One of the jewels of the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos – sometimes called just Zante – is a chart-topping Greek holiday destination that offers a little something for everyone. No matter whether you’re a hardcore clubber, want to lounge on the beach, or are eager to explore wild mountains and coves, this one has you covered. On top of that, there’s some pretty epic snorkeling in Zante to boot!
And that’s what we’re here to focus on! Here, we scour the coastline of the isle to seek out nine of the top places to dive down and paddle around with the pipe and goggles. We think you’ll be wowed by the sheer diversity of snorkel locations around Zakynthos’s 76 miles of stunning shoreline, what with stacks of options on the dramatic west coast and the flatter, resort-fringed south coast alike.
Yep, there are oodles of amazing places to go snorkeling in Zante. They include world-famous turtle reserves where you can meet loggerheads in shadowy coast caves, shallow beaches that are better for snorkeling with the kids, and pint-sized inlets filled with uber-clear Ionian waters. Tempted? Us too. Let’s get started…
Turtle Island (Marathonisi)
The name alone should be enough to get you packing the snorkel gear and hopping on a boat to this spot. Set just off the southern shore of Zante, this iconic piece of land rises from the pearly waters of Laganas Bay. It’s actually the centerpiece of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, a vast protected area that encompasses some of the most wildlife-rich corners of the Ionian Sea.
The main draws, just as the name implies, are the turtles! The island is a rare breeding ground for the endangered caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtles). They come in big numbers during the summer mating period (May to October) to lay eggs on the yellow-flecked beaches that poke out of the side of Marathonisi. You’ll need to be careful if you’re visiting alongside the incredible critters so as not to step on any nests.
Accessible only by boat, the area has two beaches; one a spit of whitish sand, the other dotted with salt-washed rocks. There are also some gaping sea caves and clusters of offshore reefs to peek at. Be warned, though – so-called Turtle Island now gets very busy during the height of the season because it’s probably the most famous place to go snorkeling in Zante. We think it’s best to plan your trip there as early as possible to be in with the best chance of beating the crowds and seeing some loggerheads.
Agios Sostis Beach
Roughly a 20-minute drive from Zakynthos Town, this handsome beach is a must for those staying close to the more developed part of the island, around the party hub of Laganas and the resort of Keri. It strings along the south coast, offering a soft sliver of sand that slopes neatly into a sea that’s laden with rocky reefs and colorful schools of fish.
From here you can also take a pedestrianized wooden bridge across to Cameo Island. That’s known as one of the best places in Greece for swimming with turtles – the same endangered loggerhead sea turtles you get on Marathonisi, no less!
Back on the beach of Agios Sostis itself and you can look forward to some shallow entry points that are better for snorkeling families. The whole bay is tucked behind rugged Marathias Cape to the west. That helps to cut down the westerly swells in the Ionian Sea and means that the waters are often calmer than elsewhere on the island.
Porto Limnionas Beach
With its gleaming turquoise waters, this relatively hidden gem at the end of a long and winding road should not be missed by budding snorkel enthusiasts on Zante. As it pierces into the wild west coast of the isle, it offers up a variety of caves and well-sculpted rock formations, making it a great place to spot urchins, reef fish, and even the occasional sea turtle.
The beauty spot is located close to the traditional countryside village of Agios Leon. It’s not really a beach at all, but rather a rock-ringed cove. That helps to keep sand out of the water and the visibility nice and high, which makes it just about perfect for those wanting to spot Zante’s rarer marine creatures in their natural habitat.
There are a few things to note about snorkeling at Porto Limnionas Beach, though. Firstly, the walk down is pretty steep, so it’s not ideal for families with kids in tow. On top of that, the bay is exposed to westerly swells that can get strong in the winter months, so be certain to check conditions before diving in here.
Known for its vast golden sands and warm waters, Kalamaki Beach is just six kilometers from Zakynthos Town and forms part of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. Slightly further along from the more touristy Laganas Beach, Kalamaki offers a less crowded option but still has all the amenities you could want as a family visitor looking to get some Ionian snorkeling under your belt.
Due to the strict protection of the sea turtles in the surrounding marine park, water sports are totally prohibited at Kalamaki. That means you’ll have the sea to yourself without jet skis whizzing this way and that, churning up the waves. On top of that, hotel development is limited on the beachfront to help with turtle conservation, so it’s not too built-up and busy.
It’s really easy to enjoy the snorkeling that Kalmaki Beach has to offer. Simply wade out in the middle of the bay and start swimming. You should find pockets of seagrass meadows just a stone’s throw from the sand. They are a favorite habitat for Zante’s famous sea turtles and support all manner of small fish life, from sardine schools to octopi and moray eels.
Snorkeling in Zante doesn’t get much better than this one! Home to some of the most stunning spots on the island and only accessible by sea, the Blue Caves are a must on your seafaring schedule. Taking its name from the reflection of the blue water on the surface of the rock, they are a series of craggy coastal arches and grottoes carved out of the north-eastern coast.
