Tag Archives: Islands

Diver Coral

Saving Coral Reefs


Diving or snorkeling on a coral reef is a magical experience. It’s unfortunate that reefs in many parts of the world now face threats from human impact, but there is hope. Governments around the world continue to establish and expand marine preserves that protect coral reefs. And there’s a growing movement to move beyond mere protection and focus on restoration.

Currently, there are more than 100 international organizations dedicated to rebuilding coral reefs, and the leading method is the replanting of corals. Much like tree saplings, small fragments of living coral can be nurtured in a controlled environment, then replanted in the wild to revitalize natural reefs. This is a labor- intensive process, and many of these programs rely on volunteers to do the planting. If you are a diver or snorkeler who wants to get involved in coral reef conservation, here are nine resort destinations where you can make a difference during your vacation.

Four Seasons Bora Bora

The island of Bora Bora is surrounded by one of the world’s most scenic lagoons, and the Four Seasons Resort plans to keep it that way. Set within the lush landscaping of this premier property is the Sanctuary, a sheltered body of water that’s home to a marine research station and a coral nursery. The guests of the resort are invited to snorkel in this natural aquarium to witness or participate in ongoing coral seeding and planting work. During a half-day immersion session, participants learn how to harvest and graft corals into donut-shaped rings. These structures will later be placed in open water to form new reefs and disperse millions of coral spawn to help ensure Bora Bora’s reefs remain spectacular. For more info: https://www.fourseasons.com/borabora/

Bora Bora

Coral fragments planted by divers at the Four Seasons Bora Bora Resort are thriving and continue to grow and provide habitats for fish and other marine life. Photo: Four Seasons

Buddy Dive Resort, Bonaire

Bonaire has some of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean, thanks to decades of protection. But even healthy and well- protected coral colonies can benefit from an infusion of new growth, and that’s the mission of Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire and Buddy Dive Resort. The resort offers a range of coral replanting programs ranging from an afternoon session to a full week of volunteering. A Reef Renewal dive takes place on the nursery located in a shallow section of Buddy’s Reef, right in front of the resort dock. Participants learn the basics of assessing nursery health and tending to the corals. Full-day programs have divers helping foundation staff with nursery maintenance and out-plantings at a number of different sites. Buddy Dive also offers a Reef Renewal Week Package that includes 12 dives devoted to foundation activities. For more info: https://buddydive.com/


Newly planted staghorn corals in Buddy Dive’s coral nursery will grow into dense clusters that support a wide variety of marine life. Photo: Buddy Dive

Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort

The Ozone – AKA Outrigger Zone – is this upscale resort group’s conservation initiative to protect coral reefs through awareness and restoration. At Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and Castaway Island, guests are encouraged to visit on-site coral nurseries and learn what can be done to protect the world’s coral reefs. Anyone who wants to take it one step further is encouraged to join the resort’s dive team and resident marine biologist in an ongoing replanting program. These programs include the creation and deployment of unique “fish houses” made from cultivated coral fragments. When placed in local waters, these structures transform into new marine life habitats as the corals continue to grow. Both snorkelers and divers can view the coral nursery and take part in the replanting program. For details: https://www.outrigger.com/fiji/fiji-beach- resort


A collection of new corals is readied for placement on one of the fish house formations at Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort. Photo: Outrigger Fiji

Sandals Resorts, St. Lucia

Protecting and restoring the coral reefs in the Soufriere Marine Managed Area in St. Lucia is a project headed by CLEAR Caribbean in collaboration with the Sandals Foundation. As part of the project local communities and schools are engaged and educated on the value of reefs. While guests at Sandals may enjoy windsurfing and wakeboarding as part of the activities now scuba divers can add one more endeavor to the list by learning the art of coral planting. This activity is available to certified divers staying at any one of the island’s three Sandals properties – The Grande St. Lucian, Halcyon Beach, and Regency La Toc. The program begins with land and in- water practice sessions that culminate in a special dive trip where participants will attach corals to new reefs. Once these new corals are established, they provide shelter for fish and lobsters, along with coastal protection from storms and swells. For more info: https://sandalsfoundation.org/environment-project-coral- restortation https://www.clearcaribbean.org/

St. Lucia

At the Sandals St. Lucia coral nursery volunteer divers can help transplant newly grown coral fragments to area reefs. Photo: Sandals

Anantara Dhigu, Maldives

Anantara’s Dhigu resort sits on a stunning private island ringed by white-sand beaches and colorful coral gardens. To ensure the future health of these sites, guests are encouraged to adopt a rope. This program, which was launched more than a decade ago, embeds coral fragments onto ropes that are then positioned to provide optimum sunlight and water quality. Guests can adopt a rope by donating, while those who want to get hands-on can participate in attaching corals to their rope with the help of a resident marine biologist. As the rope transforms into a living piece of reef, it will be moved to the resort’s snorkel trail and other area reefs. Along the way, the nursery staff provides updates and photos so participants can witness the results of their work. For details: https://www.anantara.com/en/dhigu-maldives


At Anantara’s Dhigu resort, a diver checks the status of corals planted on a new snorkel trail. Photo: Anantara Dhigu

Four Seasons Seychelles

This premier Four Seasons property created the Petite Anse Reef Restoration Project to protect and nurture corals. A key element of the program uses divers to collect pieces of broken coral damaged by natural events such as wave action. These rescued corals are placed in the resort’s coral nursery for later replanting, and in the first two years of the program, more than 16,000 coral fragments were replanted on the reef. A unique element of the program is known as the Love Grows Beautiful Things experience, which gives couples a chance to use rescued corals to create a heart-shaped coral formation that will be placed on the reef. For info: https://www.fourseasons.com/seychelles/


At the Four Seasons Seychelles, coral fragments are placed on frames that will allow them to grow into heart-shaped formations. Photo: Four Seasons Seychelles

Xbalanque, Roatan

The Roatan Marine Park is always looking for volunteers to help keep the island’s coral reefs healthy. You don’t have to be a diver to participate in the various educational and outreach programs at the foundation’s coral nursery. Divers can take their experience to the next level with a Coral Restoration Certification Course to learn the skills needed to participate in coral restoration. Once qualified, divers can become coral farmers for a day. Those with a true passion for the reefs can take the next step with a longer-term internship program. The foundation works with a number of local hotels and resorts, and a favorite with vacationing divers is the Xbalanque, which is a luxury boutique property located within easy walking distance of Marine Park headquarters. For info: https://www.xbalanqueresort.com/


Divers surface after relocating corals to a reef in the Roatan Marine Park. Photo: Roatan Marine Park

