Other than looking kinda funny with a giant tube sticking out of your mouth, snorkeling's some of the most fun you can have in/on the water that doesn't involve a giant motor and case of beer. It’s essentially scuba diving, but without the $500 certification course and threat of an embolism!
And what's even better about snorkeling, in addition to it being relatively cheap and requiring only basic swimming skills, is that you get to spy some pretty spectacular underwater scenery and wildlife, without ever straying too far from the boat. But which snorkeling destinations offer the best views? Here are the spots in the United States (and its territories) that we think take top billing.
The Crystal River
Crystal River, FL
Yes, when people think of water and Florida, they usually think of the beach (and possibly spring break); but this river in North Central Florida boasts some of the clearest inland water in the nation. It's also the only place in the country where you can regularly swim with the endangered West Indian manatee. If you're nice, one might even swim up and give you a nuzzle.
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla, CA
Sure, you’ll probably need a wetsuit to snorkel around this beach near San Diego, but it's worth it to score a close-up shot of garibaldi, yellowtail, and leopard sharks. And once you get out of this tucked-away turquoise cove, you can dry off on arguably the most scenic beach in Southern California.
Buck Island Reef National Monument
St. Croix, USVI
Forget the US mainland, this protected marine sanctuary in the US Virgin Islands might very well be the best snorkeling IN THE WORLD. The reef covers over 19,000 acres and surrounds two-thirds of St. Croix, wrapping the island in some of the most diverse marine life you'll encounter in a snorkel mask. The Buck Island underwater trail takes you right past hawksbill sea turtles, manta rays, and colorful fish that all feed off the largest contiguous reef in the Eastern Caribbean.