Beach holidays are lovely. You get to spend the day lounging under the sun, have some mojitos and fries, suntan, and head back to the hotel. You do the same the next day, and the day after, and the day after…
Sounds a little boring? Yeah, it does. But the idea of doing anything else that requires leaving the beach to trek a small mountain, or to explore another part of the island might seem like it’s too much of a hassle. So why not consider snorkeling? Snorkeling is the perfect beach holiday activity — while scuba diving may be too cumbersome (you might even need a short training course in some cases), snorkeling is a great activity that people of all ages and adrenaline levels can participate in and be fascinated by. What could be more exciting than seeing the underwater world in all its’ beauty?
We’ve compiled the ten most beautiful snorkeling destinations around the world for your next holiday, so take notes!
Ambergris Caye, Belize
This is the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia, stretching 185 miles long. If you’ve always dreamed of ticking “swimming with sharks” off your bucket list, this is the place for you! One of Ambergris Caye’ most popular snorkeling sites is Shark-Ray Alley, where friendly nurse sharks will nuzzle up to you whilst small rays swim alongside. The water is only 8 feet deep, so it’s perfect for those who may be slightly more panicky about treading in deeper waters. If you’re skittish about swimming with sharks, don’t worry, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is also home to all sorts of colorful fish and corals that you can spend the day admiring through your snorkel.
Ilha Grande, Brazil
Translating to “Big Island”, Ilha Grande lies off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. One of the most beautiful islands in Brazil, it is a sanctuary of white beaches, emerald waters and rolling hills. What’s more, it is a car-free island, making it a truly tropical paradise. The Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon) is teeming with seahorses, angelfish and even sea turtles for you to marvel at as you snorkel past the underwater caves and jungles of aquatic life. Ilha Grande has no shortage of stunning beaches so take your pick, or hit them all! What’s more, this Pirates of the Caribbean-esque experience is made even more magical by the sunken shipwrecks off the Ilha Grande coast, and artifacts from sea-battles between the Portuguese and pirates centuries ago.
The Big Island, Hawaii
We couldn’t make a list of snorkel spots without the quintessential island getaway: Hawaii. On the biggest island of the Hawaiian archipelago, the western Kona coast is many divers’ choice. Kona has many different beaches and bays, so pick a few and explore those to your heart’s content. Kealakekua Bay requires a kayak, a tough hike or a boat tour to reach, but it’s worth the journey once you immerse yourself in its’ fantastical underwater world. Honaunau Bay is another popular choice with its’ sprawling corals, friendly dolphins and cute fish.
Palawan, The Philippines
The Filipino archipelago of 7,000 small islands makes it a snorkeling paradise. Palawan Island is a particular beauty, with an incredible ecosystem home to all sorts of aquatic creatures. The Bay of Donsol is home to the harmless yet majestic whale sharks, and you can take boat tours to any of Palawan’s smaller islands like Coron and El Nido. Having a guided tour is recommended when you visit this beautiful country because they will know the best snorkel spots for you to check out.
Buck Island, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Island
A short 20-minute boat ride from Christiansted, St. Croix will take you to a pristine coral reef. Buck Island is a tiny protected island, so you can only take a day-time boat tour to explore the island and reef. This fragile ecosystem is home to multi-colored parrotfish, schools of blue tang, barracuda and if you’re lucky you’ll see an octopus! Buck Island is also home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, so check it out while you’re there!
Komodo Island, Indonesia
Don’t let the island’s namesake giant reptiles scare you off from this prime snorkel spot. Pink Beach is home to hawksbill turtles, elegant rays and groupers, with a backdrop as majestic to match the experience. Komodo National Park also has a Manta Ray Alley, and if you’re lucky, a friendly shark may come by and say hi. The park has over 1,000 species of fish and 14 different endangered whales, dolphins and sea turtles. The corals are truly magnificent despite how close they are to the shore, so you don’t need a lot of effort to see incredible beauty!
Another go-to island getaway destination, the Maldives is more than just the luxury huts on water. Beneath the waters is a whole other world for your discovery. The azure blue waters are home to over 700 species of fish, including reef sharks, turtles, sea anemones, corals and turtles. If you’re up to see some whale sharks, South Ari Atoll is your best bet to see these gentle giants. You might even get to see spinner dolphins — these adorably natural performers leap out of the water and spin in the air!
Eil Malk, Palau
If you want a slightly different snorkeling adventure (read: jellyfish), the marine lake on Eil Malk is definitely a thrilling one to experience. One of the island’s 70 marine lakes, Jellyfish Lake is home to a special breed of stingless jellyfish that are native to Palau only. Two main species of jellyfish live in this lake — the moon jellyfish and golden jellyfish. Swimming in crystal clear waters with thousands of these beautiful creatures is truly a surreal experience. After all, if you were in any other part of the world you’d be running away from such a lake!
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The classic snorkel spot for many is a constellation of small reefs that sprawl over 1,400 miles off the coast of Down Under. The sheer size may seem intimidating, but don’t worry, it’s extremely snorkel-friendly. The Whitsunday Islands are a perfect place to set base, and you can find day-long boat trips that will take you out into the Coral Sea to explore the wonders of this natural underwater haven. Lady Musgrave Island is another fantastic option, it is an uninhabited 1,200-hectare lagoon teeming with 350 different species of corals and 1,300 species of tropical fish such as clownfish and triggerfish.
Galapagos Island, Ecuador
The famous islands that so fascinated Charles Darwin will certainly inspire you too. The lush tropics and rich biodiversity make it a must-see on everyone’s bucket lists. While you usually have to scuba dive to see the ocean’s most impressive creatures, Galapagos is an exception. Snorkelers too can see the famous Galapagos green turtles as they glide effortlessly through the water, while sunfish and rays swim alongside. Unlike most tropical paradises, you get to see some aquatic mammals like the playful Galapagos fur seals and penguins. The best place to snorkel would be the Galapagos Marine Reserve, where currents are gentle. If you feel more adventurous, Devil’s Crown, a sunken inactive volcano off Floreana Island, is a prime snorkeling spot to sight moray eels. Currents are stronger here so we only recommend this snorkeling location to more experienced swimmers.
If this isn’t enough to make you book your flight to the Caribbean, think of it this way: the underwater world won’t last forever. Climate change is taking a huge toll on the ecosystems and coral bleaching is killing most of the world’s corals. Just like everyone’s desperately trying to see Venice “before it sinks” (which honestly isn’t happening in this lifetime), don’t miss your opportunity to see one of nature’s greatest creations in its full glory before it disappears.