The 10 Best Places to Snorkel on a Cruise

by Donna Heiderstadt

The 10 Best Places to Snorkel on a Cruise

by Donna Heiderstadt
Snorkeling in the Maldives / iStock / BlueOrange Studio
Snorkeling in the Maldives
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Best Snorkeling Around the World

Can’t wait to experience some of the most amazing undersea sights on the planet? We put on a mask and fins and scouted 10 locales where crystal clear water and colorful sea life make snorkeling the must-try excursion.

Can’t wait to experience some of the most amazing undersea sights on the planet? We put on a mask and fins and scouted 10 locales where crystal clear water and colorful sea life make snorkeling the must-try excursion.

Stingray and tropical fish in Bora Bora
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1. Bora Bora

The blue lagoon that rings French Polynesia’s most famous island is ideal for snorkelers of all abilities. Schools of vibrant reef fish inhabit Bora Bora's shallow coral gardens, offering a relaxing experience. More adventurous types can head to deeper water and come face to face with stingrays and black-tip reef sharks. Go with a guide who can also tempt prehistoric-looking green moray eels from their hideouts.

The blue lagoon that rings French Polynesia’s most famous island is ideal for snorkelers of all abilities. Schools of vibrant reef fish inhabit Bora Bora's shallow coral gardens, offering a relaxing experience. More adventurous types can head to deeper water and come face to face with stingrays and black-tip reef sharks. Go with a guide who can also tempt prehistoric-looking green moray eels from their hideouts.

Snorkeling with nurse sharks in the Bahamas
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2. The Bahamas

Nassau is the largest port in the Bahamas, and offers stellar snorkeling. Rose Island Reef, located about three miles offshore, is shallow and suitable for all ages and skill levels. It’s also home to two wrecks that you can explore, the Mahoney and the Alcora. Gambier Deep Reef, as its name implies, reaches down almost 80 feet, but features terrific coral closer to the surface — and plenty of fish.

Nassau is the largest port in the Bahamas, and offers stellar snorkeling. Rose Island Reef, located about three miles offshore, is shallow and suitable for all ages and skill levels. It’s also home to two wrecks that you can explore, the Mahoney and the Alcora. Gambier Deep Reef, as its name implies, reaches down almost 80 feet, but features terrific coral closer to the surface — and plenty of fish.

Clown fish in the Great Barrier Reef
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3. Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is not just for divers. Snorkelers can also take excursions to the natural wonder from Australian ports Cairns and Port Douglas to get in on the action. Though most of the sights will be about 20 to 40 feet below you, the water is so clear and the sea life so abundant, you’ll have plenty to write home about. The reef is home to 1,500 species of fish, including groupers, cod, and Maori wrasse weighing 200 to 800 pounds, as well as giant clams.

The Great Barrier Reef is not just for divers. Snorkelers can also take excursions to the natural wonder from Australian ports Cairns and Port Douglas to get in on the action. Though most of the sights will be about 20 to 40 feet below you, the water is so clear and the sea life so abundant, you’ll have plenty to write home about. The reef is home to 1,500 species of fish, including groupers, cod, and Maori wrasse weighing 200 to 800 pounds, as well as giant clams.

Green sea turtle in Maui
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4. Maui

Pick a Hawaiian island and you’re guaranteed an amazing snorkel experience, but one of our favorite spots is Maui. The island is home to both Coral Gardens, a natural reef on the island’s west side where you can spy on a who’s who of tropical fish including angel, parrot, trigger, and butterfly. You can also visit Molokini, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater that’s a marine sanctuary. 

Pick a Hawaiian island and you’re guaranteed an amazing snorkel experience, but one of our favorite spots is Maui. The island is home to both Coral Gardens, a natural reef on the island’s west side where you can spy on a who’s who of tropical fish including angel, parrot, trigger, and butterfly. You can also visit Molokini, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater that’s a marine sanctuary. 

