updated February 21, 2020
This post may contain affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission if you click on a link & purchase something that we’ve recommended – at no extra cost to you. This helps us to keep our site running so we can continue to provide free content.
We love to snorkel when we travel to snorkel friendly destinations. We do schlepp our own gear, but have found that many destinations let you rent gear if needed. We compiled a list of the best snorkel destinations around the world we have visited on our travels.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, this is one of the best snorkel experiences we have had. We never imagined such an abundance of sea life could exist in one location. As our journey started, we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of schooling fish. A magical moment, we were part of the school, letting ourselves be immersed by the moment before continuing on to see what else the area had to offer.
There were giant clams of purple and pink hues, bannerfish, coral fish, sea anemone fish (aka Nemo). The reefs were teeming with life and the water was a warm royal blue, clear, and inviting. We used 100 Degrees East to take us from Koh Samui and couldn’t be happier with their small crew-to-passenger ratio, knowledgeable staff, and fast speedboats. They also bring you to places that are less populated by other snorkelers, which is always a plus.
Molokini Crater, Maui
Of course, anyone would want to snorkel around a 150 thousand-year-old crater that is home to a marine sanctuary. We did. It looked as if we were staring out into the blue sky, that’s how great the visibility was at Molokini. I have never before seen water of such a strong blue.
The kids loved chasing after the many fish, just as long as they didn’t get too close to the edge of the crater. This can be a bit tricky as the current can drag you over without you realizing it because you’re so mesmerized by the different fish swimming past. We saw, butterflyfish, Moorish idol, soldierfish, pufferfish, needlefish, filefish, squirrelfish, triggerfish, unicornfish, parrotfish. My daughter even claimed to have seen an elusive octopus. We booked with Four Winds Maui, and glad we did. They were helpful, informative, and very family-friendly. The boat even had a glass bottom for kids to look into.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Belize has the second largest reef system in the world and we were ready to conquer it, all of it. We jumped right into the turquoise warm waters and headed straight for an area known as the Mexico Rocks Nature Reserve.
With a bit of insight into what we would see, we were guided by a knowledgeable guide who pointed out the rays, fish, lobsters, types of coral, and eels. Nurse sharks approached with caution as they swam ever so close to us, but not close enough that we could touch them. A Moray eel even danced its way out of hiding and darted our way almost as if it were headed right for us, but last-minute turned and slithered off.
Belize is full of life both on and off the land and for sure worth the off-land snorkel adventure. We spent the morning with Searious Adventures. They were patient with the kids, and guided us through the snorkeling, pointing out different species or marine life. It was a great lesson for all of us.
Cemetery Beach, Grand Cayman
This slice of beach nestled between private residences is just right for a relaxing day of beach going and snorkeling. You will need to bring your own gear, beach items and most importantly food and water as there is nothing there, but beach and ocean. The reef is located about 30 yards off the beach, so may not be the best for younger less experienced kids, although ours loved it. Swim out and enjoy looking for sergeant majors, jacks, snappers and eels. Once you tire out, head back to the beach to lie under the shade of the palm trees while listening to the water lap against the beach. Doesn’t get much more relaxing.
Due to the topography of the Red Sea, most snorkeling, and for that matter, scuba-diving is done right offshore. This makes it convenient for an easy drive; you won’t need to rent out a boat tour company for a day and sail out to a reef. Coral Reef Nature Reserve, The Nature reserve is a great place for families. The park is set up with a shop renting out gear as well as offering some beach supplies for sale and small sundries for sale. Upon exiting the shop visitors will find a shaded area with picnic tables where you can stop to get everything prepared for your snorkel adventure.
There are also clean restrooms with showers for public use. You will see a wonderful array of beautiful fish and coral. The water is perfectly clear. There is colorful coral and some damage. We spotted a giant clam, surgeonfish, sergeant fish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, cornetfish, clown croris, and many species of wrasse.
San Jose Island, Panama
San Jose Island, Panama is the ultimate snorkeling destination due to the lack of visitors. We were the only ones at the time snorkeling her many coves. We were able to snorkel right off the beaches, no need to take a boat out to a designated destination. For those that experience sea-sickness, make this a snorkel destination.
There were plenty of fish and coral formations to see right around the rocks off the beaches. We did bring our own equipment, but you can rent from the only resort on the island. Although the surf was a bit choppy, it didn’t get in the way of exploring offshore. Go in the morning while the surf is still calm and the fish are out exploring.