how to snorkel

How To Snorkel & Why It’s Awesome!

Learning how to snorkel might seem difficult at first, but it is far easier than you might think. Like anything in life, you just need a little practice. Of course, the best way to practice is by giving snorkeling a try. Snorkeling is a fun and easy way to be able to explore the beautiful world of life under the sea. We love snorkeling during our travels and have enjoyed seeing sea life around the globe. In this post, you’ll learn all about what snorkeling is, how it works, the equipment you need, and fun places you will enjoy snorkeling!

What is Snorkeling?

Snorkeling is simply the act of swimming through water, be it a lake, river, ocean, or swimming pool whilst wearing a diving mask and a snorkel. A snorkel, in essence, is just a tube that allows you to breathe air from the surface. The snorkel fits in your mouth comfortably and points straight upwards. This way when you are swimming along the surface the tube doesn’t fill with water. You breathe just as you normally would through your mouth, not your nose!

What I Love About Snorkeling!

Being able to experience the world underwater is a pretty cool experience.  And while scuba diving is probably the ultimate way to experience life under the sea, scuba diving requires more equipment and training. We actually went scuba diving for the first time in Mexico, and while Josh loved the experience I wasn’t so much a fan. I have an issue popping my ears (which is a major problem when you dive) and I tend to get a bit panicky being so far from the surface of the water. 

Personally speaking, scuba diving is just a bit scary for me.  And that’s ok — because I’m perfectly cool with snorkeling! In fact, I love being able to put my face down in the water and snorkel around and then just pop my head up out of the water when I want to take a break. There is a sort of combination activity that you may stumble across too which is a combination of scuba diving and snorkeling — it’s called snuba or snookah diving. We were lucky enough to go snookah diving in Thailand, although it could still be a bit unnerving for people like me who are nervous being so deep in the water.

So one of the main reasons I love snorkeling is because it’s quite easy to do. It’s really not scary and you don’t need any serious training to do it. Also, it’s not expensive to rent or buy your own snorkel gear. Snorkeling is a wonderful way to spend your time when traveling to places where there is water and abundant sea life to enjoy.

josh snorkeling with fish in cozumel
Josh snorkeling and feeding fish in Cozumel, Mexico

What Snorkeling Gear Do You Need?

You only need a mask and a snorkel. But you may find it more comfortable to snorkel wearing fins to help you swim. They make your kicks more powerful and you will be able to glide through the water. Depending on where you are snorkeling you may need a wet suit. If you are snorkeling in Canada with the seals, you’ll need a very thick wet suit. If you are snorkeling off Miami beach, you will be fine in a  normal swimwear. If it is your first time learning how to snorkel, don’t be embarrassed to bring a pool noodle with you. It can be tricky to stay afloat and horizontal for some people, so this can help out greatly. Especially for younger children.

snorkel and mask gear on beach

How to Use a Snorkel and Attach a Snorkel Mask

First of all, you should make sure to buy a well-fitting mask. If your mask doesn’t fit tightly to your face, the water could start leaking in. Which is not ideal. To make sure the mask fits, you should be able to suction it to your face. It might feel a bit tingly and your eyes may tear up at first, but you will quickly get used to it. Your snorkel will attach to your mask’s head strap. This is how the snorkel always stays facing up straight. Try to keep your hair out of the mask, and tighten it up as much as is comfortable. Once your mask is suctioned to your face you are ready to go. Make sure you don’t breathe in or out through your nose, or you will break the seal causing your mask to flood with water.

two girls snorkeling on top of crystal water

Once you are in the water, swim along the surface using the mask to see where you are going. Breath in and out steadily through the snorkel itself. Most snorkels are fitted with a piece to bite down on. This keeps the snorkel firmly in place and stops water seeping in. You don’t need to open your mouth to breath, just keep it bit down on the snorkel. If you find that your snorkel does fill with water, as it sometimes will, simply blow out as hard as you can. The water will shoot out of your snorkel, just like when a dolphin spouts out water.

Do You Need to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

As mentioned above, if you are a weak swimmer then using a pool noodle or arm floats can be very helpful. While this can help if you are a weak swimmer, it won’t do much if you can’t swim at all.  Honestly, if you don’t know how to swim at all then snorkeling can be a bad idea. Water is very dangerous, especially the ocean, not being able to swim at all can greatly put your life at risk. You will also endanger the lives of whoever has to try and save you.

If you want to learn to snorkel you certainly need swimming lessons first. You don’t need to be able to swim competitively, just keep yourself afloat. If you want to snorkel but can’t swim at all, you could snorkel in the shallow end of a swimming pool. One where your feet can easily reach the bottom; and only with other people around you.

How to Snorkel Underwater or Snorkel Dive?

Just because you are swimming on top of the water snorkeling doesn’t mean you can’t dive down deep into the water to get a closer look at the sea life below! Snorkeling underwater is surprisingly easy. It can let you see the seafloor much better and makes you look like a real pro, but you just need to know how to do it so you don’t get a mouthful of seawater. To snorkel dive, first, you need to take a big breath and hold it. Close your mouth to stop any water coming in when you are submerged.  Josh is pretty great at snorkel diving, as you can see from the photo below of our time snorkeling in Honduras. 

Once you have held your breath dive under the water and kick downwards (this is easier with fins on). Once you down, feel free to stay there as long as you feel comfortable. When you have decided you’ve had enough, simply resurface. Back on the surface, blow as hard as you can to remove the water from your snorkel. Otherwise, you’ll get a mouth full of water.

