1. Champagne, Dominica
Sea horses and frogﬁsh will keep you company as you explore the island’s most popular snorkel site, where streams of air effervesce from ﬁssures in the seaﬂoor, making snorkelers feel like they’re swimming in a bottle of bubbly. Keep your eyes peeled for parrotﬁsh and lobster amid gardens of hard and soft coral.
2. Buck Island, USVI
Near St. Croix, this 176-acre island is fringed by a 704-acre elkhorn-coral-rich reef system that begins at the eastern end of the isle. Beneath the crystalline surface, ﬁnners encounter plunge-worthy grottoes and a bounty of reef ﬁsh and gorgonians (like sea fans). Topside, the sandy shore is a nesting area for hawksbill turtles.
3. Bight Reef, Turks + Caicos
Just oﬀ shore of Providenciales’ Grace Bay beach and clearly marked by buoys, beginner-friendly Bight Reef’s snorkel trail boasts underwater signage and schools of yellowtail snapper, parrotﬁsh and the occasional turtle visible in three to 16 feet of crystal-clear waters.
4. Buccoo Reef, Tobago
Rated by Jacques Cousteau as the third most spectacular reef in the world, Buccoo is an easy excursion via glass-bottom boat. Deep crevices of elkhorn, brain and starlet coral are home to angelﬁsh, parrotﬁsh, creole wrasse and blue chromis. And keep your eyes peeled for manta rays.
5. Cenotes, Mexico
The Riviera Maya is dotted with dozens of cenotes, massive ancient limestone sinkholes. Filled with clear and often startlingly deep fresh water, they provide a singular snorkeling experience. One of the very best is Cenote Azul, located near the town of Bacalar, halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It measures some 600 feet across and is believed to be 500 feet deep at the center.
6. Cordillera Keys, Puerto Rico
Catch a water taxi from Fajardo to this string of uninhabited islets and cays ripe for underwater and topside exploration. Turtles regularly nest on the gorgeous white-sand beaches, while coral forests in the brine are home to a rainbow of tropical ﬁsh.
7. Horseshoe Reef, Tobago Cays
Often described as a kaleidoscope of colors, this reef protects four of the ﬁve uninhabited islands that make up the Grenadines’ Tobago Cays Marine Park. Revered and pristine, the area remains under the watchful eye of rangers who ensure the coral-reef system continues to teem with tropical ﬁ sh in waters that are just ﬁve to 12 feet deep. Nurse sharks and eagle rays frequent the depths. Turtle lovers should head for the protected grassy area right outside the beach of Baradal.
8. Arashi to Malmok, Aruba
Park by the side of the road, and then wade over the white-sand bottom to the rocky area to see vast gardens of staghorn, elkhorn and brain coral. Starﬁsh linger on the bottom, while eels secrete themselves in the crevices.
9. Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia
The reef here begins just 10 yards from the resort’s shore, nestled in the shadows of the Pitons. Wade into the warm and calm waters at the north or south end of the bay, and discover more than 150 species of ﬁsh in the thriving marine reserve.
10. Stingray City, Grand Cayman
Brave the boatloads of cruise-ship day-trippers who ﬂock to this feeding spot in the North Sound shallows, because this offshore excursion really does live up to the hype. Feeding, touching and snorkeling amid the graceful rays, being caressed by their silken underbellies and velvety wings as they glide past, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience accessible to newbies and sure to thrill experienced snorkelers.
11. Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI
Venture mere steps from the soft crushed-coral strand and kick out a few yards to the reef, which has marked underwater trails. Novices will be delighted by the clear waters and the sight of trumpetﬁsh and parrotﬁsh. Islanders boast that you can see more than 50 species in just half an hour.
12. Thunderball Cave, Bahamas
Immortalized in the 1960s James Bond caper of the same name, Thunderball, near Staniel Cay, teems with enough aquatic life to enchant even been-there, done-that snorkelers (and will certainly spoil newbies for other sites). Depending on the tide, you may need to dive under the surface to enter or exit the grotto, but the schools of queen angelﬁsh and sergeant major are worth holding your breath for.
