Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize
The best snorkel reefs start shallow, and few are shallower than Glovers Reef Atoll. At low tide, coral heads pop from the sea, visible to beachgoers at the private-island Off the Wall Dive Center and Resort. Don a mask and jump in to witness the rainbow of reds, yellows and purples of the hard and soft corals, and thriving marine life. You don’t need to cover much ground to encounter diversity. Here, the best tactic is to hover above a patch of reef and check out the hundreds of species, from blenny fish, each only 3 inches long, to toadfish, a pancake-flat, whiskered bottom-dweller that betrays its hiding spots when emitting a loud croak.
The experience of witnessing the parade of big marine life finning along the edge of a reef wall tends to be limited to certified scuba divers. Off the island of Little Cayman, the Bloody Bay Wall starts at a snorkeler-friendly depth of 18 feet, then plummets like the side of a skyscraper to 6,000 feet. Even at 18 feet, you’ll encounter eagle rays, sea turtles and Nassau grouper, a 17-inch species beloved by dive guides for its Labrador-Retriever-like personality.