El Cid La Cieba, Cozumel

In 2023 the Cozumel Reef Restoration Program will mark its tenth year of research and action to protect and restore coral reefs in the waters of this favorite Mexican scuba diving destination. Founder Dr. German Mendez remains hands-on with both educational programs and volunteer diving activities. A unique aspect of this restoration project is the use of underwater platforms that become recovery stations for damaged corals. Volunteer divers help by scouring the seabed for coral fragments, which are then placed on the platforms and allowed to grow until they are large enough for replacement on the reefs. One to five-day programs are offered by the foundation, which is based at the El Cid La Ceiba Beach Hotel. For info: https://www.elcid.com/cozumel/el-cid-la-ceiba-beach- hotel/


Divers attach rescued coral fragments to a concrete platform as part of the Cozumel Reef Restoration Program. Photo: Cozumel Reef Restoration

Zeavola, Thailand

Set on a scenic beach at the northern tip of Koh Phi Phi Island, Zeavola is one of Thailand’s leading Five Star PADI dive resorts. The resort combines luxury accommodations with diving adventures that offer an opportunity for guests to get involved and make a difference in the marine environment. The volunteer program begins with instruction and practice on the methods used to reconstruct and replant coral structures. These skills are then put to work during dive trips that restore corals in the surrounding waters. Non-divers can also help, as the resort schedules regular snorkel excursions that remove fishing gear and plastic debris from the reefs to prevent corals from suffocating. For more info: https://www.zeavola.com/

Thai Phi Phi

A free diver participates in a coral reef cleaning session at Thailand’s Zeavola resort. Photo: Zeavola


Where To Go In May 2023


Springtime brings longer days, milder weather, and far fewer tourists than the summer months. While the kids are still busy with school and the flowers are in bloom make May the month you sneak away for that much-deserved trip. Here are seven spots around the globe to celebrate the colors of spring.


Once you’ve seen Dubrovnik’s medieval city walls and visited some of the historic cities along the gorgeous Dalmatian Coast you’ll want more. Take the next chapter of touring from the sea on a cruise of the Croatian Islands. You’ll hop from port to port visiting charming villages, fishing ports, and hilltop strongholds. Wine tastings on the island of Hvar, the Blue Cave off Korcula, and the medieval town designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island of Trogir are on most itineraries. There are a least fifty ways to see these islands from sailing yachts to small ships with a dozen cabins that depart from Split or Dubrovnik.


Off the beaten path this secret turquoise beach is on the island of Brac, in the Dalmatian Islands of Croatia. Photo: xbrchx/Shutterstock


This mountainous isle, the largest Greek island is a botanist’s heaven with over 2,000 species of plants on the island, some endemic and are only found on the island, while others including olive trees and grape vines grow throughout the region. Cooking tours are busy with visitors hosting them on excursions and outdoor classrooms to check out olive groves, olive mills, and pressings. Wild herbs like chamomile, marjoram, thyme, oregano, and fennel grow on the rugged mountainous landscapes and are collected by cooks and chefs used in flavoring soups and stews. When spring is in full force the hillsides, slopes, and roadsides are carpeted in yellow, red, and purple blooms. Tiny wild tulips are early bloomers and are best seen on the hillside that spills over the village of Slili. Miniature purple orchids pop out among the yellow-colored flowers of chamomile. Small red poppies, full-petaled peonies, and delicate anemones make a multi-colored tapestry that rests over the landscape.


Spring on Crete is covered in wild poppies surrounding olive trees that grow throughout the hillsides. Photo: olgalngs/iStock


An island known for its 33 white sand beaches is also a culinary leader in the region. There are 70 restaurants many with a French flare combining Continental seasonings and techniques with local seafood; you’ll have grilled lobster with Herbs de Provence. Local barbeque is big and Caribbean cuisine including pigeon peas and rice, shredded salt cod and jerk chicken is prevalent but when visiting chefs come to the island, there is no limit. The Anguilla Culinary Experience runs for four days in early May and brings together local talented chefs with award- winning pros from the states and Europe. The event kicks off with a party and tasting at Aurora Anguilla Resort & Spa; guests will try dishes from each of the six restaurants. Resident and guest chefs will host dinners at set restaurants and days and evenings will include cooking demonstrations and rum tastings. Private dinners, beach barbeques, and gourmet island tours are all part of the festivities. The event runs from May 3 to 6, 2023. Order your tickets at: https://anguillaculinaryexperience.com/


Plated crayfish will most certainly be on the menu during the Anguilla Culinary Experience in May. Photo: Natalie Volchek- Alvarez/ACE


Without a doubt, Santorini is the most famous of the Cyclades Islands, and visiting in the off-season is preferred. When July and August roll around the tourists flock in. In May, the weather is warm, sunny, and dry and you’ll be able to see one of those fabulous sunsets without rubbing shoulders. Explore as many villages as time allows. Fira, the largest town is good for shopping and nightlife and has a bus connection to get to other villages. Oia is the town most visitors head to when they get off the ships, its stone pedestrian paths wind up and around the hills connecting restaurants, inns, and shops and offering breathtaking views below of the cobalt-blue Mediterranean Sea.


One of the main streets in Oia, Santorini is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. Photo: Mo Wu/Shutterstock


Chocolate lovers will want to mark their calendars for this culinary event. The island is once known for its nutmeg, the pod that’s pictured on the National flag, and is now becoming the chocolate capital of the Caribbean. An island where agriculture was king, the volcanic soil is spectacularly fertile and today the central agricultural regions of the island are not only growing the iconic nutmeg and cinnamon but among mangoes, vanilla, and bananas grows the prized cacao. In the past, cacao was mostly exported but farmers today are holding onto the precious pods. Today there are five tree-to-bar companies, and they all play a role in the Grenada Chocolate Festival, a celebration of all things chocolate. You’ll find tastings, pairings, dinners, hands-on experiences, and plantation excursions. Meet the growers, participate in the raking and walking of the cacao, and learn the art of making bars. The event takes place May 16-21, 2023. Sign up at: https://www.grenadachocolatefest.com/


Special dinners from the 2022 Grenada Chocolate Festival included several chocolate desserts and rum tastings. Photo: Grenada Chocolate Festival


The rainy season is over, and the weather is considered ideal in May, although humidity plays a role in a lush environment during the day evenings cool down and best of all, the summer visitors haven’t arrived yet. For hikers, the island is a nonstop adventure as 90 percent of the island is unpaved and accessible via hikes and bikes. A hike will take you just about anywhere there is a semblance of a trail and there are easy strolls along the coast to tougher hikes up 3,000-foot-high ridges offering breathtaking views. The Waimea Canyon on the west side takes in several hikes of various levels through the state park. Trails to Koke’e State Park carpeted in green forests meander through 4,345 acres reaching a plateau 3,200 to 4,200 feet above sea level. The views are amazing and the forest is home to some of Hawaii’s endemic birds. Most will want to hike the hanging valley of the Napali Coast, it’s not for the beginner but the views are worth it for those conditioned for a challenging and strenuous hike. This hike along the Kalalau Trail is 11 miles one way and follows the path of the ancient Hawaiians.