There are several caves to explore here. The biggest is Kianoun, where you can marvel at the chandelier-like stalactites hanging above. However, we actually think the best are the smaller little cut-outs in the shoreline, since they’re brighter and offer more chance of seeing the small fish darting in and out of the cracks of rock.
Tours start from the nearby ports of Makris Gialos Beach, Agios Nikolaos and Cape Skinari, usually departing quite early on in the morning, though there are also late-evening sunset trips to the Blue Caves that make for some excellent wildlife viewing. Most trips include swimming stops at the caves and there’s often snorkeling gear available on board the boats (check ahead though).
Just one glimpse at Korakonissi and you’ll see why it’s up there with the most popular locations for snorkeling in Zakynthos. A long-lost cove on the less-trodden west coast, the land here sort of fragments into the bottom of the Adriatic Sea in a series of jagged-back boulders with narrow slivers of water channels in between them.
The great news is that there’s not a grain of sand in sight. That’s excellent on the visibility front because it means there’s nothing to cloud the currents. The upshot? You should find some of the highest visibility in all of Zante here (20-30 meters is not unusual during the calmer summer months!).
Granted, getting in the water at Korakonissi isn’t the easiest. Even the drive down to the parking lot takes you on winding coastal roads. Then, you’ll have to step over spiky rocks and commit to just jumping in. A good pair of reef shoes is recommended. Oh, and it’s probably not the best place to go snorkeling with the little ones.
Situated on the Vasilikos Peninsula at the far southeastern edge of Zante, this might not be the easiest beach to get to. However, that makes it even more worthwhile for snorkelers looking for somewhere remote to dive in. Just be sure to get yourself a hardy rental car or a 4X4 to navigate the rumbling dirt track on the way there!
Supposedly home to the warmest sea of the island, Dafni Beach is a gorgeous sandy stretch of paradise. The balmy H2O helps to make it a prime nesting spot for the caretta caretta – just in case you haven’t managed to spot those shelled critters anywhere else!
The beach is a keen snorkeler’s dream even not counting the regular turtle visitors. There are plenty of rockpools and fascinating rock formations dotting its length. They host a rich variety of marine life in their clear, deep waters. The shores here are also well protected from strong westerly waves, so it’s rarely too rough to get in.
There are actually three separate Xigia beaches. You’ll smell the most popular before you see it! Just as the name implies, it’s bathed in a pungent aroma of rotten eggs some 30 minutes up the east coast from Zante Town. That’s what actually draws the crowds in because the locals here say that the mineral-rich springs that bubble up from the coast have healing properties.
Snorkelers should aim for the remoter cove at Xigia, though. It’s a little walk around the headland from the main Xigia Sulfur Beach but easy enough to reach if you’re willing to scale the rocks. What awaits is a small arc of white pebbles before a jagged black boulder in the sea.
You’ll notice how the water gets very deep, very fast. That, coupled with the unique chemical composition of the currents, attracts something of a more exotic menagerie of fish species – think groupers and red snappers.
St. Nicholas Beach
Sandwiched between a hill that’s clad in green forests on the one side and a barren mound with a white Greek Orthodox church sitting at its top on the other, the contrast here makes for an interesting backdrop for your Zakynthos snorkeling adventure.
That aside, it’s the clear, clean waters and abundance of fish that really puts it up there with the best snorkeling in Zakynthos. Situated in the Vasilikos region, this is a small run of golden sand that gazes south from the edge of the island. There’s often a temporary jetty here in the summer months that makes it easy to get into the deeper part of the bay for snorkeling.
The eastern side is where you should focus your fish-seeking adventure. That tends to be much quieter and more filled with fish than the western end of the bay, which is where the banana boats and jet skis are allowed to go.
Is Zante good for snorkeling?
With two very different coastlines and marine reserves filled with sea turtles, Zante is in contention for one of the best Greek islands for snorkeling. Although dealing with strong competition from the likes of Crete, which is commonly thought to have the best snorkeling in Greece, it definitely puts up a good fight, offering sandy bays, rocky coves, and snorkeling locations for all levels.
Where is the best area for snorkeling in Zante?
The best area for snorkeling in Zante is probably the south coast. That spills into Laganas Bay, an area that’s now largely covered by a marine reserve and home to rare loggerhead sea turtles. That said, the west coast can also be a top snorkeling destination. It’s more rugged and rocky, with higher visibility and more advanced snorkeling locations overall.
Can you swim with turtles in Zante?
Zante is actually one of the best places in Greece to get in the water with sea turtles. The best spots for doing so are Cameo Island and Marathonisi (which is also known as Turtle Island). However, as with most animals, respect is key. Never disturb turtle nest areas, don’t touch the turtles, and be mindful of their dislike of bright lights, especially during the mating season between May and October.