Top Ten Places to Snorkel - Page 2
|SNORKELER'S PARADISE: The best snorkel spots feature calm waters and plenty to see under the surface (Stephen Frink/Photographer's Choice/Getty)|
5. Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles
Like its sister island, Bonaire, Curaçao's reef hugs the shore so closely you'll encounter hundreds of species of fish and coral just a few fin-kicks from the beach. Add to that an average visibility of 110 feet and temperate waters year round and you've got an underwater destination worth going out of your way to reach. Among the 50-plus snorkeling sites around the island, one of the best is Curaçao Underwater Marine Park, at the southeastern end of the island. There you'll find 12 miles of beautiful coral gardens, colorful fish, turtles, dolphins, and even sunken ships. Bonaire probably tops Curaçao for sheer snorkeling bliss, but Curaçao has a lot more going on above water, including a larger variety of hotels, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. Why choose just one? It's easy to visit both in a single trip.
Curaçao Vacation Guide
This mountainous island has long been considered one of the Caribbean's premier diving destinations, and the snorkeling ain't too shabby either. Champagne Beach is a must—underwater volcanic vents make it look and feel as if you're snorkeling in a bowl of warm champagne. Soufriere-Scotts Head Bay, at the island's southern tip, is another favorite for snorkelers. There, hard and soft coral blankets the submerged rim of an ancient volcano crater, home to innumerable sea creatures. Experienced snorkelers can swim out to the edge of the crater, which dramatically plunges hundreds of feet—a remarkable sight. If you want to spend a bit of time on land, Dominica features plenty of terrific hiking.
Dominica Vacation Guide
3. Tobago Cays, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The Tobago Cays consist of five uninhabited islets surrounded by rich coral reefs and crystalline water protected as a national marine park; it's a pristine spot, to say the least, and perfect for snorkeling. Tour operators on Union Island and even St. Vincent offer day trips here, usually combined with a stop at nearby Mayreau Island, while other visitors arrive by private or chartered yacht. It can get busy in high season—when food and souvenir vendors arrive in small motorboats—but not obtrusively so. The massive horseshoe-shaped reef nearly encircles the islands, and the underwater terrain is overflowing with tropical fish, sponges, and other creatures. There's a turtle feeding area near one of the cays, and gorgeous white-sand beaches border the others.
Tobago Cays Vacation Guide
2. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
With shallow reefs and crystalline waters, Providenciales offers excellent snorkeling opportunities. Visitors are treated to a thriving underwater world, with myriad fish and sea creatures, dramatic coral formations and colorful fans, and impressive wall drop-offs. For shore snorkeling that will dazzle rookies and experienced snorkelers alike, head to Grace Bay. Home to Smith's Reef and Bight's Reef, Grace Bay boasts underwater trails that feature placards describing the locations and their residents. For further afield sites, book a snorkeling tour from one of the tour operators that embarks from Leeward Marina.
Providenciales Vacation Guide
1. Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
The waters around Bonaire have been protected as a national marine park for more than 30 years, making this one of the Caribbean's most pristine underwater environments and home to a seemingly endless variety of coral, tropical fish, and large sea creatures. Add to that a mellow current and crystal-clear visibility year round, and you've got a true snorkeler's paradise. Even better, most of Bonaire's snorkeling sites are accessible right from shore; just stop at any of the bright yellow painted stones along the road, grab your gear, and hit the water. The local tourism board and various local dive shops also collaborate to offer the Bonaire Guided Snorkeling Program, a popular guided tour of five of Bonaire's top snorkeling sites including 1,000 Steps and Just a Nice Dive.
Bonaire Vacation Guide