Hawaii’s most popular and scenic hike is on Kauai; the 11-mile Kalalau trail overlooks the Napali Coast. Photo: Sam Camp/iStock


Spring months are best for a visit to the island of Malta when the nights are still cool, and the majority of tourists haven’t arrived yet. Summer months can get intense with heat and overrun with visitors, many of who fancy the Instagrammable beach clubs. May is considered the sweet spot. History buffs will marvel at the architecture and since the island has been occupied first by the Phoenicians, then the Romans and so on there’s influence from Spain, Sicily, France, and England. The island became independent in 1964. However, the collision of cultures and unique buildings remains. Visit Malta’s Silent city of Mdina, once the capital, which dates to the Phoenicians 4,000 years ago. It’s a walking city with no cars except for residents who number under 300. Walk the narrow streets where churches have become museums and galleries and many of the palaces are now private homes.


Popular with tourists for the views and the fishing boats, Marsaxlokk fishing village showcases the colors of Malta. Photo: eli asenova/iStock


Hydra Greece

Islands without Cars


Next time you get stuck in rush hour traffic, take a deep breath and imagine you are on vacation on an island where there are no cars. Take an imaginary escape to a place where people walk, ride bikes, or straddle a scooter on narrow village lanes. These places really do exist, and here are eight of our favorites.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

East of Bali and just off the northwestern shore of Lombok Island lie a trio of tiny treasures known as the Gilis. This name simply means “small island “in the Indonesian language, and it’s an apt description for three specs of land where you could walk anywhere in about 20 minutes. Gili Air, Gili Trawangan, and Gili Meno each measure less than a mile from coast to coast and are home to only a few thousand people. There are no cars, no scooters, and no golf carts on the islands–just bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Scuba diving is big in the surrounding waters, and Trawangan is a favorite with the partying backpack crowd. Meno, with less than 500 residents, is the place to go for truly deserted beaches and a fully off-the-grid environment.

Gili Islands

The smallest of the Gili Islands, Gili Meno showcases scenic and remote beaches and several snorkeling sites. Its serene ambiance is popular with honeymooners. Photo: Nuture/iStock

Burano, Italy

Long considered one of the most picturesque towns in Italy, Burano is accessible only by water, and just a boat ride away from Venice. Like its famous neighbor, this island is crisscrossed by canals that serve as liquid thoroughfares. Burano’s claim to fame is its distinctive multi-hued houses. Most every building in town is painted in a variety of pastel shades from across the rainbow. To take in this collection of residential street art, you’ll need to lace up the walking shoes, as the narrow alleys that connect neighborhoods are free of motorized vehicles. Burano is famous for delicate lace fabrics, an industry that uses traditional knitting skills once used to repair fishing nets. One landmark that’s a must-see when touring the town is Il Campanile Storto di Burano, aka the leaning bell tower of Burano.

Burano Italy

Colorful Venetian houses along the canal of Burano have inspired many artists, who have made the island home. Photo: Javen/Shutterstock

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

When your puddle-jumper flight sets down on Nicaragua’s Corn Island you might think you’d come as far away from the crowds as possible. This small island offers quiet beaches, small unpretentious guest houses, and a laid-back Caribbean culture. But true solitude seekers can go even one step farther by hopping aboard a native panga boat for an eight-mile crossing to Little Corn Island. Just don’t expect to be greeted by a taxi when you arrive. The only internal combustion engine on Little Corn Island is the village generator, and it only runs from evening to morning. The island, which is just two miles long and a mile wide, is connected by a series of walking paths. A handful of small guest houses provide comfortable if basic accommodations in a pristine setting that is sure to please solitude seekers.

Little Corn Island Nicaragua

Both Little Corn and Big Corn islands in Nicaragua are known for their white sand beaches, turquoise bays, and lack of crowds. Photo: Riderfoot/Shutterstock

Cay Caulker, Belize

You won’t be dodging cars on the quiet, unpaved streets of Caye Caulker — the most you’ll have to contend with is the occasional bicycle or golf cart. This smaller sibling of Belize’s popular Ambergris Caye delivers a just-right mix of isolation and civilization. There’s an airstrip that accommodates small commuter flights, and regular ferry service from the mainland. Everything is within walking distance, and most of the restaurants, hotels, and cafes are clustered towards the north end of the island. But just in case, there are those golf carts for those days when you’re feeling lazy. Caye Caulker is just a short boat ride away from the Great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean.

Cay Caulker Belize

Pastel buildings on the beach near the ferry terminal on Cay Caulker set the stage for this low-key, relaxed island in Belize. Photo: ANPerryman/iStock

Panarea, Sicily

Italy’s Aeolian Islands have been a favorite getaway since the days of the Caesars in Ancient Rome. Today, the smallest member of this cluster of volcanic outcroppings attracts its share of modern A-listers, but they tend to keep things on the down low. While the island has more than its share of excellent dining and drinking opportunities, it’s not a bling-heavy club scene. Instead, there’s a trend toward elegance through simplicity. In fact, the lack of streetlights across the island means you can enjoy stargazing from a guesthouse terrace. It’s a walking-friendly place, as most everything is located close to the port district on San Pietro harbor. Mechanized transport is confined to the golf carts that serve as taxis on extremely narrow roadways.

Italy Aeolian Islands Sicily

Cala Junco is a small bay on the island of Panarea, one of the Aeolian Islands near Sicily. Lipari and Salina islands are seen on the horizon. Photo: Michal Krakowiak/iStock

Hydra, Greece

No Cars? No Problem. Per a 1950’s presidential decree, cars, motorbikes, and all other forms of wheeled conveyances are banned on Hydra. Other than walking, the only approved mode of transport on this Greek island is on the back of a donkey. And while the stated reason for banning all types of wheeled machines is to preserve a historic culture and traditional way of life, it also makes sense on a more practical level. The steep hillsides that surround the island’s crescent-shaped harbor are cut by narrow paths and stairs that would not accommodate most other forms of transport. A long-time favorite with in-the- know travelers, Hydra offers an eclectic mix of accommodations and restaurants. One thing to take into account when planning a stay: if you want to enjoy the elevated views of the Aegean Sea from your terrace, you’ll need to be ready to do some uphill trekking.


Panoramic view on the Greek island of Hydra where mountains overlook the capital town of narrow alleys and colorful buildings lining the waterfront. Photo: Romas_Photo/Shutterstock

Koh Phayam, Thailand

Thailand, the way it used to be. That’s how visitors fortunate enough to discover Thailand’s Koh Phayam describe this quiet island, which sits in the Andaman Sea just south of the border with Myanmar. From the mainland, it’s a two-hour ferry ride or a 45-minute speedboat dash out to Koh Phayam. This is a place where long stretches of white-sand beaches are fronted by nothing more than palm trees and the occasional thatch-roofed food stall. The island offers a collection of small guest houses, almost all within walking distance of the ocean. If you want to do some more distant exploring, the only options will be a rental scooter or a motorbike taxi. Some of Thailand’s best dive sites lie just offshore, and water sports lovers can also try kite surfing or paddling trips into mangrove lagoons.

