The best snorkeling spots are usually anywhere there’s a coral reef because coral provides both food and shelter for the small colorful fish and sea life that we see when we snorkel.
Snorkeling in the Caribbean
Trunk Bay on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Trunk Bay has such good snorkeling that there’s a self-guided 205m-long (673-ft.) trail with large underwater signs that identify species of coral and other items of interest. The beach at Trunk Bay has showers, changing rooms, equipment rentals, and a lifeguard.
Buck Island on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands
There are more than 250 species of fish, as well as a variety of sponges, corals and crustaceans, at this U.S. National Park Service protected coral reef.
Curacao Underwater Marine Park on Curacao
Sunken ships, gardens of hard and soft coral, and millions of fish are a snorkeler’s treat at this Marine Park off of Curacao’s southern coast.
Stingray City on Grand Cayman
This is one of the few great snorkeling spots that aren’t at a coral reef. You can swim with, pet, and feed dozens of Atlantic Southern Stingrays who congregate at the warm, shallow waters of Stingray City.
No Name Beach on Klein Bonaire in Bonaire
All of Bonaire’s abundant coral reefs are a designated National Marine Park zone, but the best snorkeling is at Klein Bonaire. Some of the things you can expect to see here are fire and orange cup corals, angel fish, tube sponges, and sea turtles.
Snorkeling in Hawaii
Hanauma Bay on Oahu in Hawaii
Hanauma Bay is probably the most well-known of Hawaii’s snorkeling spots because of its location on Oahu, not far from Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, and its high fish population. Despite its popularity (which sometimes results in large crowds), Hanauma Bay is where you’ll find the best snorkeling in Oahu. Some of the marine life you might see at Hanauma Bay include butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, moorish idol, tang, wrasse, cardinal fish, squirrel fish, big eyes, perch, chub, trigger fish, goat fish, snapper, porcupine fish, hawk fish, jacks, mullet, trumpet fish, cornet fish, needle fish, eels, crustaceans, and invertebrates.
Molokini Crater off of Maui in Hawaii
The island of Maui has what many people consider the best snorkeling in Hawaii, and Molokini is the best snorkeling in Maui. It’s a partially sunken volcanic crater that can be accessed only by boat. With fantastic visibility that provides clear viewing up to 150 feet deep and 250 different species of fish – some found nowhere else on earth – Molokini Crater is one of the world’s best places to snorkel.
Kapalua Bay on Maui in Hawaii
Kapalua has a nice, protected sandy beach with good snorkeling on the north side. Its calm waters are especially good for beginners.
Honaunau Bay on the Big Island in Hawaii
Honaunau Bay is fronted by large, smooth, lava rocks that are just about the same height as the water line. That makes it a perfect place to sit and put on your snorkel gear. The water’s depth near shore averages about 10 feet and then drops significantly towards the center of the bay. The result is a snorkel spot that attracts a large variety of marine life and is good for beginner through expert snorkelers (and divers).
Ke’e Beach Park on Kauai in Hawaii
Ke’e Beach on Kauai’s North Shore offers great snorkeling during summer months when the ocean is calm. Snorkelers have the opportunity to see a wide variety of colorful fish, and possibly even green sea turtles. The beach itself looks like a tropical fantasy with its lush backshore vegetated by ironwood trees, coconut palms, ti, and guava.
Snorkeling in Florida
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys
“Established in 1963, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in the United States. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length.”
Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys
Dry Tortugas National Park is located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. It’s accessible by boat or seaplane. In addition to the abundant marine life you’ll find here, there are lots of shipwrecks in the area to be explored.
Biscayne National Park near Miami, Florida
Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park is offshore, so you’ll need a boat to get there. Once there you’ll be surrounded by crystal clear waters, colorful and healthy coral reefs brimming with marine life, and shallow water shipwrecks. Some of the marine life you might see include beautiful hard and soft corals, shrimp, fans and sponges, parrot fish, squirrel fish, trumpet fish, angel fish, and blue tang.
Crystal River in Crystal River, Florida
This is another one of those snorkeling spots that aren’t at a coral reef. Just as Stingray City is the place to snorkel with stingrays, Crystal River is the place to snorkel with manatees. The springs and protected estuary of Crystal River are the best place in the U.S. to encounter manatees. Make sure you follow the guidelines, though, because manatees are a protected species. Guides will gladly help you with manatee etiquette; for instance, gentle contact is allowed, but only if initiated by the manatee.
Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys
Looe Key Reef is located about 5 miles offshore of Big Pine Key and is accessible by boat. The reef is home to over 150 species of fish including yellowtail, angel fish, parrot fish, barracuda, sergeant majors, moray eel, and around fifty species of coral, which have been growing here for over 700 years.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin