With ideal visibility, abundant coral reefs, and exciting marine animals waiting to be discovered, islands have always been considered some of the best snorkeling destinations in the world.
From the tropical shores of the Caribbean full of colorful fish to far-flung locations in the South Pacific teeming with stingrays and sharks, there’s no shortage of snorkeling sites to consider for your next vacation.
If you’re looking for your next great underwater adventure, grab your mask and fins and head to one (or more) of these best islands for snorkeling.
Cozumel means “The Island of Shallows” in Mayan, which is the perfect name for this island off the coast of Mexico that’s filled with shallow reefs that are perfect for snorkeling.
Aside from its calm reef, the waters of Cozumel boast fantastic visibility, allowing you to spot marine species like sea turtles, fish, corals, and crabs.
Famous Cozumel snorkeling spots include Palancar Reef, where you’ll be able to see angelfish, groupers, barracudas, nurse sharks, and starfish; and El Cielo (which translates to “Heaven”), a sandbar where you can snorkel or spot fish from above while sitting in the shallow water.
Islands of the Great Barrier Reef
Experience the gorgeous beauty of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world. With exotic sea life in all shapes and colors, the Great Barrier Reef is considered one of the best snorkeling destinations on the planet.
The Whitsunday Islands, located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, are known for their calm and warm waters that offer excellent snorkeling conditions year-round. Visit Hardy Reef, where you’ll swim with sea turtles and colorful schools of fish, or take a trip to Bait Reef, which is home to over 1,600 species of fish and over 30 species of whales and dolphins.
At Fitzroy Island, located off the coast of Cairns, you’ll find equally calm and inviting waters. Swim around Welcome Bay or Nudey Beach, where you’ll see reefs teeming with clownfish, groupers, cod, and sea turtles.
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
The island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is known for its lush greenery and white sand beaches. The surrounding turquoise water is highly prized among travelers thanks to its excellent snorkeling conditions.
One of the best places to snorkel in St. Croix is at its underwater national park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, which consists of the 176-acre Buck Island and the impressive coral reef ecosystem that surrounds it.
Snorkel through the underwater trail at Buck Island Reef National Monument for a tour of the seafloor of this Caribbean island. Submerged signs help you learn more about this underwater trail and the history of Buck Island. The trail is suitable for beginner and advanced snorkelers.
Another impressive snorkeling site in St. Croix is Cane Bay. Don’t miss swimming towards the Cane Bay Wall, a dramatic cliff in the ocean floor that drops from 40 feet underwater to 3,000 feet below.
Maui is one of the best islands for snorkeling due to its calm bays and clear water that shimmers in bright blue hues.
While excellent snorkeling can be found all around Maui, one of the best snorkeling destinations is the Molokini Crater, an underwater volcano islet. There you’ll encounter colorful reefs, a multitude of fish in various shapes and sizes, sea turtles, and even stingrays and nurse sharks. You’ll also snorkel around the crater’s back wall and arrive at a breathtaking 400-foot sea cliff.
While it’s not uncommon to see sea turtles swimming around right offshore in Maui, the best place to spot Hawaiian sea turtles swimming in their natural habitat is the appropriately named Turtle Town, located just off the coast of Maluaka Beach.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed snorkeling experience, you can head to Kapalua Bay, a calm sheltered cove in the northwest region of the island, where you can swim in its shallow waters to spot fish and then lay on its warm sand for the rest of the afternoon.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora, one of the best Pacific Islands to visit, attracts honeymooners eager to unwind on its pristine beaches with its breathtaking scenery. However, Bora Bora isn’t only for the recently betrothed. The blue lagoon surrounding the island is a snorkeling hub teeming with exotic fish and marine wildlife.
There are several coral gardens in Bora Bora’s lagoon, but the most popular one is appropriately nicknamed “the aquarium.” There you’ll find marine species in all shades and colors of the rainbow, which contrast beautifully with the bright turquoise water they swim in.
Sea turtles and stingrays make regular appearances around Bora Bora. You may also see giant manta rays traveling gracefully through the water, colorful clams glistening in shades of purple and pink, and even sharks prowling the waters.
The rocky coast of Corsica, with its hidden beaches and coves surrounded by transparent waters, is a snorkeler’s dream.
While there are no coral reefs in the Mediterranean, Corsica’s beaches have Neptune Grass seabeds, which are full of local species including octopuses, eels, starfish, and wrasses.
Must-see snorkeling spots on the island include the Lavezzi islands, a tiny archipelago close to the main island, and Ajaccio, where you’ll swim in some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean and discover species of sea bream, rainbow wrasse, and sea urchins.
Key West, Florida
There’s a lot more to Key West than raucous Duval Street and key lime pie. In fact, Key West is home to the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the United States, making it one of the best islands for snorkeling in the country.
Key West is known for its turquoise waters, where you can discover hundreds of marine species, including tropical fish, sponges, jellyfish, anemones, crabs, lobsters, sea turtles, and more.
Aside from the Florida Reef, there are also a number of mangrove islands and shallow sandbars in Key West’s backcountry that are worth exploring, too.
One of the highlights of the idyllic powder-white beaches of Bonaire is wading into the bright blue water and discovering tropical fish and species right off the shore. Great beaches for easy snorkeling include Te Amo Beach and Eighteen Palms.
If you’re looking for something a little further out, plan a trip to Bonaire National Marine Park, which has one of the Caribbean’s most diverse reef systems, and Bari Reef, where over 300 species of fish have been spotted.
You’d be forgiven if all you wanted to do during a vacation to Aruba is lounge on the sand and soak up the sun—but if you did, you’d miss out on spotting the fascinating and diverse fish native to the area.
