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Looking to try snorkeling? Great choice! Snorkeling is a wonderful way to explore the underwater world at your own pace. It can be enjoyed by almost anyone, as long as you have some basic swimming experience. In this article, we will guide you through the information you need to get started snorkeling!

What is Snorkeling?

Snorkeling is an adventure that takes you under the surface of the ocean to view the undersea life. Snorkeling is relatively easy for beginners to pick up, especially if they know how to swim. Snorkelers swim on the surface of a sea or ocean with a snorkeling mask, a snorkel, and fins in order to observe the beautiful underwater creatures, canyons, and whatnot. Using snorkeling gear enables the snorkeler to swim with their head in the water while exploring the underwater views for prolonged times while still breathing with assistance from the snorkel gear.

Snorkeling gear can typically be rented, or one can participate in a snorkeling tour in many top destinations.  The benefit of a tour is that the activity providers will have scouted out the top locations to snorkel, and will take you there directly.  Renting snorkeling gear can also be very rewarding, especially if there are clear, marine life-filled waters nearby.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving

When it comes to underwater adventures, snorkeling and scuba diving are like two branches of the same adventurous tree. They both let you explore the underwater world, but they do so in different ways. Many people start with snorkeling, as it’s relatively easy to pick up for beginners and there is minimal equipment and training necessary. On the other hand, scuba diving allows you to dive down to greater depths to see marine life that may hang out deeper, but it also requires more equipment, training and scuba certification.

Many outfitters and guides are now offering Discover Scuba Diving trips that are a more basic, beginner friendly way to experience scuba diving without having to be a certified diver. They typically don’t dive as deep as trips with certified divers, and have a smaller guide to visitor ratio to ensure safety.

How to Snorkel Tips

Even if you are a beginner or a professional snorkeler, the following tips will help you throughout your snorkeling journey!

  • Learn the Appropriate Technique to Breathe: Learning to breathe with the gear you selected is necessary, especially in shallow water where you can stand. You must be able to breathe and remain relaxed even if some water gets inside the snorkel (which can easily happen). If you wish to eliminate the water from your snorkel, just exhale sharply through your mouth. Such a situation will not arise in calm waters as the water does not normally enter the snorkel.
  • Practice Positioning: When the head is slightly turned upwards during this water activity, it will also avoid the entry of water in comparison to looking down and letting the water in.
  • Learn to Float and Swim: Floating and breathing when you are submerged in the water will let you stay comfortable. You can glide through the water using your arms or legs, or both.  If you use fins you probably won’t need to use your arms.
  • Enhance Your Swimming Skills:  Consider taking some swimming lessons, or practicing in a nearby lake or pool before your trip.  Even if you are a great swimmer, getting even better at it will definitely benefit you in the water. Concentrate on freestyle to be specific, as the kicking technique from this style can really help you during this water sport.

Choosing the Best Places to Snorkel for Beginners

  • Practice in Shallow Waters: Practice swimming in shallow waters at a pace that lets you breathe through your snorkel steadily and comfortably. Your snorkel can restrict your breathing so keep your movement level at a pace that doesn’t require heavy breathing.  Learn to float along effortlessly.
  • Choose a Spot with Good Conditions: Many beginners enjoy snorkeling off a beach, or in a shallow area, for their first time. Choose a spot with calm waters. When snorkeling, strong waves should be avoided, particularly if it’s your first time. Waves also stir up the water, making it less clear for observing marine life. They also require more swimming effort. Also, understand the tides, waves, and surges of the ocean. The ocean is alive, and the water is flowing, often carrying you along with it. Make sure you keep track of which direction and how far you are swimming.  Pick a vibrant beach spot, with plenty of fish, corals, and other views to see in the shallow waters.
  • Choose a Tour: If this is your first time, or you are looking for the absolute best snorkeling spots, booking a guided tour is a great option. Experienced outfitters have spent years scoping out the best spots, so let them guide you!

Best Snorkeling Gear

Having the right snorkeling equipment will allow you to fully enjoy your trip. A snorkeling mask, snorkel, and fins are the three common types of gear. Additional accessories include a snorkeling vest, a waterproof camera, and wetsuit (if needed).

How a Snorkel Works

A snorkel enables you to breathe with your face in the water. It is a plastic or a rubber tube approximately one-foot long, with a mouthpiece at the bottom, it lets you breathe air from the surface while your head is in the water.  It is connected to goggles that allow you to watch the underwater world.

The snorkel mouthpiece should fit comfortably, and the tip will extend up from the crown of your head, so it is above the water pulling in air when your face is in the water.  

Snorkeling Mask

The mask helps you view the marine world beneath the waves. It allows you to keep your eyes open and see clearly underwater.  Your nose also fits into the mask so that you are able to respond to pressure changes. The fit of the snorkeling mask is important, so it keeps water out.

Snorkeling Fins

Fins (or flippers) offer a larger surface area for propelling you through the water as you swim, as well as extra flotation capabilities.  They are optional, but many people prefer to use them for these reasons.

Other Snorkeling Accessories

A snorkeling vest or PFD offers buoyancy and peace of mind, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer.

What to Wear Snorkeling

When it comes to choosing what to wear for your snorkeling expedition, think comfort and functionality. Opt for a snug-fitting swimsuit – it’s like your favorite hiking attire, allowing you to move freely in the water. If you’re snorkeling in cooler waters, consider wearing a wetsuit to keep warm. It’s akin to putting on a trusty fleece jacket for a chilly outdoor adventure – a layer of warmth and protection against the elements. If you are taking a snorkeling tour on a boat, a wetsuit may be helpful if you head to colder, deeper water or if you are getting on and off the boat many times. You may want to bring a light jacket to stay warm on the boat ride.

