The Best Places to Snorkel in the US
Dive into your next holiday.
Ask avid divers about their top snorkelling destinations and they’ll mention the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos, the Caribbean – but they’ll also talk about the mainland US, which is home to some of the most underrated and unusual snorkelling locations in the world. No, it might not be quite as warm as Australia, but you’re not afraid of a bit of cold water, are you? Let Plum Guide be your guide as we take you through the very best places to snorkel in the US – flippers not included.
The Hamptons has long since been the getaway of choice for New Yorkers, with the state capital’s residents swapping the city hustle for a day on the beach. Or a day off the beach, if you’re planning to take to the water. You’ll find the perfect beach for whatever water sport you want to try here in the Hamptons, including – yes – some of the best places to snorkel in the US. Keep a sharp eye out, and you might spot some grey seals amongst your snorkelling party. Maidstone Park is a good option for those just starting out in the sport, as the scenic and serene Flaggy Hole Beach is monitored by lifeguards. We can’t guarantee they’ll look like the Hoff in his prime, but we can dream...
The California shoreline is one of the best places to snorkel in the US, with waters warm enough to entice even the wimpiest of swimmers (aka, us). To get up close and personal with some incredible marine life, head to the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and Underwater Park – created by the city of San Diego in 1970, this habitat spans 533 acres and has created a safe haven for lots of different species. Kids will love the playful harbor seals and sea turtles - you’re also likely to spot some colourful fish, including the bright orange Garibaldi which is the California state fish. (You learn something new every day.) If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can even hang out with the leopard sharks – they’re totally harmless, but they still make for an impressive holiday snap. Add to this the chance to swim through La Jolla’s seven sea caves, and you’ll start to understand why this coastline is the US’s snorkel capital.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of an underwater photographer, Laguna Beach is undoubtedly one of the best places to snorkel in the US. Despite the area’s popularity, the beach has been named one of the cleanest in America and the water is usually crystal clear – perfect for snapping away on whatever fancy gadget you’ve got your hands on. Get your flippers on and start exploring the rocky reefs and outcrops that characterise this part of the coastline, where you’ll find octopi, rays, and those friendlier-than-they-look leopard sharks. Snorkelers in the know head to Treasure Island Beach, Shaw’s Cove and the appropriately named Diver’s Cove; holidayers in the know head to, where else, a Plum home to strip off the wetsuit and relax with ocean views.
If you limit your search for the best places to snorkel in the US to just the coastline, you’ll miss out on some of the fantastic options further inland like Lake Tahoe, in the incredible Sierra Nevada mountains,. Don’t expect tropical waters here – you’ll definitely need to prepare properly for the chilly lake, but there are plenty of dive shops in the area where you can get the latest gear and advice on taking a dip. The beautiful Sand Harbor beach in the North is the place to start, with a large visitor’s centre and beachside cafes serving cups of hot coffee to warm you up after a swim. A cosy evening in the hot tub, overlooking the lakes, is the perfect way to end a day in the water.
If meeting cute marine animals is a must for your snorkelling adventures, then you should give the Great Salt Lake a miss – very few species of flora or fauna can survive in the water here because it’s so (you guessed it) salty. On the other hand, a dip in these waters is an experience like no other. Float on the surface of the water and then head to the soft, sandy beaches of Antelope Island State Park for some sunbathing and picnicking. If you’re looking for a more traditional snorkelling experience, head to the very non-traditional Bonneville Seabase; it’s essentially an ocean in the middle of the desert, a series of hot spring pools with 3% salinity teeming with sealife introduced by the owners. It’s a totally unique attraction to tick off the bucket list, and definitely one of the most unusual places to snorkel in the US.