Koh Phayam

Ringed by a handful of beaches with golden sand Thailand’s Koh Phayam remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Photo: querbeet/iStock

Brijuni Islands, Croatia

During a stroll on Veliki Brijun, you might come across zebras, llamas, ostriches, or even an Indian elephant. The largest island in Croatia’s Brijuni Archipelago is now a national park. But during the Soviet era, the island was the official residence of Yugoslavian president Josip Tito. The exotic animals that are now housed in a safari park were gifts to the former strongman. The island also boasts a number of natural attractions, including several sets of fossilized dinosaur footprints and a 1700-year-old olive tree. The best way to take in Veliki Brijun is with a walking tour, though the park also allows a tram-style “tourist train” to make the rounds. Most visitors come for a day trip that starts at the mainland city of Pula, but there are two hotels on the island for those who want to linger a bit longer.

Croatia Brijuni Islands

Aerial view of the archipelago of the Brijuni islands and the National Park where you can explore pathways and trails on foot or via bicycle. Photo: rusm/Getty Images

For more island destinations around the world that don’t allow cars watch the PBS program titled Islands without Cars with host Kira Cook. While she takes you on journeys to colder climates, you’ll meet the locals and get a real taste of the islands. Her website is: https://www.islandswithoutcars.com/



Best Places to Travel in March 2023


March is one of those months that can fly below the vacation radar. It’s just past the end of winter getaways, and a bit before the mad crush of spring break. This means travelers who time it right can enjoy an ideal combination of mild weather, fewer crowds, and great shoulder-season rates. Here are seven good choices for a March getaway.


Just a few miles from downtown Panama City, Somberania National Park is an oasis of rainforest greenery. And March is a great time to visit because – well, it isn’t raining all the time. Visiting the park during the dry season means plenty of sunshine and mud-free hiking trails. Paths lead through impressive stands of cotton, mahogany, and guayacan trees, crossing streams and swaying bridges on the way to waterfalls and swimming holes on the Chagres River. The 55,000-acre park is a favorite destination for bird watchers, who have tallied 400-plus species including exotic finds like toucans, trogons, flycatchers, and tanagers, along with rare birds such as the red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-eared toucanet and ground cuckoo.


Sunrise over the Chagres River in the Soberanía National Park of Gamboa, a 55,000-acre protected tropical ecosystem in Panama. Photo: Bkamprath/iStock


March breezes usher in one of Mexico’s premier sailing events in the blue waters of Puerto Vallarta. 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the Banderas Bay Regatta. This international nautical get- together draws an eclectic mix of serious sailors and casual competitors to compete in a week-long series of around-the-buoy races and shoreside celebrations. Headquarters for the event is the Vallarta Yacht Club, but don’t expect blue-blazers and bloody marys, because the club has a more laid-back flip-flop and Corona vibe. After watching the races, head to the quiet fishing village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for some old-school Mexican hospitality.


Racing unfolds during the 2022 Banderas Bay Regatta, an annual event attracting sailors from Mexico and North America. Photo: John Pounder/JL Digital Media.net


Each year thousands of humpback whales from all corners of the Pacific gather in the warm, shallow waters off the coast of Maui to mate, give birth, and raise their young. The action takes place in calm water not far from shore, making it one of the most relaxing places in the world for whale watching. And in addition to on-the- water viewing sessions, anyone who’s really into whales should mark their calendars for the Lahaina Whale and Ocean Arts Festival. Held on the first week of March at Lahaina’s Campbell Park, this event combines ocean-themed art exhibits with food, games, live music, and family activities.


A humpback whale fluke during a sunset whale watching in Lahaina on Maui. Here, the whale-watching season runs from March to November. Photo: Manuel Balesteri/Shutterstock


There’s really not a bad time to visit the stunning islands of the Maldives, but March gives you a chance to slip in after the end of the winter rush while still enjoying some balmy weather and plenty of sunshine. This is also a favorite date for divers and snorkelers, as waters are particularly clear at this time of the year. March also marks the beginning of the surfing season. There are beginner- friendly waves ideal for anyone who has ever thought about taking up the sport, and some legendary breaks to challenge experts. With more than 100 islands offering stunning beach resorts, there are options to suit all tastes and budgets.


Aerial view of a seaplane approaching an island resort in the Maldives where over-the water-bungalows are ubiquitous. Photo: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock


Florida’s theme parks and beaches can get crowded once spring breakers arrive, but there are still plenty of quiet places to enjoy in the Sunshine State. For a truly wild adventure, head to the Everglades National Park and sign up for an airboat tour into the heart of America’s largest wetlands. These specially-designed flat- bottomed boats glide through sawgrass meadows and shallow waters that aren’t accessible to other types of boats. For added enjoyment, combine a boat trip with a visit to the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation for a cultural immersion into the history and traditions of the Seminole tribe.


Blue skies are reflected in the still waters of the Florida Everglades as tourists take airboat rides to visit alligators and other wildlife. Photo: allouphoto/Shutterstock

Dominica Republic

Each year, as many as 2,000 humpback whales visit the Dominica Republic’s Samana Bay, and March is an ideal time for a whale- watching trip that has the added bonus of visits by resident pods of dolphins. Plan your trip early in the month and you can also take in the National Carnival Parade. This event is the culmination of weeks of regional carnival competitions, all leading to the big finale when the best carnival troupes from across the country converge on the Santo Domingo Malecón for a weekend of pageantry, dances, and parades. And if you miss that party, there’s still time after your whaling trip for a road trip to the Cabarete district to watch the action at the World Surf League and get in on the final carnival of the season.

Dominica Republic

The Bay of Samana is ideal for watching humpback whales as they come to mate, give birth, and nurse their young in these warmer waters. Photo: Judith Lienert/Shutterstock


It’s fitting that the island that has been called “a little piece of England” delivers echos of The Royal Ascot with the staging of the Caribbean’s most prestigious horse racing event. The Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup is a highlight of the island’s sporting and social calendar. The race draws an international field of jockeys and thoroughbred trainers. The Gold Cup is the culmination of a tradition dating back to 1845 when officers of the British Regiment stationed in Barbados staged impromptu horse races on the parade grounds of the Garrison Savannah. Today, it is much more than a race, as it has become the centerpiece for a weekend of social events and celebrations.


Any escape to Barbados involves some beach time. With more than 80 white strands on the island, there is plenty to explore. Photo: Barbados Tourism Marketing


The Brando Resort French Polynesia

Islands From Above


Tropical islands present an endless range of photographic opportunities. But one perspective that is rarely shown is the view from directly overhead. A look down at these favorite places reveals a new dimension to the destination and showcases the incredible clarity of the water. It’s a phenomenon these talented photographers have discovered and shared.

