The world's most unique snorkeling sites make for incredible adventure with whale sharks, jellyfish, and WWII planes beyond the cliché "best snorkeling" lists.

Simply performing a Google search for “best snorkeling in the world” can provide hundreds of top-rated results. Furthermore, they have a lot of similarities. Hawaiian Islands, Maldives, Great Barrier Reef, and Bonaire. Please don’t get us wrong—the destinations we’re talking about are amazing and thoroughly deserve their high rankings. On the other hand, there are thousands of listings to choose from.

What about the World’s most unique snorkeling sites?

That is quite interactive and exciting. We’ve done a lot of snorkeling worldwide and had many amazing experiences, so we thought we’d tell our friends about them. Let’s examine the best places to go snorkeling worldwide and discuss what makes each of them exceptional.

The World’s Most Unique Snorkeling Sites: Our 11 Ultimate Adventures

1. Jellyfish Lake, Palau (Jellyfish)

Despite their grace and beauty, jellyfish are usually to be avoided due to the painful stings they can produce. When there are too many of them, snorkeling is called off (ouch!).

However, on the island of Eil Malk in Palau, one of the marine lakes is not salt water. On the contrary, more jellyfish equals more fun.

The thousands of golden and moon jellyfish in the lake no longer have a sting that is dangerous to humans since they have evolved without predators and feed only on small organisms (algae). As a result, you may confidently swim through crowds of jellyfish ranging in the hundreds or even thousands.

Where else can you snorkel among such a diverse community of jellyfish? Nowhere. As a result, Jellyfish Lake in Palau is undoubtedly one of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites. (My favorite Jellyfish Lake tour in Palau is with Neco Marine Palau.)

2. Isla Holbox & Isla Mujeres, Mexico (Whale Sharks)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites
World’s Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

Swimming with over a hundred whale sharks off the coasts of Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres in Mexico was one of my most memorable and extraordinary snorkeling experiences. Floating in the ocean while these huge gentle creatures passed on all sides was a magnificent experience.

Although whale sharks are difficult to spot in the ocean (much of their habits and where they spend their time remain a mystery), three main events attract large numbers of these animals. One is in Australia, one is in the Philippines, and one is in Mexico, close to Cancun and the islands of Holbox and Mujeres.

This implies that from June through September (with the best months being July and August), it is very usual to be able to hop in boats with a guide and all have the same pleasure we did. Sailing alongside these 40-foot creatures as they feast on fish eggs and microscopic plankton. It’s a reliable, incredible experience that makes this area one of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites.

3. Crystal River, Florida, USA (Manatees)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

Absolutely everyone loves manatees. These round, dopey marine creatures never fail to put a smile on people’s faces.

They dominate the Crystal River in west-central Florida (north of Tampa) and appear friendly to tourists who have spent the winter in the Gulf of Mexico (typically November to March). Snorkeling with these mellow kooks is a breeze in Crystal River’s shallow, clear waters (and the adjoining Homosassa River).

You shouldn’t touch the manatees, but it doesn’t mean they’re held to the same standard. Although manatees spend most of their time in the Gulf of Mexico alone, it’s not unusual for one to approach you out of pleasant curiosity and check you out with its flippers.

A manatee hugging you? Awesome. That creates Crystal River, one of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites.

“My recommendation for manatee snorkel tours in Crystal River is Explorida to join a well-run group tour or Plantation Adventure Center if you’re looking for a good private tour”

4. Bay of Naples, Italy (Sunken Roman City)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

Humans can (unintentionally) create some of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites, but unspoiled nature and its wonderful marine life are usually the primary drivers.

The rise of the Roman Empire thousands of years ago in modern-day Italy led to the development of countless cities and towns covered with marble throughout the ancient globe. Numerous Roman ruins, from Italy to Egypt and Spain, can be seen worldwide. However, you can also see ancient Roman landmarks via air or sea.

Baiae, a popular ancient Roman resort town, was destroyed in the 16th century when a volcanic eruption caused the collapse of part of the town’s coastline. Offshore of modern-day Pozzuoli (not far from Naples), at the Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia, snorkelers can enjoy a truly one-of-a-kind underwater adventure.

The snorkeling trip in Baiae highlights Tour Guide Naples, and you also visit Pompeii.

There aren’t any spectacular coral reefs or exotic creatures to be seen when you take a plunge into the waters of the Parco. Instead, you swim up to the old Roman town of Baiae, which has been buried by the sea for thousands of years and is now a fascinating underwater museum. It is one of the few places in the World where you can go snorkeling that is truly unlike everywhere else.

5. Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Reclaimed Nature)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

I believe that Raja Ampat in Indonesia should be included on our list of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites and any list of the best snorkeling in the World.

But because so few people are aware of it, it is nearly never implemented (and most of the best-snorkeling spot lists snatch the same locations from each other, however). Indeed, getting there is a challenging and expensive task.

Many species in Indonesia are among the most diverse in the World. However, it has been experiencing problems associated with reef decline, overfishing, and ocean pollution, just like the rest of the planet. Certainly, it was the case with Raja Ampat, one of the country’s most stunning and special places.

A total of roughly 18,000 square miles (46,000 km2) of Raja Ampat’s seas have been designated as the first shark and manta ray refuge in that region of the World, with nearly any activity that could harm these animals being prohibited. Conservation groups were ecstatic.

Since then, nature has returned spectacularly. Many unique and endangered marine animal species, including dugongs, blue whales, pygmy blue whales, dolphins, orcas, and countless others, now call Raja Ampat home [source].

Right now, Raja Ampat is widely regarded as having the World’s richest biodiversity for its ecosystem size, making it one of the best places to snorkel on Earth and one of the world’s most unique snorkeling sites. There is no more authentic type of snorkeling than this.

6. Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia (WWII Ships & Planes)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Navy established a base in the Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia. This base was the target of a major attack by the United States just over two years after the Pearl Harbor attack. About 300 planes were shot down in the conflict, and 60 ships were lost to the lagoon’s azure waters.

Also, all those air and sea vessels are still accessible. The preserved waters of Chuuk Lagoon have become one of the unique snorkeling sites in the World, providing visitors with a chance to swim beside authentic World War II relics.

Some 15 wrecks are close enough to the surface to allow for an unforgettable, eerie, and interesting experience for snorkelers. At the same time, the majority of the ships and planes are only accessible to scuba divers.

7. Champagne Reef, Dominica (Underwater Volcanoes)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

Don’t like snorkeling in the cold because of the water temperature. Instead of swimming in a pool, why not warm up by swimming among active underwater volcanoes?

The geothermal activity on Champagne Reef, south of Pointe Michel on Dominica, is quite bubbly, yet it does not raise the water temperature to an unsafe level for snorkeling. Instead, it’s a lot of fun to dive into the warm water (over 80 degrees) and swim out over the reef, where you can feel the millions of tiny bubbles rising from the cracks in the rock below you. The reef got its name because snorkeling there feels like soaking in bubbly water, and Adventure in Blue has labeled it one of the “world’s most unique snorkeling sites” for a good reason.

In addition to the fascinating geothermal locations, a local expert can show you the best places to snorkel or dive to see the abundant marine life in the area.

(We recommend PH Whale Watch Dominica’s afternoon tour, which includes snorkeling at Champagne Reef and Scotts Head, as well as a visit to the hot springs at Bubble Beach.)

8. Churchill River, Manitoba, Canada (Beluga Whales)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites
Churchill River, Manitoba, Canada (Beluga Whales)

One of the more interesting places to go snorkeling is the Churchill River in north-central Manitoba if you don’t mind a bit of a brisk swim.

Many thousands of stunning beluga whales, who spend the winter in Hudson Bay, migrate to the Churchill River as soon as the ice begins to melt in early July. They come to spend the summer here, and, like the manatees in Florida’s warmer waters, they frequently appear pleased to meet people.

Those who book a snorkeling excursion out of Churchill near the mouth of the river will be given an arctic-rated wetsuit, along with other cold-weather gear like insulated booties and a hood, but they should still dress warmly.

However, once you’ve gotten over the initial shock, you’ll be rewarded with beluga whales who are curious, clever, and sometimes even playful. If you do a barrel roll, they may try to imitate you and start playing. Whistle at them and see if you don’t get a happy response. In other words, it’s quite an adventure.

Snorkeling with such stunningly gorgeous and perceptive marine life in a normally inaccessible location is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And thus, the Churchill River joins the ranks of the most extraordinary snorkeling destinations on the planet.

9. Riviera Maya, Mexico (Cenotes)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

The Riviera Maya, located south of Cancun in Mexico, is an excellent destination for those needing warmer weather to complement their wonderful snorkeling adventures.

There are some of the most interesting places to go snorkeling in the World on the Riviera Maya since the entire Yucatan Peninsula, of which the Riviera Maya is a part, rests above gigantic subterranean aquafers. The water is usually clean enough for snorkeling; sometimes, it even winds through cave systems.

In reality, Mateo’s trip will take you to three separate cenotes in a single day.

Snorkeling among cave stalactites and stalagmites, schools of unusual cenote fish species, and ancient Mayan freshwater sources are all possible on guided snorkel expeditions to famous cenotes like Aktun Chen, Dos Ojos, or Gran Cenote (among many more).

10. Silver Bank, Dominican Republic (Humpback Whales)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic (Humpback Whales)

If snorkeling with a school of whale sharks 40 feet long wasn’t overwhelming enough, try swimming with a pod of humpback whales 30 feet long and 50 feet tall in the Dominican Republic.

An impressive population of humpback whales congregate on a much shallower plateau (only about 60 feet/18 meters deep) within the protected Silver Bank Santuario de Mamferos Marinos (Sanctuary for Marine Mammals) about 80 miles north of mainland Dominican Republic every year from December to April to mate, give birth, and begin raising their calves.

Swimming with whales is an experience unlike any other, and it will leave you feeling humbled and in wonder. Since Silver Bank is one of just a select few locations where people may swim with these magnificent whales, it is undeniably one of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites.

11. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador (Biodiversity)

World's Most Unique Snorkeling Sites

The Galapagos Islands consist of 19 volcanic islands about 600 miles west of Ecuador. The marine life around the Galapagos is just as remarkable as the land-based species that have made the islands famous, such as birds, lizards, tortoises, and so much more. For animal enthusiasts, the Galapagos Islands are a dream come true.

Amazing marine life, including sea lions, seals, sea turtles, dolphins, humpback whales, manta rays, orcas, penguins, eels, and reef sharks, inhabit the seas around the islands. You won’t find a more concentrated concentration of attractions anyplace else on Earth.

Devil’s Crown, the site of an old collapsed volcano, is one of the most popular snorkel spots in the Galapagos due to the incredible underwater variety it hosts. It’s a more complex site with some currents to mind, so make sure to hire an expert guide to take you out; you’ll get your money’s worth in terms of the number and variety of fish and underwater creatures you encounter.

Tips for success at the World’s most unique snorkel sites

We’ve been lucky enough to snorkel in some of the World’s most unique sites, and as a result, we’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks for making the most of your time there. We recommend considering the following things:

  1. Hire a Guide. While some of these snorkeling places (like Champagne Reef in Dominica) are quite easy, we still shell out the additional cash to hire a guide. A guide’s superior familiarity with their locale means you’ll be shown to the greatest spots in the region, protected from any dangers, and given insights into the area’s history and culture that you otherwise would have missed. Finding a tour guide through Viator is a great option.
  2. Don’t Over-Research. You should organize your trip and hire a reliable guide in advance, but you shouldn’t read too much into what it’s like to snorkel in any of the World’s most unique locations. Instead, you should allow yourself to have no real expectations and just be surprised by your unique experience. Suppose there is anything specific you need to know (for example, sunscreen of any kind is not allowed to be worn in the water with the whale sharks off Isla Holbox & Isla Mujeres, so you’ll want to bring sun covering for the boat ride). In that case, you can email your guide in advance to ask about it.
  3. Use Good Snorkel Gear. When you’re out with giant marine creatures like humpback whales or whale sharks, the last thing you want to worry about is how well your snorkel equipment is holding up. If you invest in snorkeling equipment, it’s best to acquire a good mask and snorkel that will last, which is why paying an extra $50 is well worth it. (Also, the equipment given by guides is frequently subpar, so it’s best to have your own.) Check out our guide on getting started with snorkel gear. What Snorkel Gear Should I Buy? The Full Guide to Getting Started Affordably, for guidance.
  4. Get an Underwater Action Camera. Investing in an underwater action camera to document my experiences as I visited each of the locations on my list of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites was one of the finest decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been able to take some very remarkable pictures and videos with its aid, and I’ll always have those memories. Although there are other alternatives, the GoPro HERO 10 Black (available on Amazon) is the best action camera I’ve used when snorkeling. Read some of our other how-to articles about snorkeling action cameras:


The experience of snorkeling in a stunning natural environment will stick with you forever. But when you combine the already wonderful experience of snorkeling with some of the World’s most unique snorkeling sites, you’ll have adventures that just can’t be surpassed.

Though some of the excursions here—like snorkeling the Churchill River in Manitoba—require more time and dedication than others—like visiting the cenotes and whale sharks in Mexico or spotting humpback whales in the Dominican Republic—are perfect complements to otherwise relaxing tropical vacations.

No matter whether these excursions seem the most exciting to you, rest certain that you will have a once-in-a-lifetime snorkeling experience. Get the ball rolling and drop us a line on a postcard.

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