There are outstanding locations for snorkeling or diving. Some are even close to the shore and not a boat necessary. Share special places you know and describe what to expect.
Richelieu Rock is a seamount in the Andaman Sea and close to the Surin Islands. It's mostly reached by liveaboards leaving from Phuket or Khao Lak. The best months are from November to April. Around the end of the drier season, whalesharks or manta rays can be spotted.
Tours are offered from October until May. Very best time for snorkeling around Surin islands from late January until the end of February due to a very calm sea at this time of the year. The sea can be rough, and seasickness can be an issue. On the other hand, this time of the year is the busiest. Continue reading to figure out your best time for the Surin Islands and our top spot for diving.
Shoulder Season – Less Crowded
October, November and April, May except Easter
October is sometimes still too rainy and trips are canceled. May is hot but usually still nice.
December until March. Prices are at the highest level. Surin is not offered daily and should be booked a few days in advance. Similan Islands and Surin Islands are very popular for snorkeling. We got told that the reefs around Surin are more beautiful and Similan beaches are overrun. The trips are pricey therefore think twice where to go and when.
Tip for Divers
Divers should book a liveaboard trip for a couple of days. One outstanding dive spot is Richelieu Rock. Follow the link for detailed information and pictures.
Snorkel and weather conditions at the Keys
The summer offers the flattest and clearest water for snorkelers. The downside the summer is also known for its uncomfortably high heat and humidity. In September and October, hurricanes can occur like in 2017. Much got destroyed by Irma here on the keys.
The months from November thru April are much more pleasant, but there can be strong wind and waves which reduce visibility substantially. Cold fronts from Canada with strong winds arrive here in the winter. The temperature drops, and it gets chilly. Also, there can be days where the surf is too high for snorkeling. The worst month with strong winds is January, and it improves in March. The best month for snorkeling is May until Memorial Day. It is still not too hot, water is clearer, and accommodations are not as expensive as in the summertime. September can be a good month as well but consider it’s the hurricane season.
Book your snorkel trip in advance and on a windy day give them a call in the morning to get the tour confirmed: (305) 451 6300
If possible stay at the keys from Monday to Friday and avoid weekends. Weekends are utterly busy, prices for hotels increase and most spots are crowded. The advantage; on weekends guided trips are offered in the John Pennekamp State Park in the morning.
Camping in the John Pennekamp State Park
The popular campground is mainly used by RV’s each of the 45 sites has electricity. The campground provides washing machines and tumblers. If you like to stay here, you have to book 11 months before sharp at 8 in the morning. The alternative; usually sites get canceled shortly before the stay. Check it on Reserve America daily soon before you plan to visit the Keys.
We were forced to look for a motel. There wasn't any affordable campsite available. We stayed at the Conch On Inn for three nights. Luckily, a very comfy bed, WIFI, fridge, coffee machine, BBQ and attentive owners. Great value for money.
Hotels near the John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.
Snorkel and weather conditions at the Keys
While the water is reliably flat offering good clarity in the summer, the heat and humidity can be absolutely oppressive. In September and October, hurricanes can occur as it did last year in 2017. Much got destroyed by Irma here on the keys.
The months from November thru April are much more pleasant, but there can be strong wind and waves the water clarity drops significantly. Cold fronts from Canada with strong winds arrive here in the winter. The temperature drops, and it gets chilly. Also, there can be days where the surf is too high for snorkeling. The worst month with strong winds is January, and it improves in March. The best month for snorkeling is May until Memorial Day. It is still not too hot, water is clearer, and accommodations are not as expensive as in the summertime.
With convenient ferry boat from Ft Myers, it can be very crowded during the weekends, and of course, Key West has several huge festivals so you'll want to keep their calendar to either avoid them or partake!
The five islands are accessible by plane year-round though by boat only Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island. However, accessibility is always weather depending. The other three islands San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Santa Rosa are accessible by boat from April to October/November. Boat trips are not offered daily. Booking in advance is essential. Check the conditions and closures of the islands first. Channel Islands Conditions
Most visitors come during the summer from June to August. Due to the limited transportation opportunities, it doesn’t get too crowded.
