The world’s best snorkeling spots not only boast postcard-perfect tropical destinations but also offer access to colourful coral reefs and fascinating marine life that live beneath the waves. Like an underwater utopia, ocean lovers can float through azure waters and gaze upon a kaleidoscope of vibrant fish.
With over 400 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve discovered the world’s best snorkeling spots for underwater explorers. From swimming with manta rays in Australia to spying whale sharks in Belize, here are eight of the best snorkeling destinations around the world where you can have an epic aquatic adventure.
Best Snorkeling Spot: Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is without a doubt one of the world’s best snorkeling spots, as its the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Stretching about 344,400 square kilometres, snorkelers will be delighted with eye-popping coral reefs, as well as a chance to see barracuda, manta rays, dolphins and turtles. An easy place to start your exploration is the Whitsunday Islands, right off the shore of Queensland. But visit this gorgeous snorkeling spot soon, as experts suggest the reef could become extinct by 2050.
One of the best Great Barrier Reef resorts, Qualia offers world-class luxury in the Whitsundays. Located on the northern tip of Hamilton overlooking the Great Barrier Reef, the lavish resort features a blissful on-site spa and waterfront restaurants serving ocean-fresh cuisines. Sip a glass of wine at the private beachside bar, take a dip in one of the outdoor pools or sign up for snorkeling, sailing and kayaking excursions.
Choose from one of the spacious light-filled Pavilions that face the water, which feature natural tones of timber, stone and glass and offer sweeping Whitsunday views. Stay in a Windward Pavilion for a spacious living room, private sundeck with an infinity-edge plunge pool and ocean-facing bedroom, or upgrade to a Beach House for an open-plan style with panoramic Coral Sea and Whitsunday island views.
- Regular afternoon Masterclasses that pairs fine with cheese, champagne with oysters or sake with sashimi.
- Signature spa treatments, including full body massages, tropical fresh flower baths and age-defying facials.
- Just 2.4 kilometres from Catseye Beach and excursions available to the Hamilton Island Golf Club.
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 890 – USD 3,652
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 20 Whitsunday Boulevard, Hamilton Island, Australia
Best Snorkeling Spot: The Maldives
The Maldives is the ultimate tropical island getaway, home to 1,200 picture-perfect coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Grab some fins and experience the island’s colourful underwater wonders, as you’re spoilt for choice with crystal-clear waters filled with mesmerising marine life. In addition to underwater gardens, it’s home to 700 species of fish, giant clams, octopus and dolphins. The Baa Atoll is the best snorkeling spot in the Maldives, offering a chance to swim with manta rays, whale sharks and sea turtles in a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Experience one of the top tropical island vacations in the world when staying at Bandos Maldives, a picture-perfect paradise with an award-winning dive center, multiple restaurants and bars and a lavish spa. Grab a drink at the swim-up pool bar, sing karaoke at Sand Bar or enjoy a romantic dinner on the outdoor over-water deck at Sea Breeze restaurant. Snorkeling enthusiasts will love its gorgeous house reefs and other fun-filled aquatic activities.
Save money in a Standard Room, which features mini bars and air conditioning, or upgrade to the wooden chalet Garden Villas with an outdoor deck. Stay in a Beach Villa for direct access to the white sandy beach and outdoor shower, or go all out in the elite Water Villas, which boast uninterrupted views of the ocean and jetted tubs.
- One of the best family-friendly resorts in the Maldives with a kids club for little ones.
- A gorgeous house reef just a few metres away from the beach, perfect for snorkeling.
- Sunset dolphin cruises, big game fishing and glass-bottom boat tours are also available.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 256 – USD 554
Guest Rating: 8.6
Address: Bandos Island, Bundusi, Maldives
Best Snorkeling Spot: Seychelles
A remote 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles is a true paradise for snorkelers and beach lovers, nicknamed “paradise on earth” for its untouched shorelines. Along with stunning white-sand beaches with warm, crystal-clear waters, the island’s natural reserves are teeming with vibrant coral reefs, manta rays, reef sharks, leopard rays and hawksbill turtles. Some of the best snorkeling in the Seychelles can be found at Saint Pierre, Denis Island, Coco Island and the Port Launay Park.
Constance Ephelia is a top family resort in Seychelles, offering a prime location on the island of Mahe, overlooking Port Launay Marine Park. Stay in a Junior Suite for direct access to the white sand beach, as well a furnished terrace for basking in the sunshine, or choose a Senior Suite just steps from the inviting lagoon. Families will appreciate the private pool, LCD TV and choice of two or three bedrooms in a Family Villa.