When you are snorkel diving at sea, remember that there can be strong currents on the seafloor. If you are not careful enough you may resurface far away from the initial spot you dived down from.

Scuba Diving in Honduras
Scuba Diving in Honduras

How to Snorkel With Glasses?

Unfortunately, you cannot snorkel with glasses on. They are at risk of breaking and hurting you and they would break the seal of your mask. Even if you did wear them, your mask would be so full of water you couldn’t see anyway. Luckily, there are some options available to you. First, feel free to wear contact lenses. Not everyone is comfortable with contact lenses though. If you are one of those people, you might want to look into getting prescription lenses in your dive mask. That way they work just the same as your regular glasses, just underwater.

What Kind of Snorkel Equipment Should I Buy?

There are many types of snorkel equipment out there that you can buy. How much you spend really depends on how much you plan to use it, and how serious of a snorkeler you want to be. During a recent trip to the Florida Keys I saw snorkel gear for sale in a Publix supermarket for only $12; however, they were pretty basic. You can also go to many outdoor stores and find a variety of higher-priced and higher-quality snorkel gear with different features.

The J-Snorkel & Flexible Snorkel

The J-snorkel is just a very simple snorkel tube that looks like the letter “J.” It’s the most affordable out there, and it works for surface snorkeling as well as snorkel diving. However, they are kinda cheap and can be rigid. They also require more force to clear your snorkel of water and can be a bit uncomfortable. A flexible snorkel is a better option if you are looking for something a little more comfortable to wear. These types of snorkels also usually have a purge-valve that makes it easier for you to blow out water that may accidentally get in the tube. 

Semi-Dry and Dry Snorkels (What We Have)

Semi-dry snorkels have a splash guard at the top hole of the snorkel to help prevent water from getting inside. However, if you fully-submerge yourself then water will still get inside the tube. While these are great snorkels to use, they are a bit more expensive and you may not want to spend this much if you rarely snorkel.  If you are a serious snorkeler, then you may even want to go all out for the dry snorkel.  These snorkels have a valve at the top that completely blocks water from coming in!  That means that you can dive all you want and you don’t have to worry about clearing it from water if it gets submerged. The downside is that these are the most expensive type of snorkels, and the valve can get blocked. Also, the air being in the snorkel can lead to drag underwater and make it more challenging to dive. 

Full Face Snorkel (Yuck…)

Another type of snorkel is the full-face snorkel. Honestly, these kinda freak me out and I don’t think they are the best options for snorkeling. It covers a lot more of your face and is connected to a dry-snorkel so you don’t have to wrap your mouth around the tube. While it is the easiest type of snorkel to use and is great for beginners, it’s not made for diving and you don’t have access to your nose for equalization (pop your ears). Also, the mask holds a lot of air inside which can put pressure on your whole face, and there’s no way to relieve it! Plus, it can make your face hot and people with beards won’t be able to get it to seal around their face. Lastly, they are just big and bulky to bring around. So I prefer traditional snorkels. 

When it comes to your mask, there are many options out there as well. If you buy a kit with a good snorkel, then it should come with a mask that is comparable in quality. The key is to get the right-sized snorkel mask to fit your face. The fit is the most important part because you need it to suction on your face well.  The best types of masks have a full skirt of 100% silicone (or mostly silicone). 

I actually recently bought an Aqua Lung dry snorkel combination kit while down here in the Florida Keys. It has been awesome being able to snorkel around and not worry about water getting into my snorkel. It’s flexible and comfortable, and the mask is high-quality tempered glass. It even has a cool Go Pro mount on it so I can attach the camera and film my fun underwater without using my hands. A super cool snorkel!

How to Clean a Snorkel Mask

Cleaning a snorkel mask is important for keeping it from going moldy, and from losing its seal. The best way to clean it is by using dishwashing liquid and rubbing it around the lens, inside and out. Then rinse it out with lukewarm fresh water. You can use a special mask cleaner, but it isn’t a necessity. Just always make sure you clean it after you are done using it for the day. If you leave saltwater in the mask it will start to corrode it over time.

Favorite Places We Have Snorkeled in the World

I’ve been lucky to snorkel so many great places over the years, from Hawaii to Thailand and beyond. I’d have to say that by far the absolutely coolest place that Josh and I both snorkeled was off the coast of Roatan Honduras. That reef was impressive, in fact when Josh jumped in he was so shocked that when he surfaced he shouted with excitement about how beautiful it was! 

sea turtle under water swimming

Another highlight was snorkeling off the coast of Cebu in the Philippines. The reef was spectacular and I could actually walk out of my bungalow and straight into the water, swimming less than 20 yards and I was at the reef. I even snorkeled with a giant sea turtle (I mean…he was HUGE!) for a good 30 minutes one day. 

We’ve also done a lot of snorkeling off the coast of Mexico in places such as Cozumel and also a few places around the Bahamas – which is always fun. Hawaii is also home to some beautiful snorkeling areas. We even night snorkeled with the giant Manta Rays off the Kona coast of Hawaii — it was honestly the most incredible experience we’ve ever had. You should watch the video HERE if you haven’t seen it. 

Are You Ready to Try Snorkeling?

Snorkeling is great fun and isn’t anywhere near as difficult as it may seem. If you practice in a swimming pool rather than the ocean, you will learn much quicker.  Still, if you are on vacation in a tropical paradise such as Hawaii or if you go on a cruise to the Caribbean, you will likely find some lovely calm bays of water where you can snorkel without a problem, even if you are a beginner. And it will open up a lovely underwater world for you to enjoy!


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