Woman snorkeling in deep blue water with fish surrounding her.
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BEST SNORKELING GEAR FOR BEGINNERS: Top Picks for a Fantastic Underwater Experience

POST SUMMARY: A comprehensive and straightforward, experienced-based guide on the best snorkeling gear for beginners.

Embarking on your first snorkeling adventure can be an exciting discovery into all that lurks just beneath the surface of the water. If you’re just starting and looking to invest in snorkel gear for beginners, the options can seem endless.

Suddenly, you’re faced with choices like dry snorkels vs. semi-dry snorkels, full face masks vs. two window masks, and open heel fins vs. closed fins. Why so complicated!?

We get it. After we wrote our article on the best snorkeling gear for kids, we started to get emails and DM’s essentially saying, Great, now I know what to do for my kid…but what about me?”

We hear you! In this article, we will break down the best snorkeling gear for beginners, including our picks for the best snorkels, masks, and fins.

We’ll go over how to choose the right snorkeling equipment for your needs and what to look for when purchasing.

Whether you’re planning your first snorkeling trip or looking to upgrade your current gear, this snorkeling guide will help you find the best snorkeling equipment for beginners in a way that’s easy to understand.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you. We only suggest what we think is helpful to you.

GUIDE TO SNORKELING GEAR FOR BEGINNERS

Before we jump into our choices of good snorkel gear for beginners, we will break down the essential equipment for snorkeling. These are the most basic items that you need to snorkel and are the snorkel, mask, and fins. We’ll also cover what you should be looking for so you can be comfortable while you’re in the water.

Later in the article, we’ll go into additional items that are nice to have but not necessarily essential.

SNORKEL

A snorkel is a plastic J-shaped tube you use to breathe under the water. Snorkels come in three choices: a classic wet snorkel, a semi-dry snorkel, and a dry snorkel.  A dry or semi-dry snorkel is typically the best choice for first-timers or beginners. 

  • Wet Snorkel: A wet snorkel is a classic snorkel that’s j shaped and is pretty much a tube from your mouth to the air. For first-timers, a wet snorkel isn’t a great idea since it has none of the bells and whistles of a dry or semi-dry snorkel. Even experienced snorkelers stick to dry or semi-dry snorkels because it’s easier and more convenient. Wet snorkels are mostly for freedivers and spearfishers who dive down to deep levels on one breath and want no drag on their bodies.
  • Dry Snorkel: A dry snorkel keeps water entirely out of the snorkel with a float valve that automatically shuts if it becomes submerged, whether from diving down or a wave rolling over the snorkel. Since water never enters the snorkel, you don’t have to clear water from the snorkel, a necessary skill when using a wet or semi-dry snorkel. The ease of use makes a dry snorkel an easy choice for novice snorkelers who want something simple.

    The drawback to a dry snorkel is that it’s not great for diving into the water since it is far more buoyant than a wet or semi-dry snorkel. By closing the snorkel to water, air collects in the snorkel, causing buoyancy and drag when you try to dive down.

    Overall, a dry snorkel is excellent for a beginner snorkeler who wants to primarily float at the surface, take shallow dives, and not worry about collecting water in the snorkel.
  • Semi-Dry Snorkel: A semi-dry snorkel is a mix of a dry and wet snorkel. A semi-dry snorkel doesn’t keep all the water out like a dry snorkel, but it does keep out most of the water while swimming at the surface.

    The top of the snorkel has a splash guard that will direct water away from entering the tube. Because the snorkel does fill with water when submerged, a semi-dry snorkel is ideal for diving down since the snorkel won’t create a drag when you’re diving down. Water will fill the tube when you dive down, so learning how to clear the snorkel is a must. Clearing a snorkel is not hard (it’s simply blowing hard with your breath), but it is an extra step.

    A semi-dry snorkel is excellent for a snorkeler who wants to dive down a lot in addition to snorkeling at the surface.

