With one of the most extensive coastlines in the world, it should not be a problem to know the best places to snorkel in the US. Just imagine what a gem the shoreline of 95,471 miles is to snorkel and diving lovers!
Snorkeling is not a tropics’ exercise where you just find a great spot around an island and dive with the fish and the turtles, well, you are in for a surprise. Even when you are thousands of miles away from the tropics, you can still find great snorkeling destinations.
Within driving distance all around you in the US, there are enjoyable snorkeling destinations. There are awesome, best places to snorkel on the East Coast, the west coast and many other places.
Some places like Florida and California are renowned for their great diving and snorkeling destinations. But there are many more lesser-known destinations where you can have a nice time under the sea.
Crystal River in Florida
Do not snorkel alone when you can have a great time interacting with the jolly faced manatees. Ok, some people think these creatures are not awesome, but I think they are great. With an underwater camera attached to your full face snorkel mask, you can shoot some great videos of the manatees doing a dance standing on their tails.
If you aim to catch the most manatees at Crystal River, go snorkeling during the winter. That should be crazy fun as there are fewer people around. During this time, the manatees can be found in great concentrations. Catch them at their numbers.
Be ready to be swept off your feet by the beautiful and clear waters of the Crystal River. Be gentle, let the manatees get used to you and with time, they may waddle closer and give you a nudge.
Where is Crystal River? It is in the city of Crystal River, which is located about 90 minutes away from Orlando by car or four and a half hours from the city of Miami.
If you are a first time, you will be happy to know that there are guided snorkeling tours and that you can hire snorkeling gear, including a rental underwater camera at some of the tour operators.
For food, accommodation and other social amenities, Crystal River City has more than enough for everyone seeing as it receives many tourists throughout the year.
Block Island in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a surprising place, and if you love a pleasant snorkeling surprise, this is the place for you to be. If you get lucky, you will find colorful fish from the tropics. You will have beautiful beaches to traverse and when you want to get close to the fish, take a dip in the pristine waters.
Block Island is a popular place and therefore there is a lot of everything. From stores to restaurants to hotels, you can have anything in this city. If you would love a bite of wonderful seafood, get it after snorkeling and see just how much you will love this place.
Water temperatures can go low in Block Island, so you will need to be duly prepared. However, they will not be so bad as to prevent you from snorkeling. You just need the right gear that you can rent from the shops at the beaches.
This snorkeling destination is snugly located somewhere in the middle of Martha’s Vineyard and Montauk. The beaches are stunning, but the ocean can be cold in winter, but not too cold such that you cannot take a dip. Just check the gear and then tentatively step into the ocean, as your body gets accustomed to the temperature, and then bang … just go right in.
Kankakee in Illinois
No one thinks of Illinois when they think about snorkeling. However, this is one of the best places to snorkel in the US, with great spots to view marine wildlife in their habitat. How can this be when the state of Illinois is in itself landlocked with just a sliver of a stretch of shore along Lake Michigan? Illinois has simply built what it has not been given by nature.
There are choice snorkeling spots in Illinois and Haigh Quarry is one of them. It has been idle since 1970 when mining was stopped and when Jim Haigh purchased it in 1978, he let the quarry fill up with water forming one of the best homes for marine life. Today, this spot attracts divers from all over the USA.
Pearl Lake is another good spot for snorkeling in Illinois. It is privately owned though and is mostly open for snorkeling and diving in summer. You will enjoy seeing many species of fish and there is even a camping ground where you can make camp. Bar and restaurant is available. You will feel right at home.
Mermet Springs is a quarry just like the Haigh Quarry. Snorkelers use the shallow side of the quarry as divers take to the deeper end. Do note however that you will be expected to sign a waiver that the property should not face any liability should anything happen in the water. This does not mean anything is going to happen. Just keep an open mind and enjoy snorkeling in the waters of the Mermet Springs Quarry.
Other things you can do on this property include hiking, picnicking, kayaking and camping.
You probably will not want to miss snorkeling in the Shedd Aquarium, which offers a controlled snorkeling experience in Chicago. This aquarium has been designed to simulate a reef in the Caribbean Sea.