Soak up the island’s natural beauty on a snorkeling or sailing adventure, then relax poolside or enjoy island views paired with French fusion cuisine at Cyann restaurant. Zee Bar features signature cocktails and live music in the evening, while Constance Spa specializes in blissful spa experiences.
- A prime location, set on two of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Mahe.
- The spa’s dry heat sauna, steam room, thermal pool, Jacuzzi and Yoga Pavilion.
- Constance Kids Club with cooking classes, pool games and arts and crafts.
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 395 – USD 2,943
Guest Rating: 9
Address: Port Launay, N.Y.S. Village, Port Glaud, Seychelles
Best Snorkeling Spot: The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands is famous for its diverse wildlife, both on land and in the sea. Snorkeling here doesn’t revolve around tropical fish like other spots on this list, but it does offer one of the world’s best snorkeling experiences. Dive beneath the waves to see a treasure trove of marine inhabitants, including sea turtles, dolphins orcas, humpback whales, penguins and sea lions. You can also test your bravery with a swim in Devil’s Crown, a sunken cone of a volcano near Floreana Island that is home to moray eels and shy reef sharks.
Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel offers a beachfront location and perfect home base for exploring the wildlife in the Galapagos. Relax poolside or walk to nearby Tortuga Bay, then recharge with dishes that include vegetables grown in the garden at the on-site restaurant. Just steps from the ocean, Finch Bay Spa has two hot tubs and specializes in massages and facial treatments.
You’re guaranteed a spectacular view when staying here, as all suites offer direct ocean views with private balconies. Enjoy a snooze in your hammock or catch a flick on the flat-screen TV, and if you’re travelling with family or a big group, upgrade to a suite for interconnected rooms.
- The only beachfront hotel in Puerto Ayora, just a short stroll from Las Grietas, one of the top snorkeling sites.
- Private yoga classes available at the on-site spa and yacht tours that go island hopping.
- Contact with wildlife is inevitable, as the hotel is surrounded by a protected national park.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 368 – USD 790
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: Barrio Punta Estrada S – N, Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Best Snorkeling Spot: Ambergris Caye, Belize
The second-largest barrier reef in the world, Ambergris Caye is considered the crown jewel of Belize. Snorkelers will find many opportunities to get up-close to colourful fish, eels and rays at one of its hundreds of cays and atolls that dot the stunning Caribbean coastline, including the popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve with its Shark Ray Alley filled with nurse sharks. If you want to venture further, head to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll home to the famous Blue Hole and Half Moon Wall or Turneffe Island Atoll to observe lionfish, while Mexico Rocks is an ideal spot for little ones with its calm waters.
Coco Beach Resort Ambergris Caye offers the utmost in beachfront relaxation with two large, freeform swimming pools, a swim-up pool bar, Jacuzzi and waterslide. On-site dining is highlighted by fine dining at the elegant Cocoblanca Restaurant and daily breakfast, speciality coffees and pastries at Coco Cafe.
Choose from a wide range of accommodation, from luxury rooms for two to Seaview Penthouse Suites that sleep up to six guests. For an unbeatable view of the Caribbean Sea, stay in a Two Bedroom Luxury Sea Front Suite. Most suites feature king-size beds, full kitchens and fully-furnished living rooms.
- Inviting outdoor pools with hot tubs, an in-pool volleyball net and large water slide.
- Snorkeling tours available, as well as kayaks, standup paddle boarding and bicycles.
- A wide range of room, suite and villa options to cater to all travel budgets.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 176 – USD 486
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 3.5 Miles North, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Best Snorkeling Spot: The Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii is known for its inviting waters, but Kealakekua Bay on The Big Island stands out as one of the best snorkeling sites. Along with vibrant coral, technicolour fish, turtles and dolphins, it boasts a rich history. For prime marine-life peeping, make a splash in the protected waters near the Captain James Cook Monument, an obelisk dedicated to the famous British circumnavigator. For more underwater adventures, you can swim the crystal waters of Honaunau Bay to explore its coral gardens alongside dolphins and tropical fish.
One of the best hotels on Hawaii’s Big Island, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches. Oceanfront Rooms feature a king-size bed, flat-screen TV and balcony with ocean views, while one-story bungalow Kailani Suites add furnished patios facing the ocean. For a private plunge pool and whirlpool, stay in the palatial Makaloa Villa with three bedrooms.
