With an incredible 95,471 miles of coastline, America has some breathtaking spots to snorkel around. So, Let’s discover the best beaches for snorkeling in the US
- Top 3 Beach for Snorkeling in the US
- Best Beach for Snorkeling in California
Top 3 Beach for Snorkeling in the US
From Florida, mangroves to Hawaiian islands, and nonetheless, California sea caves are the best to explore the US underwater gems.
You get the chance to snorkel alongside vibrant tropical fishes, giant kelp forests, amazing stingrays, colonies of polyps, and spectacular dolphin pods.
If you’re lucky enough, you can watch some giant sea turtles or even whales. We have covered the top beaches for snorkeling in Florida, Hawaii & California.
Key West, Florida Keys
Undoubtedly, Key West is one of the Florida Keys’ best destinations for snorkeling because of its third-largest coral barrier reef system, in the world.
It is popular among snorkelers for snorkeling along with loggerhead sea turtles, stingrays, and manatees.
You can easily hop a sailboat out to the coral reef and can be lucky enough to get a peek at wild dolphins along the way.
Its rich ecosystem makes it easy to supplement your snorkeling vacation with other adventures like taking a trip through the mangroves.
Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys
If you love Key West snorkeling, then Dry Tortugas National Park must be on your bucket list for some of the best snorkeling and skin diving in North America.
It is just 70 miles from Key West and the Florida Keys, right at Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas is one of the faraway, yet most beautiful snorkeling destinations in the US.
Whether you are a beginner or an expert, its shallow waters (5-15 feet) make snorkeling fun for everyone. Ponce de Leon named it for the large number of sea turtles he encountered.
If you are lucky, you’ll get a chance to see the native loggerhead turtles, yellowtail snappers, and sergeant majors.
Also, there is an abundance of vibrant tropical fish, majestic living corals, starfish, queen conchs, and much more in this protected marine sanctuary. The good news is: that complimentary fins, masks, and snorkel are provided.
Crystal River, Florida
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is known for having the largest concentration of manatees in the state. Manatees are slow-moving mammals that graze on the native seagrass beds.
So what are you waiting for? Just slip into the Crytal River water and you’ll be sharing the sea with these herbivore-fellows. It’ll be fun seeing them enjoying the freshwater springs that bubble up along the Crystal River.
Big Pine Key, Florida
Besides the coral and artificial reefs surrounding Big Pine Key, clear blue waves lap a 210-foot cargo freighter. It was scrambled in 1998. Now, a home for various schools of tropical fish.
Big Pine Key’s best snorkeling destinations are just a boat ride away from the coast. So, join a snorkeling tour to one of the reefs and also get a chance to explore mangrove forests along the way.
Key Largo, Florida
It is well-known for its hidden gem which is John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park. It is the first-ever undersea park in the US. You can easily reach here from Miami. To reach the best places to snorkel here, you’ll have to pass mangrove forests and seagrass beds on the cruise.
In fact, one of the best snorkel places worthy to visit is the spectacular Christ of the Deep. It is actually a bronze statue that was submerged in 1965. Now becomes a home for rich coral and various fish. You can also hop aboard a snorkeling charter to visit Florida’s incredible coastline.
Ho’okena Beach Park, Hawaii
Undoubtedly, Hawaii is yet another state with more than its fair share of the best sites to snorkel. Hookena Beach on the Big Island serves as a secluded surf and snorkel spot on the island.
Here, you can rent snorkel equipment right on the beach if you forgot your own. These rentals go to the Friends of Ho’okena Beach Park to serve as a fund for preservation activities.
Sea creatures include dolphins, sea turtles, and Hawaii’s state fish – Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. It is rich with various marine life that’s why it is still a spot where Hawaiian indigenous people still practice the traditional canoe fishing techniques. Thus, be respectful of what this place means to those natives. Especially the sacred cliffs to the south end of the beach.
Kapalua Beach, Hawaii
Kapalua beach is the best beach for snorkeling in Maui because of its laid-back way to get in the water. It is actually a protected white-sand beach that lies on the northwest side of Maui. A C-shaped cove made by the extended ends of two reefs makes it an ideal beach for snorkeling in Maui.
Further, the calm and gentle waters make it one of the perfect places for beginner snorkeling and families with kids. The surrounding splendid coral reef is a habitat for sea turtles, eels, and numerous tropical fish. Its main attraction is that you can even spot larger marine life – the migrating humpback whales.
The Poipu Beach Park lined with swaying palm trees is worthy to snorkel along with the sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals that usually crawl onto the soft sand for a daily nap. It’s good for beginner snorkelers because it comes with a sandy bottom entrance, calm waters, and a healthy reef. To take your snorkeling to the next level, join some snorkeling tours away from the coast, where spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins have fun with the passing boats.
Kapo Point Beach, Hawaii
With good conditions almost all around the year, planning Kapolei snorkeling is easy in Oahu.
Kapo Point Beach is also known as Electric Beach for the power plant beside this narrow enclave. The power plant’s warm water attracts numerous marine life, making it the best beach for snorkeling in Oahu. Neither it has dancing palm trees with a wide stretch of sand nor a scenic backdrop, the real show is “under the water”.
Most beginning snorkelers love swimming along with the vibrant wrasse and tang fish that are in the protected waters at the man-made Ko Olina Lagoons.
Anini Beach, Hawaii
The best beach for snorkeling in Kauai stretches across the island, but travelers find the most ideal conditions along the north shore.