A Royal Legacy

Pierre Lesage flew a drone over blue Pacific waters to capture this panoramic image of The Brando Resort, which sits on the private French Polynesian island of Tetiaroa. As director of sales and marketing for the resort, Pierre had a unique opportunity to document this iconic property, which is set in a sparkling lagoon some 30 miles northeast of the island of Tahiti. Tetiaroa, which was once the playground of the royal family of Tahiti, was bought by Marlon Brando in 1965 when he was filming the Mutiny on the Bounty. His goal when purchasing the island was to preserve it for future generations.

Tetiaroa Island The Brando Resort

Aerial coastline of Tetiaroa. Photo: The Brando/Tim McKenna @timmckenna

Down Under From Above

Photographer Will Turner waited until sunset to launch his drone above the rocky shoreline of the Shelly Beach headlands, which sit at the edge of Australia’s Sydney Harbour National Park. “The water was crystal clear and the trees were red as fire,” he writes, “making this awesome composition.” The sheltered waters of Shelly Beach are popular with swimmers and snorkelers, while surfers favor nearby Manly Beach, which was the site of the first World Surfing Championship in 1965. A favorite day trip to Manly from downtown Sydney begins with a half-hour ferry ride that takes in famous sites such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Manly Shelly Beach

Bird’s-eye view of rocks at Shelly Beach, Manly, Australia Photo: Will Turner/ Unsplash @turner_imagery

Worth The Effort

When prepping for a trip to the Islands of Fiji, Jay Daley wasn’t sure he wanted to go through the hassle of packing his favorite photo drone. “I was jetting off to the little tropical island to relax,” he says. “Lugging a large drone through checked luggage, and customs, and getting it to and from the resort didn’t seem like a relaxing idea.” But in the end, the drone came along, and Jay was glad it did. “There was a huge coral reef right at my doorstep and kayaks ready to go.” The drone flew, and the result was this evocative image of a snorkeler dwarfed by huge coral formations.


Coral reef from the Islands of Fiji. Photo: Jay Daley/Flickr

A Liquid Gem Set In Stone

Falassarna Beach is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of shoreline on the Greek Island of Crete, and it’s been the subject of countless photo shoots over the years. So when Athens-based multi-media producer Filippos Sdralias set out to create some aerial images of the coast, he wanted to show a different facet of Falassarna. Instead of focusing the lens on the warm sands of the beach, he flew his drone above a rock-strewn area at the edge of the strand to document the enticing turquoise waters of this shallow, boulder-lined pool.


Rocks of Falassarna, Greece. Photo: Filippos Sdralias/ Unsplash @filippos_sdr

Flight To A Distant Haven

This bird’s eye view of the coral reefs surrounding Laysan Island comes from U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander (ret.) Kevin Cooper. This remote outpost is located in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, some 900 miles from Honolulu. The photo was taken during an overflight of the island in 2016. It shows the reefs to be in good health, but this wasn’t always the case. Laysan was historically exploited by guano miners and overrun by invasive species. Decades of reclamation efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have since restored most of the island’s natural order, and it is now protected under the Hawaiian Natural Life Act.

Laysan Island

Laysan Island overflight, Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Photo: Kevin Cooper/Flickr

Phuket In Mid-Day Light

The crystal-clear waters of Thailand’s most famous island, Phuket, draw visitors from around the world. It’s easy to see the allure in this overhead view by Giuliano Di Paolo, who focused on the rocky shoreline near the island’s southern point at Promthep Cape. The cape is one of the most photographed locations in Phuket, but most shooters wait until sunset to visit. By shooting in mid-day sunlight Di Paolo brought out the full vibrance of the water. He is a Milan-based media creator who is fascinated with Thailand and often turns his lens to subjects such as elephants, temples, and local people.


Phuket, Thailand. Photo: Giuliano Di Paolo/Unsplash @giulianodipaolo


Sailing A Coral Coast

The Maldives is a nation of 1,200 small islands set in 3,500 square miles of coral reef. To capture the impressive scale of these formations, Hassan Ishan took a high-altitude look at a traditional dhoni sailing vessel making its way along the edge of a massive ridge of coral that’s visible in the clear water. Dhonis are the workhorses of Maldivian maritime commerce, serving as everything from fishing boats to cargo vessels and inter-island ferries. Ishan is a self-taught Maldivian photo pro known for creating surreal images that capture the unique beauty of his homeland. His work has inspired many younger photography enthusiasts to get into the field.


Sailing boat in the Maldives. Photo: Ishan/Unsplash @seefromthesky


Lighting The Way

Mariners in the Turks &Caicos have learned to navigate the extensive network of channels and shoals that surround these islands based on water color. Sapphire and aquamarine waters signal “go ahead,” while light green or tan warns of shallow depths that could spell trouble. Filmmaker Romello Williams perfectly captures this phenomenon with an overhead shot of a speedboat transiting a tidal creek set between a sandbank and a seagrass meadow. A native of Grand Bahamas now living in the Turks & Caicos, Williams says his work is heavily influenced by his island upbringing.

Turks & Caicos

Turks & Caicos Islands. Photo: Romello Williams/ Unsplash @romello



Moorea French Polynesia

7 of the World’s Most Beautiful Islands


While no longer well-kept secrets, the following isles continue to engage with charm and scenery.  Read below to see our picks for the most beautiful islands in the world to see in 2022.


The Islands of Tahiti include over 100 islands within five archipelagos. The most photographed and visited are the Society Islands, which include Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea. You’ll find barrier reefs and cobalt blue lagoons, powdery soft sands and emerald volcanic peaks. Among the dramatic mountain ridges lies volcanic Mount Rotui, the second-highest mountain on Moorea. The five-mile round trip hike to the top is challenging even for experienced hikers but rewards with scenic views of the entire island.


The mountains of Moorea are some of the most rugged in the world. Mount Rotui is the easiest to climb and offers views of Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay. Photo: Ugur Ozden/Flickr


Certainly, Santorini has been on many a bucket list. For decades it has been the most popular Greek destination but it’s still worth joining the crowds to see this crescent moon-shaped island. Cruisers head to the picturesque village of Oia for the views and sunsets amidst the stunning architecture of whitewashed buildings dotted with cobalt blue dome roofs. Be sure to wander through the stone-paved alleys stopping at a café to taste the local wine paired with tomatokeftedes a patty made with local feta cheese and the famous Santorini cherry tomato.