MASK

Cressi F One Frameless Scuba Snorkel Mask, Silicone Skirt for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Dive Mask
Cressi Pano 4, Clear/Orange

When looking for a snorkel mask, you can choose from a single-lens mask or a two-window mask. You can see examples of what that looks like above. A single lens typically allows for greater visibility, so people tend to lean toward a single-lens mask. In all honesty, there are great two-window masks that offer panoramic views, so it isn’t something you need to spend a lot of time mulling over.

That being said, I have heard that a single window mask can be uncomfortable for people with larger noses. If you’re in that camp, you might want to go for a double window mask.

There’s also the option of a full face mask. A full-face snorkel mask consists of a dome-like shape that covers your entire face from forehead to chin. The mask has an integrated dry snorkel with a one-way valve that keeps water out while allowing air in.

The mask has some controversy that we cover below in the FAQ section. Be sure to read that section if you’re curious about full-face masks.

FINS

When looking for fins for a beginner, you’re ultimately deciding between short or long fins and open-foot or closed-foot fins. Yes, you can get into the nitty gritty of different fin types, but for the average person looking to casually snorkel, that’s all you need to think about.

Short fins are easier to travel with, so are often the best choice for travelers. Because they are shorter, you will have less thrust meaning you won’t get as much speed and power. But does that matter to you? If you want to relax and save space, short fins are the way to go!

Short fins also help protect the coral since beginners can be kind of clumsy with their fins (no offense!) and inadvertently kick the sea life or other snorkelers. Shorter fins mean you’re less likely to kick the delicate coral.

That being said, we love long fins. We prefer them because we enjoy having more power and speed and going on longer snorkeling sessions. Long fins allow for easier forward momentum with less energy output, meaning you can stay in the water longer.

The choice between open-heel fins vs. closed-heel fins is another either/or situation that doesn’t merit a lot of thought for a beginner. Open-heel fins are good for anyone snorkeling or diving in cold water who needs the addition of insulating layers like foot booties. Typically, a closed-heel fin is fine for the beginner snorkeler who is most likely swimming in warm, tropical waters.

In snorkel sets, you’ll often find they only offer open-heeled fins simply because they want to provide a fin that can fit a range of sizes. An open-heeled fin has a strap that can adjust to different foot sizes. An open heeled fin can be a good choice if you’ll share the fins and need to accommodate different sizing.

We personally prefer closed fins since they feel better on our feet, but again, it’s not something to fret over!

FAQS ABOUT BEGINNER SNORKELING GEAR

Are fins necessary for snorkeling?

No, flippers are not necessary to snorkel. You can absolutely go without them. However, they will allow you to swim faster and for longer. Also, they’re fun!

Fins act as an extension of your foot and create more surface area so that every time you kick your legs while swimming, you get a more powerful thrust, allowing for more speed and power. The assistance that fins give you to swim against waves and currents will make a huge difference in your comfort level and endurance. They also float, so they help with buoyancy and keep your body in a prone position while snorkeling.

We love snorkeling with fins and rarely swim without them. We love that we can swim for longer and that it aids in diving down when we want to look closer at the sea life.

Should I rent snorkel gear or buy my own?

Since we own our own snorkeling equipment, we’re obviously in the camp of buying verses renting. However, if you’ve never snorkeled before and aren’t sure if you’ll ever do it again, then renting could be a good option for you. If you don’t have the space in your luggage, then by all means, rent or use what a tour provider offers.

A good compromise is to buy your own mask and snorkel and rent fins in your snorkeling destination.

With owning your equipment, we like that you have full control over the cleanliness and quality of the snorkel gear. While the tour operator or rental shop may claim to “sanitize,” I’m not taking the word of a nineteen-year-old employee on their summer job.

Yes, buying is more expensive in the beginning, but you’ll eventually get your investment back if you snorkel multiple times and bring them with you on different trips.

Are full face masks safe for snorkeling?

