Want to explore the world underwater but not certified for scuba diving? The best places to snorkel in the US also give you a chance to see a whole new world without going as deep. Snorkeling offers you a fun way to take a peek at coral reefs, shipwrecks, marine life, and more while staying close to the surface.
Since the US has over 95,000 miles of coastline to explore plus a bounty of inland underwater gems, this list will help you explore the 12 best snorkeling areas in the US to put on your travel itinerary.
For the best snorkeling in Hawaii, USA, Ho’okena Beach Park is an ideal place to start. While tourists certainly flock to Hawaii for vacations, this beach park isn’t as busy as other spots on the Big Island. Plus, if you’ve never tried snorkeling before, you can easily rent the equipment you need right there. There are tons to discover here including sea turtles, dolphins, and the chance to see the state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Because it’s less traveled, you’ll likely see Hawaiian natives fishing from canoes by their traditional methods so be sure to be respectful of this sacred area.
One of the best snorkeling places in the USA is another Hawaiian stop. The Molokini Crater on Maui is only accessible by boat. Inside, you can see around 250 different species of fish. You may even see a whale shark eating plankton while you’re exploring the thriving coral reef in this geological and ecological marvel.
If your vacation time isn’t until winter, that can freeze you out of some snorkeling spots. But not in sunny Florida! The best snorkeling in January in the USA is at the Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Miami, which would make the perfect place to kick off your vacation anyway.
The Dry Tortugas is the most secluded of the national parks, a place where roughing it is worth it for that beautiful underwater world. Most of the park resides underwater too, so snorkeling here is the only way to truly experience the ruins of the past including the Moat Wall and a shipwreck from the early 1900s. Additionally, the rest of the Florida Keys are worthy of exploring through snorkeling too, so take your time heading back to Miami to start the rest of your travels.
When you’re landlocked, the best snorkeling in Mainland, USA can be found in Baileys Harbor. This Wisconsin snorkeling spot is on Lake Michigan. You’ll find it 2 hours north of Green Bay. With hundreds of shipwrecks to explore from the 1800s, this lake snorkeling spot is the place to go if you’re looking for something different to explore under the surface.
Generally, the best snorkeling areas in the USA are considered to be in Hawaii and Florida. Few people think to put California on the list since it’s the place surfers flock to catch the waves. But underneath those waves, there’s so much to explore, as is the case with Anacapa Island. This stunning place is a west coast best for snorkeling, a remote destination where you’ll find a unique marine sanctuary waiting for you. Brimming with wild kelp forests, bright sea stars, and plenty of brilliantly-colored fish, if you’re on the west coast, don’t miss this top snorkeling spot.
When you think of Texas, you probably think of BBQ or the Alamo. Few think to name any part of the Lone Star State the best snorkeling in the USA, but at Laguna Madre Estuary, you’ll be impressed. On South Padre Island by Corpus Christi, where the Gulf of Mexico is connected to the Rio Grande, this special lagoon offers the chance to swim among colorful tropical fish. Your vacation to Texas just got even better now that you know you can get in some snorkeling and see why marine life calls this place home.
On the east coast, one of the best beaches for snorkeling in the USA happens to be in Rhode Island. You’d better come in the summertime though as those northeastern states aren’t exactly appealing for this activity at other times of the year when the water is hopelessly frigid.
You’ll find Block Island nestled between Martha’s Vineyard and Montauk. If the summer heat drives you crazy, the colder water is the perfect place to cool off and explore the bounty of reefs along the coast. On Surf Beach, you’ll find the most fish along the rock formations, making it perhaps the best beach snorkeling spot in the country.
When you think of the best places to go snorkeling in the USA, you probably wouldn’t imagine Utah would make the list. In Midway, the Homestead Crater is a hot geothermal spring encased in a rock dome. It was created from melting snow off the nearby mountains.
While plenty of scuba divers venture here, snorkelers can enjoy this top destination too. It was once only accessible via rappelling through the top into the naturally heated water which stays between 90 to 96F year-round. Now though, you can easily take the tunnel that was carved through the rocks on ground level to get to this incredible snorkeling site.
Searching for the best snorkeling vacations in Southeast USA? Mississippi is not regarded in the way a place like Florida is in the southeast for snorkeling, making it a wonderful spot to choose. If you want to avoid the throngs of tourists at any time of year, this destination has tropical fish among the beds of seagrass, shipwrecks, and plenty more. Seahorses, pinfish, and other underwater dwellers dart about the bay area of Santa Rosa Island, making it a unique place to see if you’ve snorkeled everywhere else.
Arguably, almost all states of Florida are among the best places for snorkeling in the USA. But Peanut Island is one of those sweet spots that are yet to be overrun by visitors seeking a peaceful reprieve while exploring just underneath the surface. You’ll find Peanut Island at the mouth of the Lake Worth Inlet with shallow, clear waters that make snorkeling a treat.
It’s best to kayak out to the island from the beach and then get into the water to explore the island. You can make a day of it too by hiking the island, thanks to the brick pathways leading the way, or simply stay in the water and enjoy the views you’ll find there.
Another northern destination that gives you the best snorkeling in Eastern USA can be found in Bar Harbor, Maine. You’ll want to go on the hottest days of summer though or else the water will be far too cold. The Acadia National Park features a rocky coast and is best for strong swimmers. The currents and tides can be daunting, so don’t make this your first snorkeling excursion.
Even in summer, you’ll want to bring your wetsuit so you won’t be bothered by the cold. In these waters, you’ll see different ecosystems than you’re used to with moray eels among the many creatures in the water. To see the best of this national park, head to Little Hunters Beach.
And finally, let’s not forget what Puerto Rico brings to the table in the category of snorkeling. This is one vacation destination that has it all. On Carlos Rosario Beach on Culebra Island, it’s a secluded spot dusted with white sands, one of the few unspoiled places left in this US territory. Just swim out a little bit from the shore and you’ll be treated to a view of bright coral, thriving in the water. Sea fans and tropical fish dance among the gentle current, making it a peaceful and splendid place to start your snorkeling adventures.
These best places to snorkel in the US give you a wide range of different underwater ecosystems to explore. With some inland and some off the coast, you have a variety of unique snorkeling vacation options to consider when planning your itinerary. If it’s your first time snorkeling, it might be best to pick one of the more well-traveled spots where you can rent the equipment you need. But if you’ve been snorkeling for a while, you can easily tote your snorkeling gear along for your next adventure among the waves.
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