Yachting and snorkelling: the top 50 destinations in the world!

Floating on the water offers a unique opportunity to explore the underwater world. Discover the 50 most stunning snorkelling and scuba-diving spots around the globe.

Sailing not only allows you to explore the seas from the surface but also to discover what beauty lies beneath. Whether you have your own boat or are renting one, the options for snorkelling and scuba diving are endless, from the crystal-clear waters of coral seas to the shipwrecks and caves found in the Mediterranean. Join us as we delve into the most captivating locations where sailing and snorkelling come together seamlessly.

Which is best: snorkelling or scuba diving?

Ultimately, the decision is yours but anyone can take up snorkelling with little to no prior training and basic equipment such as a mask, snorkel, and fins. In colder waters, a wetsuit is recommended, while a UV filter shirt is sufficient in tropical waters. It's definitely worth trying out snorkelling, and if you're comfortable with it and interested in exploring the deeper waters, move on to scuba diving. But don't worry, there are various levels of courses available for divers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced.

Open water diving lessons. A diver before diving into the ocean.

Our list of the top 50 underwater locations is intended for everyone. While some of the spots are perfect for snorkelling, others can only be properly explored when scuba diving. Strong currents can be a danger and it is always a good idea to be well-informed before diving in. Researching the location and the diving centre you plan to use is important and safety should always be a priority, adhering to depth limits is a must.

Why you shouldn't be afraid in the sea

Many people are afraid to dive because of sharks and the perception of being attacked. The truth is, however, there is no animal in the sea that will attack us without reason. Most of the time it is a provoked attack, a reaction to human behaviour, or a change in the behaviour of a potentially dangerous animal, again brought about by humans. Find out how to appreciate these majestic creatures in our article We will convince you in the article — Overcome your fear of sharks: learn to love them instead!

A shark calmly swims alongside a diver in the crystal clear waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Diving with sharks in the waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

YACHTING.COM TIP: In addition to snorkelling, there are a variety of other fun activities that can be enjoyed when sailing such as kayaking, paddleboarding, trekking, and golf. Check out Top 12 fun activities to do on a sailing holiday for recommendations on what to do and the best destinations to experience them.

Where are the best dive sites in the Mediterranean?

Spain: the top places to snorkel and dive in the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands

The Mediterranean Sea in Spain has some of the best dive sites on the European continent. The water temperature here is comfortable most of the year, and even the visibility can be crystal clear, from 15 to 40 metres deep.

Landscape with boats and turquoise sea water at Cala Mondrago, Mallorca Island, Spain

Cala Mondrago Bay on Mallorca

Among the best places in Spain are the Balearic Islands, with Mallorca and Menorca being the best for snorkelling and diving. Here you can dive in the rocks, discover caves, or just swim on the surface and watch the marine fauna, because even from the surface the underwater rocky landscape, arches and tunnels will offer you an unforgettable experience! You will be diving among fish such as mojarras and salps, as well as octopuses and seahorses.

It's a similar story in the Canary Islands region of the Atlantic Ocean. Fuerteventura, for example, offers divers an opportunity to explore unique lava formations and towering cliffs. El Hierro and Lanzarote are great spots for divers who want to see rich and diverse marine life.

Tenerife, on the other hand, offers magnificent seabeds and typical Atlantic fauna combined with numerous subtropical species. Cetaceans and large fish can be found here all year round.

  1. El Hierro (Canary Islands) — a reserve with abundant marine life including angel sharks and clear waters.
  2. Cabo de Palos (Murcia) — in the area around the Capo de Palos lighthouse near Murcia you'll find a stunning reserve with numerous islands. Beneath the surface, you'll not only encounter fish, but also several shipwrecks. However, diving in the reserve is regulated and you need a permit.
Rock formation natural arch with seaweed and fish underwater,

Diving in the nature reserve in Cado de Palos

3. The Medes Islands (Catalonia) — in the waters around the Illes Mendes archipelago just off the French coast, you'll find huge schools of fish and the La Vaca underwater tunnel

Croatia: shipwrecks, caves and an underwater cathedral

There are more than 1,000 islands in Croatia. In the azure Adriatic Sea, the water is exceptionally clear, which makes for great snorkelling and scuba diving. In the depths, there are many interesting sights, from caves and submerged rock walls to shipwrecks and even sunken planes.

