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Top 10 Most Beautiful Coral Reefs in the World

Beautiful coral reef with various types of fish and a turtle.

Corals are ancient animals that existed as far back as 400 million years ago and evolved into reef-building over the past 25 million years. Coral reefs can be found all over the world in tropical and subtropical oceans under 45 meters (150 feet) to about 135 meters (450 feet) deep and in warm waters.

Known as the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs house thousands of species that rely on the reefs for food, shelter, and reproduction. They’re also important for the development of new medicines to treat cancer, human bacterial infections, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.

Coral reefs protect shorelines from storm damages, are a major tourist attraction, and even provides a source of living and food for villages. However, almost 60 percent of coral reefs are endangered by human activity.

10. Great Barrier Reef

A man snorkeling in the Great Barrier reef.

In the land down under, this one sits at number ten not only because it is the largest coral reef in the world, but because its beauty is something else. Also known as Australia’s great natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef, is bigger than the Great Wall of China and is visible from space!

How cool is that? The coral that is to be found in this reef is mesmerizing and vibrant, making it a popular tourist attraction. Divers can find the world’s biggest corals underneath the surface, as well as spot dolphins, sea turtles, clownfish, giant clams that are 130+ years old, tons of beautiful, rare birds.

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Those who wish to visit Australia’s reef can do so in a variety of ways, like diving, skydiving, sailing, glass-bottom boat tours, submarine, and liveaboard tours. There is something for everyone to do to enjoy the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef.

9. Red Sea Coral Reef

School of fish in Red Sea coral reef.

Stretching across the coast of Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea, the Red Sea Coral Reef is as beautiful as it is long – all 1,240 miles of it. The thriving corals beneath the waters entice divers or snorkelers who plummet beneath the surface.

Swimming down below, there are roughly 1,100 types of fish and fauna, such as various sharks (hammerhead, tiger shark, and zebra shark), mantas, hawksbill turtles, shrimp, dolphins, and whales. What makes the Red Sea extra special is the fact that the water is crystal clear due to minimal rainfall and almost non-existent river discharge.

Furthermore, this body of water is home to the warmest and saltiest seawater in the world. Swimmers can ravish in the fact that the water stays at a comfortable temperature of 26 degrees Celsius.

8. Palancar Reef

A man diving on Palancar reef.

Located right off the beautiful coast of Cozumel, Mexico, the Palancar Reef is smaller than other reefs but not short on beauty. It is full of parrotfish, seahorses, and stunning sea flora and reefs. Additionally, divers will be pleased to know that there is an abundance of dive and snorkel sites to check out.

Keep your eye out for other sea animals like crabs, angelfish, yellowtail amberjack, and ocean sunfish. Those who wish to visit the area of Cozumel and explore the Palancar Reef should know that the Cozumel is home to a lot of tourism which means being responsible when diving is extremely important.

For example, divers are encouraged to never feed fish, never leave behind any garbage in the water or pieces of gear, and avoid wearing oily sunscreen which can leave residue in the water. Promoting good diving practices means the beautiful reefs can be around on this planet for a very long time.

7. Rainbow Reef

A man diving in the Rainbow reef.

Tucked away in a coconut plantation located on the island of Fiji, the Rainbow Reef is a snorkeler and diver’s dream place. The multicolor and vibrant coral underneath the waters are captivating, and there are hundreds of different types of fish swimming around.

An interesting fact about this reef is that it got its name due to the fact that rainbows are a common occurrence across the waters when the sun begins to set. The Rainbow Reef surrounds the Rainbow Reef Resort, a welcoming place for tourists to stay while they enjoy the water and island.

Some of the main things tourists can enjoy on the Rainbow Reef are snorkeling, kayaking, fishing (with spears!), and diving.

6. Cayo Coral Reef

Cayo coral reef

Located in Panama, specifically in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, the Cayo Coral Reef is known for its crystal waters that are serene like a sheet of glass. Here you can find unique, stunning coral and various type of fish like parrotfish and butterflyfish.

At different angles of the water, it can look emerald, while in other parts turquoise; it is a true beauty to experience in person. Be advised that if you do wish to venture to this reef, you will have to do so by boat.

5. Captain Cook Monument

Aerial view of the Captain Cook Monument reef.

Welcome to the Big Island and to one of the most beautiful spots to snorkel in all of Hawaii. The lush coral and sea life that occupies the water below make for a memorable dive or snorkel.

Be prepared to see turtles, dolphins, parrotfish, and many more exciting creatures. Next to the right and left of the Captain Cook Monument, divers and snorkelers are encouraged to explore.

If you are wanting to spot a good close-up of certain fish, stay in and around up to five yards from the shore; the water in this area is sparkling and clear. As you venture out past the shore, your eyes will feast upon the multihued, thriving coral beds. The farther out you go, the better the chance you will have at spotting dolphins and sea turtles.

4. West Bay Coral Reef

Aerial view of the West Bay coral reef.

A spectacular coral reef in Honduras, the West Bay Coral Reef is full of various species of fish, dazzling water, and underwater flora. If you plan on snorkeling on this reef, which we highly recommend, you may wish to enter at the west end of the beach.

Here, you will find a black rock that you can store your belongings on while you head out under the water. It is advised that you venture out at least 10 meters from the beach because this is where you will find your first stunning bunch of coral.

And, further out, you will come to a drop-off zone that is home to much beautiful fish and deep blue waters. This reef is jam-packed with amazing sights to ensure an enjoyable dive, snorkel, or swim.

3. Great Mayan Reef

Under water shot of the Great Mayan reef.

This reef runs a whopping 600 miles from Cozumel to Honduras and is comprised of mesmerizing rock colonies, microorganisms, beautiful coral, unique marine flora, and animals. The water in the Great Mayan Reef is a lush, crystal blue that allows for great snorkeling and diving opportunities all year long.

This reef is suffering from animal extinction, such as with their turtles. Although there are efforts put in place to help preserve the marine life, divers and snorkelers can do their part to keep the waters clean while underwater.

2. Tubbataha Reef

Green sea turtle and small fishes in the Tubattaha reef.

Home to the Philippines, the Tubbataha Reef is captivating in every single way. It was actually named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, making it a popular attraction for divers. The deep waters paired with the diverse marine life, make this reef unique and beautiful.

Keep in mind that this serene spot can only be reached by liveaboard, which helps cut down on tourism and preserves this sacred space. The Tubbataha Reef is home to 600 kinds of fish, 300 coral species, and a home for the gorgeous hawksbill turtle.

This reef is perfect for deep-sea divers as there are many drops off areas that allow you to plummet and surround yourself in this reef’s beauty. Ensure you try and make it out there between the only available months: March-June, otherwise, you’ll miss out on this gem!

1. New Caledonia Barrier Reef

Aerial view of the New Caledonia Barrier reef.

Named the healthiest reef in the world, the New Caledonia Barrier Reef is bursting full of splendor. This reef sits in the South Pacific, encircling Grande Terre, New Caledonia’s largest island. The reef systems found in the New Caledonia Barrier Reef are actually the second biggest to The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Divers can come across sea turtles, sea bass, rare crabs, and other rare and endangered marine life, as well as several lagoons to explore. Unfortunately, divers will also notice damage to some of the reefs due to nickel mining and coastal development in the surrounding Grande Terre area.

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However, despite this, the New Caledonia Barrier Reef remains a stunning 932-mile double-barrier attraction.