fish and the entire fascinating underwater landscape. Ocala is a beautiful city that has everything you need to enjoy and rest. Just enjoy.
The list is compiled by Forbes Traveller.