4. Biševo Grotto or Blue Cave, island of Vis — a blue cave flooded with water where the light and shadows create a mesmerizing effect. The cave is also home to diverse marine life. Enter through the tunnel on the west side either by boat or diving. Depths range from 3-40 metres.

The Blue Cave is one of the natural wonders of Croatia, located on the eastern side of the island of Biševo. More than 90 000 tourists visit the cave every year.

The Blue Cave is one of the natural wonders of Croatia, located on the eastern side of the island of Biševo. More than 90,000 tourists visit the cave every year.

5. Pakleni Otoci, Hvar — a colourful kaleidoscope of algae and coral on a wall dropping 5-45 metres in depth, suitable for beginners and advanced divers. It's up to you how deep you can go.

6. Taranto, Dubrovnik — Just outside Dubrovnik, you'll come across the wreck of the Taranto, an Italian merchant ship from 1899 that sank during World War II. The ship is covered in sponges, anemones and lampreys. Nearby, you'll observe colourful schools of fish.

YACHTING TIP.COM: Underwater caves, sunken wrecks and a multitude of colourful fish and animals... Join us as we explore Croatia's most beautiful snorkelling spots in our guide — 7 most beautiful snorkelling spots in Croatia.

Montenegro: the Blue Cave at Boka Kotorska

Diving in Montenegro is still in its infancy, so the beaches and dive sites remain largely unexplored. But don't miss out on these great locations:

7. Wreck of the SS Tihany — the remains of an Austro-Hungarian Navy cargo steamer that was wrecked in 1917 off the island of Školjić near the island of Unije. A short distance from it, the wreck of an ancient ship carrying amphorae (jug with 2 handles) lies on the seabed.

8. Blue cave, Lustica peninsula — another blue cave, this time on the open side of the Lustica peninsula near the mouth of the Boka Kotorska. Locals call it Plava šplilja. The blue ceiling of the cave is caused by the reflection of sunlight from the seabed. You'll also find a variety of marine life here.

Blue cave in Lustica bay in Montenegro

Blue cave in Lustica bay in Montenegro

Greece: old towns, turtles and shipwrecks

Diving in Greece offers a unique experience of swimming and snorkelling among the ruins of ancient cities, as well as exploring a large number of shipwrecks. New laws passed in 2020 have also made it easier for recreational divers to access the many underwater archaeological sites along the country's coastline.

9.  The Sunken City of Olous (Crete)   Near the windmills on the Spinalonga peninsula in Crete, you'll find a sunken city dating back to 3,000 BC. In calm seas, you can observe the remains of the buildings from land, but nothing beats snorkelling here. Visit Crete's famous Mirabel Bay where you'll encounter an abundance of marine life.

Aerial view of the walls of the sunken ancient Minoan city of Olous in Elounda, Crete, Greece

Aerial view of the walls of the sunken ancient Minoan city of Olous in Elounda, Crete, Greece

10. Pavlopetri, Peloponnese — the prehistoric submerged city of Pavlopetri is more than 5,000 years old and lies at a depth of 3-4 metres off the southern shore of the Peloponnese peninsula. You can only snorkel above the streets and buildings.

Prehistoric settlement of Pavlopetri, an archaeological site just under the water near the popular beach of Pounta and the island of Elafonisos, Peloponnese, Greece

Prehistoric settlement of Pavlopetri, an archaeological site just under the water near the popular beach of Pounta and the island of Elafonisos, Peloponnese, Greece

11. Zakynthos, Ionian Islands — the national marine park in the South Ionian Sea, where sea turtles breed has numerous dive sites. Try Laganas Kalamaki Bay, home to over a thousand turtles.

A huge card

12. Thasos — an emerald island with a flooded marble quarry and rich marine life. One of the most popular snorkelling spots is Aliki Beach.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Even in Ionian and Aegean waters, you may come across some species whose bite or sting could ruin your sailing holiday. Find out who they are and how to avoid the dangers they pose in our guide — Beware of these dangerous creatures in the Greek seas!

Italy: where to find the European Caribbean

Italy is known for its historical landmarks and cuisine, but it also offers good diving opportunities, particularly during the summer. The Mediterranean Sea has witnessed a lot of marine traffic over the years, with many shipwrecks and cultural sites to explore, as well as breathtaking underwater views. Sardinia is a particularly appealing diving spot, especially for those who enjoy macro diving. The island also has a thriving diving community.