After visiting Oia village take the hike along the caldera to Fira, the largest town on the island. Drop by a tavern or two along the way. Photo: Gene Tobia/Flickr


While tropical rainforest covers much of the island’s interior including ribbons of trails favored by hikers, the Garden Island offers 111-miles of coastline with 50 miles of glistening white sand for beach lovers. The Na Pali coastline with its intensely colored dramatic cliffs, pinnacles and canyons beckon photographers from around the world to capture its glory from air or sea. A helicopter tour from Princeville takes visitors over the 65 miles of lush roadless terrain showcasing the waterfalls, valleys and crevices.


Kauai has several small towns to explore. Hanapepe is known for art, Koloa dates back to the sugar era of 1835 and locals favor Hanalei. Photo: Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash


The land of elaborate temples, Hindu ceremonies, terraced rice paddies and monkeys, the island of Bali is not known as much for its beaches as for its lush landscapes. Sure, you can find white and black stretches of sand with cliffs looming above hidden shores. Dubbed the most popular beach in the world of Instagrammers, Kelingking Beach on Nusa Penida Island is mostly viewed from above. Getting to its shore involves a precarious hike and most will find the scene from above to be equally mesmerizing. 

Bali Nusa Penida

Kelingking Beach AKA T-Rex Beach is the claim to fame for the island of Nusa Penida. From above the shape resembles the neck of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Photo: felfin05 evin on Unsplash


This archipelago of 1,200 islands and atolls stretches across the equator and lies within the Indian Ocean. The collection is comprised of fine white sands formed from coral, crystal waters and palm trees; and it’s the world’s lowest country reaching four feet above sea level. Here, over-water bungalows are prevalent. Rasdhoo Atoll is uninhabited topside but beneath the surface, the surrounding ocean is populated with hammerhead sharks, manta rays and stingrays as well as the more docile sea turtle. 

Maldives Rasdhoo Atoll

Divers find Rasdhoo’s underwater world to be some of the best. Shallow water lagoons are great for beginners while deep walls and channels appeal to the advanced. Photo: Maahid Photos/Unsplash

St. Lucia

A visit to St. Lucia isn’t complete without a glimpse of the Pitons, the Caribbean’s most distinctive landmark. Often seen from the winding mountainous roads when approaching Soufrière, the views are ubiquitous. Even more captivating are the twin volcanoes seen from the water. These twin peaks that rise up from the sapphire blue sea are connected by an inland ridge that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

St. Lucia Pitons

A visit to the Pitons might include a rigorous hike on the Gros Piton trail or a relaxing soak and mud bath in the Sulphur Springs. Photo: David Dale/Flickr

Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands National Park is comprised of six islands skirting Maya Bay, which was made famous in the 2000 film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The two larger islands Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi were so popular among day-trippers and snorkeling boats that the officials of Thailand closed the bay, not so much due to Covid but to restore the damage done to the once pristine spot due to over- tourism. Today visitors are allowed back but with imposed new rules to protect the area.

Phi Phi Islands Thailand

While the Maya Bay draws with its natural beauty there hundreds of gorgeous islands between Phuket and Krabi. Take a longtail boat and explore the area. Photo: Miltiadis Fragkidis/Unsplash

Stuart Cove Snorkeling Bahamas

Where to Snorkel with Sharks


Forget those old cliches about “shark-infested waters.” The reality is that these often-misunderstood creatures pose very little danger to humans, and are far more likely to avoid the splashing chaos of swimmers and divers. But there are certain places around the world where sharks can be found with predictable regularity, allowing snorkelers with a sense of adventure a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

New Providence, Bahamas

From Thunderball to Into the Blue, a vast majority of the underwater shark encounters that show up on the big screen were filmed in the waters near Stuart Cove’s dive center in the Bahamas. Decades of feeding have conditioned the area’s resident population of gray reef sharks to the presence of humans, and they hang around even when they aren’t getting a handout of fish bits. Snorkelers can get in on the action with trips to several of the area’s shallow reefs, where the sharks will cruise by, but otherwise ignore the fin-wearing interlopers. There’s usually a dive guide with a camera on hand to grab a shark-and- snorkeler shot for anyone looking for a great social media post. Visit: https://stuartcove.com/

Stuart Cove Sharks

Underwater sites with clear and calm waters in the Bahamas await divers and snorkelers on a Stuart Cove’s adventure. Guided adventures include shark sightings. Photo: Salisbury University Geography Students/Flickr

Bora Bora, Islands of Tahiti

The huge sand-bottom lagoon that surrounds the island of Bora Bora is filled with all manner of fish life, including a group of resident lemon sharks and rays. Encounters sometimes begin right from resort beaches or near over- water bungalows, but more guaranteed are the boat trips provided by several tour companies, which ferry snorkelers to areas within the lagoon where the sharks and rays are known to gather. Snorkelers who prefer a more controlled environment should visit the island’s Lagoonarium. This natural enclosure is located near the island’s eastern shore, and it is home to a variety of sharks, rays, tropical fish, and sea turtles. More adventurous swimmers can also book trips to outer reefs where dolphins and manta rays may join the mix. Visit: http://lagoonarium.e-monsite.com/

Bora Bora Snorkeling with Sharks

Shark and ray feeding trips are available from resorts for visiting snorkelers in Bora Bora. The sandy flat outside the lagoon is populated with hungry sharks and stingrays. Photo: Michael Rubenstein/Flickr

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo is the gateway to the Sea of Cortez. All manner of sharks and large marine mammals pass by this point on their way to and from seasonal hunting and breeding grounds. The Pelagic Safari takes small groups of snorkelers on a half-day or all-day speedboat cruise into the open waters of the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez. When a likely site is located, participants go overboard with snorkel gear and drift with the waves as the boat follows to provide support. Depending on the season, snorkelers may come face-to-face with anything from humpbacks and gray whales to blue and mako sharks, billfish, and massive schools of Mobula rays. Visit: https://pelagicsafari.com/

cabo sharks

Modula rays invade the waters off Southern Baja and the Sea of Cortez on a seasonal basis. Plan a visit May through July or November to January. Photo: Pelagic Safari

Oahu, Hawaii

There are some sharks that are best seen from behind bars, and that’s exactly what snorkelers can do at Hawaii Shark Encounters. These adventures take place three miles off the north shore of Oahu. After reaching deep water, the tour operator stops the boat and deploys shark cages that float on the surface. Snorkelers enter these cages, and chum with fish deployed to lure oceanic predators. The species that show up most often are Galapagos, sandbar, and tiger sharks, but there’s also a chance of a visit from blue sharks and hammerheads. To make the encounters more thrilling, the cages are fitted not only with bars, but also Plexiglas windows that provide unimpeded viewing. Visit: https://hawaiisharkencounters.com/

Oahu Hawaii Shark Diving

Both thrilling and educational, shark cage adventure tours on the north shore of Oahu will dispel many shark myths and create awareness for their protection. Photo: ptpablo/Flickr