13. Laughing Bird Caye, Belize
Catch a tour boat out of Placencia to reach this picture-perfect isle 11 miles oﬀ the coast. A prime destination for snorkelers of all stripes, Laughing Bird’s waters teem with a multitude of reef species, including parrotﬁsh, yellowtail snapper and barracuda.
14. Rockhouse, Jamaica
The clear turquoise waters that lap Negril’s West End oﬀer a plethora of sea life, and on any given day, snorkelers can expect to see silversides, dwarf tube sponges and coral heads. Taking the plunge here also aﬀords a unique perspective on the town’s famous cliﬀs and enchanting grottoes.
15. Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize
Near Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker on the Belize Barrier Reef, Hol Chan is a 4,448-acre aquatic wonderland. Don’t miss Shark Ray Alley, where in just eight feet of water, you’ll get up close and personal with dozens of its namesake creatures.
16. Klein Bonaire, Bonaire
Day-trippers take water taxis, snorkel tours or rented kayaks to this uninhabited island a half-mile oﬀshore. Sandy shallows lead to gorgonian forests where ﬁleﬁsh and queen angelﬁsh glide regally through the water.
17. The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
The pools and grottoes created by ginormous granite boulders make this the most famously photogenic spot in the British Virgin Islands. Snorkelers should make a point to follow the rocky 20-minute trail to nearby (and unsurprisingly less crowded) Devil’s Bay. Don’t miss the southside cave, where you’ll spot cup corals and multicolored sponges in 12 to 15 feet of water.
18. Scotts Head, Dominica
It’s renowned as a stellar dive site, but Scotts Head Marine Reserve has plenty to delight snorkelers as well. Stick close to the wall around this ancient volcanic crater just below famous Champagne Beach, on the southern tip of the island, and prepare yourself to experience a visual panoply of sea life, including yellow tube sponges, dolphins and reef ﬁ sh of every color.
19. Underwater Sculpture Gardens, Mexico; Grenada
Otherworldly, eerie and haunting are but three apt descriptors of British sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor’s concrete-and-steel installations at Moliniere Bay, Grenada, and Cancun, Mexico. Anchored in both locations at snorkeler-friendly depths, the compelling arrangements of life-size human ﬁgures are a man-made marvel and a sight you’ll reminisce about long after you leave the water.
20. Bloody Bay, Little Cayman
Famed as one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the Diving World, thanks to a vertical wall that drops oﬀ to 1,000 feet or more, Bloody Bay also oﬀers some stunning snorkeling opportunities in its shallower parts. Jackson’s Point is considered the best, but don’t miss Lea Lea’s Lookout and Nancy’s Cup of Tea.
21. Dean’s Blue Hole, Bahamas
This takes the prize for the eeriest snorkel excursion you could ever take. A collapsed cave systems runs from a six-foot-deep sandy turquoise lagoon to stark-blue depths of more than 600 feet. It’s not known for its array of tropicals but for records in free diving.
22. Banco Chinchorro, Mexico
Getting to this atoll requires an 18-mile crossing over open ocean, where seas can range from calm and ﬂat to four to six feet, at times making the trip a four-hour journey. The reward is a healthy coral forest where barrel sponges are as large as plunge pools and brain coral is the size of a Mini Cooper.
23. Anse du Colombier, St. Barts
Doubtless oﬀering the best snorkeling opportunities among the island’s 14 white-sand beaches, far-ﬂung Anse du Colombier, on St. Barts’ western edge, is reached after a fairly robust hike or, better, oﬀ the deck of a sailboat.
24. Los Roques, Venezuela
Wealthy Venezuelans access this 869-square-mile archipelago by private plane. Your best bet may be to charter a boat, allowing you to spend as much time as you’d like exploring all this pristine 50-island chain has to offer. Pull up to any perfect beach and settle in for a few hours. A cooler, a lounge chair and snorkeling gear are all you need to make this a perfect day in the sun.
25. Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico
Twelve miles from Rincon, this World War II bombing range remains abandoned, with a no-vacancy sign on its shores. Underwater snorkelers ﬁnd this isolated location chock-full of queen triggers, butterﬂy ﬁsh and cowﬁsh. The 40-minute boat ride crosses cobalt-blue water where humpback whales make appearances.