Living up to its luxury brand name, the hotel boasts multiple pools, a lavish spa, an 18-hole golf course and tennis courts. Sign up for Akaka Falls, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Hapuna Beach tours, then dine in the open-air dining room at Beach Tree or enjoy sushi and cocktails at Ulu Sushi Lounge. Alternatively, kids will love the organized outdoor activities at Camp Manitou.
- The spa’s custom-blended body scrubs and wraps using indigenous ingredients and healing massages.
- The beachfront location of Beach Tree Bar and Lounge with spectacular sunsets and cocktails.
- Just eight kilometres from Kekaha Kai State Park and 13.3 kilometres to Kona International Airport.
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 752 – USD 5,262
Guest Rating: 9.9
Address: 72-100 Ka’upulehu Drive, The Big Island, Hawaii, United States
Best Snorkeling Spot: Palawan Islands, Philippines
Palawan Islands is a paradise of unspoilt beaches, known for its limestone rock formations that rise out of the turquoise sea. The waters surrounding the 7,000 islands offer some of the best snorkeling in the Philippines and is suitable for all skill ages and skill levels, offering a diverse ecosystem filled with colourful marine life. Its fish-filled lagoons aren’t the only attraction, as you can also swim with whale sharks at the Bay of Donsol, explore Tubbataha reef or island-hop to Starfish and Cowrie Islands to see starfish of different sizes and colours.
El Nido Resorts Lagen Island is nestled between a four-hectare forest and calm, shallow lagoon. Offering magnificent views of Bacuit Bay, the resort features a luxury spa, game area, kids centre and beach bar as well as the Clubhouse Restaurant serving local specialties.
Spacious rooms incorporate timber recycled from old Filipino homes and feature floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to a private veranda. Beachfront Rooms boast a waterfront setting and have the best views of the cove and famous El Nido sunsets, while Water Cottages are individually built on stilts and connected to a boardwalk.
- Spa treatments include a variety of Asian, European and tropical face and body treatments.
- Lagen Island has a range of complimentary on-site activities such as volleyball, table tennis and billiards.
- Birdwatching, dive courses, snorkeling and mangrove exploration are also available.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 498 – USD 687
Guest Rating: 9
Address: Lagen Island, El Nido, Philippines
Best Snorkeling Spot: The Florida Keys, USA
The Florida Keys boasts spectacular coral and diverse marine life, home to colourful coral and sea sponges as well as dolphins, manta rays, turtles and tropical fish. Dry Tortugas National Park offers spectacular snorkeling, with its shallow waters only accessible by boat or seaplane. One of Florida’s best snorkeling spots is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was the first underwater park in the United States and home to the famed Christ of the Abyss statue. If you’re looking for more aquatic activities, this is a great spot to enjoy glass-bottom boat tours, kayaking and paddleboarding.
You can immerse yourself in Florida’s lush tropical scenery at Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel, which is a favourite with foodies. HotelsCombined visitors love the on-site Tavern N Town restaurant, which serves juicy steaks and Key West specialties, while the poolside Blue Bar is a great place to kick back with a cocktail in hand. Set on two hectares, it also boasts a private tanning beach.
An array of water-based adventures are at your fingertips when staying here, from scuba diving and snorkeling to jet skiing and kayaking. Entry-level Guest Rooms feature flat-screen TVs and mini fridges, while Presidential Suites add luxury amenities such as spa tubs, gourmet kitchens and private balconies.
- One of the highest-rated Key West hotels with a 16 clip marina, offering a complimentary downtown shuttle.
- Room options that cater to all travel budgets, along with two and three-bedroom options for larger groups.
- Only 5.4 kilometres from Dry Tortugas National Park and 5.8 kilometres to The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 191 – USD 402
Guest Rating: 8.9
Address: 3841 North Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, Florida, United States
Best Snorkeling Spots for Incredible Marine Life Encounters
Snorkeling allows you to experience the underwater world without the need for heavy equipment or certifications, making it the perfect vacation activity. The world’s best snorkeling spots are surrounded by stunning natural scenery, where you can marvel at colourful coral reefs, swim with sea turtles and mingle with manta rays. After your immersive aquatic experience, retreat to one of the top beach hotels nearby that offer luxury on-site perks and facilities.
Which snorkeling destination is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.