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

The Phi Phi Islands are the stuff of postcards and screen savers. Rising like giant limestone haystacks from emerald waters, these unique formations are surrounded by coral reefs and riddled with secret coves fronting white sand beaches. In recent years, one of the fastest-trending adventures that visitors to the islands can experience is the chance to swim with black-tip reef sharks. Several tour companies ferry snorkelers to shallow reefs, where these non-threatening sharks forage among the formations in search of hidden morsels. Morning is said to be the best time to sign up for these tours, as this is not only when the sharks are most active, but also the times when there are fewer swimmers in the water. After the swim, there’s usually a chance to visit mysterious sea caves and have lunch on a deserted beach. Visit: https://www.getyourguide.com/discovery/phi-phi-islands-l9477/snorkeling-tc57/?utm_force=0

Phi Phi Islands Snorkeling

From Phuket, visitors can take boat tours to the amazing Phi Phi Islands. Some may stop at Monkey Beach, while others head out to reefs. Photo: Corey Hamilton/Flickr

Bimini, Bahamas

The waters of the Gulf Stream flow close to the Bahamian island of Bimini, bringing game fish and sharks in from the deep blue. This gives snorkelers a rare chance to meet oceanic marine life in shallow water, including reef sharks and hammerheads. The starting point for these thrilling encounters is Bimini Undersea,  which is located within the fisherman’s village at Resorts World Bimini. Participants board speedboats for a three-mile trip to a formation known as Triangle Rocks. There, in depths of 25 feet or less, the reefs attract passing sharks, which are clearly visible in the clear water. This half-day trip is considered safe and appropriate for all ages, as the sharks gather in anticipation of a free meal, but are not fed while snorkelers are in the water. Visit: https://biminiundersea.net/

Bimini Bahamas Dive With Sharks

Up-close views of reef sharks can be experienced in special programs like The Sharks Adventure at a beautiful reef, south of Bimini. Photo: sassamafracken/Flickr

Vieques Playa Negra

10 Beautiful Black Sand Beaches of the World


They are sexy, silky and mysterious. Some are hidden and hard to find while others are well known and favored by beach lovers. Images of dark, dramatic black sand beaches elicit the idea of exotic locales but many are found on nearby shorelines. As you travel the world make sure you add a couple of these intriguing coasts to your bucket list. Here, Playa Negra on Vieques is a favorite when visiting the Spanish Virgin Islands.

Fiji Jean Michel Cousteau

Fiji’s Top Nature-Friendly Beach Resorts


It would be a shame to mar the view of a perfect, palm-shrouded beach with a high-rise hotel. Fortunately, the developers of some of Fiji’s most sought after beach resorts thought the same thing. And instead of going big and going up, they chose to insert a limited number of regionally appropriate guest accommodations into the landscape, using ecologically sound building principles, and operating in a manner that honors local cultural traditions.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

It’s not surprising that a resort bearing the surname of the world’s most prominent marine conservationist is dedicated to sustainable practices and ecological initiatives. The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is set within a former coconut plantation on the shores of Savusavu Bay, just minutes away from Fiji’s premier coral reefs. Each of the property’s 25 traditional Fijian bures is designed in an environmentally friendly style, with natural ventilation provided by louvered hardwood windows that capture sea breezes, and vaulted thatch roofs that create cooling convections. There are no in-room electronics to distract from the natural ambiance and direct ocean views. The resort hosts an in-house marine biologist, sponsors a reef protection program and a giant clam breeding project, and grows most of its own organic produce. Guests can engage in a wide range of cultural and ecological experiences, including guided nature hikes and mangrove tours, traditional Fijian medicine walks, Fijian storytelling and Kava ceremonies.

Fiji Jean Michel Cousteau

The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort includes just 25 one- and two-bedroom luxury garden and oceanfront bures, each offering upscale amenities, spacious floor plans and private decks. Photo: Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Each bure blends authentic traditional design with luxurious touches such as deluxe king beds, over-sized bathrooms, and private decks with hammocks and ocean views. The resort caters to both families and couples. The Bula Club children’s program engages youngsters with exploration, educational games, and activities that encourage discovery of the natural world. The restaurant’s award-winning menu is inspired by Fijian, South Pacific and Asian cuisines, with an emphasis on fresh, locally caught seafood, prime meats and organic produce grown on-site. Couples can take in alfresco water views in the adults-only dining area, while families are welcomed at a poolside venue, which also offers youth centric choices. There are four pools, including a family pool with water slide, and the adult’s only Serenity pool, which is flanked by a bar and day beds. Daily yoga and spa services provide relaxation, while the range of available activities includes sailing, snorkeling, diving, paddle sports and beach activities.

Fiji Jean Michel Cousteau Resort

Guests at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort can enjoy private oceanfront dining on elevated decks set on the beach, or reserve a private overwater table on the pier. Photo: Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort


This upscale beach resort is proof that tourism development doesn’t have to come at the expense of nature, and need not eclipse local values. Sitting on a two-mile stretch of pristine beach on the south coast of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, Nanuku blends contemporary luxury and traditional Fijian culture to create a sanctuary for relaxation and discovery. Guests can partake in a range of unique indigenous and cultural activities such as food safaris, where participants learn how to prepare unique regional dishes. Other programs visit a waterfall stream to catch local prawns, harvest coconuts, and demonstrate how spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, and cardamom are cultivated and cured. Guests can sign up for overnight camping at a deserted island, take part in a medicine walk, help restore reefs with coral planting, explore a local market and taste organic seasonal produce, see how kava is grown, and learn about its medicinal properties, and the ancient cultural traditions.

Nanuku Fiji

Sitting on a pristine section of Viti Levu Island’s south coast, Nanuku Beach Resort is designed to blend into the natural surroundings through traditional design and construction practices. Photo: Nanuku

The resort includes 24 traditionally styled beachfront pool suites, Two- bedroom villas and three-bedroom residences. Some have private pools, and all have direct ocean views and beach access. Families will enjoy complimentary nanny services and the Adventure Club with zip lines, climbing wall and many other activities for youngsters. Adults can find relaxation with a traditional Fijian Bobo massage at the Lomana Spa and Wellness Centre, and participate in daily yoga practices, or schedule private wellness seasons for asana yoga, pranayama breathing, meditation or Reiki energy work. The Kanavata Restaurant is considered one of the finest in Fiji, and the chefs can create private dining experiences. A full range of water sports activities is available, with a highlight being boat tours to a private two-acre island for snorkeling and beach picnics.