Anini Beach is known as one of the safest and most protected beaches and stretches 2 miles along the north shore of Kauai. It lies right between Princeville and Kilauea.
Anini Beach is actually a narrow stretch of white soft sand sheltered by one of the largest coral reefs in the state, as it has calm ocean conditions.
In fact, this extensive coral reef offers good swimming and snorkeling conditions- even in winter. Other popular water sports are windsurfing, fishing, and beachcombing.
The best time to snorkel is early morning for the clearest visibility because as the day progresses the wind usually stirs up the water and blurs the visibility.
The best spots for snorkeling are near the parking lot beside the showers and near the boat ramp. But, keep in mind, stick to the shallow portions if you are a beginner as there is still no lifeguard.
Beach amenities include bathrooms, picnic areas, a boat ramp, and party areas along the beach, thus recommended for families.
Best Beach for Snorkeling in California
Catalina Island, Californi
Known as Santa Catalina, Catalina island is situated almost 26 miles off of the southwest coast of Los Angeles. It offers you an unforgettable snorkeling experience. Some of its best snorkeling spots are Lover’s Cove, Casino Point Park, and the Two Harbors.
Starting with Lover’s Cover, it is located just off the Avalon – the largest town in Catalina. It is known as the most famous snorkeling point on the island.
Whether you are riding an underwater scooter or wandering on your own, you are guaranteed to have an incredible snorkeling experience.
Marine life includes garibaldi, rays, kelp bass, rockfish, and octopus. The deepest point at Lover’s Cove is around 16 feet, make sure to get a snorkel vest for those who are used to being underwater yet.
On the other hand, the underwater garden of Casino Point has some spectacular marine creatures, plants – giant kelp, and even ancient shipwrecks.
Sea creatures include various senorita, garibaldi, sheepshead, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sea stars, bass, etc.
The Two Harbors – Cat Harbor and Isthmus Cove Harbor are geographically secluded but the cleanest in Catalina. Most snorkeling happens on Isthmus Cove. They have the healthiest marine atmosphere and are the most serene snorkeling spot.
La Jolla Cove, California
It is the most popular snorkeling location in California. It beautifully stretches up to Torrey Pines State Park. This area is lined by high-rise cliffs that shelter the Cove from giant, dangerous waves. Thus, this protected area offers space for a smooth, calm snorkeling experience.
Marine life includes fish, sea slugs, rays, and leopard sharks. Some giant sea animals are sea lions and dolphins. Moreover, tall kelp forests, canyons, and fine sand make an exquisite underwater landscape at La Jolla Cove.
La Jolla Ecological Reserve and Underwater Park are ranked as one of the 10 best snorkeling places in the world. They combined offer around 6,000 acres of tidelands and sea bottom to explore.
In the ecological reserve, the ocean floor drops down about 500 feet into the La Jolla Underwater Canyon.
La Jolla Shores: You can snorkel on either end of the swimmer’s beach either north of the pier or south near the famous Marine Room restaurant. You’ll see a lot of bottom-dwellers at La Jolla shores i.e. the California spiny lobster and even a sheep crab – a giant crab with a crusty wooly shell surface.
Finally, snorkelers can explore an underwater graveyard situated around 100 yards from the La Jolla Cove Bridge Club. Located drop down about 35 feet, the graveyard – Tombstones – features several markers to acknowledge deceased spearfishermen and members of the Bottom Scratchers.
The Bottom Scratchers is actually North America’s first diving and spearfishing club. Still, markers are placed to remember and honor free divers of the region.
Safety Tip: Make sure to shuffle your feet as you enter the water to let the stingrays know you’re there.
Laguna Beach, California
The beautiful Laguna Beach is home to Heisler Park Ecological Reserve and offers crystal-clear waters for snorkeling. It is one of the best snorkeling sites in Southern California. Shaw’s Cove – a small beach – is its precious gem. It offers snorkelers picturesque views of reef structures and diverse marine life.
Explorers can sign up for a two-hour tour that features out to Seal Rock to snorkel around more reef structures, vibrant kelp forests, and California sea lions.
Crystal Cove State Park, California
Pampered between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, situated in Southern California’s Orange County. This amazing Crystal Cove State Park features a cove beach and extraordinary hiking trails.
Further, it is home to some incredible tide pools for watching marine life up close and personal. Snorkeling from Pelican Point or Reef Point offers you a chance to see dolphins, stingrays, and garibaldi.
Channel Islands National Park, California
The Channel Islands National Park lies off the coast of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. It is one of the most beautiful and biodiverse areas in California. Out of eight Channel Islands, five are protected as part of Channel Islands National Park. Some best snorkeling areas lie near Anacapa and east of the Santa Cruz islands.
To enter the chilly cold waters (52-66 degrees Fahrenheit), snorkelers need a wetsuit. However, the incredible views are worth this effort.
Further, this area requires expert swimming skills to bear the strong currents and waves. It also means a dry snorkel is a MUST.
The Channel Islands offer some of the best snorkeling experiences with a mix of both tropical and cold water. Visibility is approximately 50 feet.
Snorkelers will enjoy seeing the various array of sea life like sea lions, seals, dolphins, and whales.
Related: Best Snorkel Gear
She started BeachXplore as a traveling blog covering particularly amazing beaches which she was lucky to visit and research about. Here you can find her writings on the best beaches, guides on beach wear, items, and more.