If your idea of bliss is swimming alongside ancient sea turtles in a tranquil under-the-sea orb, we scoured the globe for the most intriguing, idyllic waters where you can get up close and personal with these special creatures. All you need is a bathing suit, snorkeling gear, and our insider advice on the best spots to go swimming with sea turtles.
Mustique Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The luxurious private island of Mustique is a three-mile Caribbean paradise that is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Founded by a Scottish aristocrat in the 1950s, the island has long been a hot spot for the rich and famous. Basil’s Bar, world-famous for its bluesy music, artsy vibe, and elegant crowd, is perhaps the heartbeat of the island. It’s where yachters anchor for a few hours; local homeowners (including the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Mick Jagger, and Bryan Adams) are frequently spotted and where those vacationing on the island sip exotic cocktails and dance into the wee hours. Mustique is also where those in the know dive into its cerulean waters to swim and snorkel with sea turtles. On land, you can also expect to see the island’s red-footed tortoises on the beach and crossing the roads. Be sure to stop and wait, these beauties have the unspoken right of way.
Where to stay in Mustique
On the private island, you can either rent a luxury villa or you can check into the glamorous Cotton House, the island’s only hotel. Our fav villa is Toucan Hill, owned by US philanthropist Tatiana Copeland, whose Moroccan-inspired home sits on the highest point of the island, offering stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Especially exquisite at sunset.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The largest and one of the most lusted after coral reefs in the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef extends for 1,430 miles (it can be seen from space) and is renowned for its vibrant, abundant sea life. Particularly its sea turtles (there are 18 nesting sites across the entire reef). Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles call Australia home. Most common are the green sea and loggerhead turtles, followed by hawksbills and flatbacks, and the elusively rare olive ridleys and leatherbacks have been spotted. The best snorkel spot is around Raine Island and Moulter Cay in the northern section, where you will discover five green sea turtle nesting sites.
Where to stay in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
Combine your sea turtle encounter with a stay at the Daintree Ecolodge, featuring 15 bayan (treehouses) canopied into the world’s oldest living rainforest. Rooms are private and airy with screened balconies looking onto the forest. Lull to sleep with the sound of nature (no televisions here), and awaken to a gourmet breakfast of locally sourced ingredients, delivered to your tree stoop.
There is no shortage of swimming with sea turtle opps on Oahu. Even in the popular tourist destination of Waikiki. With a car and a sense of adventure, you can spend days exploring some of Hawaii’s hideaway spots, known only by locals. Like Kahe Point Beach Park, aka “Electric Beach,” located on the west side of the island. The park is located near a power plant and the warm waters attract sea life including native Hawaiian sea turtles. Affectionately known as ‘honu,’ these turtles can weigh up to 300 pounds. Another great spot is Haleiwa on the North Shore, home to a large population of Hawaiian sea turtles, who can be found in the channel and small coves along the coastline. This beach is close to Old Haleiwa Town, a perfect stop for a shaved ice or acai bowl.
Where to stay in Hawaii
Turtle Bay Resort of course. Locals named this iconic hotel in honor of the turtles who came to feed daily in the bay. Recently reopened following an intensive renovation led by Los Angeles designer Dianna Wong who says she was inspired by the elements of wind, water, waves, light, and rugged shoreline. Stay in an ocean view room or private bungalows on the beach to enjoy the luxury of walking out your door and into the ocean to enjoy swimming and snorkeling with the resident sea turtles.
Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
Where to stay and where to swim with sea turtles is one and the same at the luxury resort The Brando, located on a private island in an atoll north of Tahiti. Legendary actor Marlon Brando who lived on the island for decades actually created his turtle-release effort here – years ago – for his son, Teihotu. From September through April, green sea turtles swim to the island to lay their eggs. Guests of the 22 villas along Turtle Beach and 13 villas on Mermaid Bay (love the names) can, of course, swim with the turtles and visit the on-property research station to learn more.
In the Mayan language, Akumal means ‘place of the turtle.’ And this small beachfront resort community, located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula, does not disappoint. Green sea turtles and loggerheads abound. The beach is ideal for snorkeling (for all levels) because the small bay is protected by a reef and is shallow (15 feet). Its sea bed is sandy, with a carpet of plants that attract the turtles.
Where to stay in Mexico’s Riviera Maya
We adore the Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel, an idyllic luxury adults-only all-inclusive paradise. Located on the white sandy beaches and pristine turquoise waters of the stunning Riviera Maya, the boutique resort is set on 36 acres of lush tropical gardens, with river waterways, a gorgeous Mayan cenote, three pools, an onsite spa offering Mayan inspired treatments, and a delectable culinary lineup. Also on our favorite list in the Riviera Maya is Maroma Resort and Spa by Belmond Hotels, which is set to reopen in 2022 following an extensive renovation. We can not wait to see the luxury that awaits.