Have the boat driver take a return route by Oak Ridge, a charming Honduran fishing village. Keep an eye out for: juvenile reef fish and fantastic elkhorn coral in the sparkling waters.
Stingray City, situated on a shallow sand bank off Grand Cayman Island, may be the most popular snorkel site in the world. It’s spectacular fun to be mobbed by a gregarious flock of soaring Southern stingrays in water clear as air.
One of the western Caribbean’s great delights resides roughly 20 minutes by boat from Ambergris Cay. On my first visit, I was mesmerized by dozens of nurse sharks, jacks, stingrays, and grunts cavorting with snorkelers over turtle grass and reefs. Here, I have swum with the most substantial wild fish―normally only seen by scuba divers―in only 6 to 10 feet of water.
Float from the feeding area to the shallow reefs and discover a dreamlike setting of sun-dappled coral and tiny reef denizens. Keep an eye out for: eagle rays. On more than one occasion I’ve been thrilled to see a majestic spotted eagle ray soaring through the reefs.When to go:
all year, but check cruise ship schedules to avoid the busiest times; holchanbelize.org
Bimini Islands, Bahamas
I love the half-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale to this little island, where the water’s dramatic change from cobalt to preternatural aqua signals your arrival to one of the friendliest wild dolphin habitats in the world. After a short boat ride out of the harbor, you just might be snorkeling with 20 Atlantic spotted dolphins on shallow banks―unforgettable!
The more you can spin, flip, and dive like a dolphin, the more the dolphins will play with you.Keep an eye out for:
young dolphins, which may be quite small and have few or no spots. Adults are more speckled. When to go: year-round, but summer offers warm conditions and calmer seas; 800/348-4644 or biminiundersea.com
Lover’s Cove, Catalina Island, California
The most popular snorkel spot off Catalina, this protected area sports kelp forest, rock reef, and a menagerie of cool-water inhabitants. Guides and operators can help you in by boat, or try heading out on your own from the Pebbly Beach access stairs; just don’t forget your flag marker.
A lot of the fish here are used to being fed and aren’t shy. Wear gloves if you’re bringing peas or bread for them, as their enthusiasm leads to finger nibbling―more of a nuisance than a danger. Keep an eye out for: sea stars, eels, anemones, octopuses, and, most notably, the brilliant orange Garibaldi fish. If you are comfortable diving down 10 to 15 feet, you’ll find many small crustaceans and beautiful nudibranches.When to go:
summer, when water temperatures warm to the low 70s; 877/766-7535 or catalinadiveshop.com
Papalaua Wayside Park, Maui, Hawaii
This laid-back beach is a long sliver of sand off Honoapiilani Highway. That makes for a little road noise but means easier access than some of Maui’s other snorkeling spots. Idyllic sunsets cast light on surfers along Papalaua’s west shore.
For primo snorkeling, visit Coral Gardens, at the park’s eastern end. Keep an eye out for: shallow corals, butterfly fish, and green turtles. With luck, you’ll spot humuhumunukunukuapuaa, dynamic Hawaiian triggerfish.When to go:
year-round, with light winds in the mornings; mauibeachguide.com
.Original post at coastal living