We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.
Love snorkeling? You're not alone. In 2019, there were an estimated 20 million people who participated in snorkeling worldwide, according to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Affordable, fun, and suitable for all skill levels, snorkeling is a mainstay of summer beach vacations. It's also a great way to get some low-impact exercise while exploring the wonders of ocean life. Already daydreaming about your next snorkeling adventure? Grab a mask, snorkel, and fins, and dip your toes in the waters off these eight great snorkeling beaches around the world.
Ghar Lapsi, Malta
Rocky coastlines are often the best spots for snorkeling since you don't have to navigate waters clouded by sand and mud. The Mediterranean island of Malta has rocky shorelines in spades, and they're paired with crystal clear waters — which means the island is full of great snorkeling spots. One of the standout beaches for snorkelers is Ghar Lapsi. The small, sheltered bay sits on the southern coast of the island, just northwest of the famous Blue Grotto, and has clear, deep waters with an abundance of sea life. And, when you get hungry in between snorkeling sessions, you can't go wrong with the fresh seafood and other Maltese delicacies at Ta' Rita Lapsi View or Carmen's Bar and Restaurant.
Hanauma Bay, Hawaii
Hanauma Bay State Park is a marine life conservation area located 12 miles east of Honolulu on Oahu's south shore. Its protected status has allowed sea life to flourish, and combined with a sheltered shoreline, has made the bay one of the most frequented snorkeling spots in the entire state of Hawaii. The waters are perfect for divers of all ages, with opportunities to see colorful fish, coral, wild spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and, if you're lucky, green sea turtles. All visitors must watch a video before entering the park, where they learn about protecting wildlife and engaging in responsible snorkeling practices, and remember that touching any of the marine life is forbidden.
The Baths, British Virgin Islands
If you prefer to split your time between the shore and sea, The Baths at the southwestern tip of the island of Virgin Gorda is the place to be. The "baths" are actually shallow pools that form along the area's rocky coastline and are filled with warm water. Venture outside the cozy baths, however, and you'll find some world-class snorkeling off of Devil's Bay Beach. The impossibly clear Caribbean waters here are also home to thousands of fish varieties, so you'll spend many happy hours admiring shoals of vibrant sea life, plus a variety of colorful coral. The beach forms part of the 58-acre Devil's Bay National Park, established in 1964.
Secret Beach, Belize
Secret Beach isn't really a secret. In fact, it's one of the hottest spots on Ambergris Caye, with restaurants and bars dotting the coastline. But if you came here to snorkel, you won't be disappointed. Ambergris Caye is also Belize's largest island and located next to the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the Northern and Western Hemispheres. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef is only second in size to Australia's Great Barrier Reef and is home to thousands of protected species such as loggerhead turtles, green turtles, American crocodiles, and West Indian manatees. If you get tired of snorkeling, rent an inner tube and spend the rest of your day soaking up the sun with a cold drink in hand.
West Bay, Honduras
Many American travelers don't have Honduras high on their lists, but snorkelers take note: The island of Roatan, 20 miles off the mainland, is home to a protected marine reserve that is considered one of the best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean. Head to West Bay for calm, pristine waters and the opportunity to mingle with some 400 species of fish and 70 species of coral. The coral reef stretches nearly to the shoreline, which makes it easy to spot marine life without straying too far from the beach area. It's no wonder that snorkelers from all over the world flock here every summer.
Ras Um El Sid, Egypt
The Caribbean hasn't totally cornered the market on snorkeling spots. If you're craving an out-of-the-box experience for your next marine adventure, head to Ras Um El Sid at the northern tip of the Red Sea. The waters here are calm and warm, but a big plus is the relatively low number of tourists compared to many parts of the Caribbean. Snorkelers here will find a reef full of fan coral and native fish species that drops off spectacularly into the Red Sea. Ras Mohamed National Park is also located nearby, another great spot to snorkel if you want to skip the beach filled with sun worshipers.
Descanso Beach, California
If you don't want to pack a passport for your snorkeling adventure, you can still find incredible snorkeling sites all along America's shores. Despite being located just 20 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island offers a tranquil atmosphere with few cars and an almost Mediterranean feel. Many Angelenos head here for a quick getaway from the city, and snorkeling is one of the top activities. You'll find some of the island's best snorkeling off Descanso Beach, a secluded private beach that's open to the public for a small fee. Dive into the clear waters and keep a lookout for sea urchins, Garibaldi fish, and calico bass. And once you've had your fill of underwater fun, stroll along the beach to collect a sea glass souvenir to take home.
Apo Island, Philippines
This secluded volcanic island off the coast of Dumaguete in the Philippines has no shortage of incredible snorkeling sites. That's because Apo Reef — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — surrounds the island, and its colorful coral creates a protective sanctuary for marine life. The entire 55-acre marine habitat is also fully protected by the National Integrated Protected Area Act (NIPA). As a result, the area is home to more than 400 species of coral and 650 species of fish. However, what really makes this place a must-visit destination for snorkelers is the chance to swim with giant sea turtles: The gentle creatures are accustomed to humans, and at Apo Island, you get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them up close.