Best Snorkel Vest: A Snorkeler’s Review 

by | Last updated Jan 20, 2024 | Snorkel Packing List

My husband is an excellent swimmer. Me, not so much. I need a little boost.

After snorkeling numerous breathtaking destinations around the world (39 so far!), I have had many opportunities to test a variety of flotation aids.

Despite being an experienced snorkeler, I appreciate the added buoyancy for moments when I’m fatigued or the water becomes turbulent. Call it a safety blanket, but the snorkel vest makes me feel so comfortable that my husband often has to coax me out of the water. I wear one EVERY TIME  we snorkel.

Forget the top 10 list. There’s ONE product that tends to outshine the rest in terms of performance and comfort. Let’s chat about which one is worth your consideration!

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Types of Snorkel Flotation Devices 

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SNORKEL VEST VS. LIFE JACKET

Life jackets

Life jackets

Before we delve into my top snorkel vest pick, it’s important to know the difference between snorkel flotation devices. 

Drowning is always a possible risk in an unpredictable open ocean even with the strongest of swimmers. You really should know some basic swimming skills before snorkeling. Enjoy the underwater world but know your limits.

The two most popular personal flotation devices (PFD) are the life jacket and the snorkel vest. There is a difference!

A life vest is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD and keeps your head above water no matter what (good luck trying to snorkel in one!). It offers you the best protection from drowning.

A snorkel vest gives you just a little extra buoyancy while horizontal in the water and is way more comfortable. You can customize your buoyancy by inflating it as much or as little as you want.

If you want to have an enjoyable snorkeling experience, pick the snorkel vest.

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ALTERNATIVE FLOTATION AIDS

Wearing a swim belt snorkeling in Hawaii

Photo of myself wearing a swim belt snorkeling in Hawaii 

Before I discovered the snorkel vest, I experimented with other flotation devices.

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#1- Snorkeling Flotation Belt

The first flotation aid I tried was the snorkeling belt in 2010. I snorkeled all over Maui with this belt and loved it! It gave so much freedom because your arms are completely uninhibited.

Snorkeling with a turtle while wearing a swim belt in Hawaii

Snorkeling with a turtle while wearing a swim belt in Hawaii

Although a swim belt is a great option for extra buoyancy, it’s so bulky to pack and not great for travel. Plus, the only dive centers I have seen offering the belt for rental were in Hawaii, which doesn’t help if you are in St. John, Bonaire, the Maldives, etc.

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#2- Flotation Noodle

I have also used a flotation noodle. When I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef with Wavelength Reef Cruises, I was offered a flotation noodle. That device also worked well, but you run the risk of it slipping away.

Not great for packing because of the awkward shape.

Now, let’s talk about the best snorkeling flotation device… the Scubapro Cruiser Snorkeling Vest!

Scubapro Cruiser Snorkeling Vest Review

Wearing a Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest at Waterlemon Cay in St John USVI

Wearing my Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest at Waterlemon Cay in St. John USVI. Forgive my horrible photo!

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7 REASONS I LOVE THE SCUBAPRO VEST

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#1- Inflatable!

One of the top reasons to love the Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest is the customizable buoyancy! It has a tube on the side. Blow as much air as you want to inflate the bladder on the front. You decide what you need.
Tube to inflate the bladder on the front of the Scubapro Cruise Snorkel Vest

Close-up of the tube to inflate the bladder on the front of the Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest

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#2- Allows You to Dive Down

Sometimes you need to dive down like when you spot an eel wrapped in lettuce coral. Press down on the tube to let the air out and free dive down. When you pop back up, blow some air back in and return to being extra buoyant. You cannot dive down with a life jacket or swimming belt.

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#3- Stretchable Neoprene Back

The back of the snorkel vest is made of Neoprene, which serves two purposes. UV protection and a little warmth.

Neoprene back on the Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest

Neoprene back on the Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest

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#4- Multiple Sizes

The snorkel vest comes in four sizes: XS, S, M, and L. You want the vest snug enough, so it doesn’t ride up. I’m 5’2″ and have the vest in small.

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#5- Jacket Design

One type of snorkel vest is a horse collar + crotch strap.

Horrible design.

Having the inflated bladder wrap around your neck is not comfortable. Add an annoying crotch strap that keeps rubbing every 5 seconds, and forget it. You’ll want out of the water before you even get in.

Any blog post that recommends this type of snorkel vest has clearly never worn this design.

The Scubapro Cruiser is a jacket design, which closes securely with a side zipper.  The bladder is only on the front, so it’s very comfortable around the neck.

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#6- Super Packable

When you are traveling with a snorkeling flotation device, you need something that packs super flat because you also need to fit all your other snorkel gear.

The Scubapro folds down like a pancake. Pretty impressive.

Scubapro Cruiser Snorkeling Vest folds down flat

Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest packs down super flat! 

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#7- Front Mesh Pocket

There is a little mesh pocket at the bottom of the vest to store things.

However, I have never used it because I use my waterproof Ugo to store my phone, sunglasses, car keys, and credit cards/ID.

But, it’s there if you need it!

Mesh pocket on front of Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest

Mesh pocket on front of Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest

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3 REASONS WHY YOU WANT A SCUBAPRO VEST

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#1- Safety

The ocean is a wild and beautiful place.

You never know when you may need some extra protection.

Say you get a foot cramp (which has happened to me more than once!) or the current starts to get stronger.  It’s nice to be able to rely on the extra buoyancy. Also, the bright yellow bladder on the front gives you more visibility if a medical emergency were to arise.

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#2- UV Protection & Warmth

Your back will be exposed to full-on sun while snorkeling.

Of course, wearing a rash guard would do the trick too (and I would wear one anyway!), but the snorkel vest also gives you UV protection. 

Plus, the neoprene back gives you a little warmth.

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#3- Relaxed Snorkeling Experience

Treading water can be tiring. When you have that extra buoyancy, it requires less effort to navigate around.

Wearing my Scubapro snorkel vest allows me to stay out for hours because I don’t get tired. My husband has to now drag me out of the water. I could snorkel for hours.

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SCUBAPRO SNORKEL VEST ALTERNATIVE

Seaview Palawan Snorkel Vest

Seaview Palawan Snorkel Vest

When I decided to write this blog post, I checked to see if any companies were making similar snorkel vests. At the time of my purchase, the Scubapro Cruiser was the only one in its class.

I did find one alternative.

The Seaview Palawan Inflatable Snorkel Vest.

It has adjustable buckles around the waist, which allows a more customizable fit but adds a little more bulk.

It’s highly rated and more affordable than the Scubpro Snorkel Vest, so I wanted to share it as another possible option. I may test it in the future to compare and contrast between the two.

Final Thoughts

I purchased my Scubapro Cruiser Snorkeling Vest on Amazon in 2018, almost 6 years ago! I love it and have been wearing it ever since.

The snorkel vest gives me more confidence in the water and allows for a relaxing, comfortable underwater experience. I won’t go in the water without it whether I’m in the Maldives keeping up with a whale shark or snorkeling in a stronger current at Lac Bay in Bonaire.

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Questions about the Scubapro Cruiser Snorkeling Vest?

Let me know in the comments below!

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