Full-face masks came onto the scene in 2013 and, at first, seemed like an exciting new addition to snorkeling gear. Unfortunately, controversy started to brew when deaths in Hawaii were linked to the full-face masks, and worry over the safety of the masks took hold. The belief at the time was that a build-up of C02 in the masks led to a lack of oxygen. In response to the deaths, the state of Hawaii conducted an in-depth study to figure out the cause of snorkel-related drownings.

In 2020 they released the results of the study and found that CO2 was not the cause of snorkel-related drownings; rather, most deaths were from ROPE, Rapid Onset Pulmonary Edema. The study says, “CO2 buildup is not a physiologically viable explanation of snorkel-related drownings.” 

A second study from DAN and Duke University Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Environmental Physiology tested ten full-face snorkel masks to assess the dangers and concerns of full-face masks. You can see their results in the video here.

The key takeaway is that CO2 build-up is not the issue, but instead, breathing resistance and not getting enough air, which can happen in a regular or full-face snorkel.

The other takeaway is that you should only use full face masks from a REPUTABLE brand that does vigorous testing for proper airflow in the mask. Do not get a cheap brand from Amazon. Just don’t.

Should a beginner use a full face mask for snorkeling?

Rocking out my full-face mask. This is the Seaview V2, but I suggest buying the Seaview V3.

With all that was noted above, I think a healthy level of caution is appropriate when using a full-face snorkel mask. We both own and use full-face masks and think they can be nice in a very specific setting. The key to a good experience in a full face mask is slow, calm swimming in gentle water.

I would not use a full-face snorkel mask for diving, vigorous swimming, or strong water conditions.

Here are the pros to a full face mask:

  • Greater visibility – The large viewing window allows you to see more than a standard mask.
  • Less of a learning curve – There’s not much to figure out when using them. You just put it on and breathe.
  • No sore jaw– When you first start snorkeling, it’s common for beginners to bite down too hard on the snorkel. This often leads to a sore mouth and jaw. With a full face mask, you don’t have a snorkel in your mouth, so you can avoid that issue.
  • No foggy mask – Standard masks tend to get foggy (there are solutions to that problem, but they aren’t absolute!), whereas a full-face mask doesn’t fog up.
  • Perfect for leisurely snorkeling in calm, wave-free water.

Here are the cons to a full face mask:

  • Not for diving down – The masks are not for anyone who wants to dive down to get a closer look. With no access to your nose, you can’t equalize the pressure in your ears, making it unsafe for diving.
  • Not for vigorous swimming – The full face mask is at its best when you’re calmly swimming at the surface of the water. If you have to exert yourself because you want to swim fast or because the water has a strong current, you may start to feel like you can’t get enough air.
  • Large size – Full-face snorkel masks are larger and bulkier than standard ones, so they aren’t always the best choice when traveling and you’re limited on space.
  • No talking while wearing the mask – If you’re snorkeling with someone (which you should be!) and enjoy coming up to the surface and talking, it’s not that easy since your mouth is covered. To talk, you’ll have to take the mask off, which can be uncomfortable and difficult to do while treading water.

We really wanted to love full-face masks. They seem amazing! But in truth, we prefer a standard snorkel mask because we are more physical swimmers and tend to snorkel in the open ocean where currents and waves demand more physical exertion.

However, I still bring my full face mask with me and like it for easy snorkeling where it’s calm, and I’m just chilling in the water.

How do I take care of my snorkeling gear?

After using your snorkel equipment, you’ll want to wash your snorkel, fins, and mask in gentle soapy water, making sure to get rid of sand and salt, both of which can degrade the quality of your equipment. Air dry the gear in a shaded spot, and be sure to store it completely dry so it doesn’t get that yucky mildew smell.

How should a snorkel fit?

A properly fitting mask is essential to a comfortable experience in the water. Not everybody has the option to go to a store and try on different masks, so if you’re in that boat, we suggest taking advantage of online stores like Amazon that have a flexible return policy. That way, you can try on the mask at home and return it if it’s not the right fit.