13. Isola Rossa, Sardinia — The coastline near the fishing village of Isola Rossa is renowned among diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. The underwater caves are full of life: colourful fish, red corals and sea daisies. It is no wonder that Sardinia is knowns as the European Caribbean.

Turkey: what is the Blue Hole?

Turkey also has plenty to offer, both above and below the water. We've picked out two of the best locations that are out of the ordinary.

14. Bodrum — an advanced dive site with colourful sea sponges, deep waters and caves, including one of the largest underwater museums in the world.

15. Kas — a great location for diving, with caves, reefs and wrecks that are teeming with marine life. Scuba divers can expect to encounter stingrays, tuna, eels, turtles and sharks making it well-suited for the more experienced. The Blue Hole, a major attraction in this area, is known for its vibrant array of tropical fish and reef sharks.

Sea Caves in Kas Kekova Marine Protected Area Antalya Turkey

Sea caves in Kas Kekova Marine Protected Area, Antalya, Turkey

Slovenia

Slovenia is a lesser known spot for diving, but it is an interesting alternative.

16. Maona Rossa wreck — the remains of this cargo ship, which struck an underwater mine in 1945 and sank, can be found in the middle of Piran Bay at a depth of 21 metres. It is a very popular place among divers because of the easy access.

Tropical destinations with the most vibrant underwater world

Thailand: colourful reefs and whale sharks

For scuba diving enthusiasts, Thailand is considered to be the holy grail. The diving season in Thailand lasts all year round, so there's no time of year to avoid the warm Thai waters.

A diver with an amazing sea fan in a wonderful underwater world.

Thailand is well-known for its exceptional snorkelling and diving, particularly in the Similans. Check out our article on snorkelling and scuba diving in Thailand for 11 of the most beautiful spots. Here, we've picked out the top 3 places to visit in this stunning country.

17. Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock), Phuket — sites with beautiful soft corals. Hin Muang is a deep diving site with the highest wall of soft coral in Thailand.

18. Chumphon Pinnacle, Koh Tao — a huge granite pinnacle that reaches down to a depth of 35 metres.

Whale shark at Chumphon Pinnacles

Whale shark at Chumphon Pinnacles

19. Twin Peaks, Similan Islands — This national park is a protected area that is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. Among the most picturesque dive sites in Thailand is Twin Peaks, which features an underwater reef that offers divers the opportunity to observe coral, tropical fish, leopard sharks, nurse sharks, hawksbill turtles, and manta rays.

Read practical sailing tips:

Malaysia: one of the best diving destinations in the world

Mention Malaysia and divers immediately think of one of the best diving destinations in the world, Sipadan. This small island, known as Pulau Sipadan in Malay, is located in the Celebes Sea off the coast of Sabah and boasts one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, situated right in the centre of the Indo-Pacific Basin with remarkable marine biodiversity.

Bohey Dulang Island near Sipadan Island

Bohey Dulang Island near Sipadan Island

20. Sipadan — the main attraction of Sipadan are the large pelagic fish and the large schools of fish. Here you can observe hammerheads and leopard sharks, and barracudas in schools of several hundred.

Colourful underwater life, school of Giant Trevallies off Sipadan Island, Malaysia

21. Kota Kinabalu — ideal for diving, snorkelling and other water activities. One of Malaysia's best dive sites.

22. Lankayan — pristine reefs, where the most beautiful thing is not the coral, but the abundance of fauna: from bright blue bivalves, through amazing fish of all kinds, to colourful starfish and sea turtles. 

YACHTING.COM TIP: Book your diving excursion to Sipadan well in advance if you plan to visit the island during your voyage, as the number of spots available per day is limited.

Cape Verde

Located west of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde's underwater world boasts a diverse and abundant array of marine life. Divers can encounter everything from rays and vibrant schools of fish to ancient wrecks and reefs, as well as turtles, harmless sharks, and Cape Verdean yellowfins swimming among various coral species. During certain seasons, there are also opportunities to spot dolphins and whales. With its alternation of shipwrecks, rock formations, coral reefs, caves and rock walls, the underwater world has quite a lot to offer divers.

23 Choclasse, Sal — a large platform with many yellow coral polyps and schools of fish.

24. Farol Baio, Sal — ideal for snorkelling or shallow diving as you can admire many schools of fish and unusual species. There is also a small shipwreck with rocks and crevices teeming with coral.

