With spring and warmer waters just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to hop on plane, find a great beach and connect with your inner Jacques Cousteau. Here are 10 of our favorite snorkeling spots for you to explore.
1. Heron Bay, Barbados
Towards the northern end of this white-sand beach, shallow reefs create a snorkeler’s paradise. You’re guaranteed to spot plenty of colorful tropical fish and bright corals, and you may even come across a hawksbill or leatherback turtle if you’re lucky. The Heron Bay house, a magnificent coral stone home nearby, has played host to many famous guests, including Bill Clinton, Sir Winston Churchill and numerous movie stars.
2. Salt Cay, Turks & Caicos
The turquoise waters off this scenic cay offer ideal viewing of marine life both great and small. Underwater forests of elk horn coral abound with resident nurse sharks and stingrays. Plus, the British warship HMS Endymion, wrecked on a coral reef here in 1790, lies in just 20 feet of clear, shallow water.
3. The Exuma Cays, Bahamas
Blue Hole Bay takes the prize for one of the most mystical snorkel excursions you could ever imagine. An underwater cave systems runs from a six-foot-deep lagoon to the deep-blue depths of more than 650 feet. It’s a mecca for free divers. Plus, the nearby Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park features 22 miles of world-class sea gardens, with spectacular reefs and marine life. Stay on your own private island at Innocence Island or Stocking Island and explore the sea wonderlands to your heart’s content.
4. Anegada, British Virgin Islands
Where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet, you’ll find this jewel of an isle, a long-time favorite of Caribbean jetsetters. A line of scenic reefs forms a shallow lagoon where you’ll see thousands of tropical fish, mantis shrimp, needlefish, and – if you’re lucky – even sea turtles and flamingos.
5. Culebra, Puerto Rico
The whole place abounds with snorkeling opportunities, but if you want to avoid the beach parties and have a reef all to yourself, walk 20 minutes across the island to Carlos Rosario Beach, one of the best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean. Culebra is easy to get to from the San Juan area – after a glorious day exploring in the sun, return to Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton for a luxurious dinner and a good night’s sleep.
6. Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Belize
This park covers just 1.4 acres of land and water, but it is packed with exotic marine life and photogenic coves. Snorkeling on Belize’s barrier reef, the second largest in the world, you’ll enjoy coral gardens swarming with fish, sea turtles, eels and more, plus offshore caves where pelicans and brown boobies nest.
7. Kahalu’u Beach, The Big Island, Hawaii
Kahalu’u Beach Park (pronounced: Kah-hah-loo) is a family-friendly spot on the Kona coast perfect for some world-class snorkeling and picnicking. It’s not your classic white-sand beach (it’s more salt and pepper sand), but it’s still the perfect place to learn how to snorkel. You’ll not only spot plenty of tropical fish and some incredible brain coral, but you’re almost guaranteed to see green sea turtles up close.
8. Chileno Bay, Cabo San Lucas
Jacques Cousteau himself famously referred to the Sea of Cortez as the “aquarium of the world.” Chileno Bay, one of the cleanest beaches in all of Mexico, is especially good for snorkeling because the boats stay far offshore and you can swim alongside playful sea lions and more than 40 different types of fish in peace. Plus, there are a world-class resorts close by that make great homes away from home, including Villas del Mar and Hacienda.
9. Bunaken National Marine Park, Indonesia
If it’s diversity you’re after, look no further than Bunaken National Marine Park in the Sulawesi archipelago. Created in 1991 to protect the extensive and pristine coral reefs, the park boasts incredible biodiversity, with huge varieties of corals and more than 2,500 species of fish. Bring your camera.
10. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
This collection of 2,500 reefs covers an area as large as California, and there are so many exciting spots for snorkeling here, we couldn’t pick just one. If you’re after bigger prey, however, you might try Green, Heron or Lady Elliot Islands, where the shallows are inhabited by spotted eagle rays, manta rays, green sea turtles and hundreds of species of reef fish.