Ahh snorkeling, for those who have had the chance to experience it, isn’t it an awesome experience? Floating peacefully in the clear blue water, watching as hundreds of colorful fish zig and zag in and out of beautiful coral.

It’s such a delicate ecosystem, and pretty cool that all you need is minimal gear (just a mask and snorkel) to be able to take it all in.

Think you can only snorkel in exotic places like the tropics and Caribbean? Not so fast!

Even if you can’t afford to take a luxurious trip to the tropics, anyone with their own snorkel mask will find plenty of amazing snorkeling activities right here in the continental US.

Let’s take a look at a the premiere snorkel spots in the US!

Key Largo, Florida

Scuba diving in Key Largo National Underwater Park.The Florida Keys are our own little slice of the Caribbean, and the best part? You can drive there! Key Largo is home to the third largest living coral reef in the world and less than a two hour drive from Miami International Airport.

As part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, you can take in barracuda and parrot fish, and even check out the 4,000 pound bronze statue called the Christ of the Abyss.

Catalina Island, California

View of City and Bay of Avalon, California on Catalina island from aboveOn the opposite coast, there is a small island not far from Newport Beach called Catalina Island. This island is surrounded by protected waters, so it should come as no surprise it is a fantastic snorkel spot. The most popular destination is called Lover’s Cove.

Here, you’ll find a virtual wonderland of colorful fish (who are quite people friendly), don’t be surprised to find yourself in a school of Garibaldi fish, sea stars, eels, crustaceans, and even octopus!

Crystal River, Florida

Endangered Florida Manatee (West Indian Manatee) UnderwaterFor a truly unique snorkeling experience Crystal River is the place to go. If you’re expecting to see coral and fish, that’s not quite the main attraction…instead look for Manatees. These protected gentle giants populate the estuaries around the area.

Because these creatures are protected, it’s important to follow the advice and guidelines of the guides along the way, but many of the manatees are friendly and might just want a little cuddle.

Channel Islands, California

Island CoveA bit up the coast from Catalina off the shores of Santa Barbara, you’ll find the Channel Islands National Park. This area is not only teeming with beautiful fish, but you also have the chance to encounter dolphins, sea lions, sea birds, and even whales!

One of the other interesting features of the Channel Islands, and much of this area of California coastline are the natural kelp forests which help provide an unforgettable experience.

South Padre Island, Texas

Wait, Texas? It’s true, while not as well known in the snorkel world as the mainstays of California and Florida, the warm waters around South Padre Island is the perfect spot for budding enthusiasts to get comfortable snorkeling.

These waters are home to stingrays, whale sharks, eels, and groupers, to name a few. While you won’t see the colorful fish and coral you might find in other areas, there is plenty to see here.

There you have it, five spots you want to visit the next time you get the urge to snorkel, without killing your wallet!