One of the most relaxing activities to undertake when on holiday is snorkeling. Underneath the surface of the water, you can experience a different world — bright colours, vibrant reefs, schools of fish, stingrays, whales and more. You can shut out the rest of the world and the stress that comes with everyday life and instead simply concentrate on your breathing, the feeling of the water and the magnificent sights in front of you. If you’re ready to experience the majesty of the sea and all its creatures, then you can’t go wrong with any of the following five islands that provide some of the best snorkeling opportunities in the world.
When you’re planning to book a holiday package to Hawaii, you may like to consider staying in an area near some of the best snorkeling spots in the world. The island of Hawaii (also known as the Big Island) is renowned for its snorkeling, particularly in areas south of Kailua-Kona. Kahaluu Beach Park, a small sheltered cove nine kilometres from Kailua-Kona, is a long-time favourite with both locals and visitors to the island. One of only a limited number of beaches in Hawaii that has such a large tame fish population (the sea creatures are used to seeing lots of snorkelers), Kahaluu’s waters are shallow and warm, making it the perfect spot for first-time snorkelers. The cove is surrounded by a partially submerged rock wall that keeps big waves out while allowing slower ocean currents to flow in. The frequency of the fresh currents, combined with the shallow waters that allow sunlight to penetrate to the bottom of the sea, means the area provides abundant food for local marine life. This draws in not just many fish, but also green sea turtles. Snorkelers can revel in watching the turtles feed in the shallows before swimming further out to the protective rock reef to watch hundreds of fish go about their day.
In Australia, the islands in the Great Barrier Reef are also constantly popular with snorkelers. Heron Island particularly is a perfect location for visitors who want to stay at a location right on the reef. Rather than needing to join a boat tour to spend some time snorkeling this protected area, travellers can take advantage of Heron Island’s prime position and enter the water right off the shore. The reefs around the island (a designated national park) are believed to contain close to 1,000 different species of sea life as well as providing a nesting ground for massive green and loggerhead turtles.
The waters around Grand Cayman, one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean, are regularly filled with holiday-makers enjoying the warm temperature, amazing visibility and close-up encounters with stingrays – the friendly creatures that have grown used to the constant feeding and attention from humans. Aptly named Stingray City, a series of sandbars located in the North Sound of the island, is one of the most frequently visited spots by tourists. Another is Seven Mile Beach, a coral-sand beach on the western shore of the island that has many resorts nearby, making it an easy location to snorkel from.
Santa Catalina, California
If you’re heading to the United States and want to fit in some snorkeling while there, then Santa Catalina, off the coast of Los Angeles, is an ideal choice. The island is home to abundant sea life such as the garibaldi (California’s state fish), spiny lobsters, sea bass, harbour seals, anemones, bat rays and sea lions. Popular areas include Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve or the Casino Point Underwater Park, California’s first city-designated underwater marine park.
With the warm waters around Bonaire having been protected as a National Marine Park for over 30 years, this is one of the Caribbean’s best snorkeling spots. Home to a variety of caves, coral, tropical fish and larger sea creatures, the snorkeling waters are crystal clear and easily accessible from local hotels. Visitors to the area can enjoy spotting many fish species (Reef Environmental Education Foundation watchers have recorded 469 species so far), 55 varieties of coral, plus sea turtles, eagle rays, sea cucumbers, manta rays, dolphins and whale sharks.
About the Author: Sonia Burns is a travel blogger and avid snorkeler.