25. Shark Bow, Boavista — the top of the reef lies at a depth of 22 metres, but an opening in the reef at 25 metres brings you to a magnificent area where sand sharks and large rays can be found. Only experienced divers can get in here.

Rusting shipwreck on Cabo Santa Maria beach, Boa Vista island, Cape Verde archipelago

Shipwreck on Cabo Santa Maria beach, Boa Vista island

Mexico

Mexico offers a wide range of experiences for visitors, including beautiful beaches, rich history, delicious food, and scuba diving opportunities. Along with these, visitors can also explore the reefs of the Caribbean Sea, swim in the mystical cenote caves of the Yucatán, and encounter larger animals in the wild waterways of the West Coast.

Cenotes in particular have made Mexico famous among all the world's divers, but the country offers everything from a rainbow array of reef fish to a mix of large marine animals such as sharks, whales and sea lions. Water temperatures here range from 21 to 29 degrees, with the best visibility in July and August

26. Yucatán Peninsula — cenotes, or flooded sinkholes, which form huge cave systems stretching across the entire Yucatán Peninsula. From June to September, whale sharks move around the island but snorkelling is possible.

Whale shark with a diver off Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Whale shark off Isla Mujeres, Mexico

27. Cozumel Marine Park — more than 45 individual dive sites, which are mostly shallow walls full of marine life. A great place for all levels of divers.

28. Tulumbull shark watching. Every winter, female bull sharks migrate to the warm Mexican waters, giving divers a unique chance to see them up close.

Cenote Dos Ojos in Quintana Roo near Tulum on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. People swim and snorkel in the clear blue water.

Cenote (karst cave) Dos Ojos in Quintana Roo near Tulum

French Polynesia

French Polynesia is one of the best places to dive and snorkel in the world. Expect warm waters, great visibility and healthy populations of wildlife from sharks to schools of neon-coloured puffins.

29 Tiki Point (Moorea) — lemon sharks, great visibility. Opportunity to see dolphins, whales and lots of sharks — even hundreds in one dive.

30. Tahuata, Hiva Oa (Marquesas) — Hiva Oa is a unique diving spot in the Marquesas, known for its steep rock face where divers can encounter sharks and giant rays.

31. Garuae Pass (Fakarava) — a rock face with several hundred sharks. Mostly diving in currents for experienced divers.

32. Tiputa Strait (Rangiroa) — a site with dolphins, rays and giant hammerheads.

Diver playing with a dolphin

YACHTING.COM TIP: Tahiti previously allowed boats to feed sharks, known as "chumming," but this practice was banned in 1997 due to its negative impact on the sharks. Despite this, some sharks still associate boats with food, so it is still possible to see sharks in many places. Learn more about what to expect when sailing through French Polynesia in our guide — Try sailing in an exotic paradise: all about French Polynesia.

Seychelles

The island chain of the Seychelles is another paradise for divers. With over 100 islands, most of which are uninhabited, and relatively few tourists, the Seychelles guarantees amazing diving opportunities.

The Seychelles is made up of 115 islands, with most of the population residing on La Digue, Praslin, and Mahé. The best time for diving is between October and December and March to May, where the underwater visibility is typically between 25 and 40 metres. Although visibility is lower during the windy season, the wind brings in a lot of plankton, making it an ideal time to spot whale sharks and giant manta rays.

Woman with snorkel underwater with giant manta ray

Giant Manta

33. Fisherman's Cove Reef — a site suitable for beginners and snorkellers, with gentle drop-offs and plenty of sea turtles. 

34. South Marianne — species diversity, from grey sharks to moray eels and occasionally whale sharks.

35. Shipwreck of the Aldebaran — an intentionally sunken fishing boat just over 27m long, where an artificial reef was created. Ideal for photography and snorkelling.

Caribbean

As it's virtually impossible to choose from the best locations in the Caribbean, we'll offer you something from each country.

The diving here is truly world-class. But with over 7,000 islands, 13 sovereign island states and 12 overseas territories, you'll have plenty to choose from when selecting your Caribbean dive destination.

36. St. Croix (US Virgin Islands)  The reefs are home to more than 500 marine species including fish, turtles, seahorses, octopus, rays, sharks, eels and moray eels.

A group of divers exploring a coral reef.

