Not only are the waters just off the coast of Grand Cayman Island as clear as any swimming pool, they're also teeming with marine life. On the sandbar known as Stingray City, visitors can safely pet and interact with southern stingrays swimming through.
Snorkeling in the waters of the Galapagos Islands is like visiting Mother Nature's very own aquarium. Depending on the particular island and time of year, you might find yourself swimming with penguins, sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, sea lions, fur seals and a variety of tropical reef fish.
If you've ever dreamed of swimming with dolphins, your dream can become a reality at Discovery Cove in Orlando. The park's 30-minute Dolphin Interaction program brings guests face to face with bottlenose dolphins with the opportunity to grab on to a dorsal fin and take a ride around the pool.
At SeaWorld San Diego, you'll have the opportunity to swim with one of the world's most recognizable whale species with the Beluga Interaction program. A limited number of guests each day can get in the water with these great white whales, with chances to pet them, feed them and learn about how the SeaWorld staff cares for and trains them.
You'll get to swim with abundant sea life while snorkeling or diving in and around the Florida Keys, but for a guaranteed animal interaction, plan a day at the Theater of the Sea in Islamadora. The park hosts daily swim programs in their natural saltwater lagoon, where guests can interact with dolphins, sea lions and rays in a safe and controlled environment.
Generally, it's a good idea to avoid swimming with jellyfish, but at Jellyfish Lake on the islands of Palau in the South Pacific, the jellyfish are harmless. Millions of golden jellyfish (sting-less) migrate across the lake each day, and snorkeling among them can only be described as otherworldly.
Nature Coast near Clearwater is one of the only places on the planet where you can swim with Florida's gentle giants, the manatees. Once you're in the water with these beautiful creatures, you'll find them rather playful, like giant puppies.
If you've ever wanted to spot an elusive whale shark, a visit to Isla Mujeres on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is in order. From June to September, hundreds of these giant but harmless sharks come to the plankton-rich waters surrounding the island to feed, giving divers the perfect opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat.
For one of the most bizarre in-water animal encounters, head to the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas where you'll find the famous Exuma swimming pigs. These adorable pigs haven't yet learned to fly, and we realize they're not marine mammals . . . but they have adapted swimmingly to the beach-side climate, where they're often spotted lazing on the white sand or taking a dip in the azure waters.
For an adrenaline-pumping swim, go for a dive in Kona, Hawaii. In these warm, tropical waters, you have a good chance of spotting a majestic Manta Ray, as the population here is one of the most accessible in the world. For an even more unforgettable experience, go for a night dive where large floodlights are used to attract these huge creatures to the surface.