Ok, so there’s a lot of awesome snorkeling out there, in places like Indonesia, there’s an amazing mix of colorful coral and mesmerizing marine life, while in places like and Mexico and Tonga it’s all about the adrenaline pumping open ocean adventures with some of the world’s most iconic big ocean animals like sharks, whales, and sea lions. With such a wide variety of snorkeling styles and destinations, everyone is going to have their own ideas as to what defines a great snorkeling destination. I know I have mine. So, rather than say something like “this is the number one snorkeling destination in the world, and this is the second-best, etc…” I’ll just carefully put a list together of what we Snorkel Venture guides—based on our collective snorkeling experience, believe to be some of the ten best snorkeling locations in the world. Please keep in mind that these are in no particular order. Here we go.
Komodo is one of the most predictable places we’ve ever snorkeled. Manta and turtle encounters are as close to guaranteed as you can where marine life encounters are concerned, while schools of big fish and small fish reside on all the different reefs—which are absolutely stunning and prolific.
Glovers Reef & Turneffe Atoll, Belize
These two atolls are a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef and are just amazing for snorkeling. The shallow reefs come right up to the surface and are made up of layer upon layer of brightly colored sea fans and large coral heads.
Cabilao is a small island just off the much larger Bohol island and offers incredible shallow reefs and steep walls. Hard coral and soft coral grow in stunning formations here while an interesting array of critters like frogfish, sea snakes, octopus, and moray eels are regularly spotted. Turtles are also quite frequently found sleeping on the reef or passing in the blue.
Palau is its own island nation situated east of the Philippines and sits alone in the middle of the pacific ocean. As a result, it attracts lots of interesting marine life like reef sharks, manta rays, groupers, napoleon wrasse, turtles, and it even has its own stingless jellyfish lake. Interesting marine life is not all it offers, Palau also has some pretty incredible reefs.
Sea of Cortez, Mexico
The Sea of Cortez in Mexico is arguably one of the best places in the world for big animal encounters. Depending on the time of year, you can expect to see large colonies of sea lions, whale sharks, orca whales, blue sharks, hammerhead sharks, mako sharks, vast fleets of Mobula rays, and if you are really lucky humpback and blue whales! There’s no reef here, so all in-water encounters happen in the open ocean.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Raja Ampat is all about marine bio-diversity combined with and insanely beautiful views of tropical islands. There’s so much to see in Raja Ampat that it would take decades to see it all. However, in a typical snorkeling tour in Raja you can expect to see manta rays, reef sharks, a vast diversity of some of the world’s healthiest reefs exploding with colorful reef fish, large schools of fish, and so much more.
Red Sea, Egypt
Egypt is a really iconic destination and has been known for its incredible reefs and clear blue waters. Certain parts of the red sea are also known to have friendly pods of dolphins who are regularly snorkeled with, as well as a few dugongs who can be seen casually munching away at the seagrass.
Alor is one of Indonesia’s newest snorkeling destinations and as it is still very much an undeveloped area, it offers truly pristine reefs and loads of potential where marine life is concerned. From giant mola-molas to tiny nudibranchs, just about anything is possible here. You may even find yourself slowly motoring alongside blue whales between snorkeling sessions or surrounded by a super-pod of dolphins and melon head whales.
While tonga does have some beautiful reef systems that are full of life, the main reason to come snorkeling in Tonga is that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can predictably snorkel alongside mother humpback whales and their calves in clear blue water.
French Polynesia has established itself as the world’s largest shark sanctuary, and as a result, it has a thriving population of reef sharks. Not only that, but it also boasts vibrant hard coral reefs, exhilerating drift snorkels, and with a bit of luck manta ray encounters.