Best Rash Guards for Snorkeling: A Snorkeler’s Review 

by | Last updated Jun 28, 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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3 Best Snorkeling Rash Guards

If you don’t feel like reading through this detailed review, here’s the TL;DR version of my top 3 snorkeling rash guards!

If you are not sure what makes a “good” rash guard, then jump to this section first.

HURLEY RASH GUARD

01- BEST BUDGET RASH GUARD

HURLEY

COOLIBAR RASH GUARD

02- BEST OVERALL RASH GUARD

COOLIBAR

TUGA RASH GUARD 

03- BEST LONG SNORKEL RASH GUARD

TUGA

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MY PICK: HURLEY

I have tried my fair share of “surfer” rash guard shirts from companies like O’Neill and Roxy. Most of the time the shirts were just too tight, or I felt like the neckline was choking me.

For example, I tried this Aexsea sun shirt, and it felt way too tight on my neck.

Don’t get me wrong. You want the shirt fitted but not too tight to restrict movement and not too loose to create resistance while snorkeling.

Kinda like Goldilocks.

It’s important to find one “just right” to allow for comfortable, efficient snorkeling.

One of my favorite budget-friendly rash guards is this long-sleeved shirt from Hurley! Hurley is a surfer company started in California in 1999 and is known for producing exceptional clothing for water activities.

The snorkeling rash guard is well-fitted but not too constraining and comes in several fun colors.

When I find something I like, I buy it in all colors, so I have it in turquoise, emerald, and melon, which I can mix and match with several different colored board shorts or swim leggings.

I wore this Hurley rash guard all over the islands on a recent snorkeling trip to French Polynesia including Moorea and Rangiroa, and it kept me well protected.

SWIM LEGGINGS? Yep. You’ll notice in a lot of my photos I’m wearing swim leggings. If you are doing MULTIPLE snorkeling sessions where reapplying sunscreen is not always possible, your legs are going to fry.

One solution is swim leggings. They are surprisingly comfortable and can look quite sporty. Here are the reasons why I love the leggings from these two brands.

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REASONS TO LOVE HURLEY

Wearing a Hurley rash guard at the Coral Gardens in Moorea

Wearing my Hurley rash guard (in emerald) at the Coral Gardens in Moorea

→   #1- UPF 50+ rating

This feature should always be the #1 thing you look for in a rash guard. Here’s what a UPF rating means.

→   #2- Quick dry fabric

When you are done with your underwater adventures, you want a fabric that dries quickly. Otherwise, you are going to be a wet, soggy mess. I can personally vouch these shirts dry off in no time, ready for use the next day.

→   #3- Fun colors!

Of course, sun protection and comfort are my main priority, but I still want clothing that looks great and flattering. Hurley nails it, and I love the vibrant colors that are offered.

02-Best Overall Rash Guard

Wearing a Coolibar rash guard while snorkeling in Bonaire

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

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MY PICK: COOLIBAR

I have been wearing the Coolibar Hightide snorkeling rash guard 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).

Snorkeling with a sea scooter in Moorea

My husband and I snorkeling with a sea scooter for the first time in Moorea (and yes, I love my snorkel vest!)

My husband LOVES his Coolibar hooded rash guard. The picture above shows his shirt in action when we recently did a really cool snorkeling tour in Moorea with a sea scooter.

Because the hooded shirt protects the face and neck, it’s great for longer snorkeling sessions.

Coolibar is my go-to for most snorkeling sessions, but I grab my Tuga rash guard if I’m snorkeling multiple sites (which we’ll chat about next).

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REASONS TO LOVE COOLIBAR

Wearing a Coolibar rash guard in Tahaa before snorkeling

Wearing the Coolibar Hightide rash guard (in Baja Blue) in Taha’a before snorkeling in front of our Airbnb

→   #1- UPF 50+ rating

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

→   #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.

→   #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.

→   #4- Quick Drying

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

→   #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.

→   #6- Fun colors

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

→   #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

03- Best Long Snorkel Rash Guard

Wearing a Tuga rash guard at Rangiroa

Wearing my Tuga rash guard (in navy/paisley) in Rangiroa before the Blue excursion snorkeling tour

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MY PICK: TUGA

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 a Tuga rash guard.

I own two Tuga rash guards:

→   Tuga Hooded Rash Guard

Sorry, I forget to get a picture of my hooded rash guard.

Tuga 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.

→   Tuga Rash Guard Without a Hood (pictured above in Paisley/Navy)

Compared to other rash guards, the Tuga neckline is higher (but comfortable and not choking) and the back of the shirt is a little longer, which decreases the chance of the shirt riding up and exposing your back.

You can see the difference in the length of the Tuga rash guard compared to the Coolibar and Hurley in the photo below.

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REASONS TO LOVE TUGA

Rash guard lengths

Comparing rash guard lengths

→   #1- UPF 50+ rating

High sun protection, blocking out 98% of UV rays

→   #2- Fitted hood

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

→   #3- Thumbhole cuffs

This added protection keeps your hands safe from the sun.

→   #4- Quick drying nylon fabric

Synthetic material offers better protection.

→   #5- Flatlock seams

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

→   #6 -Stylish

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

→   #7- Fun colors

Tuga has some fun color choices. I have their hooded shirt in Royal/Hawaii and their rash guard without the hood in Navy/Paisley.

04- Rash Guard for Your Hands?

Wearing snorkel gloves while snorkeling in Moorea

Picture of myself wearing snorkel gloves while snorkeling with a sea scooter in Moorea

Snorkel gloves?

Yep, there is even sun-protective clothing for your hands!

Now, granted what I am about to recommend is not specifically marketed towards snorkelers, but fingerless fishing gloves work amazing for keeping your hands protected.

We recently went on a 2-week snorkeling vacation to French Polynesia. My husband and I were in the water EVERY DAY.

Despite using copious amounts of reef-safe sunscreen (love Blue Lizard!), my hands were getting a lot of sun. See the photo below.

My sun kissed hands

My sun kissed hands … Yikes! 

Snorkel gloves

Solution: snorkel gloves! 

Now, some shirts like the Tuga hooded shirt will have thumbhole cuffs to solve this problem. However, if your rash guard does not have those cuffs, another solution is sun protective gloves.

I prefer fingerless gloves because I am operating my GoPro Hero 12 (my favorite underwater camera!) and need to push the buttons.

A brand I just discovered and tested out is from a fishing company called Bassdash. They have many fun colors. I have them in Blue Storm.

They did a fantastic job of keeping my hands protected, felt secure when worn, and were easy to remove.

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

It is important to know what to look for in a snorkeling rash guard.

Here are the 5 features I look for when selecting a sun shirt for my 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.

Also, do not forget your legs! Check out my article on all of my favorite snorkeling leggings to pair with your rash guard!

Final Thoughts

I love snorkeling.

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

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! Hurley is also another solid choice if you are looking for something more budget-friendly.

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