Travel & Recreation

Top Snorkeling Locales in the U.S.: A Guided Tour for Tropical Travelers

Written by Timothy Werth

Aviation data company FlightAware estimates that there is an average of 9,728 planes carrying 1.27 million people in the air at any given moment, and as winter weather overcomes many parts of the United States, countless people are wishing they could hop on the next plane and escape to a tropical locale. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to travel internationally to get an authentic experience when it comes to enjoying water-based activities like swimming and snorkeling, and it’s never too early to start planning your next summer escape. Here are just a few of the top locales right here in the United States that are perfect for snorkeling.

Crystal River, Florida

In 2017, there were approximately 8.38 million participants in snorkeling in the United States, and Crystal River, Florida has long been a beloved locale for fans of the activity. It’s also known for being the home to the largest population of manatees in the world during the winter season. Crystal River is located on the gulf coast, approximately two hours west of Orlando. Here, you’ll find countless opportunities for guided tours, where you can interact with manatees, fish, birds, and various other types of wildlife.

Of course, even if you visit Florida during the winter, you’ll need to be prepared with the essential gear, like sunscreen, which should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 1.5 to two hours or immediately after swimming.

Santa Catalina Island, California

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning bright and sunny California. In fact, some say this location offers some of the best snorkeling spots in the world. Santa Catalina Island is located about 26 miles off Long Beach’s coast. There are countless opportunities for one-of-a-kind interaction with wildlife through guided tours and attractions.

“Visitors can take guided, night or boat snorkeling tours with the dive shop. Two popular snorkeling and diving locations near the island are Lover’s Cove and Casino Point marine preserves, according to Catalina Scuba Luv. In both locations you’ll see abundant fish and beautiful underwater habitats,” writes Katie Pohlman on EcoWatch.

Again, don’t forget the essentials when visiting scenic California: About 75% of U.S. adults wear Rx or plano sunglasses, and you’ll definitely want to bring yours along to get the full visual experience and protect your eyes from harsh rays.

Bailey’s Harbor, Wisconsin

That’s right — you may not think of Wisconsin as a snorkel-loving state, but there are quite a few hidden gems along Lake Michigan that are perfect for snorkelers of all skill levels. You can find Bailey’s Harbor about two hours north of Green Bay. If you choose this destination, be prepared for some historic scenery; there are plenty of tours that offer sights and explorations of shipwrecks that date back to the 1800s. Nautical experts say that there could be hundreds of shipwrecks around the area.

Block Island, Rhode Island

Often referred to as the ‘Bermuda of the North,’ Block Island is just a quick 45-minute ferry ride from Rhode Island’s mainland. This remote locale provides a truly one-of-a-kind experience when it comes to underwater snorkeling sights.

“The water surrounding the island has abundant reefs, making it one of the best places to snorkel in the northeast, according to The Clymb. The reefs shelter fish and the continental shelf is short, ensuring snorkelers will have good visibility and will see more than just sand. But go in the height of summer. The water temperatures at Block Island are cold, even in the summer, and would be unbearable any other time of the year,” writes Pohlman.

So, there you have it — some of the best spots in the country for showing off your snorkeling skills. Don’t forget to bring an underwater camera!

About the author

Timothy Werth