You will not regret your experience here as you will get to see more than 900 animals like bonnethead sharks, green sea turtles, Atlantic tarpon and cownose rays to name but just a few of them. By paying for a tour, you will not have to pay for snorkeling gear.
Buck Island Reef National Monument
A short distance away from the Island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands is the Buck Island Reef. When John F Kennedy pronounced the Buck Island Reef a national monument way back in 1962, hardly did he know the size of the favor that he was doing nature and snorkel lovers. This reef is a jewel snuck in the US Virgin Islands.
This is a well-maintained marine park where snorkel enthusiasts can go to enjoy a great time in the water, studying aquatic fauna and taking stunning pictures in the awesome turquoise waters. With the reef covering over 19,000 acres and surrounding about two-thirds of St. Croix, this is big enough for everyone.
The island has some of the most diverse marine life you can ever encounter in a snorkel mask. The underwater of Buck Island underwater leads you right past manta rays, hawksbill sea turtles, blue tangs, butterfly fish, barracuda and even reef sharks to name but just a few of the awesome species you will find there. There are more than 250 species of fish.
La Jolla, San Diego California
La Jolla Cove is postcard perfect and it has a wealth of marine fauna to pop your eyes. Boomer Beach, La Jolla Shores, Seven La Jolla Caves and La Jolla Cove are just a few of the most awesome places to visit in this area.
You will be treated to a wide array of marine animals starting with stingrays, leopard sharks, garibaldi, sheep crabs, spiny lobsters and many more. Then there are the large ones like sea lions, rays, dolphins and many more.
The good thing about La Jolla Cove is that it is not only a great snorkeling destination, but you can also throw open water swimming and paddling into the mix and you will have the time of your life.
On your way back, stop by St. Croix and sample the nightlife, the awesome seafood and many more indoor attractions. This is a holiday destination that you will want to come to again and again.
The shops on the beach will let you have a wetsuit for a few dollars, good for snorkeling in winter. However, during the other seasons, you do not need a wetsuit. Of course, you could always bring your own snorkeling gear.
Santa Catalina Island in California
California was not called the Gold State for nothing. It is because there is the best of everything. An outdoor adventurer can have great fun in the water as well as out on the trails, the awesome beaches and many more. Around the Santa Catalina Island, which lies, about 26 miles from Long Beach, there are colorful collections of marine life, thanks to the warm currents.
This place awaits you to swim with the garibaldi, sheep heads, bass and many more species of fish that particularly love to follow the tour boats looking for morsels to feast on. There is a lot of plant life too including eelgrass, sea fans, kelp forest and much more. If you time your dive to a time when water clarity is great, you will take awesome photos of the fish and plant life.
The water clarity is great, you can almost see to the bottom of the ocean. The swells are small, and the weather is mostly warm so there is no special time to go snorkeling in Santa Catalina.
When you get to Santa Catalina, start with Lovers Cove. That is where all the fun is.
Key West in Florida – Best Places To Snorkel In The US
You will love the Dry Tortugas National Park that is located to the west of Key West, about 70 miles. It is a big park, about 100 square miles – mostly open water and a few small islands. Thanks to the clear waters in the park, you will have the snorkel of a lifetime here.
There is a wide variety of marine flora and fauna in the dive sites. You can explore seagrass and coral habitats. Both snorkelers and divers can enjoy the available eight spots. This wealth of flora and fauna is what makes this one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.
Note that the best snorkeling spots are on the reefs that lay miles from the seashore and are best accessed using the local charters. Start with the Sand Key where you will enjoy a variety of coral reef and marine life. Joe’s Tug means just that, a tugboat that has been upended to stand upright in the water, attracting a huge variety of marine life. Be ready to interact with barracudas, spotted morays, horse eye jacks and goliath grouper to name but just a few.
You will love the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, one of the largest ships ever to be turned into a manmade reef. It was sunk in 2009 May and today, it has become home to a lot of algae which in turn attracts a lot of food.
Other snorkeling spots in the Key West include The Atocha, Kedge Ledge, Nine Foot Stake, Ten-Fathom Ledge and The Cayman Salvor. If you think these names are fancy, you should see them from underwater.
