Snorkeling is perhaps one of those leisure activities we should do more of.
What can be more awesome than floating in a warm sea?
Bobbing up and down with a vest and a snorkel gear that lets you breath comfortably?
It is so relaxing, quiet and serene. And the big bonus is being able to see all the fantastic sea creatures and life below the surface.
Unlike scuba diving, snorkeling is relatively inexpensive. You don’t have to get certified. As long as you can swim and master the breathing techniques, you are good to go. Can’t your budget stretch to a trip to a tropical island overseas? Never fear. Here are top snorkeling sports in the U.S. that don’t need you to carry a passport to visit.
Key West and Key Largo, Florida
It will not come as a surprise that out of the top ten snorkeling spots in the U.S, four of them are from Florida.
No undersea places will be complete without mentioning the Florida Keys. Both Key West and Key Largo are the most popular spots for discovering undersea life.
John Pennacamp Coral Reef State Park offers novice and experienced snorkelers plenty to be excited about.
It is your chance to snorkel in the only living coral reef barrier in the USA. Between the star corals, the sea whips and sea fans, you will spot fishes such as the Blue Tang, Yellowtail snappers and maybe a dolphin or two.
Marathon offers some of the calmest and crystal clear water with a lot of interesting nooks and crannies.
Snorkeling at Sombrero Reef is an experience of a lifetime. It can only reach by boat. What you can see is a healthy colorful coral reef, an underwater paradise.
Nurse sharks and sea turtles have been spotted before. There are plenty of fish under the sea here; you can see parrotfish, angelfish and groupers galore.
Peanut Island, Florida
Affectionately known as Peanut Island, this place is actually man-made. Back in 1918, Palm Beach Inlet was developed and the material excavated was heaped to form this island.
It now had grown in size, with plenty of camping sites available. The snorkeling is superb and you can spot Triggerfish, stonefish and green moray eels.
Watch out for the barracudas. If you want a break from snorkeling, there is the historic Kennedy bunker to visit.
Crystal River, Florida
Anyone will always equate snorkeling with going underwater in the sea. Crystal River in Florida offers something unique.
Would you like to snorkel in a river and meet a manatee?
These giant, gentle creatures are a wonder to behold and not like anything you’ve ever seen. In winter, the manatees swam up the warmer waters of this naturally occurring spring.
Crystal River is the only place where you can swim with the manatees legally. Just like it says in the name, the water is clear and perfect for snorkeling.
Bailey Harbor, Wisconsin
Wisconsin is perhaps not your typical idea of a snorkeling destination. Lake Michigan is not exactly the clear blue crystal waters of the Caribbean but it offered something unique.
There are shipwrecks. Plenty of shipwrecks dating back to the 1800s, which had sunk to the bottom of the sandy bed of Lake Michigan.
Bailey Harbor itself is charming, with a lot to offer families. The local calls it best kept secret when it comes to vacation.
Continuing on the theme of unusual places to snorkel, head to Haigh Quarry in Kankakee, Illinois. As its name suggests, it used to be a quarry.
Divers to the bottom of the quarry can see submerged machinery from the old mining days. Snorkelers can see Northern Pike, Bass, Perch and Catfish.
Catalina Island, California
Heading to the west coast, snorkeling at Catalina Island can’t be beaten. Try snorkeling at Lover’s Cove.
Schools of fish will surround you; hundreds of them. Eagle eyed snorkelers can spot leopard sharks and stingrays, if they are lucky.
The forest of kelp is healthy and thriving here. It is serene and peaceful to snorkel and see the kelp moving slowly with the tide.
The waters are slightly chilly and you may want to consider wearing a wetsuit. Catalina Island is definitely a place not to be missed.
La Jolla, California
Sandy beaches, beautiful reefs and mystical caves. La Jolla has something to offer everyone.
Snorkeling in this awesome spot will bring you face to face with spectacular sights underwater.
Watch as the bright orange Garibaldi fish flit amongst the lush coral. See leopard sharks in their natural habitat in La Jolla shores.
Swim amongst the kelp forest or head over to La Jolla Cove to come face to face with sea lions.
Sea caverns flank the cove and the more adventurous snorkelers can explore these with a guide. It is an experience not to be missed.
Molokini Crater, Maui
Further afield, we checked out the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii. The Molokini crater was formed by a violent volcanic eruption some 230,000 years ago.
This crescent formation, rising out from the sea, forms a natural reserve where marine life thrives. It is now designated as a marine life conservation district.
Awesome undersea creatures are around you. Spot manta rays, the white striped octopus and reef sharks or keep your eyes peeled for the state fish of Hawaii, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Literal translation of the Hawaiian name is ‘triggerfish with a snout like a pig’.
It may look funny but the fish can be aggressive and should be left alone.
It has been known to bite swimmers’ ankles if they stray too close.
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
With its white sandy beach and rich marine life, Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Oahu.
Snorkelers will come eye to eye with hundreds of fish who are not shy of humans.
Take an underwater camera with you and you can get a snap of this collage of colorful fish surrounding you. Maybe you can take a picture of octopus or a turtle.
That will definitely be a memorable souvenir of this unforgettable experience.
You don’t have to travel far to snorkel. So grab that swimsuit that vest and snorkel set.
Snorkeling tours are plenty and it will be a shame not to say hello to the fishes this summer during your vacation.
Tim Fox is writer at The Elite Blog. He and his friends share information about cars, motorcycle and outdoor life.