Best Rash Guards for Snorkeling: A Snorkeler’s Review 

by | Last updated Jan 14, 2024 | Snorkel Packing List

Confession time: I proudly embrace my skincare obsession and advocate for effective sun protection. I prefer to guard against both skin cancer and premature wrinkles as long as I can. For those who share my love for snorkeling, achieving these goals can be challenging without the proper sun protective clothing. Having explored 39 snorkel spots from around the world, I’ve thoroughly tested several UPF-rated clothing brands and discovered not all designs work well for snorkeling. Join me in uncovering my top picks for snorkeling rash guards to make your underwater exploring comfortable and free of sunburns.

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What Makes a Good Snorkeling Rash Guard

Wearing the Coolibar hightide rash guard shirt

Wearing the Coolibar Hightide Rash Guard and carrying the Stahlsac BVI Mesh Backpack for my snorkel gear

Look for these 5 features when selecting a sun shirt for your snorkeling adventures:

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#1- Coverage

Only choose long-sleeved shirts for the best sun protection. I don’t know why short-sleeved sun shirts exist. Defeats the purpose of optimal coverage.

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#2- UPF rating

Look for a UPF rating of at least a 30+.

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#3- Construction

Dense synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are best at blocking UV rays.  

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#4- Color

Brighter, darker colors are better at absorbing more UV rays.

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#5- Fit

Tight/stretched clothing can lose some UPF efficacy.

UPF Rating Explained

You are probably familiar with SPF (sun protection factor) ratings when referring to sunscreen.

Not everyone though is familiar with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) ratings, which is a system used to test a fabric’s effectiveness for providing UVA and UVB protection.

Wait, doesn’t all clothing provide some sun protection?

Yes, but not all clothing offers the SAME protection.

Lighter, looser weaves and natural fibers provide the least protection. For example, a white cotton T-shirt may provide a UPF rating of about 7.

The higher the UPF rating, the better the sun protection.

A UPF rating of 50 will block 98% of UV exposure. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, look for at least a UPF rating of 30+ when purchasing sun protective clothing.

You could use sunscreen as your only method of protection, but studies have found people do not use as much sunscreen as they are supposed to and do not reapply as often as they should.

Top Pick #1: Coolibar Rash Guard Shirt 

Wearing a Coolibar rash guard while snorkeling in Bonaire

Wearing a Coolibar rash guard and Ugo waterproof bag while snorkeling in Bonaire

I have been wearing Coolibar sun protective clothing for many years. Ask your dermatologist what clothing they recommend for sun protection, and they will likely suggest Coolibar. 

Coolibar was the first sun protective clothing company to be awarded The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.

Feel confident wearing their clothing because they RIGOROUSLY test their fabric by simulating real-life situations (pool, ocean, sweat).

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REASONS TO LOVE THE COOLIBAR RASH GUARD SHIRT

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#1- UPF 50+ rating

No matter how often you wash your shirt, the UPF 50+ rating never washes out.

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#2- Gripper elastic on the hem

Although not perfect, this design helps keep the shirt in place while snorkeling. I still put sunscreen on my lower back in case the shirt does ride up occasionally.

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#3- Aqua classic fabric

The comfortable polyester material is chlorine and saltwater-resistant. I never feel hot in this shirt. It’s surprisingly lightweight. I much prefer this fabric over those super tight, shiny surfing rash guard shirts.

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#4- Quick drying

It’s miserable to sit in wet clothing. My Coolibar rash guard dries quickly after snorkeling.

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#5- Stylish

Good sun protection is the most important feature I look for, but I still want the clothing to look cute. I love the seams that run vertically along the sides of the Coolibar Hightide sun shirt, which gives it a more flattering, tapered waistline.

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#6- Fun colors!

I love the bold, fun colors and have the rash guard in pink, Baja blue, and tropical mint.

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#7- Flatlock seams

This small detail makes for a more comfortable fit because there is no weird rubbing.

Gripper elastic hem and flatlock seams on Coolibar hightide rash guard

Gripper elastic hem and flatlock seams seen on the inside of the Coolibar Hightide rash guard

UPF 50+ Rating on Coolibar Hightide Rash Guard

UPF 50+ Rating on Coolibar Hightide rash guard

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ACCESSORY ITEM: SNORKEL HEAD BAND

Spacefish Army Sea Lace Head Band

Spacefish Army Head Band in “Sea Lace” (my personal head band, they no longer carry this design)

A Spacefish Army Coral Kaleidoscope Scuba Head Band

Spacefish Army Head Band in “Coral Kaleidoscope” (the next head band I want to get … so many cool designs!)

Because Coolibar does not have a hood, I’m prone to sunburn on my forehead. My solution to this problem is the Spacefish Army UPF 50+ polyester head band.

The company is run by a NYC designer turned diving instructor, and she has so many fun hand drawn designs!

I can verify this head band stays put! There’s no slippage. Another perk of wearing the head band is it keeps your hair in place. I have fine, super tangly hair, and this has made a huge difference.

Plus, I get a better seal on my mask because there are no wispy hairs that sneak below the skirt of the mask.  Love this head band!

Top Pick #2: Tuga Hooded Rash Guard Shirt

Tuga Hooded Snorkeling Rash Guard

Tuga Hooded Snorkeling Rash Guard (my personal photo coming soon)

Coolibar rash guards are my go-to snorkeling shirts for most snorkeling sessions.

However, if I’m going to snorkel MULTIPLE sites or be in the water for LONG sessions where I can’t reapply sunscreen, then I wear my Tuga Hooded Rash Guard.

It offers better skin coverage over Coolibar in the head/neck area (the hood tucks over the top of your favorite snorkel mask) and the hands.

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REASONS TO LOVE THE TUGA RASH GUARD SHIRT

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#1- UPF 50+ rating

High sun protection, blocking out 98% of UV rays.

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#2- Fitted hood

Superior coverage. Great for protecting the head and neck on long snorkels.

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#3- Thumbhole cuffs

This added protection keeps your hands safe from the sun.

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#4- Quick drying nylon fabric

Synthetic material offers better protection.

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#5- Flatlock seams

This extra touch makes the shirt lie against the skin more comfortably.

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#6- Stylish

Tapered seams at the sides give it a slim and stylish fit. 

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#7- Fun colors!

Tuga has some fun color choices. I have their hooded shirt in Royal/Hawaii. 

Top Pick #3: Coolibar Rash Guard Shorts

Coolibar swim shorts

Coolibar swim shorts

Don’t forget your legs!

For short snorkels, I prefer rash guard shorts.

For long snorkels, I prefer rash guard leggings.

I own both from Coolibar and switch between the two depending on the scenario. Tuga also carries swim leggings that attach to their hooded rash guard with a button closure, but I have not tried them yet.

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REASONS TO LOVE COOLIBAR SWIM SHORTS/LEGGINGS

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#1- UPF 50+ rating

Great sun protection from UV exposure.

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#2- Comfortable wide waistband

No weird digging.

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#3- Aqua Helios Fabric (leggings)

Breathable nylon/lycra blend that is chlorine and saltwater-resistant. 

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#4- Aqua Vesta Fabric (shorts)

Breathable nylon/spandex blend that is chlorine and saltwater-resistant. 

Final Thoughts

I love snorkeling.

To enjoy all those underwater adventures, proper sun protective clothing is imperative.

While I’ve tried various surfer brand-style rash guards like Roxy and O’Neill, which provide good sun protection, they aren’t optimal for snorkeling.

The meticulously crafted features of Coolibar and Tuga sun protective clothing are tailored with a snorkeler’s requirements in mind, making them my top choices on the market!

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