Just off the shore of Oranjestad is the Antilla shipwreck, a former German trading ship that is now home to hundreds of angelfish, snapper, damsels, and parrotfish. At 400 feet long, the Antilla is the largest shipwreck dive in the Caribbean.
At De Palm Island, mingle with flamingos, relax by the beach, or snorkel at the small island’s coral reef, which is known for its vast population of blue parrotfish.
In Boca Catalina, you’ll find pristine waters with high visibility, shallow coral reefs, and grassy seabed where groups of green sea turtles often feed.
Stroll along the colorful pastel buildings by Willemstad’s waterfront before scheduling some time for underwater exploration when you visit the Caribbean island of Curaçao.
Go to Curaçao Sea Aquarium, one of the best snorkel sites in Curaçao. This natural lagoon hosts several stingrays, sharks, and tarpons.
If you want to see something different, visit the sunken tugboat in Caracas Bay, a popular diving site that offers plenty of underwater photo opportunities.
Enjoy a more colorful snorkeling expedition at Kalki Beach, which is also called Alice in Wonderland. This small cove is a top diving site on the island and has great visibility. The currents can be strong, so make sure you go on a day that the tide isn’t as volatile.
Like most of the Caribbean, St. Kitts enjoys warm water and high visibility year long. Avoid the high winds that are often found on the east coast of the island and instead head to the calmer waters on the west side of Basseterre for optimum snorkeling conditions.
Swim in White House Bay, where several shipwrecks are waiting to be explored. At Dieppe Bay, the Caribbean Sea collides with the Atlantic Ocean, creating a unique underwater ecosystem, while at Sandy Point National Marine Park, you’ll be able to spot turtles, barracudas, and colorful fish at a natural reef that also features a 100-foot cliff.
Sail off the coast of Charlotte Amalie and head down the historic Windward Passage, the same route the pirate Sir Francis Drake once sailed. Stop at Island Cove and dive into the crystal clear water, where you’ll get to swim with stingrays, starfish, and conch.
For some amazing snorkeling sites, go to Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge, which boasts a number of spectacular reefs, a shipwreck, and gentle green sea turtles swimming in their natural habitat.
Spend a leisurely day at Sapphire Beach, a paradisiacal stretch of sand where you can swim, nap, or go snorkeling just off the shore.
Considered the trophy beach of the Philippines, Boracay is prized for its miles of flawless white sand and turquoise waters. It’s also one of the best islands for snorkeling in Southeast Asia.
One of the best sites lies in Crocodile Island, named after its shape, not the animal life in the area. There you’ll find angelfish, sea snakes, cornet fish, and moray eels. Be advised, currents can be strong.
At Puka Beach and Fridays Coral Reef, take a dip with your mask and find yourself surrounded by damselfish and red bass.
Beginners, meanwhile, will want to practice their snorkeling skills at Lobster Rock, which offers tranquil currents and a large fish feeding area.
Moorea, French Polynesia
Moorea is an idyllic tropical island in French Polynesia, which will make you feel like you’ve arrived in heaven.
At a blue lagoon called the Lagoonarium, beginner snorkelers will find a rich reef system full of colorful fish including butterflyfish, angelfish, and triggerfish, and calm currents that allow for easy viewing.
Several top resorts on the island also have coral-filled lagoons just outside their overwater bungalows. For a fee, travelers can spend the day snorkeling in their waters and spotting the large numbers of fish and species that live in the area.
Island of Hawaii
The Island of Hawaii is popular for its world-class snorkeling, which is often touted as some of the best in the island chain.
Discover the tide pools and black sand beach at Richardson Ocean Park in Hilo, where green sea turtles also like to swim. Or head out a little farther to Two Steps, where you’ll see bright schools of fish, such as the yellow tang and butterflyfish, and if you’re lucky, some seals and dolphins, too.
Known for its pink sand beaches and crystal clear waters, Bermuda is a top destination for sun lovers looking for a relaxing vacation and nature fans looking for some quality snorkeling.
Unlike the Caribbean, the weather in Bermuda can cool down significantly in the fall and winter months, so it’s best to visit the island from May to October for warm water temperatures.
There are over 300 shipwrecks around Bermuda—remember, this is the site of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle—and two of the most popular underwater ships, the Constellation and the Montana, are easily accessible from the shallow shore.
For a unique snorkeling experience like no other, dive into the special waters of the Galapagos Islands. Its warm, shallow ocean is full of fish and larger wildlife, including endemic species like Galapagos green turtles, blacktop reef sharks, and fur seals.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve, a spectacularly diverse place teeming with different animals and fish, stretches throughout the archipelago of 19 islands.
Dive into Devil’s Crown at Floreana Island, where coral reef covers an eroded volcano crater and sea turtles, manta rays, and white-tipped reef sharks are often spotted.
Look for Galapagos penguins at Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island, or say hello to a friendly sea lion swimming in the ocean.
Tagus Cove at Isabela Island is another great spot to see animals due to its nutrient-filled water. You’ll have the opportunity to see tiny sea horses, marine iguanas, and rockfish while on a deep water snorkeling expedition.
Now that you’ve learned all about the best islands for snorkeling, it’s time to book your next idyllic vacation. One of the best ways to discover these beautiful destinations is on a cruise vacation with Celebrity Cruises.
Aside from unforgettable snorkeling excursions, you can explore exciting ports and enjoy all of the entertainment and amenities available onboard our award-winning ships.
If you’re not sure which island you want to visit, browse our cruise itineraries or call one of our vacation specialists at 1-800-852-8086 who can help you plan the perfect cruise vacation.