13 Best Snorkeling Gear for Travel: 2023 Snorkeler’s Review
My husband and I have been to numerous snorkeling destinations: Hawaii, Belize, Australia, Mexico, Bora Bora, Maldives, Grand Cayman, Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, St. Martin, St. John USVI, St. Croix USVI, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Thailand. We LOVE snorkeling! The more I snorkel, the more I appreciate having the best snorkeling gear for travel to make the most out of my underwater experience.
It definitely took a little bit of trial and error to find what works and what does not, but now I have discovered what I consider my top 13 travel snorkeling gear items. I hope you find this packing list valuable especially if you are just starting out in discovering our beautiful underwater world!
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My First Experience Using Snorkeling Gear
I remember my first snorkeling experience all too well!
My husband and I were in Costa Rica in 2007. We rented some snorkeling gear in Tamarindo from a local shop and headed out to the ocean.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Husband snorkeling in Costa Rica in 2007
My husband grew up around a pool and must have been a fish in a prior life. He is amazingly adept in the water and seems to glide through with little effort.
I, on the other hand, took multiple swim lessons as a kid but could never quite figure out how to move my body through the water without kicking my legs around a million times a minute and feel like I am going to drown.
Now that you have that background, back to my story.
My husband puts his snorkeling gear on and jumps in. I put my mask on and try to kick around with my fins and immediately feel like I am sinking.
Then water starts to enter my mask, and it fogs up. I have no idea how to clear the mask and now I start to swallow a little bit of saltwater.
I panic and hyperventilate and immediately go back to the safety of the beach. No more snorkeling for me, or so I thought.
What I did not realize at the time is having the right travel snorkeling gear can quickly transform a miserable, awkward attempt at snorkeling into a magical underwater experience.
Now, our situation is flipped. My husband used to beg me to snorkel with him, and now I am the one pleading with him to snorkel just one more spot.
After snorkeling at 39 different sites now around the world, we have had some practice. Let’s go through the 13 best snorkeling gear for travel to get you ready for your next trip!
01- Snorkel Mask
Best snorkeling gear for travel: SeaDive Oceanways Superview-HD snorkel mask
The best snorkel mask for an individual will vary from person to person based on fit. I have gone through MANY snorkel masks trying to find one that fits my face.
I used to use the Atomic Aquatics Frameless Mask.
That was until I discovered the SeaDive Oceanways Superview-HD Frameless Snorkel Mask!
Super comfortable, no fogging, great fit. It feels so soft on my face. This is my go-to snorkel mask now.
Having the right size mask for the shape of your face is CRITICAL.
Check out my blog post on my 5 TOP SNORKEL MASKS if you want additional recommendations. I also go over what snorkel mask features to look for and how to know if your mask is properly fitted.
02- Neoprene Strap Cover
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Cressi neoprene snorkel mask strap cover
Ladies take note!
This will be your hair’s best friend!
Purchasing a neoprene strap cover to go over the silicone straps of your mask is imperative if you have long hair that tends to get tangled.
When I first started to snorkel, I would have to rip my hair out of the straps every time I removed the mask. Ouch!
My husband then told me to purchase a padded mask strap cover. I did not even realize this existed.
This simple item has had a huge impact on my snorkeling adventures. No more tangles! The mask literally glides on and off the back of my head.
03- The Snorkel
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Mares Ergo Splash Snorkel
There are several snorkel types to choose from: classic, semi-dry, and dry.
CLASSIC VS. SEMI-DRY VS. DRY SNORKEL
Classic snorkel: Tube + silicone mouthpiece
Semi-dry snorkel: Tube + silicone mouthpiece + splash guard (shunts water away from the opening if a wave sprays you)
Dry snorkel: Tube + silicone mouthpiece + splash guard + dry valve (seals the snorkel tube if you go under the water, so you don’t have to clear the tube)
The first snorkel I bought was a dry snorkel, and I hated it!
I thought I would love it since I would never have to worry about clearing my snorkel if a wave decided to submerge me or I wanted to dive down.
However, I found the dry snorkel sealed up frequently when I was snorkeling in choppier spots, which made it harder to breathe.
I switched to a semi-dry snorkel and have never looked back.
It works perfectly for me! Yes, water will occasionally get into the snorkel in choppier conditions. As long as you feel comfortable clearing your snorkel tube every now and then, it should not be a problem.
FLEXIBLE VS. RIGID TUBE
I personally like a flexible snorkel over a rigid one. A flexible snorkel has a bendable part of the tube at the bottom, which makes it easier to line up with your mouth.
Some people prefer a rigid snorkel though because it does not flop around as much while snorkeling.
Lastly, make sure the mouthpiece feels comfortable. When your jaw is in a neutral position, the snorkel tube should stay put.
You should not have to bite down to keep it in your mouth.
