The 10 Most Lively Snorkeling Destinations in the World

Simply viewing the ocean from above is a breathtaking experience. But going under the surface, even for a short amount of time, provides a whole new perspective on the ocean and everything it has to offer. That is why snorkeling stands out.

Snorkeling can be fun all across the world, with different parts of the planet providing attractive features that would make the ocean appealing.

Though many fish hide from snorkelers via camouflage to avoid predators, even seeing this process is a fascinating sight, as in doing so they change colors quickly.

In many parts of the world, snorkeling provides sights unique to their location. From penguins on a beach, underwater mountains, and even works of art, join us in our list of the top 10 Most Lively Snorkeling Destinations in the World, along with some notable honorable mentions.

10 Best Snorkeling Destinations in the World

Check out our list of the best snorkeling destinations in the world, featuring extensive coral reefs, fish unique to their location, and much more.

1. The Great Barrier Reef

The largest coral reef in the world covers an incredible 133,000 square miles of area. Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, this coral reef is so big that stating all of its amazing features would probably require a separate article.

With 1625 species of fish, the Great Barrier Reef contains around 10% of the worldwide fish population. The reef is also home to 6 out of all 7 species of sea turtles. Furthermore, there are around 3000 individual reefs and 300 coral cays.

With so many species of wildlife, it is hard to pick one unique feature of this place. Snorkeling allows the viewer to see wildlife at close range, like many species of rays, dolphins, whales, and sharks. 

One feature that does stand out is interacting with the dwarf minke whales, which are exclusively unique to the Great Barrier Reef. 

Dwarf minke whales are present in this reef during June and July. These harmless whales often approach divers, and many tourist areas offer a chance to swim with these friendly whales.

2. The Galapagos Islands

While the Galapagos Islands provide great wonders of the natural world on the surface, what snorkeling here can provide is just as impressive.

Common underwater sights here include the Galapagos fur seal and the Galapagos green turtle, both of which provide close and safe proximity to the snorkelers. 

Even more impressively, Galapagos is the only place on Earth where iguanas swim, and snorkeling provides a chance to see them dive and swim for algae.

The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin in the world found north of the equator. As its name suggests, it’s only home is in the Galapagos Islands. If visitors are lucky, they will have a chance to swim with these exotic penguins.

Finally, another unique feature found off the islands’ coast is the large number of colorful wildlife in the waters, with many exotic and unique species of eels, rays, and more than 400 species of tropical fish.

3. The Big Island, Hawaii

Snorkeling off the coast of the largest island in Hawaii provides an intimate snorkeling experience with many marine wildlife species.

Many parts of the island offer snorkeling in areas where the manta rays can be seen, including the reef manta rays, which are the second-largest species of their kind in the world.

Meanwhile, those looking for vibrant coral reefs can go to Kealakekua Bay, which also features spinner dolphins, sea turtles, and lizardfish to add a unique touch to this area. 

Honaunau Bay’s clear waters allow for the visibility of up to 100 feet of depth while also being close to volcanic rock. This bay also allows for the view of various species of fish and, if a visitor is lucky, an occasional octopus.

Finally, the Big Island offers an amazing snorkeling experience for beginners at Kahalu’u Beach Park, a lifeguard on duty and shallow waters. This area features tide pools and sea turtles swimming up to the shore.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii)

4. Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada

This island nation of a relatively small population offers a different snorkeling experience than other places on this listicle. Though there are spots for snorkeling with the marine wildlife in proximity, another underwater wonder is worth seeing.

Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park features sculptures of life-size figures made of cement, describing humans and their interactions for those who enjoy both being underwater and works of art.

Opened in 2007 as the world’s first underwater sculpture park, this exhibit was designed by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor to provide a sanctuary for corals, algae, and sponges, therefore adding a marine decoration to the already impressive underwater artwork.

5. Komodo, Indonesia

Though Komodo is famous for its native Komodo Dragons, Komodo National Park’s waters are as intriguing as snorkeling gets.

The extensive reefs of Komodo include native species of pufferfish, angelfish, cuttlefish, and lionfish. Much of the marine life in Komodo National Park has been noted by many observers to be larger in size than in other locations across the world.

