Because of it’s location, Ecuador is a great place to snorkel. In close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Andean Ecosystem, snorkeling in the area offers some of the most gorgeous underwater views in the entire world. In fact, it will only take you one trip there to appreciate the underwater activities it has to offer. The best part is that regardless of what you wish to see – fish, plants, or animals – you can see it in the waters of Ecuador. Even though most people are familiar with the Galapagos Islands, this is just one of the many places in the country where you can truly enjoy the snorkel hobby. Let’s tell you more.
Best Snorkel Areas In Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands Marine Reserve
The Galapagos Marine Reserve is home to roughly 82,600 square miles of beautiful marine life. The island doesn’t have coral reefs like many other nearby areas do, but it still has plenty to look at when it comes to wildlife. This includes eagle rays, manta rays, sea turtles, white-tipped reef sharks, and sea lions. Indeed, when you snorkel in the reserve, you won’t have to go far to see lots of colorful fish and other animals. Some of the best spots for snorkeling in the surrounding area include the following:
Bartolome Island (Near Santa Cruz)
Thanks to the beautiful marine life and the absolutely stunning Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island is a very recognizable site and an extremely popular area to go snorkeling. It’s located roughly two hours from Santa Cruz.
Kicker Rock (San Cristobal Island)
This is one of the most biodiverse areas within the Galapagos Islands region. When you snorkel there, you can see manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and sea lions. If you’re a bird-watcher, look for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. But there are others to catch a glimpse at.
Los Tuneles/Cabo Rosa (Isabela Island)
If you visit this area to go snorkeling, try to go between November and April. The currents are usually weaker compared to other times of the year. Some of the animals you can look forward to seeing include manta rays, eagle rays, and hammerhead sharks.
You could also spot the “large” Pacific Seahorse, sometimes reaching 7 inches in length. A very pretty sight. If you adore sea turtles, this should be a perfect location as well. The white tip reef sharks prefer to take a rest in (or near) the underwater caves, just so you know. All together, this is a marvelous snorkel location. Unfortunately the water can be cold, so do a little research about wetsuits or other gear that could keep you warm. Maybe a thick snorkel rash guard could do the trick for some of us as well.
This video provides a great impression of what to expect around Isabela Island. It’s just over 4 minutes long, and really worth to check out:
The Continental Coast Of Ecuador
In this area, you have four main opportunities for snorkeling: El Ahorcado Islet, Isla de la Plata, Puerto Lopez, and Salango. There are several landmarks in each of these areas to pay a visit. Tours are possible as well. Each area offers crystal-clear waters that usually include sea lions and tons of multicolored fish. Around the island you’ll find a lot of reefs, and the opportunity to see migratory birds such as the masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigate birds.
In fact, the country of Ecuador is a gerat choice when it comes to it’s snorkeling opportunities. It should never be a disappointment for most of us. In addition to these large areas, many other nearby locations offer snorkeling opportunities that allow you to see lots of gorgeous animals and plants. Most are found near Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Island. They offer a variety of tours for snorkelers of all experience levels. More specifically, these include the following:
Bartolome Island Tour (Santa Cruz)
During this 11-hour tour, you’ll enjoy lots of snorkeling and be able to see sea turtles, sea lions, Humboldt penguins, and tons of tropical fish. You’ll also enjoy a gorgeous view of Pinnacle Rock and see things such as lava cacti and lava lizards.
Espanola Island Tour (San Cristobal)
The 9-hour tour offered here consists of snorkeling so you can view animals such as sea lions, sea turtles, reef fish, pelagic fish, hammerhead sharks, red and green marine iguanas, Galapagos sharks, and rays. The tour, however, is really designed for snorkelers who have at least some experience. If you’re not an expert, it’s possible to find other tours that are geared toward beginners.
If you have the time, try to watch this video. It shows exactly what to expect when snorkeling Espanola Island in less than 3 minutes. You’ll love the sea lions!
Tip: If you’re into photography or making videos yourself, feel free to read our article about snorkeling with a GoPro.
Floreana Island Tour (Santa Cruz)
This island offers a 9-hour tour that allows for various activities. Some of the fish you can see when you’re snorkeling include sea turtles, manta rays, and all sorts of tropical fish. The tour includes lunch and gives you access to animals such as iguanas, endemic tortoises, and sea lions. Not to mention the Playa Negra, which is famous for it’s black sand.
Isabela Island/Las Tintoreras Tour (Santa Cruz)
The highlights of this 8-hour tour include snorkeling with animals such as tropical fish, sea turtles, and sea lions, as well as other animals that include blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, white-tipped reef sharks, and rays. This tour combines different fun activities on the island, including snorkeling, and gives you a good idea of what the best parts of the island look like.
