Best Places to Snorkel in the Continental U.S.

Most peo­ple con­sid­er snor­kel­ing to be an island pur­suit — and right­ful­ly so. Good snor­kel­ing typ­i­cal­ly con­sists of warm clear water and lots of bright trop­i­cal fish. How­ev­er, just because you’re stuck North of the trop­ics doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the under­wa­ter scenery while breath­ing through a tube. Here are a few fea­si­ble snorkel options in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S.


The Flori­da Keys
Okay, this one is almost cheat­ing. The Keys are the south­ern most por­tion of the con­ti­nen­tal US and they are prac­ti­cal­ly in the trop­ics. Still, you can dri­ve there, so it’s actu­al­ly more con­ti­nen­tal than some of the oth­er spots on this list. The Flori­da Keys, specif­i­cal­ly Key West and Key Largo are like­ly your best bets for a con­sis­tent­ly plea­sur­able con­ti­nen­tal U.S. snor­kel­ing experience.


Crys­tal Riv­er, Florida
This Gulf Coast locale is one of the best places in the world to get up close and per­son­al with the West Indi­an Man­a­tee. Man­a­tees are a pro­tect­ed species, so a bit of plan­ning and eti­quette are required. Crys­tal Riv­er offers guid­ed man­a­tee snor­kel­ing tours through the pro­tect­ed estu­ar­ies and springs.


La Jol­la Cove, CA
South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is the top choice for snor­kel­ing on the best coast. The water is a bit warmer and if you choose a spot away from the urban cen­ters and sandy beach­es you can usu­al­ly find good vis­i­bil­i­ty and a decent vari­ety of wildlife. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can ven­ture out the kelp beds and see some tru­ly unique Pacif­ic marine life. Just watch out for sharks.


Lover’s Cove, Catali­na Island, CA
The Chan­nel Islands offer the best snor­kel­ing in Cal­i­for­nia. You can’t dri­ve there, so it may seem disin­gen­u­ous to include Catali­na on this list. How­ev­er, tech­ni­cal­i­ties aside, the qual­i­ty of snor­kel­ing off Catali­na sim­ply can’t be ignored. Lover’s Cove offers dense kelp forests and rock reefs that house a wide vari­ety of col­or­ful cool-water fish. Vis­i­bil­i­ty is rarely a prob­lem, but the water can get cool, so sum­mer is best for diving.

Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island
The North­east coast of the US is not exact­ly known for its snor­kel­ing poten­tial. It’s cold, it’s cloudy, the water is gen­er­al­ly murky, and the fish are gen­er­al­ly less than inter­est­ing to look at. Block Island, and Rhode Island in gen­er­al, is prob­a­bly the best place to don a mask and snorkel in the north­east. The abun­dance of reefs and the rel­a­tive­ly short con­ti­nen­tal shelf ensures that vis­i­bil­i­ty is, on aver­age, much bet­ter than the sur­round­ing areas. Reefs also shel­ter a vari­ety of fish and give poten­tial snorkel­ers some­thing to look at besides sand. The only sig­nif­i­cant draw­back about div­ing in this region is the water temp. It’s bear­able in the sum­mer, but after Octo­ber you would have to be insane to vol­un­tar­i­ly stick your face in that water, regard­less of neoprene.

Wher­ev­er You Live
If you don’t mind the cold, or the dark, or being labeled an eccen­tric, you can pret­ty much snorkel any­where. I can’t promise that you’ll see any­thing, or that you won’t get sick, but with the right atti­tude some­times the best spot is wher­ev­er you hap­pen to be.