Finally, Komodo features extensive amounts of both hard and soft coral reefs, which contributes significantly to the marine wildlife’s diversity.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Indonesia)

6. The Maldives

This nation of beautiful ocean scenery should come as no surprise as one of the ideal places to go snorkeling. Its location in the heart of the Indian Ocean offers visitors a breathtaking experience underwater.

Primarily composed of coral reefs and anemones, there are many areas of depth in the Maldives. These areas can be explored when the tide is right, but it is worth the wait, as snorkelers can get an up close look at life under the sea.

This is not to mention the incredible amount of fish often around this area, including rays, barracuda, whale sharks, giant clams, tuna, and octopus. Keep in mind that there are multiple species of most marine wildlife found in the Maldives.

7. Palau

This pacific island country was the first to declare its national waters as a marine reserve in 2015. And after observing the stunning nature of these waters, it is not hard to see why.

With over 700 species of either hard or soft coral, along with many reefs being visible from just under the surface, simply taking a swim underwater will expose visitors to a vibrant, exotic area of the ocean.

Furthermore, Palau’s coral reefs can withstand outside issues such as global warming due to the setting and conditions, ensuring plenty of lively and vibrant coral reefs throughout the area.

The marine life in the water is just as impressive. The renowned Jellyfish Lake allows snorkelers to interact with hundreds of small, friendly jellyfish. 

There are also various species of sharks, sponges, parrotfish, and mandarinfish in the waters surrounding Palau. Interestingly,  various species of sharks are more likely to be seen in Palau due to the nation’s previous conservation efforts.

8. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

These islands filled with limestone provide a close-up view of coral reefs like no other. Featuring one of the world’s most plentiful coral reef systems, along with clear waters, this is a magnet for cool and creative underwater photoshoots.

Marine life present in these islands includes small and harmless black-tip reef sharks and various angelfish, clownfish, and butterflyfish species. Rarer creatures like octopuses, the giant moray, and the black-spotted puffer are also present.

Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are two colorful underwater mountains filled with coral and sponges to create a large and vibrant setting. They are also a hotspot for the large whale sharks and manta rays, especially during the peak season.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Thailand)

9. Fiji

Fiji’s island is already known worldwide for its breathtaking beaches and volcanos, but Fiji’s beauty extends beyond the mainland.

Though Fiji hosts hundreds of soft coral species and is home to multiple extensive reefs, the Great White Wall is a sight to behold. Measuring 150 feet and depth and 200 feet in length, it is a giant wall of soft white coral.

Another spectacle of coral reefs located in Fiji is the Great Astrolabe Reef, the fourth-largest coral reef in the world, which hosts species such as marlins, sharks, manta rays, and snappers.

Other marine life includes various triggerfish, whales, turtles, and dolphins. One exotic species not found worldwide is the blue ribbon eel, known for its color-changing and its literal jaw-dropping reaction when a diver approaches.

(Read about the other Best Snorkeling Spots in Fiji)

10. Seychelles

This archipelago has taken measures to protect 60% of its wildlife, both in the mainland and off the shore, ensuring that viewing wildlife here provides a firsthand look at wildlife at it’s finest, wherever a tourist may choose to go.

There are around 100 different dive sites located throughout Seychelles, while the island of Mahé allows for divers to view shipwrecks that have since been inhabited by marine life.

The coral reefs in Seychelles feature much rare flora and fauna, and everyone must see the species surrounding the coral reefs in real life. Many sharks can be found, such as whale sharks, tawny nurse sharks, hammerhead sharks, and grey reef sharks.

Other marine life present in Seychelles includes the exotic humphead wrasse and various species of parrotfish, tuna, and turtles. Large and small, friendly, and dangerous, Seychelles is the definition of an exotic sight.

A Few Other Destinations Worthy of Mention

  • Great Blue Hole, Belize
  • Barracuda Point, Malaysia
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Florida Keys

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

Where to Snorkel Next

The ocean is a vast, mysterious place full of life. We can almost picture it as another world entirely compared to the planet we live in. Even though it once seemed that we could not explore this world, we have defied that notion and made it possible.

This possibility allows us to learn and experience a place that cannot be compared, and the locations on this list are a listing of all the ventures and sights that the ocean has to offer us mainland folk.

Therefore, we highly recommend readers to consider visiting one of the many locations that the ocean shows its immensity.

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