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 wrasse, sargo, cuttlefish and starfish in the French waters, you can also see moray eels or groupers in certain areas.
The best snorkeling areas in France are in 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 and Calanque du Four à Chaux. 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 gilt-head bream, greater amberjack, dusky grouper and brown meagre, some species that are almost impossible to spot at snorkeling depth elsewhere in South France.
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 and En Vau. Close to Marseille, Plage du Cap Rousset at Carry-le-Rouet and Anse du Petit Mugel in La Ciotat are also great options. The French Riviera, consisting mainly of rock, offers some spots of varying quality.
In Languedoc, characterized by long sandy beaches, opportunities to practice snorkeling are becoming more rare. The Cap d’Agde is home to some remarkable spots, including La Plagette, 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.
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 are the Plage de la Palud in Port Cros, the Calanque du Port d’Alon in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, Anse Magaud near Toulon and La Plagette in Cap d’Agde.
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.
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).
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, Martinique, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
This reference identification guide includes all the 860 marine fish species that may be encountered while snorkeling in coastal Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
More than 220 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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Frequently spotted at Plage de la Palud in Port Cros; very rare elsewhere.
Common in rocky areas, especially in Port Cros and Porquerolles islands
Often spotted in Plage de la Palud and Anse de la Fausse Monnaie; very rare elsewhere.
Common in the Etang de Thau, at Ponton de la Bordelaise spot. Rare sightings at Anse du Petit Mugel
Common during mating season (April to June) in rocky areas and seagrass meadows, even at shallow depths.
Common in protected areas, especially in Plage de la Palud; but also in Anse Magaud and Plage du Cap Rousset. Rare elsewhere
Common in rocky areas
Found on all spots; abundant at Plage de la Palud, Calanque de Sugiton, Anse Magaud and Calanque du Four à Chaux
On all spots; in impressive shoals (sometimes more than 100 individuals) in Plage de la Palud
One of the most common sights in the Mediterranean; frequently schooling in Neptune grass meadows
Occasional sightings in rocky areas
More common in protected areas, notably in Port Cros National Park and Anse Magaud.
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