37. Bonaire, (Netherlands Antilles)  A diver's paradise with more than 400 species of fish. In a 2018 survey, Bonaire was named the best place for beginner diving, conservation, freediving, macro diving, shore diving and snorkelling.

38. Little Cayman (Cayman Islands) — A diving site with a rich life, the most popular Jackson's Bight is prized for its tunnels and underwater scenery.

39. Roatan (Honduras) — the biggest attraction are the seahorses, you should also check out the El Aguila shipwreck.

Cuba

Like many other smaller Caribbean nations, Cuba has a vibrant culture and history, a fantastic climate and spectacular wildlife on land and in the water. However, Cuba is often overlooked by divers, which is one reason why taking this more authentic trip with fewer tourists should be on your to-do list. Diving conditions can be challenging in Cuba, but the best time to visit for diving is from December to April when the weather is dry and the crowds are thinner.

40. Dive at Jardines del Rey — a separate ecosystem, which is also home to the largest population of flamingos outside the US. You'll find approximately 30-40 dive sites here.

41. Varadero — interesting underwater topography with caves, cenotes and sloping coral gardens. There are more than 20 dive sites and wrecks to be found.

Panama

Diving in Panama is influenced by whether you explore the Pacific or Caribbean side. The Isthmus of Panama, which links North and South America, was formed over 2 million years ago and offers hundreds of kilometres of coastline on both sides. Its unique narrowness makes it a rare destination where you can dive in both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans in the same day.

Starfish in sea water near Bocas del Toro, Panama

Starfish near Bocas del Toro, Panama

42. Contadora Island (Pacific) — the underwater topography is quite rocky with many coral formations and an abundance of fish including monkfish, puffins, tuna, lobster, oysters, eels and manta rays.

43. Chiriquí Bay National Marine Park — one of Panama's least-known dive sites with over 800 species of tropical fish. You can see up to 33 species of sharks here.

44. Coiba National Park (Pacific) — this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered the best diving spot in Panama, however, due to powerful currents, it is only intended for experienced divers. Divers can encounter schools of fish, enormous stingrays, hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, white sharks, bull sharks, and oceanic sharks. During certain seasons, it is also possible to spot whale sharks and basking sharks.

Coiba Island in the Pacific coast, in the Gulf of Chiriquí. In the past it was a penal colony, now it is part of the Coiba National Park.

Coiba Island was a penal colony in the past, but now it is part of the Coiba National Park.

45. Portobelo (Caribbean) — locations close to shore include the wreck of a B-45 aircraft at a depth of 21.3 metres.

Of course, the Caribbean offers a variety of other excellent diving locations, such as the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Dominican Republic. No matter where your Caribbean sailing journey takes you, you'll experience breathtaking underwater views, encounter rare sea creatures, and enjoy beautiful white-sand beaches and secluded coves.

Florida

The diversity of diving opportunities in Florida makes it difficult to select the best dive spots and it ultimately comes down to an individual's specific interests and what they hope to experience.

46. Cayman Salvager — a wreck for advanced divers with a 57m deep artificial reef. The wreck rises dramatically from the sandy seabed and its bow juts out above the surface. 

47. Blue Heron Bridge — This site for intermediate divers routinely makes it to the list of the best dive sites in the United States. It is shallow and easily accessible, just be aware of the restrictions during high tide when you go.

48 Ten Fathom Ledge Reef — Coral structures start at 10 metres and drop down to 36 metres on the ocean side of the ledge. The Gulf Stream maintains high visibility and the ledge offers views of large pelagic fish.

49. Maritime Heritage Trail, Biscayne National Park — the perfect place to learn about South Florida's maritime history. It is also possible to scuba dive and snorkel at other sites in the Biscayne National Park.

Manatee divers in Hot Springs, Florida

Snorkelling with manatee in Hot Springs, Florida

50. SS Copenhagen, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea — The nearly 100-metre-long wreck of the SS Copenhagen is now part of a coral reef that divers can explore.

A school of fish on a wreck off the coast of Pompano Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

A school of fish on a wreck off the coast of Pompano Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

No matter which of our boats you choose to sail on, incorporating water sports is a great way to enhance your vacation experience. However, always keep safety in mind and only dive with reputable companies, wherever you may be travelling. 

We wish you fair winds and crystal-clear seas!

Which boat will you embark on to explore the underwater world?