To really enjoy snorkeling, you need more than fins and a mask! Based on that and experience, here are my recommendations for the best snorkeling gear for beginners.
The Best Snorkeling Gear for Beginners
- Mask and snorkel – This seems pretty basic. We’ve bought moderately priced sets at a sporting goods store. And cheap ones at Walmart, Target, and Academy Sports. We couldn’t tell much difference for casual snorkeling. You don’t need anything fancy, but your mask should fit your face easily. That means it will stick to your face without being held on by the strap. Look for flexible hose at the bottom of the snorkel. Some of the anti-splash snorkels make it harder to breathe. If possible, try your snorkle and mask out in a swimming pool before you go.
- No fog – Spitting just doesn’t work very well. There’s no sense in having clear water if you ruin it by having a foggy mask.
- Flippers or fins – Some snorkeling veterans will swear you don’t need them. And, if you try snorkeling near the shore with even a little bit of surge, you might find them more of a liability than a help. But some conditions demand them; you’ll want to have them along. We’ve found that full foot fins more comfortable (fewer blisters), but check out these versions for travel.
- water shoes – If you’re going to be entering from the shore and scrambling over rocks, you’re going to need these.
- Rash guard shirt – Think about it. You’re lying face down with your back baking in the sun. At the equator. And sunscreen isn’t all that great for the reef.
- Swim Leggings or tights – You’re probably thinking this sounds like overkill. But, a long sleeved rash guard shirt and leggings not only protects you from the sun, but some jellyfish and rocks as well. We speak from experience on both. Also, it’s debatable how much damage sunscreen is doing to reefs. The less sunscreen you can put on, the better. Besides, with leggings like these you’ll look like a mermaid! We also used exercise leggings.
- spray sunscreen – There is some worry that sunscreen might be harming reefs, but you can’t really get away without wearing any sunscreen at all. Spray sunscreen may be more reef friendly than the creams, and it’s a lot easier to apply. You can’t carry it on airplanes though, so you’ll have to buy it after you arrive at your snorkeling destination. Or have Amazon ship it to your resort. For sensitive skin, my new favorite is Neutrogena beach. Love it!
- dive gloves – My husband thought this was ridiculous. But not only is touching the reef dangerous for you (sea urchins and other prickly things), the oils from your skin aren’t good for the reef either. Of course, you should always avoid touching a reef when possible! You can kill the delicate organisms. But, sometimes it’s either touch the reef with one hand or crash full body into it. Often you can keep yourself off a reef with a single finger. But if you’re not careful you might touch something that stings. My husband wasn’t really too keen on wearing gloves and opted to wear a single glove. While he was trying to snorkel in fairly rough surf, he said he rotated from wishing he wasn’t wearing the glove to wishing he were wearing two! So overall, it was a win. And my teens said they were really glad they had them. They aren’t too expensive. This Dive & Sail glove was one of the ones we ordered from Amazon that we liked.
- underwater video or photography equipment – You’re really going to want to take some pictures! I was surprised at just how much our teens loved using the GoPro. But if that’s not in your budget, check out my cheap underwater video hack.
- zip or cable ties – We’ve had more than one snorkel holder break. That includes the expensive mask and snorkel sets. This is the best fix to reattach your snorkel to your mask.
2 bonus equipment options
- pool noodle
- mesh bag
Buy on Maui option
We bought some of our gear on Maui. Here are the prices we paid in June 2016.
fins, Walmart, $22 full foot fins
foam noodles, $1-$3
For a really thorough review and explanation for snorkeling gear, see a professional book such as Mask, Fins, & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui’s Best Snorkeling, by Rich Schieber