Editor’s Note: Some of the information below may be out-of-date. The British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands were heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Please visit caribbeantravelupdate.com or the specific hotel’s website for updates.
If you enjoy snorkeling, you absolutely have to graduate from fish to sea turtles. Observing sea turtles in their natural habitat is a magical experience. From the South Pacific to Nicaragua, these 10 destinations offer a unique change to dive in and swim with these rare endangered animals.
“Mukul,” Mayan for “secret,” is one of the most gorgeous hideaways in Nicaragua’s emerald coast, and is also considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world. Head out on a four-hour excursion, where you can see the sea turtles in season. The resort’s Turtle Conservation program preserves the native endangered Olive Ridley turtles, and you will learn why Mukul is working to give these turtles a fighting chance at life. Don’t miss the turtle releases, right in front of the resort.
Experience a St. Thomas Caribbean vacation where it’s easy to spot sea turtles. The resort offers an on-property Adventure Center, with half- and full-day snorkeling excursions to snorkel with the sea turtles at Buck Island. Or hop onboard the resort's 54-foot catamaran, The Cat, to get up close with resident sea turtles and tropical fish.
Not only can you swim with the sea turtles here, but you can also wrangle them with Amanyara’s excellent guides. Take the Turtle-Tagging Safari, available year-round for guests ages 8 and up. Four people fit into each boat for this nearly full day excursion, where you will head out an hour away to help tag turtles, contributing to research efforts and the conservation of sea turtles. During their unique Satellite Tagging experience, you will venture to Caicos Banks to catch a turtle, take it back to Amanyara, and attach the satellite tag before releasing the turtle into the wild. Then, follow your turtle’s journey online via daily updates while also helping to promote scientific discovery for sea turtles.
“Reethi Rah,” in the local Dhivehi language means “beautiful island,” and it offers amazing turtle spotting. Join resident marine biologist Hannah Maloney as she shares a short educational presentation on the ancient marine reptiles before guests hop on a short cruise to the natural habitat at Turtle Reef. Guests are encouraged to dive right in. If that’s not enough, join Hannah on an adventure to Shark Reef for an underwater Shark Safari, or learn traditional Maldivian fishing methods on a sunset sail.
Pikaia sits within a Galapagos Tortoise reserve, so guests may encounter turtles just by exploring the land surrounding the lodge — no guide necessary. The Galapagos Islands is one of the only places in the world where you can encounter turtles on land and sea. The giant Galapagos tortoise is the land turtle, but the islands have a rare species of sea turtles, referred to as Galapagos Turtles, which have a darker shell color.
Located on Oahu’s North Shore, the resort highlights swimming with the Hawaiian honu (sea turtles) as a must for every Turtle Bay visit, as it is home to many green and hawksbill sea turtles. You can spot these sea creatures on every kayak tour and by snorkeling in the lagoons and ocean that surround Turtle Bay.
Located on Maui’s North Shore, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, is a natural sanctuary for beauty and exploration with rich Hawaiian culture. In conjunction with their Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program, the resort offers an experience called Turtle Tracks, where families (and couples) are invited to learn about Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, the sand and nest. The resort also offers snorkeling excursions where guests can get up close and personal with local sea turtles and explore the surrounding reef.
Marlon Brando actually created his own turtle release initiative decades ago for his son, Teihotu. From September through April, green turtles swim to the island of Tetiaroa (where The Brando is located) to lay their eggs. Tetiaroa is a major sea turtle nesting site, and guests can view turtles November through April. Guests can swim with the turtles and visit the on property research station to learn even more.
Valley Trunk estate is named after Virgin Gorda’s swimming Trunkback Turtles. The property is available for exclusive buy-out, which includes use of the estate’s 68-foot Xanadu yacht. When guests book the retreat, they can experience the glass-bottomed kayaks. The fully staffed yacht whisks guests to turtle hotspots and reefs off Virgin Gorda to get up close and personal with the Trunkback Turtles.
This luxury resort in Antigua’s south coast only allows non-motorized water sports in the bay, which makes for more frequent sea turtle sightings. Guests can step outside their rooms and jump right into the water to snorkel in the bay in search of turtles. For more guaranteed sightings, the resort includes a complimentary snorkeling excursion to nearby Cades Reef with every stay.