The Most Astonishing Snorkeling Destinations in the World

Snorkeling isn’t just a fun sport; it’s a great way to see the sheer wonder of the environment just below the surface of our oceans. When you snorkel, you can see sea turtles, coral, manta rays, dozens of fish species, shallow undersea formations, and so much more. However, you need to know where to go to have a fabulous experience. Read on to learn about the top 10 places to go snorkeling!

Top 10 Snorkeling Destinations in the World

Now, where should you snorkeling for an entirely unique and exciting experience that you’ll never forget?

1. The Coral Triangle: Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Solomons

The Coral Triangle is a large area of ocean full of islands that stretches across Borneo and Bali to encompass much of Indonesia and the Philippines. It landed at the top of our list because a stunning 75 percent of all known coral species in the world live there. 

In other words, The Coral Triangle is where to go if you want to see as much coral as possible.

You also don’t have to dive deeply to see the massive variety of fish that live among the reefs. They like to swim just below the water’s surface, making themselves quite visible to even the newest snorkeler. 

2.  The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Among the most famous undersea coral formations in the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef consists of a chain of 2,900 smaller reefs strung out over 1,400 miles of ocean just off Australia’s east coast. 

While the reef has experienced severe climate change problems, it made our list because its biodiversity is still legendary. You can see hundreds of coral species, brilliantly-colored fish, manta rays, barracuda, and more. 

In addition to the underwater environment, you can also see the skeletons of sunken ships there. For centuries, the reef was very problematic for sailing vessels, which is why it’s called “The Great Barrier Reef.”  

The water is warm and excellent for snorkelers of all experience levels to see one of the world’s most extraordinary reefs. 

3. Ilha Grande, Brazil

Roughly halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, off of Brazil’s coast, sits an island that seems uninhabited. The waters in which it sits likewise appear untouched by the hand of man, but in reality, this wilderness paradise is filled with underwater coves and jungles, along with hundreds of different marine species.

Ilha Grande made our list because if you’ve ever wanted to see seahorses up close and personal, you can swim with them in the blue waters here. You can also see schools of brightly colored tropical fish and enjoy the nearly 80-degree Fahrenheit water temperatures while you swim.

Another thing that makes Ilha Grande stand out from most other snorkeling destinations is all the shipwrecks you can see from the days of the Portuguese wars with pirates. 

4. Komodo Island and Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Have you ever heard of a hawksbill turtle? It’s a type of sea turtle, and it’s one of many that you can swim with and observe at Komodo Island. The island is already famous for its giant lizard, the Komodo Dragon, and Pink Beach has an underwater garden where you can see the turtles, rays, and groupers. 

You can also swim offshore near Komodo National Park and see over 1,000 species of fish, 260 types of coral, and 14 endangered species, including whale and dolphin species.

Komodo Island is on our list because it’s a World Heritage site, so it’s carefully maintained. There’s a lushness and life there that’s getting more difficult to find due to climate change.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Indonesia)

5. Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

One of the most dramatic sights in the world is a humpback whale breaching the ocean’s surface and then falling back in with a spectacular splash. If you think you have to go to Alaska to see this wondrous sight, take heart. You can see them near Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic between December and April.

Silver Bank is off-limits to large ships, including cruise ships, because the water is so shallow. That makes it excellent for humpback whales because they don’t have massive, floating steel and iron structures disturbing their habitat there. 

We put this spot on our list because of the unique opportunity to see the humpback whale in warm waters. It’s also part of the Caribbean, so it has warm weather pretty much all year round.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Dominican Republic)

6. The Maldives

One of the more popular vacation destinations in the world, the Maldives is an archipelago of small islands that are home to at least 700 species of fish like tuna wahoos and butterflyfish. 

If those don’t pique your interest, you can also see beautiful and strange sea anemones, sharks, turtles, and even octopi. 

You can see coral, too, although there isn’t as much in the Maldives as there is elsewhere. This chain of tiny islands made our list because, if you’d rather not go snorkeling one or two days while you’re there, you can explore the undersea gardens that can only exist courtesy of the exquisitely clear water in the area.

7. Mauritius

Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, just east of Madagascar, off Africa’s coast. We put Mauritius on our list because of the clear water that adds to the snorkeling experience and because you can go snorkeling right from the beach. At many destinations, you need to take a boat out. 

This part of the Indian Ocean serves as the home of many very brightly colored exotic fish, including clownfish like Nemo from Disney’s “Finding Nemo.” You’ll also see angelfish, parrotfish, damselfish, and more while you’re swimming around. 

Mauritius has a bonus: You can also watch planes take off and land quite close to the shoreline. The airport there was recently renovated and is some of the most interesting airport architecture you’ll see.

8. Palau, Micronesia

Palau, a chain of islands in Micronesia in the South Pacific, hosts a variety of exotic fish, sea turtles, sharks, and manta rays. Seeing all these species together on a shallow, healthy reef makes any snorkeling trip worth it.

But what sets Palau apart, and why it’s on our list, is that you get the unique opportunity to snorkeling with jellyfish that don’t sting. Jellyfish Lake is a boat ride and short hike away from wherever you’re staying, and you can swim with thousands of jellyfish without getting a painful, poisonous sting.

You can even touch a jellyfish and find out how weird they feel since you don’t have to fear them.

9. Whitesunday Islands, Australia

Bait Reef in the Whitesunday Islands of Australia is another area of coral reefs, which are common in that part of the world. However, this reef makes our list because it’s the best place to see interesting and rare coral formations, like the Stepping Stones.

The Stepping Stones are 20 flat-topped pillars nearly 80 feet tall that line up in an incredibly precise way. Some describe them as looking like soldiers in formation. But even better is the fact that they are entirely covered in coral.

Such large coral growths give you a rare opportunity to see many coral species up close and personal, as long as you don’t touch any of them. However, you should be careful exploring the Stepping Stones because small fish like to dart in and out of the coral near the tops of the pillars.

10. Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii draws all kinds of people from all over the world. Hikers, climbers, surfers, explorers, divers, snorkelers, and vacationers alike all enjoy everything from the deep blue ocean to the white sandy beaches and the jungles that make up the small island chain.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii)

Kealakekua Bay, at Big Island, is a popular snorkeling destination. You get some of the best of the snorkeling worlds here: Coral, dolphins, vibrantly colored fish, and sea turtles, among other marine life. You can only access the water three ways: On foot, through a jungle trail, or on a paddleboat or kayak. 

Big Island makes our list not just because of that, but because it’s got some history as well. In 1779, local Hawaiians killed Captain James Cook, a British explorer and circumnavigator. The island has a bright white obelisk to memorialize him.

(Want to explore more? Try reading; Most Lively Snorkeling Destinations in the World )

Wrap-Up

Regardless of which of these destinations you choose for your next (or first) snorkeling trip, you’re sure to have an incredible experience full of wonder and the sheer beauty that is the undersea world. 

Whether you want to see big marine animals like whales and sea turtles, small, colorful marine life, undersea formations, coral, or some combination of all of that, you’ll find it in at least one of these places.

Don’t forget to check out other parts of these snorkeling destinations, too. The snorkeling may be why you’re there, but there are many other things to see, also, on land and at sea. You’ll bring home a world of memories (and a million pictures) after one of these trips.

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