You could visit the aquarium, or watch Finding Nemo for the 100th time, but if it’s an amazing underwater adventure you’re after, all you need is a mask, a snorkel and fins—and, of course, the right destination. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, here are some locales that should be on your radar. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Galápagos Islands, these are the best snorkeling spots in the world.
The 19 Best Places in the World to Go Snorkeling
Great Barrier Reef (australia)
This 1,429-mile ecosystem is the largest living thing on earth. To put things in perspective, the Great Barrier Reef is so huge, it’s visible from outer space. It also boasts 600 types of hard and soft coral plus numerous species of fish, mollusks, dolphins, sharks and turtles.
Komodo National Park (indonesia)
Go to this Indonesian national park for the Komodo dragons (it’s one of only five places in the world where you can see these fantastical lizards in the wild), stay for the awe-inspiring snorkeling. Beneath the waves, you’ll witness an array of exotic creatures.
Galapagos Islands (ecuador)
The volcanic archipelago is famed for its diverse wildlife, both on land and in the sea—remember all that stuff about Darwin’s finches? That was here. Visitors can encounter a mesmerizing array of marine inhabitants—sea lions, turtles, dolphins, orcas and humpback whales.
White House Reef Snorkel Trail (turks & Caicos)
Grace Bay Beach lures travelers with its powder-soft sand and tranquil, turquoise waters. Set off this award-winning slice of paradise, the White House Reef Snorkel Trail offers many opportunities to catch a glimpse of barracuda, spiny lobsters and even the occasional nurse shark.
Raja Ampat (indonesia)
When it comes to marine diversity, Raja Ampat (or “Four Kings”) is in a league of its own. Not only is it home to 450 coral species but also thousands of different fish, sea turtles, manta rays and sharks. What you won’t find? Hordes of tourists.
Great Blue Hole (belize)
Belize is blessed with so many abyssal attractions, but for scuba diving enthusiasts, none compare to the Great Blue Hole, made famous by French explorer Jacques Cousteau. Thankfully, you can also experience the majesty of this massive marine cavern from the surface. Just book a boat and pack your snorkel.
Jellyfish Lake (micronesia)
Jellyfish probably aren’t what you most hope to encounter while swimming. However, there’s a place in Palau where you can float alongside these gelatinous beings without worry. Located on Eil Malk island, this aptly named lake is full of harmless jellies. Cool, huh?
Kealakekua Bay (hawaii)
Hawaii isn’t lacking in snorkeling sites, but Kealakekua Bay stands out with its history and hypnotic inhabitants. For prime marine-life peeping, head to the protected waters in front of Captain James Cook Monument, an obelisk dedicated to the British circumnavigator.
Ambergris Caye (belize)
The crown jewel of Belize has a lot going for it, from sandy beaches to top-notch snorkeling. Off the eastern shore is the second largest barrier reef in the world, which provides endless opportunities for aquatic adventure—whether you want to stay close to the coast or venture out further.
Silver Bank (dominican Republic)
Ever dreamed of snorkeling alongside humpback whales? Visit this bucket-list destination between December and April, when these magnificent marine mammals migrate to the warm, shallow waters of Silver Bank to mate and breed.
The Baths (british Virgin Islands)
Situated on the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda, The Baths is the most picturesque attraction on the island. Huge granite boulders (some 40 feet in diameter!) form sheltered tidal pools, grottoes and tunnels where the sea meets the sand.
The ultimate honeymoon destination, the Maldives promises sun, fun and sophistication. Oh, and did we mention there’s awesome snorkeling? In addition to posh resorts and private beaches, there’s a slew of underwater wonders—from anemonefish and giant clams to octopus and critically endangered hawksbill turtles.
Uepi Island (solomon Islands)
Bordered by Marovo Lagoon on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, Uepi Island is known for its oh-so-Instagrammable scenery. You don’t have to venture far from the white sand beach to peep protected reefs teeming with eagle rays, barracuda and batfish.
Lagoa Azul (brazil)
Halfway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo lies Ilha Grande. It’s here that you’ll find Lagoa Azul. Calm, shallow waters are ideal for snorkeling. There are also submerged caves to explore. Beyond that, you’re bound to see angelfish, seahorses and turtles.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve (belize)
Proximity to San Pedro is just one of the reasons Hol Chan is so popular. Comprising miles of coral gardens, seagrass beds and mangroves forests, this OG marine reserve is a playground for stingrays, moray eels and grouper—as well as tourists who go to see these intriguing creatures.
Western Blue Cut (bermuda)
There are a handful of great snorkel spots in Bermuda, but Western Blue Cut blows ’em all out of the water. Puns aside, this remarkable area has a lot to offer—including several shipwrecks (the Montana, Constellation and Lartington). Keep an eye out for paddlewheels, steam boiler tanks and propellers.
Isla Holbox (mexico)
Part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, Isla Holbox is a hub of ecotourism renowned as the top spot for swimming with whale sharks! Back on land, vacationers drive around in golf carts (there are no cars). Sounds like heaven, right?
Blue Bay Marine Park (mauritius)
For those not familiar, Mauritius sits east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. This independent island nation brims with natural beauty. Case in point: Blue Bay Marine Park, which wins points for its unmatched visibility and tons of vibrant fish.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (florida)
This Key Largo treasure earns praise as the first underwater park in the United States—and its allure has stood the test of time. Snorkeling is the main draw. Down for more aquatic activities? There’s also glass-bottom boat tours, kayaking, paddle boarding and scuba instruction.