Lively marine reserves and hundreds of rocky coves to explore all along the coast

The best snorkeling areas in South France are the rocky parts of the coast. It is undoubtedly in the Var region that the best snorkeling spots of South France are located. Between la Seyne-sur-Mer and St Tropez, you’ll find many coves, bays, and rocky beaches to explore, like in Anse Magaud, Plage de Brégançon, Plage de Jovat, and Calanque du Four à Chaux. On the Giens peninsula, you can also discover the Archaeological Site of Olbia, where an ancient Roman quay and a 19th-century wreck rest a few meters only from the beach.

Snorkeling dans le Parc National de Port Cros
Port Cros National Park boasts the most preserved snorkeling spots of South France, like in Plage de la Palud (left), where it is possible to spot greater amberjacks (right) in relatively shallow areas (2 to 4m).

This region also hosts the Port Cros National Park, considered as the French snorkeling Mecca. This small island, which has been a National Park since 1967 (the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean), has sea beds that are among the best-preserved and richest in fish. Some spots (Plage de la Palud, but also Anse de la Fausse Monnaie) are without equal and will delight even the most experienced snorkelers. There, you’ll have good chances to meet huge common dentex, greater amberjack, dusky grouper, and brown meagre, some species that are almost impossible to spot at snorkeling depth elsewhere in South France.

Although also located in Port Cros National Park (which was extended in 2012), the island of Porquerolles is less full of fish, because fishing remains authorized on a large part of its coastline. Some of the best places on the island to snorkel are Calanque du Brégançonnet, Plages du Langoustier, and Cap des Mèdes, but you can also find decent snorkeling along the rocky edges of the famous Plage Notre-Dame and Plage d’Argent.

Red starfish
The red starfish is abundant in many locations along the French coast (here, photographed in Calanque du Four à Chaux Posidonia meadows).

The Calanques range (between Marseille and Cassis) boasts a magnificent rocky shore with crystal clear waters, but not that fishy. In fact, despite the Calanques area is part of a National Park since 2012, fishing is still allowed in 90% of its perimeter, including the most popular Calanques of Sormiou, Sugiton, Port Pin, and En Vau. Close to Marseille, Plage du Cap Rousset in Carry-le-Rouet and Anse du Petit Mugel in La Ciotat are better options. The eastern part of the French Riviera, consisting mainly of rock, offers some spots of varying quality.

Underwater path in France
Several snorkel trails, consisting of educational buoys anchored in shallow waters, have been set up in South France, like in Anse Magaud (left). Right, a mediterranean moray at Anse du Petit Mugel.

In Languedoc, characterized by long sandy beaches, opportunities to practice snorkeling are becoming rarer. The Cap d’Agde and Sète are home to some decent spots, including La Plagette and Plage du Lazaret, but the most amazing snorkeling spots around are not in the sea. The Etang de Thau, a lagoon about twenty kilometers long separated from the sea by a coastal strip stretching between Agde and Sète, is a unique opportunity to discover an exceptional aquatic life, including two species of seahorses, several species of pipefish and nudibranchs, in a few meters of water. To get the best chances to spot them, head to the Ponton de la Bordelaise, just 5 minutes from Sète.

Snorkeling Etang de Thau
Etang de Thau allows snorkelers to discover emblematic species, such as the long-snouted seahorse (left) or the pilgrim hervia, a colorful nudibranch (right). Both photographs were taken at the Ponton de la Bordelaise in Balaruc.

At the western end of the French Mediterranean coast, the Côte Vermeille, between Perpignan and the Spanish border (you can check our page about snorkeling in continental Spain here), is another snorkeling hotspot in France. These few kilometers of rocky coastline are home to the country’s oldest marine reserve (the Cerbère-Banyuls national nature reserve, created in 1974). Plage de Peyrefite, in particular, is full of fish.

A large number of snorkel trails have been set up along the French coast. With their immersed educational panels, they are an original way to explore the sea bed and to discover the Mediterranean’s biodiversity. Among the most popular snorkel trails is Plage de la Palud in Port Cros, Plage de Peyrefite in Cerbère, Anse Magaud near Toulon, and La Plagette in Cap d’Agde.

Gilt-head bream and sargo
Gilt-head bream and sargo in Plage de Peyrefite, near the Spanish border.

The Mediterranean is a relatively small and enclosed sea (1% of the world’s ocean surface) but is a major source of biodiversity. It is estimated that the Mediterranean contains 8% of the world”s sea life, with an endemism rate of nearly 30%. Neptune grass seabed, in particular, provides a remarkable environment that is simple to explore from the French coast. Although it is easy to come across ornate wrasse, sargo, cuttlefish, and starfish in the French Mediterranean waters, you may also spot moray eels or small dusky groupers in certain areas.

If you are planning a snorkeling trip to Southern France, we recommend you to take with you the great Europe and Mediterranean Marine Fish identification guide, a comprehensive guide that includes all the marine fish species that may be encountered in the Mediterranean up to 50m depth.

Check this video 👇👇👇 and discover Plage de la Palud underwater world with us! Huge gilt-head bream, greater amberjack, dusky grouper, brown meagre… you never know what shows up! More than 15 distinct marine species can be seen in this short video shot with a GoPro.

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When to go snorkeling South of France?

The Mediterranean climate is mild and sunny, and the temperatures are generally clement. On the coast, average temperatures range between 70 to 80°F (20 to 25°C) from June to September, and from 55 to 70°F (14 to 20°C) the rest of the year. July/August is the peak period for tourists in the region, and you can expect high visitor numbers on some parts of the coast.

Water temperature varies between 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C) from July to October, and around 60°F (15°C) in May/June. Outside these months, snorkeling is limited by cooler water temperatures, unless you have an adapted wetsuit. Even during summer, we recommend wearing a rashguard, which will protect your back and shoulders from the strong UV radiations that occur in the Mediterranean. Our selection of the best rashguards and wetsuits for snorkeling may help you to make your choice!

The wind, blowing in gusts over some parts of the coast, should be taken into account before a snorkeling trip in the Mediterranean. It can lead to dangerous conditions in the sea (waves), but which are also less pleasant (cold).

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Please note :

This page covers the continental Mediterranean French coast. For Corsica, see the special page. The French overseas departments and territories also have dedicated pages: Réunion Island, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, St Barthélemy, Martinique, French Polynesia and New Caledonia. You can also check our page about freshwater snorkeling in the French Alps lakes.

Our favorite Europe and Mediterranean guide

This reference identification guide includes all the 860 marine fish species that may be encountered while snorkeling in coastal Western Europe and the Mediterranean.

New snorkeling spots to share in South France?


More than 300 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!

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