Hapuna Beach in Hawaii
You know you do not want to miss Hapuna as it is one of the best places to snorkel in Hawaii. After all, Hawaii is renowned for awesome water sports, great weather and much more.
On the north of Kailua Kona lies the Hapuna Beach. It is small, actually about 0.5 miles long, but it is unforgettable. Always warm, very popular and offering a great snorkel experience, you must take a dip on Hapuna Beach.
There are shops along the beach for food, swimming and snorkeling gear rentals. Since the weather is always warm, you may not need a wetsuit even in winter. Try the Three Frogs Café, which is located right on the beach. It also offers boogie boards, umbrellas and beach chairs at a small fee.
This is an exposed beach and conditions can be a bit rough than you expect. But not to worry as there is always a lifeguard keeping watch on 24/7 basis. The visibility differs from a few feet close to the beach and up to twenty-five feet. Expect to see a range of fish species, sea cucumbers, turtles and urchins during your snorkeling adventure on Hapuna Beach.
Key Largo in Florida
One of the best and a must-see snorkeling location in Florida is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. The island is about an hour and a half drive from most South Florida airports, making it convenient for a long weekend snorkel getaway or even a day trip from Miami.
Florida is home to many pristine beaches and along with such comes beautiful snorkeling spots. To get the best that Key Largo has to give, try the barrier reef first.
You will get some snorkeling near the shore at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but there is not much to see or enjoy there. You need to get out to the barrier reef, as that is where the marine wildlife is to be found. To get to the barrier reef, you will have to take a snorkel boat from the park.
This state park was established in 1963 for protecting part of the only living coral reef in the US. It attracts visitors to the park from around the world due to the coral formations and an abundance of marine life. You will see underwater wildlife like parrotfish and barracuda.
Snorkelers can also check out the Statue of Christ of the Abyss – a large concrete figure in just twenty-five feet of water tucked between the coral formations of Key Largo Dry Rocks reef. This is no doubt one of the best places to snorkel in the US.
Peanut Island in Florida
This is yet another great snorkeling site in Florida. This Island is located at the entrance of the inlet of Lake Worth. It has shallow and clear waters, which are just perfect for snorkeling. To enjoy snorkeling adventures, visitors kayak out to the island from Riviera Beach.
Peanut Island in Florida has some of the most awesome snorkeling and after diving among the marine life, you can go make camp in one of the 20 camping sites if you have your tent. If you did not bring your gear along, you can rent what you need at the beach shops for a small fee.
This is an artificial island, meaning that it was created by man. It got its name from the proposal that it be used as a shipping port for peanut oil, a dream that never came to be realized. When the Lake Worth Inlet was scoured, the island was created. It measures an impressive 80 acres and is home to plenty of marine wildlife.
The waters are shallow and clear. From where the water gets to your waist, you will see a wonderful collection of colored fish. Snorkel close to the rocky shores of the southern part of Peanut Island and you will see manatees, rays, and hundreds of species of fish.
After you are done snorkeling, you can take the children to the Palm Beach Museum, which was initially a Coastguard centre.
Molokini Crater Hawaii
Many people go online to look for Molokini snorkeling tips. Firstly, Molokini Island is not very popular, therefore you are bound to have a jolly time as not many people get out this far when they visit Hawaii. It is advisable that you go snorkeling in the morning (weather permitting) when the waters calm and the winds slow. If you do not kick around too much, the fish might even warm up to you and you will be able to view them from close quarters.
You will have to rise up early if you hope to have a great time snorkeling in Molokini Crater. About 5.00 am would be ideal. Perhaps this is why there are not many people going there most of the time.
Do you need a wetsuit? Of course you do. Do not make movements in the water so you do not scare fish away. You could feel cold more than when you make movement. With a wetsuit for snorkeling, you will be able to keep calm and fish will swim up to you out of curiosity. Use your underwater camera to shoot videos.
The beautiful semi submerged Molokini crater is shaped like a crescent and it is one of the best places to snorkel in Maui. It is located in the Alalākeiki Channel in the middle of the Kah’olawe and Maui islands. This half-submerged crater is named after a beautiful goddess and you will see that it is indeed beautiful.
These are just 15 best places to snorkel in the US. There are many more, but start with these and you will have a rewarding experience.