Nanuku Fiji Basket Weaving

Guests at Nanuku Beach Resort can participate in a wide range of cultural activities that includes everything from basket weaving classes to traditional lovo feasts and village visits. Photo: Nanuku

Vomo Island

Set on a private island in the heart of Fiji’s Mamanuca archipelago, VOMO resort offers an understated, organic alternative to the usual luxury resort. With just 28 villas and four premium residences set next to white sand beaches, or on wooded hillsides, this five-star property showcases a contemporary design that is sophisticated and luxurious without infringing on the island’s stunning natural surrounds. Fresh from a recent makeover, each villa features polished wood interiors, chic handcrafted furnishings, deep bathtubs, outdoor dining decks, and sun lounges. The Kui Spa offers Thai and Balinese therapists and there is a fully equipped fitness center. VOMO’s Reef Restaurant is considered one of the finest in Fiji, with a focus on fresh seafood and produce grown in the resort’s organic herb, vegetable and fruit gardens. The resort staff can also arrange private dinners on the beach, or chef prepared dinner parties in private residences.

Vomo Fiji

A view from the beach at Vomo Island resort takes in the nearby uninhabited island of Vomo Lai Lai. Resort guests can schedule day trips to this island to experience true solitude. Photo: Vomo

The majority of 225-acre Vomo Island is left in an undeveloped state, and in recent years, the resort has propagated more than 50,000 indigenous plants to restore the native flora. Among the ecological initiatives established by the resort are recycling programs that generate revenue to support local communities. The island is ringed by nature trails, and surrounded by vibrant coral reefs. A short distance to the west is the small, uninhabited island of Vomo Lai Lai, where guests can enjoy some of Fiji’s finest snorkeling and diving, or be dropped off on a deserted beach for a private Robinson Crusoe experience. Water sports include stand up paddleboards, kayaks, sailing catamarans and windsurfers. Ashore, there is a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course that meanders through a coconut grove.

Vomo Resort Beachhouse

The premium residences at Vomo Island resort include private pools and ocean view decks. These five-star properties are widely considered to be the finest guest accommodations in Fiji. Photo: Vomo

Moorea Snorkel

Best Snorkeling in Moorea


To call Moorea’s sparking turquoise water inviting would be an understatement. The island is surrounded by coral fringed lagoons filled with colorful tropical fish and vibrant reefs. Some of the best snorkeling sites can be found right off hotel beaches and among the pilings of overwater bungalows. Here are three top picks for travelers who want to enjoy top notch snorkeling at a first class resort.

InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

Set between two bays and sprawling across more than 40 waterfront acres on Moorea’s north coast, the InterContinental offers a variety of snorkeling experiences. There is a fully-enclosed lagoon where youngsters and beginners can build confidence, a network of small, interconnected islands surrounded by shallow coral heads, and a beach that opens to an expansive reef and a tidal channel. Guests can enter and exit the water at numerous points, and spend hours skirting the shore or venturing across the channel to a large area of coral heads that extend to a barrier reef. The resort is also home to a dolphin research and rehabilitation program and a turtle rescue center, and offers daily boat trips to a small, uninhabited island surrounded by reefs. Serious snorkelers can also book excursions for stingray and shark encounters with Top Dive Sports, which has an on-site facility.

InterContinental Moorea

Bungalows at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa sit on the shores of a collection of small islands. Snorkelers can spend hours exploring the shores and lagoons. Photo: InterContinental

Bungalow-style accommodations line the shores of the InterContinental’s island cluster, and are nestled into the garden-like grounds, which hold more that 200 species of tropical plants and trees. The resort is more family- friendly than many other properties in Moorea, and some bungalow classes provide separate living areas with additional bedding to accommodate young guests. Three on-site restaurants offer fine dining, casual options or buffet convenience, and the staff can coordinate a number of unique private dining experiences. Also on the grounds is the award-winning Hélène Spa, which was the first full-service spa in French Polynesia.

InterContinental Moorea

At the InterContinental, a dolphin research facility provides guests with an opportunity to observe and interact with marine mammals in a natural setting. Photo: InterContinental

Hilton Moorea Lagoon

Many consider the waters surrounding the Hilton to have the best snorkeling reefs in Moorea. The property sits on a point of land between the clear waters of Opunohu and Cook Bays, and corals begin just a few yards from shore, and extend into the shallows underneath the pilings of the resort’s extensive collection of overwater bungalows. Snorkeling is best when waters are relatively shallow, and the Hilton provides acres of sea bottom that is four to five feet deep, and home to more than two dozen species of coral and hundreds of varieties of tropical fish. More adventurous snorkelers can roam farther afield to arrive at a barrier reef on the edge of blue water, or follow the edge of a deeper tidal channel for a chance to see eagle rays and small blacktip reef sharks.

Hilton Moorea Bungalows

Scattered coral heads cover the shallows at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort, where guests can begin snorkel trips from shore or the deck of an overwater bungalow. Photo: Hilton

With just over 100 rooms, the Hilton is relatively small in comparison to other properties in Moorea, but it offers all the amenities one would expect from a top-rated beach resort. Guest amenities include a fitness center, infinity pool, tennis courts and a range of complimentary water activities. The resort’s two restaurants serve traditional Polynesian and international cuisine, and the Toatea Lounge is the only overwater bar in Tahiti. Rooms are divided between overwater bungalows, beachfront bungalows, and garden bungalows, and most have most with private pools. All units come with plush beds, minibars, sleek bathrooms with stand-alone tubs and separate showers, and furnished outdoor spaces.

Reef Fish Moorea Hilton

Reef fish gather among the corals at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort. This area benefits from the tidal flows that nurture corals and support a variety of marine life. Photo: Hilton

Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort

Guests who stay in Ia Ora’s overwater bungalows can catch a preview of snorkeling activity by simply looking through the glass viewing windows set into bedroom floors. Entering the liquid realm is equally easy, as steps lead from private decks right into the water. But excellent snorkeling opportunities aren’t confined to the premium overwater accommodations. A large patch of coral begins right in front of the main beach, allowing guests who stay ashore in the garden bungalows to begin their in-water explorations without having to make a long swim. The barrier reef that flanks the shoreline creates calm conditions for snorkelers, and the lagoon holds an abundance of tropical fish.

Sofitel Moorea Bungalows

The Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort sits at the sheltered upper end of a sheltering lagoon. Corals grow close to the beach, and extend outward to a barrier reef. Photo: Sofitel

Ia Ora sits on one of Moorea’s best beaches. The setting is private and quiet, but also convenient to the airport, and to off-property shopping and dining. The resort itself boasts two premier restaurants and an award-winning spa that specializes in traditional Polynesian treatments. The hotel grounds are nicely landscaped, and deliver an ambiance that is a blend of French elegance, Polynesian hospitality and tropical island relaxation. Rooms are finished in a sleek, contemporary décor that showcases rich natural materials and ushers in an abundance of ambient light. Beach time and water sports are the primary focus, and guests can enjoy a range of activities that include paddle sports, sailing, fishing and cruises to small, uninhabited islands within the lagoon.

Sofitel Moorea Snorkeling

A snorkeler explores coral formations that begin just off the shores of Sofitel Ia Ora. The resort’s lagoon offers calm conditions and clear water. Photo: Sofitel