Sea Lion in the Galapagos
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5. Galápagos

You'll want to take advantage of the wetsuits that are provided on cruises to the Galápagos — the seas can be a bit chilly. But the rewards are worth it. When you visit San Cristobal, Floreana, or South Plaza Island, you can you snorkel among dozens of playful sea lions. Their underwater acrobatics will astound you — they show little fear of humans, especially juveniles — and they’re just so darn cute. The Galápagos is also the place to see penguins, sea turtles, and marine iguanas.

You'll want to take advantage of the wetsuits that are provided on cruises to the Galápagos — the seas can be a bit chilly. But the rewards are worth it. When you visit San Cristobal, Floreana, or South Plaza Island, you can you snorkel among dozens of playful sea lions. Their underwater acrobatics will astound you — they show little fear of humans, especially juveniles — and they’re just so darn cute. The Galápagos is also the place to see penguins, sea turtles, and marine iguanas.

Snorkeling near Roatan
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6. Roatán, Honduras

Roatán is the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands and has an array of several dozen great snorkel sites. West Bay Beach and Tabyana Beach are accessible by land and feature reefs that are a short swim from shore, while others, such as Blue Channel (known for its moray eels and lobsters), require an organized excursion.

Roatán is the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands and has an array of several dozen great snorkel sites. West Bay Beach and Tabyana Beach are accessible by land and feature reefs that are a short swim from shore, while others, such as Blue Channel (known for its moray eels and lobsters), require an organized excursion.

Stingray City
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7. Grand Cayman

The marquis attraction on Grand Cayman is Stingray City, a calm off-shore sand bar where southern stingrays cavort in the shallow, vivid blue water as they’re fed bits of raw fish by guides — and by you, if you’re game. You may see a few other small fish, but the rays are the undisputed stars, brushing up against you like playful puppies, albeit ones with suction cup-like mouths.

The marquis attraction on Grand Cayman is Stingray City, a calm off-shore sand bar where southern stingrays cavort in the shallow, vivid blue water as they’re fed bits of raw fish by guides — and by you, if you’re game. You may see a few other small fish, but the rays are the undisputed stars, brushing up against you like playful puppies, albeit ones with suction cup-like mouths.

Coral reef off the coast of Belize
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8. Belize

Rewarding snorkeling awaits at Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley, world-famous spots located off of Ambergris Caye, a short flight away from the port in Belize City. Cruisers with an adventurous streak can make independent day-trip arrangements to go out there, but if you prefer a closer snorkeling experience, book a sailing excursion to Goff’s Caye or Starfish Island.

Rewarding snorkeling awaits at Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley, world-famous spots located off of Ambergris Caye, a short flight away from the port in Belize City. Cruisers with an adventurous streak can make independent day-trip arrangements to go out there, but if you prefer a closer snorkeling experience, book a sailing excursion to Goff’s Caye or Starfish Island.

Snorkeling in the Maldives
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9. Maldives

This string of 1,000-plus islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean is a world of endless blue. Depending on where your ship docks (most likely the main island of Malé), you can book a boat excursion to top snorkeling spots, offering access to many of the 2,000 species (our favorite is the adorable clownfish) that call this pristine reef system home. 

This string of 1,000-plus islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean is a world of endless blue. Depending on where your ship docks (most likely the main island of Malé), you can book a boat excursion to top snorkeling spots, offering access to many of the 2,000 species (our favorite is the adorable clownfish) that call this pristine reef system home. 

St. John's Trunk Bay
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10. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

The smallest and least-developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John is 60 percent a national park — and 40 percent of that is underwater. Beginner snorkelers should opt for the 300-foot-long snorkeling trail in Trunk Bay, while in Salomon/Honeymoon Bay, you'll explore a slender reef teeming with vibrant brain, elkhorn, pillar, and lettuce leaf coral as well as fish, turtles, and rays.

The smallest and least-developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John is 60 percent a national park — and 40 percent of that is underwater. Beginner snorkelers should opt for the 300-foot-long snorkeling trail in Trunk Bay, while in Salomon/Honeymoon Bay, you'll explore a slender reef teeming with vibrant brain, elkhorn, pillar, and lettuce leaf coral as well as fish, turtles, and rays.

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