A well-fitting snorkel mask will create a waterproof seal on your face without being too tight. It should not feel uncomfortable!

The easiest way to see if a mask will have a watertight seal is to move all your hair out of the way and put the mask over your face without using the straps. Take a deep breath in and see if the mask sticks to your face without using your hands. If it does, you’ve found your mask!

If you have facial hair, stubble can sometimes create enough of a gap that you won’t get a watertight seal. A clean-shaven face is ideal for snorkeling!

THE BEST SNORKELING GEAR FOR BEGINNERS


Best Snorkel Set For Beginners

Cressi Palau SAF Set, blue, XS/S

Above, I broke down the essential snorkeling gear into each piece, but if you don’t own any equipment, it’s more practical (and cheaper!) to buy your snorkel gear as a complete set that includes a mask, fins, and snorkel.

We are big fans of Cressi, a highly regarded Italian brand that has been making snorkel and SCUBA gear since 1946. Cressi was my first brand of snorkel equipment I bought in 2003, and I still have it!

That’s why our top pick for the best beginner snorkel set is the Cressi Palau Short Snorkel Set. This complete set comes with the Supernova dry snorkel, Palau short adjustable fins, and the single-lens tempered glass Onda mask. It also comes with a travel bag so you can transport and store the gear.

For anyone who just wants a straightforward snorkel set that’s easy to travel with, then the Cressi Palau is hands down the way to go. The fins are short and can easily fit in carry-on luggage.

If you like the set but want long fins, you can also opt for the Cressi Palau Long Snorkel Set.

The Cressi Palau Set is a great starter set that won’t set you back an exorbitant amount. If you are looking to splurge on something nicer and more sleek, then check out the Aqualung Vita Snorkeling Set.

If you want to be able to dive down with more ease, then we suggest buying the US Divers Set, which comes with a semi-dry snorkel. In the guide at the start of the article, we talked about how dry snorkels can cause a lot of drag when trying to dive below the surface.


Best Snorkel Masks For Beginners

Cressi Scuba Diving Snorkeling Kit - Freediving Mask Dry Snorkel - F1 mini & Supernova Dry

If you don’t need flippers because you don’t want them or don’t have the room, you can purchase a mask and snorkel set on its own. We love the Cressi Snorkel Set for its wide single-tempered glass lens that allows for maximum visibility. Like the Palau Snorkel Set above, it comes with the Supernova Dry Snorkel, allowing you to swim without worrying about water getting into your mouth.

TIP: You might be inclined to choose the color of your mask based on personal preference. If taking photos is important to you, you might want to opt for a clear mask since it looks much better in underwater photography.


Wildhorn Seaview 180° V3 Full Face Snorkel Mask

Seaview 180 V3 Full Face Snorkel Mask Adult- The V3 is The Perfect Snorkeling Gear for Adults and Kids- Patented Flowtech Side Snorkel Design- Up to 600% Easier Breathing. Snorkeling Gear for Kids

Our pick for the best full-face snorkel mask is the Seaview 180 V3. It’s the one we personally use and has been modified to address all the concerns around breathing restriction while snorkeling with a full face mask. If you skipped the section on full face masks in my FAQs, we strongly recommend scrolling up and reading that for context.

The V3 is a marked improvement over their earlier model, the V2. The snorkel has been redesigned with larger breathing ports and a shorter air travel path. That all translates to less breathing resistance and more comfort.

Also, the Go Pro mount is on the left side of your rather than the top allowing for much better footage. We had a face mask where the mount was on the top, and the camera doesn’t capture what you see because the top of your head is often tilted slightly up.

GOOD TO KNOW: While the Hawaiian Study debunked the theory that CO2 buildup could be the cause of snorkel-related drownings, it’s hard to change those initial fears in the public. Because of this, every full face mask will say on their product page, “tested for CO2” and whatnot. Remember that breathing restriction is what you’re looking out for when choosing a full face mask (and a regular mask!). You want to be able to breathe fully and easily.