Kicker Rock Tour (Leon Dormido Island) (San Cristobal)
You’ll love the 7-hour tour offered here, although it’s recommended for snorkelers who have at least some experience. Some of the animals you’ll observe while snorkeling include Galapagos sharks, large rays, white-tipped sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, and reef and pelagic fish. The path you take in between the rocks is a little unpredictable, which is the reason why this tour isn’t the best choice for beginners.
North Seymour Island Tour (Santa Cruz)
This small island in the Galapagos includes rare species of fish and birds. They offer 8-hour tours that allow you access to numerous activities. Snorkeling provides you the opportunity to see tons of tropical fish and maybe even some pink flamingos wading nearby. If you decide to bird-watch, you’ll see blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds, just to name a few.
Plata Island Tour (Puerto Lopez)
This is a full-day tour lasting roughly 11 hours and allows you to experience lots of hiking and snorkeling. In the water, you can experience animals such as manta rays, sea turtles, and all types of tropical fish. This tour is not recommended for beginners or people who are out of shape, because at one point you’ll be climbing a total of 180 stairs.
Punta Pitt Tour (San Cristobal)
Being one of the most beautiful parts of San Cristobal, Punta Pitt offers 11-hour tours that allow you to hike, sight-see, and snorkel. Some of the highlights of this tour include both a morning and an afternoon hike. You’ll have a chance to see some very rare birds such as red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and even sea lions, as well as extraordinary snorkeling opportunities.
San Cristobal Highlands Tour (San Cristobal)
The 9-hour tour offered at this location provides not just great snorkeling opportunities, but also a visit to the giant tortoise breeding center and the perfect white sands of Puerto Chino. You’ll get to hike near a volcano to view some of the fantastic vegetation and visit a second beach in the afternoon for some great swimming.
Santa Fe Island Tour (Santa Cruz)
Santa Fe Island offers 7-hour tours that consist of snorkeling, fishing, and bird-watching. When you’re snorkeling, you can enjoy animals such as sea lions, sea turtles, and stingrays. The catch-and-release fishing allows you access to swordfish and albacore. You can also see birds such as swallow-tailed gulls and shearwater waterfowl. Indeed, these tours truly offer something for everyone.
South Plaza Island Tour (Santa Cruz)
Being the smallest island in the Galapagos, this island is made out of hardened lava. The waters are filled with tropical fish, sea turtles, and white-tip reef sharks. There is a 10-hour tour available that includes lunch and lots of snorkeling and other activities. You can even go bird-watching and view the pelicans, tropicbirds, swallow-tailed gulls, and frigate birds in the area.
Tip: If you don’t have your own equipment, inquire with the tour guide about snorkel gear. Full face snorkel masks are hot these days, and they can be awesome, but make sure you understand their pro’s and con’s from this article we recently released.
Make sure to learn more about the climate in Ecuador. Different parts of the country could show different patterns in rainfall and temperatures. A website we often use ourselves and that we recommend is called Climates To Travel.
Be aware of altitude sickness when visiting Ecuador. Sure, snorkeling is an awesome activity, but it’s even more important that you feel good overall. Feeling tired is not an exception, so take that into consideration.
Make sure to consult with your doctor for the best advise. Some vaccinations are being advised before traveling. One website where we gathered some useful information can be found here.
Even though safety is possible, crimes do sometimes happen in Ecuador. Watch your belongings at all times. Some prefer to bring a waterproof bag or case for snorkeling. Never leave any gear behind because it might be gone once you return. Taxi scams have been reported as well. Just make sure you do your own research about this topic since we’re only here to talk about the snorkeling part.
It’s advised to not drink the tap water. Try to buy fresh water at a supermarket or hotel that you can trust.
Find out more travel tips online, like for example this article. Being prepared is a very important thing to do. You are responsible for your own safety and wellbeing.
A long story short, Ecuador offers a lot of amazing snorkel locations. If you watched the videos we shared, or if you did a little research yourself, there’s a good chance you spotted the sea lions. Here’s an article about some dangers that come with some animals. We hope it helps you out.
Take good care of the environment. Yes, these sea lions look so adorable in the videos and pictures, but remember you are entering their habitat. Snorkeling can be bad for the environment, which is why we should always pay attention.
You’ll come across a good amount of people wearing life vests, so inquire about those as well. Especially if the weather or instructor requires you to do so.
Pay attention to altitude sickness. What is snorkeling? Is it fun? It sure is, but not when you feel too tired. Another thing to keep in mind is motion sickness. There are a good amount of tours available, often including boats. If it helps, make sure to read our article about snorkeling and seasickness.
One final comment: Enjoy your trip! Have a whole lot of fun and don’t forget to take some awesome pictures or videos!