For die-hard beach lovers, Labor Day signals one thing and one thing only: It’s time to start planning that winter break getaway. And if “travel to somewhere renown for its beautiful underwater life” has yet to be checked off your list, consider building your next a vacation around a snorkeling excursion. After all, floating through the water while gazing at the beauty and wonder of life beneath the surface is a fun (and educational) activity for the whole family.
Not sure where to begin? Check out our top picks for snorkeling-centric spots for some inspiration. You’ll be flapping your fins in the salty seas in no time.
Molokini Crater: Maui, Hawaii
Just a few miles away from the beautiful shores of Maui, this tiny volcanic island is Hawaii’s only marine sanctuary, making it an ideal setting for snorkeling. Home to over 250 species of fish, 38 species of coral, green sea turtles and bottle nose dolphins, the Molokini crater is an underwater paradise — and a clear one at that! With visibility up to 150 feet deep, you won’t miss a thing.
Take the Molokini Express snorkel tour at Kai Kanani Sailing Charters and receive snorkeling instruction and orientation, quality gear, marine naturalists on board and continental breakfast to boot.
Watermelon Cay: St. John, British Virgin islands
Rated by TripAdvisor as one of the top three activities to do in St John’s Island’s National Park, this off-the-beaten-path location is worth the extra effort it takes to get there.
Hike along the Leinster Bay trail for about 3/4 of a mile and enjoy the tropical back drop as you make your way down to the beach. (Note: The trail starts near the end of the road to Annaberg Ruins). Strap on your snorkel gear and look out for turtles, rays, cushion sea starfish and schools of Atlantic Blue Tangs, Bluehead grasses and Parrotfish.
The colorful sponges and patch coral heads are a do not miss. You may even spot a nurse shark hanging out on the reef floor … just be sure to steer clear of her babies if you do.
Margaritaville: Cozumel, Mexico
Thought Margaritaville was only for frozen concoctions and cheeseburgers? Think again. At Margaritaville Cozumel in Mexico, you can snag a free snorkel, mask, pair of fins and a towel from the waterpark. From the pool, take a ride down the slide and enter the Caribbean waters, where beautiful coral and local fish abound.
When you’ve had enough, climb back onto dry land and treat yourself to a much deserved cocktail alongside some chips and guac. How’s that for easy living?
Tamarindo Beach: Culebra, Puerto Rico
A17-mile ferry ride from Puerto Rico, Culebra is an island known for its beautiful beaches and of course, coral reefs. To get here, book a flight from the San Juan airport directly to Culebra, or drive to Fajardo (an hour and 30 min from the San Juan airport) where you can take a 45 minute ferry ride for a $4.50 round trip ticket.
Once you’ve arrived, rent a car and drive to Tamarindo beach. Get your snorkel gear on and check out the reef’s local sea turtles, manta rays, bright blue tang fish and colorful coral. Declared a protected wildlife refuge by Teddy Roosevelt in 1909, these waters are known to be the nesting site for the Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtle.