Best winter snorkeling destinations (9 best places in 2023)

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Are you wondering where to go snorkeling in the winter? These are the best places to go snorkeling in the wintertime worldwide.

While finding a sunny getaway spot in the winter is not too difficult, not all warm climates offer optimal snorkeling conditions during that season. This might make choosing the best place to go snorkeling in the winter difficult.

We can help if you’re searching for a tropical snorkeling vacation in winter and you live in a colder region. We have compiled a list of the top winter snorkeling spots with vibrant marine life, serene seas, and pleasant, sunny weather to assist you in organizing your vacation.

These are a few of the greatest spots on Earth for winter snorkeling.

1. The Caribbean

aerial view of a beautiful island resort
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Snorkelers and winter sun-seekers have always loved the Caribbean, and for good reason. The Caribbean’s winter months are its dry season, with many areas enjoying perfect weather and calm, warm waters that average about 80°F.One The Caribbean is a fantastic destination for a winter snorkeling trip because of its convenient accessibility from North America and its affordable airfares offered by airlines and travel agents.

The Caribbean has a lot to offer visitors of all stripes, with an abundance of islands to select from. Snorkeling is available for beginners and families with little children in the US Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands’ immaculate sandy beaches.

Go to the ABC Islands farther south if you’re looking for milder seas. Snorkelers will find paradise in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, which provide calm waters, white sand beaches, shipwrecks, and shallow reefs.

Snorkelers with experience can explore underwater volcano craters in Dominica or isolated atolls and cayes off the coast of Belize. See our guide to the greatest snorkeling in the Caribbean for additional information on these and other popular snorkeling spots.

2. Hawaii

mountains and ocean
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While the Hawaiian islands’ north coastlines are well-known for their massive waves and winter surfing competitions, several of the islands’ south and west shores also provide fantastic snorkeling conditions.

Hawaii’s greatest snorkeling is found on South and West Maui in January, especially early in the day when the waves are calmer. Admire the stunning reefs in La Perouse Bay, Olowalu, and Black Rock, which are close to Kaanapali Beach. Makena Landing, Ulua Beach, and Charley Young Beach are additional excellent locations.

In the winter, Maui is an excellent spot to see humpback whales. December marks the start of the whale migration, which peaks in mid-January in Maui’s seas.2. Although swimming or approaching whales is prohibited, humpbacks frequently approach kayaks and whale-watching boats. We advise scheduling a guided snorkeling tour and whale-watching excursion with a reliable tour operator for the greatest experience.

Read Also: 12 best snorkeling Spots and Locations in Key West

See the west-facing Kona Coast on the Big Island, which is protected from large waves. One of the greatest places on the island to go snorkeling is Kailua-Kona, where you can swim with manta rays all year long.

Although the island’s reef-protected beaches allow you to snorkel in a variety of locations throughout the year, Kauai offers excellent snorkeling conditions in February. There is a lot of marine life and peaceful surroundings at Poipu Beach, Lydgate Beach, Koloa Landing, and Anini Beach.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a rare exception to the rule that many portions of Oahu are too choppy to snorkel in the winter. For novices and families with small children, the sheltered bay’s calm, shallow waters and the presence of lifeguards on duty offer an extra layer of security.

The bay is the best location to view Hawaii’s vibrant reefs and fish.

3. Mexico

a person walking on sand at mujer caminando en dunas in mexico
Photo by Davis Arenas on Pexels.com

Because of its sunny, dry environment and its pristine, marine-rich seas, Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is a top winter snorkeling destination. For example, snorkeling with dolphins, sea turtles, nurse sharks, eels, angelfish, barracudas, parrotfish, and other tropical fish is possible in Cozumel’s quiet lagoons and snorkeling beaches. The region’s abundant corals are a component of the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Visit the Cancun Underwater Museum (also called MUSA) to swim among underwater sculptures, or venture into the jungle to see the bizarre cenotes of the Mayan Riviera for a unique experience.

Snorkelers and scuba divers who wish to explore this amazing flooded cave system frequently choose Cenote Dos Ojos, which is close to Tulum. See more about the top snorkeling spots in Mexico by clicking this link.

4. Florida

If you’re an American or Canadian who wants to travel without going too far from home, Florida is a great option. Despite the cooler water temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico compared to Caribbean places further south, Florida’s accessibility during the winter months makes it a desirable travel destination.

Along the 350-mile Great Florida Reef, the majority of Florida’s top snorkeling spots are found in the Keys. Travel from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park for a full-day excursion to see a variety of corals and tropical fish species.

Read Also: Peanut Island Snorkeling – Unlocking the Wonders of Peanut Island Snorkeling

Types of tropical fish in the azure seas. Go to Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to discover a variety of marine environments, including mangrove swamps, coral reefs, and seagrass beds, if you’d rather stay closer to land.

Aside from the Keys, some of Florida’s natural springs offer exceptional snorkeling opportunities and consistently maintain a 72°F water temperature all year round. For example, during the winter months, Crystal River is a great place to swim with manatees, who come here from the Gulf of Mexico in search of warmer waters.

5. The Maldives

December, January, and February provide some of the world’s greatest snorkeling, but access to the Maldives archipelago is more difficult for visitors from the US and Canada.

The dry season in the Maldives begins in the winter, so you can anticipate lots of sunshine, warm days, and calm waters with excellent visibility.

There are over 1200 islands and islets in this idyllic Indian Ocean island chain, together with 26 natural atolls.3- Snorkelers visiting the Maldives may witness a plethora of marine life, including immaculate coral reefs and more than a thousand different kinds of fish, as a result of the remarkable marine biodiversity of the region.

When visiting the Maldives, there are a variety of house reefs and resort islands to select from, and the snorkeling is excellent just outside your hotel. Excellent beach snorkeling is available at Kuredu in Lhaviyani Atoll, also known as Faadhippolhu Atoll.

Another great place to see sea turtles, whale sharks, reef sharks, stingrays, manta rays, colorful corals, and tropical fish is the Male Atolls, which include about fifty resort islands. Conversely, the shallow lagoons and easily accessible coral cliffs of the Ari Atoll are well-known.

6. Philippines

The Philippines is home to fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving options with its more than 7,000 islands, many coral reefs, and countless marine animals. The Philippines is one of the greatest places in the world to go snorkeling in the winter since its dry season lasts from December to May.

The seas of the Philippines, which are part of the Coral Triangle, are home to some of the planet’s most diverse marine environments,

And there are a ton of options available when organizing your snorkeling excursion.

Visit the marine sanctuary on Nalusuan Island in Cebu, or go whale shark snorkeling at the nearby hamlet of Oslob. The sardine run at Moalboal, where you may swim among hundreds of sardines, is well-known, as is the island’s isolated coral reef.

While the islands of Pamilacan, Balicasag, Cabilao, and Siquijor near Bohol are well-known for their coral reefs and beaches ideal for snorkeling, the Apo Island marine reserve in Dauin is well-known for its sightings of green sea turtles.

Go to Matinloc Island in El Nido or Siete Pecados near Coron if you’re in the Palawan province. These places have so many fish that you’ll think you’re swimming in an aquarium.

7. Kauai Winter Snorkeling, Hawaii

There are four beaches on Garden Isle where, in the winter, you may go underwater.

In Hawaii, winter brings strong waves, especially on north-facing coasts. And although though the 20-foot wave faces provide appalling snorkeling conditions, if you’re planning to visit around this time of year, don’t discount the chance of exploring the underwater world.

There are a few reef-protected beaches on the island of Kauai, and even during the heaviest swells, the water is usually calm enough to wear a mask and snorkel. These are a few of the safest spots to snorkel in the Garden Isle during the November to March heavy surf season.

i. Anini Beach

This north shore beach, protected from the open ocean by Hawaii’s longest coral reef, is a snorkeler’s paradise all year round. Tropical reef fish, including moorish idols, butterflyfish, and the rectangular triggerfish—famous for both its tongue-twisting name and unique status as Hawaii’s state fish—abound in Anini’s broad, lake-like waters. Honu, the Hawaiian name for green sea turtles, also like to hang out at Anini.

The two-mile beach at the main beach park offers some of the greatest snorkeling around on the reef that faces the boat ramp. Beginner snorkelers will love the shallow, near-shore waters here, while more experienced swimmers may explore the white-tipped reef sharks that occasionally congregate up to half a mile offshore.

If you visit, take note of the powerful currents and waves that crash at the outer borders of the reef.

ii. Poipu Beach Park

Almost all year long, this well-liked south coast location is an excellent place for novice snorkelers because to its calm, clear waters. Among the marine life that may be often observed here are sea cucumbers, electric blue parrotfish, and green sea turtles, to mention a few inhabitants of the mixed reef and sand bottom. Regularly spotted lounging on the sandbar connecting the beach to a little spit of sand and lava rock a few yards offshore are Hawaiian monk seals. If you go, look out for humpback whales rolling around farther out to sea with their fins and spouts.

iii. Lydgate Beach Park

On Kauai’s Coconut Coast, a man-made rock barrier shields the lagoons at the northern end of this crescent, tree-lined beach from the open ocean. For novice snorkelers, the deeper of the two pools is best. Little reef fish like pufferfish and Yellowtail Coris Wrasse are common in the waters around Lydgate. Remember that the early hours are usually the calmest if you decide to visit.

iv. Koloa Landing

Snorkelers coming off Koloa Landing’s ancient boat ramp are greeted with enormous green sea turtles, dozens of species of tropical fish, and stunning full heads of coral. One of the healthiest reefs on the island, the horseshoe-shaped coral at this popular south coast snorkeling location offers a broad and thrilling array of marine animal interactions.

Because the waters near Koloa Landing are deep and provide little shelter from the open ocean’s swells and currents, it’s the perfect place for experienced snorkelers. (Remember to bring your fins!) In contrast to most other beaches on Kauai, Koloa Landing has the calmest waters in the winter. Proceed with caution when descending the boat ramp if you decide to go. It is slick!

8. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

tropical islands in the ocean
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Raja Ampat is a snorkeler’s dream, yet many sections of Indonesia have their rainy seasons in the winter. There are many of manta rays feeding on plankton blooms, calm waters, and good underwater visibility during the months of November through March.

Raja Ampat, which is in the middle of the Coral Triangle, is home to an incredible amount of marine species. Snorkelers can see unusual marine fauna such as dugongs, tiny seahorses, and enormous clams in addition to manta rays.

Read Also: 10 Best Tips On How To Clean Snorkel Gear

Undiscovered places like Batanta and West Waigeo have immaculate reefs, while Friwen and Yenbuba Jetty on Mansuar provide easy access to fantastic snorkeling. An amazing nudibranch population may be found on Gam Island, which is home to mangroves and coral reefs developing in crystal-clear blue seas.

9. Winter Snorkeling on Maui Hawaii

green and brown mountain beside body of water
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Because Hawaii is so close to the equator, our annual temperature fluctuates very little. At sea level on South or West Maui throughout the day,

The most typical temperatures are in the seventies and low nineties. Conditions for snorkeling are generally favorable, however clearly things can change if there is bad weather, especially if you go between 6 and 8 a.m. Generally speaking, that is the time of day when the water is the calmest and cleanest.

For snorkeling, you should be in South or West Maui, especially when the trade winds (northerly breezes) are blowing. The North Shore usually gets calmer with a Kona, or southwest breeze, though these are less frequent. Regardless, if you’re searching for stunning reefs abundant with life. Turtle sightings are frequent, and you may observe a wide variety of fish species every day.

Where should I go snorkeling then? Black Rock, which is located at the northern end of Kaanapali Beach, is a nice location. If you want to stay close and have Kaanapali lodgings, this is a great place to be. In fact, The Whaler on this particular beach has gorgeous condominiums for sale. At the base of the rock that gave this location its name, Black Rock provides a beautiful reef that has been flourishing for a long time.

You should follow the sand channels that make natural baths to and from the beach since the reefs grow near to the surface, the beach is small, and the water is shallow. Here, getting a bit further out from the coast usually results in clearer water.

This reef’s size might occupy your entire day of exploration, Kihei’s beaches would be the next destination, a little further out from West Maui. Reefs are located at the end of Kamaole beaches 1, 2, and 3.

Since corals attach themselves to rock surfaces, you are likely to see reefs anywhere you observe rock outcroppings and tidepools near the water’s edge.

Additionally, At the boundary between Kihei and Wailea, there’s also a great reef that runs between Ulua Beach and Keawakapu Beach. The wonderful thing about snorkeling at these spots is that there’s a lot of room between you and the reef, as well as a large stretch of sandy beach for swimming or sunbathing.

Read Also: 20 Best scuba diving destinations around the world

La Perouse Bay, with its stunning coral, is the area that we would like to suggest being the furthest from West Maui. Because of the most recent lava flow from Haleakala, you’ll see that the majority of the island is still rocky. By human standards, this happened a long time ago, but geologically speaking, the lava flow was recent enough that plants are still settling into this challenging terrain.

You can see why La Perouse is such a rich mine of aquatic life, as corals, as we discussed previously, anchor themselves to rock. This place lacks sand. It’s only a little stretch of rocky beach that has weathered over time due to waves and other factors. La Perouse is hence essentially only accessible to scuba divers and snorkelers.

Frequently asked questions FAQs

Do I need a wetsuit to snorkel in the winter?

The majority of wetsuit manufacturers concur that wearing a wetsuit is not required if the water temperature is over 72°F.

Even in warm weather, you might want to wear a wetsuit top or shorty wetsuit if you’re prone to getting chilly easily or if you want to spend a lot of time in the water.

Nearly every location on this list, except Florida, has wintertime water temperatures exceeding 72 degrees. Therefore, if they’re visiting one of our other best winter snorkeling locations, most visitors won’t need to wear a wetsuit.

What should I pack for a winter snorkeling trip?

Sun protection is essential for your winter snorkeling excursion if you’re traveling from a northern region. Bring clothes and sunscreen with a UPF rating of at least 30, preferably 50+, and make sure they are reef-friendly.

Wear swimming suits, bandanas, or buffs for snorkeling, swim leggings, rash guards, or rash guards for the best protection against UV radiation.

Don’t forget to pack your mask, snorkel, and fins. Snorkel gear may be rented in many places, but owning your gear makes the experience more pleasant. See our post here for further advice on snorkeling clothing selections.

Conclusion

We’d like to leave you with a few powerful suggestions. Because certain sea urchins can hurt, avoid touching them. Avoid touching the corals because doing so might harm some of them and you could be hurt as well! Please avoid getting too close to turtles.

Some people pursue them in the hopes of hitching a ride, but this causes the animals great stress and makes it difficult for them to rise for the air they require. If this doesn’t convince you, be aware that if running away doesn’t work, they will occasionally defend themselves with a strong bite. Finally, stay away from snorkeling in choppy or cloudy circumstances. Both favorable weather and your vision are essential for safe snorkeling. Apply sound judgment.

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