04- Snorkeling Fins
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Cressi Palau
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Scubapro GO Travel
I currently own two pairs of travel fins:
- Cressi “travel” 18″ fins
- Scubapro “short” 24″ fins
The Cressi travel fins work well for snorkeling in most destinations.
On our trip to St. John USVI, we snorkeled in multiple more challenging spots. I struggled with the Cressi 18” travel fins.
When I knew we would be snorkeling long distances on our recent trip to the Maldives, I decided to purchase the 24″ Scubapro GO fins.
The Scubapro fins took more room in the suitcase, but I was so thankful for the additional thrust and power from a longer fin! For example, it helped me keep up with a fast-moving whale shark on a bucket list excursion in the Maldives.
The conditions you snorkel in will dictate what size snorkeling fins you should purchase.
If you want to know more about how to select the best snorkeling fins, do not miss my article below.
05- Snorkeling Vest
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Scubapro Cruiser snorkeling vest
This magical item was game-changing for me.
As I told you in my story at the beginning of the article, I am not a strong swimmer.
I know the basic mechanics of swimming, but I could not tread water for hours and have the tendency to freak out in less optimal swimming conditions.
I have tried several different flotation devices from pool noodles, swim belts, and actual life jackets. Pool noodles move around on you a lot, and you are constantly having to adjust.
I used swim belts when snorkeling in Hawaii, which works great if you can rent them. They are incredibly bulky though if you have to pack them in a suitcase.
Wearing a yellow swim belt while snorkeling with a turtle in Hawaii
Life jackets, forget it.
They are constantly popping you out of the water and are very difficult to snorkel in.
Then I met the snorkeling vest.
It is very comfortable and fits snugly but not too tight if you order the right size.
The vest has a Neoprene back, which gives you a little extra warmth. The front of the vest has a bladder that can be inflated to your desired buoyancy by using a super easy-to-use inflator and dump valve.
I LOVE THIS VEST!
I can now snorkel stress-free. When I am snorkeling in more challenging spots with choppier waves, it gives me peace of mind. I will not snorkel without it now.
Scubapro Cruiser Snorkeling Vest folds down flat in a suitcase
06- Waterproof Bag
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Ugo Snorkel Waterproof Bag
There may be some destinations where you do not want to leave your personal belongings on the beach as you snorkel.
To prevent someone from taking your valuables, I highly advise bringing a waterproof bag.
The only item I leave on the beach is an old pair of flip-flops. Then I put my cell phone, keys, and my sunglasses in the waterproof pouch and strap it around my waist.
In the past, I used the HEETA waterproof pouch to store all my valuables.
The pouch lasted on many snorkel trips. Then we recently went on a snorkeling trip to Aruba, and it leaked! Thankfully my iPhone was not destroyed. I was devastated.
I then went on another search to find the perfect waterproof snorkel pouch, and I think I found it.
I’ve used it on several snorkeling adventures so far, and it really stays airtight. The unique zipper design is super sturdy and locks in place. I will continue to test it out, but I’m really impressed so far.
My full review can be found below.
07- Dive Booties/Socks
Best snorkeling gear for travel: Cressi neoprene diving boots
Dive socks can be worn with full-foot pocket fins or with open-heel snorkeling fins (which I do).
These little comfort-makers help prevent blisters and chafing and can provide a better fit if your fins are just slightly big.
Some also have a bumpy texture on the sole to give a little grip. Plus, they insulate your feet if the water is cool. They should fit snugly.
The main difference between the dive socks and the dive booties/boots is the booties/boots have rubber soles, which can be rigid or flexible.
Therefore, the booties/boots offer better traction and protection when navigating over slippery rocks to get into the water.
I wear the Cressi Ibiza diving boots and love them. They have enough traction to navigate over rocky surfaces but are not too bulky.
NEOPRENE VS. LYCRA
Neoprene is more insulating and buoyant, so most dive socks are made of neoprene.
Some people wear lycra dive socks as a liner for dive booties/boots.
DIVE SOCK THICKNESS
The material thickness rates are from 2 to 7 mm. When snorkeling in the warm Caribbean waters (above 75 degrees F), look for 2-3 mm.
A thickness of 4-7 mm is meant for colder temperatures.
08- GoPro + Snorkel Filter + Floating Handle
Best snorkeling gear for travel: GoPro Hero
Although it can be temperamental, the GoPro is definitely my go-to device for capturing all of my snorkeling adventures.
It is small and easy to use. Sometimes it gets a little glitchy, but it still remains one of the best devices on the market for filming underwater experiences.
If you are filming underwater in tropical blue waters, get a GoPro red filter.
It easily snaps on over the lens and enhances the colors. Otherwise, your footage may have a blue/ green cast.
The floating handle has saved me on several occasions when I have accidentally let go of the GoPro while in the water.
Instead of sinking to the ocean floor, the handle turns upside down displaying the orange tip as it floats on the surface. Make sure to attach the wrist strap.