The islands have a cool Mediterranean climate, but weather varies considerably from island to island. The winter is cool and wet - summer is warm and often dry. Most precipitation from November to April with its peak in January and February and drier from May to October. Summer is the driest period. The climate is influenced a lot by the sea. Fog may appear, especially on the outer islands during the night but can occur at any time. The islands are often windy, and strong winds occur on the outer islands. Strong eastern winds from October to January. Sea temperature is around 50°F (10°C) in winter and around 65°F (18°C) at the end of summer.
Each season has its own character, different weather, and outdoor activities. The best time to visit one of the islands depends on what you are looking for as well as the activities you’re planning:
Snorkeling: It's snorkelers paradise and best at the end of summer until fall with a sea temperature of about 65°F (18°C). A wetsuit is recommend to stay longer in the water.
Watersports: Besides snorkeling, summer until fall is also the best time for sailing diving, kayaking, and swimming. Many consider early fall as the best time of year for diving or snorkeling as ocean temperatures go up to 70° (F) and visibility may reach 100 feet.
Whale Watching: January until March has the highest chance for gray whale sightings.
April to September is the season for blue and humpback whales due to the high plankton concentration. Year-round spottings: orcas, minke whales and different species of dolphins. Besides, it is common to spot seals, sea lions and water birds.
Birding: Birding is outstanding in the Channel Islands. Some endemic birds occur here like the Island Scrub Jay on Santa Cruz Island. Best time is the nesting season in spring. Shorebirds are best seen on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel.
Surfing: In the winter and spring the north shore is best, and in the summer and fall it’s the south shore. Best access to all surf spots by private boat due to the remote locations. Besides being one of the best times for surfing, in the winter also some of the best sunsets occur.
Wildflowers: Depending on the amount of rain from the end of winter until spring some continue to bloom during summer. Gumplant, buckwheat, poppies, and verbena can still be viewed in the summer.
Big Island is one of the best places for snorkeling. Although the conditions are good year-round, the perfect season with warmest and excellent water conditions is in the late summer and early fall (August until October).
One of the best spots for snorkeling is the Mount Cook Monument. If you like to hike to this coral reef start early or late. It's pretty busy with tour boats from approximately 10 am until early afternoon. Bring enough water for the hike. Scroll down for more information about the different snorkel spots south of Kona.
Hawaii is a sunny and warm paradise with very little temperature variation throughout the seasons: Big Island Weather Guide. There is even less rain in the drier season from May until October, which makes these months even better for snorkeling. However, it's a tropical climate and some rain can always occur in Hawaii. That's the reason why the islands have a lush and green vegetation. The north and east coast get more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. The area around Kona is often foggy in the summertime.
You'll find the warmest water in late summer / early fall from August through October around 80°F (27°) degrees. It tends to drop by 6-9 degrees during winter. In winter, it’s also a little chilly in the mornings, when it’s a good idea to wear a thin neoprene wet suit top. The winter months from December to March tend to have heavy surf at times.
Seasons - Avoiding the Crowds
Fewer visitors in spring and fall: mid-April to mid-June and September (after Labor Day) to November. However, it's busier during the "Golden Week" in Japan at the end of April until the beginning of May. It gets very crowded when the Ironman takes place in October. Busy and increasing rates in summer (mid-June through August), during Christmas, New Year's Eve (mid-December until mid-January) and on Independence Day.
Bottom Line and Personal Experience
Although some months might not be ideal, you can visit the Big Island year-round for amazing snorkeling tours. Almost perfect months with fewer visitors as well as excellent water conditions are usually September and October. My visit to Hawaii was in September 2011. Kona's weather is often described as "eternal spring". Not too hot, not too cold, with some late afternoon rain showers. If you're lucky, you might get to see a rainbow! Crowds in September were fine although probably a bit higher than normal because it was the week before the big Hawaii Ironman Triathlon event. There were lots of bikers on the road training.