Snorkeling is an easy and exciting way to explore the world’s magical underwater ecosystems. Whether you’re brand new to snorkeling or a bonafide expert, here are five places you need to go snorkeling before you die.
Buck Island, St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
An 880-acre reserve located off St. Croix, this small Caribbean island is a premier snorkeling destination. Named a U.S. National Monument in 1961, Buck Island’s coral reef has been closely monitored by the National Park Service throughout the years. As such, these protected waters remain largely unpolluted and the brain coral at Buck Island is some of the largest in the world, according to the NPS. The lulling waters are gentle enough for first-timers and the healthy marine ecosystem draws tropical fish, sea turtles and even reef sharks.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
With 185 miles of coral reef to explore, Ambergris Caye is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef. A 1.5-hour ferry ride from Belize’s mainland, Ambergris Caye offers a plethora of top-notch snorkeling areas, suitable for all levels. Mexico Rocks, located along the inner reef, has gentle waters, ideal for children or beginner snorkelers. More adventurous travelers can book a boat trip to Shark Ray Alley, a shallow section of the reef that attracts nurse sharks and stingrays, while Mata Cut is home to an old shipwreck. Belize also has a number of offshore atolls, a trip that would typically take all day and require snorkeling experience.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Ecuador’s famous archipelago is a hotspot for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers, but the water encircling these volcanic islands is equally fascinating. Home to several species of marine life, including sea turtles, seals, dolphins, penguins and reef sharks, snorkeling in the Galapagos provides an opportunity to see some of the ocean’s largest creatures. More advanced snorkelers will want to venture to the Devil’s Crown, an ancient volcanic crater where sea lions are known to play, and large, tropical fish are known to frequent.
Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii’s Big Island is a mecca for snorkelers for several reasons. First off, the coral reefs are healthy and the water is crystal clear, making it an ideal home for marine life. Second, unlike several of the other places on this list, a boat is not necessary to access the island’s world-class snorkeling destinations. With an abundance of gorgeous beaches and a relaxed, island vibe, the Big Island is pretty much the perfect vacation destination. If you prefer to snorkel offshore, consider trying a night dive off of the Kona Coast to observe manta rays during a nighttime feeding.
The unique location of Komodo Island in Indonesia draws snorkelers from across the globe. Located on the border of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Komodo’s marine ecosystem is extremely diverse and filled with seagrass beds and coral reefs that attract all sorts of interesting underwater creatures. From chocolate chip starfish to clownfish, manta rays to reef squid, these waters are brimming with life. Snorkelers of all levels will delight in this underwater world bursting with color and texture, a fortunate by-product of the island’s healthy and unpolluted environment. The aptly named Pink Beach offers easy snorkel access and crystal clear turquoise waters, which some may say, are the best in the world.