GoPro Red Snorkel Filter
GoPro Floating Handle
09- Zomake Bag
Zomake Backpack (held all my snorkel gear) at Blue Cobblestone Beach in St. John USVI
I have used this bag for everything when I travel such as …
→ Groceries (when we book an Airbnb rental)
→ Day hiking
→ Safari bag for game drives
→ Beach bags (holds a towel and sunscreen)
→ Overnight bag
→ Snorkel gear (fits the short Cressi travel fins not the Scubapro fins)
This amazing little backpack has a 20L travel capacity yet can fold up into a nice pocket size (like a sandwich bag) for easy packing in your suitcase.
It is super light and durable and has several pockets including two mesh side pockets for a water bottle.
10- Baby Shampoo
Baby shampoo and travel container
It will happen. At some point, despite your best effort, your snorkel mask is going to fog.
How do you correct it?
Well, you could spit on your mask, rub it on your lens, and then rinse it off.
Kind of gross, although I admit I have done it.
I dilute the baby shampoo with a little water in a silicone travel bottle and squirt it onto my DRY glass lens. I then rinse it just once right before I snorkel and voila!
My mask does not fog. Dish soap also works but may burn your eyes.
11- Sun Shirt
On the rocky outcropping at Mt Eagle in St Croix USVI wearing a Coolibar shirt
When you are snorkeling for hours, sunscreen alone is not going to cut it.
Please wear sun-protective clothing. I have been using sun shirts from a company called Coolibar and love them!
The clothing is comfortable, durable, and not super-compressive. Some sun shirts will feel like a corset, where you can barely breathe.
The Coolibar shirts have a rating of UPF 50+ and have The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
I also like that it has gripper elastic at the bottom of the shirt, which helps to keep the shirt in place.
One distinguishing feature of their shirts is they are made with what they call Aqua Classic Fabric. The material is stretchy, lightweight, dries quickly, and feels smooth on the skin.
12- It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product
I always French braid my hair first before snorkeling
then I spray it’s a 10 miracle leave-in product in my hair
I have been on a search for the ultimate hair product to keep my hair from looking like a huge tumbleweed after snorkeling.
Having the neoprene dive strap cover has helped immensely, but my hair still gets tangled up when I get out of the water.
I have tried several different hair treatments, and I found the best one so far is it’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product.
I usually put my hair in a French braid before I snorkel and spray it down liberally with this product.
It helps to detangle, prevent hair breakage, defrizz, smooth, and nourish my hair.
13- Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
Colorscience Sunforgettable Total Protection Sport Stick SPF 50
Use a reef-safe sunscreen. The ingredients in our personal care products are thought to be a big contributor to reef damage.
I just recently started using the Colorscience Sunforgettable Total Protection Sport Stick SPF 50 and really love it! It is portable and easy to apply with the stick application.
The only downside is it does soften up if it stays out in the heat. When I bring it snorkeling now, I usually put it in my dry bag to prevent that instead of leaving it on the shore.
It offers UVA/UVB protection and is fragrance and paraben-free, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), non-greasy, offers 80 minutes of water resistance, and blends in sheer.
Zinc oxide is the only active ingredient (no chemical sunscreens).
You can apply it to the lips, but Coloscience also offers sunscreen for the lips with a little color (blush, berry, or bronze) called the Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm SPF 50.
Top 6 Snorkeling Gear Tips
#1- Buy your snorkeling gear
Do not rent! The only time I would consider renting your gear is if you truly only snorkel once every several years. Otherwise, trust me, it is worth the investment. Properly fitted snorkeling gear will make a significant impact in your underwater experience.
#2- Do not buy a snorkel set
There are many types of snorkel masks, snorkels, and fins that we discussed earlier. It is not a one-size fits all. Spend a little more to customize your gear to your face and feet to ensure a comfortable snorkeling experience.
#3- Go to your local dive shop
Try on the snorkeling gear at your local dive shop BEFORE you purchase. Alternatively, you can purchase online, but MAKE SURE they have a generous return policy.
#4- Clean and pre-treat your mask
Thoroughly clean and pre-treat your mask every time before you snorkel.
#5- Be honest about your swimming skills
Don’t hesitate to throw on a snorkel vest. Trust me, it will make you so much more comfortable in the water if you are not a confident swimmer. I bring mine every time.
#6- Know how to use your snorkeling equipment
Have an idea how to use your gear before you encounter problems. Water in your snorkel? Do not lift your head out of the water. Take a large breath and exhale forcefully to shoot the water out the top. Mask fogging up? Remember the spit trick or using a little diluted baby shampoo on the mask.
Snorkeling can be an incredibly relaxing and therapeutic experience. The underwater world is captivating and can suck you in for hours without even realizing it.
However, if you do not have the right gear, a magical experience can quickly become miserable. Buy the best snorkeling gear for travel, so you can truly enjoy that next snorkeling adventure!
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Questions about the snorkeling gear we use?
Let me know in the comments below!