Best Snorkel Fins For Beginners

Cressi Clio, Black, 35/36

When choosing snorkel fins for a beginner, it’s safe to assume you want something that’s easy to travel with and straightforward. The Cressi Clio is an affordable option that is durable, simple, and will easily assist your body while snorkeling. At just under 19 inches long, it can fit in carry-on luggage making it ideal for faraway snorkeling destinations. We love that they’re soft and don’t cause blisters on our feet.

If you want something even shorter to save more space, the Cressi Palau Short Flippers are 16.5 inches and can be bought independently from the Cressi Palau Set.


Wet Suit

Seavenger Explorer 3mm Neoprene Shorty Wetsuit (Orchid, Women's 5)

A wet suit is a good investment if you’ll be snorkeling a lot and want something that offers protection from cold water, the sun, and stinging sea creatures. They also offer extra buoyancy! The average snorkeler checking out the fish on their Hawaii vacation probably doesn’t need to buy a wetsuit. But if you want to up your snorkeling equipment, then you’ll want to pick a wet suit for the appropriate activity and ocean temperature.

The Seavenger Navigator is a 3mm shorty wetsuit that’s ideal for water that’s 65 degrees and up. A great wetsuit that can be used for snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing.


Snorkeling Vest

Rrtizan Snorkel Vest, Adults Portable Inflatable Swim Vest Jackets for Snorkeling Swimming Diving Safety(Green)

If you don’t feel confident in the water or just want the extra support of a life jacket, a snorkel vest is an excellent idea. While a snorkel vest isn’t deemed “a life-saving device,” it does offer you extra buoyancy allowing you to relax and swim for longer.

I never used to snorkel with a vest, and then I tried it, and now I wonder why I haven’t been doing it the entire time! The best snorkel vests for travelers are ones that blow up, allowing you to travel more easily with it as well as choose the level of buoyancy you want.

We also like that the vest can be inflated and deflated while wearing it, so if you want to dive down, you can deflate the vest while in the water.

We strongly recommend a snorkel vest for anyone who will be snorkeling in open water and for anyone who isn’t a confident swimmer.


Reef Safe Sunblock

Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen, SPF 40 Sport Mineral Sunscreen, 98% Organic Sunscreen Ingredients, Broad Spectrum, Water Resistant, Zinc Oxide Sunscreen, Unscented, 2.9 fl oz

Whenever you’re snorkeling, whether in the ocean or freshwater, you’ll want to buy “reef-safe” sunscreen to minimize the harm to sea life. While definite proof doesn’t exist on whether sunscreen is doing harm, we think it’s better to be safe and use a mineral-based sunscreen rather than a chemical sunscreen.

We use Badger Mineral SPF 40 Sunscreen and Blue Lizard Sensitive Skin Sunscreen. Because they are both mineral-based, they will leave a slight white cast on your skin. We find that it sinks in after a few minutes.


Sun Protection Clothing

Vapor Apparel Men's Outdoor UPF 50+ Long Sleeve T-Shirt, UV Sun Protection for Fishing, Running, Hiking, Swimming

An even better choice for sun protection is to wear clothing with UPF50+ protection. Sunscreen is a necessary precaution, but we prefer to wear as much SPF clothing rather than slick on greasy sunblock that you have to reapply every couple of hours.

We love quick dry shirts that can be used for swimming, hiking, fishing, or just as an everyday T-shirt that offers fantastic sun protection.

Some people swim in tight rash guards, but we prefer lightweight slightly loose swim shirts that can be used for multiple things.

For men and women, the quick dry shirts from Vapor Apparel are excellent. We also like that they have hoodies so we can protect our heads from the sun while swimming. We’ve been using their shirts for years and love the range of colors and styles.

For men, check out the Vapor Apparel Swim Shirt and Swim Hoodie.

For women, check out the Vapor Apparel Swim Shirt and Swim Hoodie. In addition, I also like this UPF 50+ Hoodie from Crz Yoga because it’s longer and has hooks for your thumbs.