Snorkeling for All Ages

Worried about whether you need to be a swimming champion to snorkel? Fret not! Snorkeling is accessible to all ages and swimming abilities. Whether you’re a water-loving youngster or a seasoned adventurer in your golden years, there’s a snorkeling experience for everyone. Families can bond over underwater explorations, creating memories that rival those around the campfire.

Best Places to Snorkel for Beginners

Looking for the best places to snorkel? Searching for the best snorkeling near me? We feature some of the most amazing snorkeling destinations across North America – read on!

Or check out our Guide to the Best Snorkeling Destinations for Beginners – USA and Mexico!

Best Snorkeling in Florida

With hundreds of miles of beaches, there are infinite spots to explore the waters of the sunshine state. You can witness manatees in the crystal clear waters of Florida’s Crystal River and Homosassa Rivers while snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming. Book your snorkel rental gear or tours on TripOutside. 

Best Snorkeling in Baja Mexico

Baja Mexico is an ideal place to explore the underwater world. With 5,800 miles of coastline, snorkeling is a pretty incredible way to explore the marine life of the “Aquarium of the World”. Find snorkeling gear rental and guided tours and explore the underwater world of Mexico’s shores.

Best Snorkeling in Puerto Rico

From exploring the beautiful beaches of Rincon to spotting sea turtles and colorful fish and other marine life, snorkeling in Puerto Rico is an incredible experience. Whether this is your first time or you are a pro, TripOutside has the snorkeling tours and rental gear for you. 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii

From volcanic eruptions to hidden waterfalls, outdoor adventure activities to amazing nightlife, the Hawaiian islands offer endless fun opportunities and places to explore. Snorkeling is one such activity that will allow you to relax on the calm waters while enjoying its stunning sea life. Find the best Hawaii snorkeling tours and snorkel rentals across the islands!

Big Island, Hawaii Snorkeling

Big Island snorkeling is one of the greatest experiences of the Hawaiian Islands. The shoreline on the island’s western side (Kona side) is made up of many volcanic bays, where corals, reef fish, and larger sea life prosper!

Best Time of Year to Snorkel

Florida

Florida sees beautiful weather throughout the year and the water is mostly warm due to its subtropical climate. The visibility in the water is often up to 30 m. Although September and October should be avoided as hurricane season can put a damper on water sports. January sees strong winds so snorkeling is not suggested and can be unfruitful.

Mexico

Mexico has year-round beautiful weather, and one can fully explore the stunning reef ecosystems. The best season for snorkeling in Mexico is between October and April wherein the coolest months are November to January (72-79F) and the warmest June to August (79-86F).

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has amazing temperatures throughout the year though surf depends on the wind conditions. Winter seasons can be busy and crowded, so the best time to visit is mid-April through June, just before the rainy season. Spring season is also pleasant, with most days reaching only the mid-80s.

Hawaii

Summertime is a great  time of year for snorkeling in Hawaii – from May through September – although Hawaii is a popular destination year round due to its climate.

What to Wear Snorkeling

Essential Gear for Snorkeling

  • Snorkeling Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Fins

Helpful Items to Pack for Snorkeling

  • Mask Defogger
  • Mesh Bag
  • Dry Bag
  • Water bottle
  • Float vest or PFD
  • Neoprene footwear 
  • Reef shoes

What to Wear Snorkeling

  • Swimsuit
  • Wet Suit (if needed)
  • Rashguard

Personal Items for Snorkeling

  • Camera (waterproof)
  • Sunscreen
  • Microfiber towel

Snorkeling Tours & Trips

Not quite ready to dive into your own snorkeling adventure? No worries – that’s where snorkeling tours and rentals come in handy. Booking a guided snorkeling adventure with local experts will give you all the gear and knowledge you need as a beginner. They’ll take you to the best snorkeling spots, ensuring a memorable experience without the hassle. And if you decide snorkeling is your new passion, you can always invest in your own gear for your next adventure!

Snorkeling Dos and Don’ts

  • Do observe marine life from a distance, without getting too close
  • Do bring a reusable water bottle – there’s too much plastic in our oceans already!
  • Do follow Leave No Trace principles
  • Do look for tour operators that promote Leave No Trace by not providing plastic water bottles, respecting wildlife, and not allowing participants to touch, feed or chase
  • Don’t ever feed any wildlife or marine life – human food is not good for them, plus they may become dependent on humans and not find food themselves
  • Don’t ever touch any wildlife or marine life – they are very sensitive and a human touch is not only terrifying but could make them sick or even kill them
  • Don’t touch coral – it’s very sensitive and it can cause irreparable harm
  • Don’t ever chase a wild animal or sea life, if they swim away please let them be

Why Trust Us?

We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy travel advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built TripOutside. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these blogs and content very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:

  • We only work with the highest-rated outfitters in the industry.

  • We’ve traveled to hundreds of destinations that you see on TripOutside in our RV over 6 years and want to share the places that we love with you.

  • We don’t distract you with any ads and never sell your personal information, ever.

  • We are a small, self-funded team and only grow with your support. You can support us by booking your next outdoor adventure on TripOutside.

  • We want to help you get outside. Please share your feedback with us on how we can help make TripOutside work for you!

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