Egypt is a snorkeling paradise. Almost anywhere you dip into the water, you will find at least some wildlife. The climate makes it an ideal destination for European off-season period (October-April). Moreover, it is also quite cheap destination with many affordable all-inclusive hotels along the coast. Hurghada is one of the oldest resorts with a large amount of local population, historical center and well developed tourist infrastructure. Compared to Sharm el Sheikh, the prices are slightly cheaper, making it very attractive to all diving and snorkeling fans. This is our guide for Best hotels for snorkeling in Hurghada.
Coral reefs in Egypt
Coral reefs of the Red Sea are over 5000 years old, with the coastal reef complex extending along some 2,000 km of shoreline (This includes Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia). Usually, these reefs grow directly from the shoreline. However, especially near Hurghada, numerous offshore reefs can be found. Generally, the reefs are healthy and living, provided that measures are taken to protect them. The most popular dive sites are in Eilat (Israel), Aqaba (Jordan), Taba and Dahab (Egypt).
Hurghada is also known for great diving and snorkeling sites. However, the most beautiful reefs are usually located off shore and can be visited on a day boat tour. You will hardly find a hotel in the center of Hurghada with it’s own healthy reef. Even the ones that claim to have one, usually use it as marketing to attract customers. Hotels with good reefs can be found in Marsa Alam, El Gouna and in Sharm el Sheikh.
Best hotels for snorkeling in Hurghada
Let’s look at some hotel options with decent (although rather small) reefs right off the beach. As I mentioned already, you won’t find such hotels in Hurghada city center. Your best bet is to look at Sahl Hasheesh or even further – Makadi bay. These resorts are located a little far from the center and hotels are mostly 4* and 5* with huge territories.
Fort Arabesque is one of the most popular hotels for snorkeling in Makadi bay as snorkeling can be done straight from the beach. This can be particularly good for people with mobility problem’s who find it difficult to climb the pier. The reef in front of Fort Arabesque is one of the best near Hurghada. What makes it special is that it’s not just a single fringing reef, but has many coral outcrops in shallower water. Among others, following species can be found here: local octopus, crocodile fish and hawksbill sea turtle. However, some reviews suggest the hotel itself is unremarkable.
Good sides: tasty food with large variety, friendly staff, excellent beach with coral reef (bring coral shoes!)
Bad sides: dirty and cold pool, lack of sunbeds near pool, beach needs more cleaning, overall the hotel needs renovation.
The next reef location is shared by Grand Makadi, Makadi Spa and adjoining hotels and is also considered very good. The water is deeper here and it’s best accessed from the long pier at the north end of the bay, next to the Grand Makadi. The rocks are quite sharp, so coral shoes are a must! Travelers have pointed out seeing starfish and jellyfish (no worries, they don’t sting). The hotel receives a lot of good reviews and can be recommended for easy going, relaxed holiday with occasional day trips.
Good sides: exceptional staff and service, adults only, various cuisines at the restaurants
Bad sides: pools not heated during winter, limited all-inclusive menu
Coral Beach, as the name suggest, has it’s own reef and is located in Sahl Hasheesh, around 10 minutes drive from Hurghada. This might be a good choice for people interested in visiting Hurghada city center for shopping. Some species seen on the reef include octopus, giant turtles, stingrays, moray eel and others. The reef is very beautiful, too.
Goods: fresh juice cocktails at the beach, good animation
Bads: compex too spread out, limited menu and untasty food
Serenity beach, located next to Grand Makadi, has been recommended by snorkeling lovers as a good place to look for colorful corals and fish. The hotel has a pier to reach the reef, although it is very old and not so comfortable, as the ladders are narrow. Serenity Beach Hotel has a fringing reef along the coast, most of the corals are alive and with great bio diversity. Species, like moray eel and sea turtle can be spotted there, if you are lucky.
Goods: good choice of food, attentive staff
Bads: limited internet, hotel is isolated from Hurghada city center, hotel is run down and old
Weather in Hurghada year round
Egypt offers almost perfect weather conditions for snorkeling year round. The best time to visit is October and November. Summer heat is gone by then, but the water temperature is still very pleasant and you can easily snorkel without a wet suit. Winter months are the coldest, water temperature can drop as low as 20C and you would probably need a 3mm wet suit in order to stay long enough under water. Also, particularly in Hurghada, the winds are quite strong during winter months, making entering the water a challenge!
Spring is another great time to visit – March through May the temperatures start to climb back up and winds are warmer. We visited during last week of March 2019 and stayed in the water easily without the wet suit for 30-45min in a row. Of course, there will be colder days, but generally it is doable. Summer months should be generally avoided, as there may be better options for where to go (Southern Europe for example).
Unlike common myths suggest, Hurghada doesn’t have a huge shark problem (compared to Sharm el Sheikh). This is mainly due to the reefs located off shore, protecting Hurghada’s coast and preventing the sharks from approaching the shores. Also, there is more tidal conditions and this tends to deter sharks from coming close. It is highly recommended to wear reef shoes or fins. Lion Fish and Scorpion fish will never approach you on their own, but you may step on one by accident and end up in a hospital. Same goes for sea urchins – there are lots of them on the reefs.
Stone fish tend to be found close to the shore and can kill you if you step on them. No need to worry though – they usually sit on the sand and will not bother you unless you bother them.
Best equipment for snorkeling in Hurghada
Nowadays you can find many types of various equipment for snorkeling – full face masks, classic snorkels, simple swimming glasses etc. I recommend investing in good pair of snorkels (mask and tube), as the one offered on the boat tours or at hotels are mostly old and torn. I had multiple problems with leaking mask during the last time and it ruined the experience. Next time I will definitely bring my own – also for hygienic reasons.
Personally, I haven’t tried the full face mask, and heard mixed feedback about it. Some people say it is the best thing ever. For me, the tube seems to be somehow short and I’m really used to classic option. Anyway, you can easily purchase any of the two in Hurghada, this years prices are (Cleopatra Bazar, fixed price shop): Full face mask – 30$, classic snorkel set – 25$. If you still have time before you go, I’d suggest ordering directly from China, you will get them for half price!
Snorkeling boat trips
If snorkeling off the shore of your hotel is not an option, daily boat tours to the reefs may be a good way to do that. The hotel we stayed in during last visit (Regina Inn Suites) was one of those with poor coral life (very polluted). During the one week we stayed there, I went on two snorkeling boat trips and enjoyed them very much. The cost of such trip is typically around 15$ and the price includes transfer from and to your hotel, lunch onboard and snorkeling equipment (if you need it).
Big advantage of such tours – you get a full day of adventure for a really cheap price. Usually the boat will stop at Giftun island with very nice beach. Boat tours are also very fun and you can meet interesting people onboard. Local guys know their way around those waters and take you to the best coral reefs out there. If you don’t own a waterproof camera, there is always somebody from the crew taking pictures both above and under water. Just make sure to agree on the price and check the pictures before you buy!
In your opinion, what are the best hotels for snorkeling in Hurghada?