Hair Ties

HOYOLS Soft Thick Seamless Cotton Hair Ties, Ponytail Scrunchies Head bands No Damage Crease for Women Girls Kids Ponytail Holder 100 Pieces (Brunette Brown Set)

If you have long hair, you’ll want to tie your hair back to ensure the seal of your mask is secure. Big clumps of hair between the seals and your face can let water into the mask and be a real nuisance. Make sure to bring some no-snag hair ties so you can be comfortable in your mask.


Hair Strap

Innovative Scuba Concepts Strap Wrapper Picture Strap

A strap cover will save you if you have long hair! My hair always gets snagged in the straps, and it’s annoying, to say the least. Get yourself a protective hair strap and it will make your life easier. There are all kinds of fun patterns, so you can find the one that suits your personality. Or you can get a very nondescript but nevertheless useful Cressi Strap Cover.


Go Pro

GoPro HERO11 Black - Waterproof Action Camera with 5.3K60 Ultra HD Video, 27MP Photos, 1/1.9' Image Sensor, Live Streaming, Webcam, Stabilization

The underwater world is staggering in its beauty. If you love taking photos or capturing video, you’ll definitely want to bring a Go Pro, the gold standard for action photography and video. Designed to go underwater along with a slew of impressive features, the Go Pro will capture the best footage underwater.

You can price compare Go Pro on REI and Amazon.


Red Filter For Go Pro

PolarPro Red Filter 3-Pack for GoPro Hero12 Protective Housing - Fits Hero9/10/11/12 Cameras in Protective Housing

If you’ve ever taken photos or videos underwater, you’ll notice that everything is too blue or green and doesn’t quite capture what you experienced in real life.

The reason is that water filters out the color red, making everything a washed-out blue or green. When you put a red filter on your camera, you reintroduce the color red allowing the camera to have a more accurate white balance.

Technically, you could edit your photos and videos with programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, but if you’re an everyday person, buying a filter is easier and cheaper since both of those are subscription-based platforms. Also, editing takes time (and expertise), whereas a filter does the work for you.

The Polar Pro has three filters (red, magenta, and snorkel) that attach to a Go Pro 9, 10, and 11. Red is for blue water from 15 to 75 feet, magenta is for green water from 15 to 75 feet, and snorkel is for shallow water from 2 to 15 feet. The difference a filter makes to your photos is astounding.


Waterproof Phone Case

(2nd Gen) Universal Phone Waterproof Case for Most of Samsung Galaxy and iPhone Series, 50ft Underwater Photography Waterproof Housing, Diving Case for Snorkeling Photo Video (Navy Blue + Teal)

Another option for taking underwater photos and videos is to get a strong, waterproof case designed for capturing photos on your phone. Don’t get cheap plastic holders. Why take a chance on your phone?

We recommend this waterproof phone holder that can be used on most phones. Be sure to read the info section to make sure your make and model can fit the holder!


Waterproof Bag

Pelican Marine - IP68 Waterproof Phone Pouch [XL Size] Floating Waterproof Phone Case/Bag for iPhone 15 Pro Max/14 Pro Max/13/12/S24 Ultra/S23/S22/Pixel 8 - Detachable Lanyard - Black / Hi-Vis Yellow

If you’re not trying to capture video and just want something to hold your credit cards, phone, or cash, then you’ll want to get a waterproof case that you wear around your neck. We use the Pelican Marine case because it’s a high-quality product that we know won’t leak and damage our phone. It’s a little pricier but for us, worth the extra money.

If you don’t plan to swim with your phone, you can always opt for a more affordable version like the Joto Universal Waterproof Pouch. Technically, you can put your phone in this case and swim with it. We’re just paranoid and very cautious with our phones!

Conclusion: Snorkeling Gear For Beginners

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the best snorkeling gear for beginners, it’s time to dream up all the tropical places you need to visit with your fancy new gear.

Happy travels! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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