Snorkeling 101: A guide for first-timers

by Eileen Strauss on March 17, 2022

Snorkeling for beginners

Snorkeling is a fun, easy-to-learn, and relatively inexpensive water sport that doesn’t require expert skills or fancy gear, but there are a few tips to consider before jumping in for the first time.  We’ve put together this guide for novice snorkelers to make the experience safe, memorable, and lots of fun!  

Snorkeling for first-timers

Learn how to swim first 

Though you don’t necessarily need to be an Olympic swimmer to snorkel, you should be able to stay afloat before diving into a bay or ocean depths. Consider signing up for swimming lessons at a local YMCA or dive center in your town prior to embarking on your vacation.

Snorkeling gear

Choose quality gear that fits

A common beginners’ mistake is choosing the wrong equipment. The fit and quality of your snorkeling gear can determine how your first experience will be, so make sure to spend time researching what equipment to use.

Snorkeling gear is usually always available to rent on-site, but having your own snorkeling kit will assure the best fit and condition. The basics include just a pair of snorkeling goggles, a pair of flippers, and a snorkel tube, so making a small investment could bring beginners large benefits. 

Practice snorkeling in a pool before first time

Practice in a pool

If you’ve never snorkeled before, practicing in a pool is a good way to learn how to swim and breathe. Once you’re acclimated, practice in a shallow, current-free bay or in a designated swimming area. The most important thing is to learn how to float on the surface without too much effort. You should swim slowly and breathe easily.  


Choose a safe place with abundant marine life

There are many excellent destinations all over the world, including the Caribbean, Florida, Hawaii, and Mexico, each one with its own geographical features and assortment of marine life.  Choose a safe area where the water is calm, moderately shallow, and with little boat traffic. Ideally, choose a location where there is a lifeguard on duty. 

After you’ve become more experienced, you can venture out to coral reefs in deeper waters where the most abundant marine life can be found.  Most novice snorkelers are advised to go with a group on a tour where there are more experienced swimmers and staff to help you get started. If you go on a tour, stay close to the boat, as currents can take you out to sea quickly.



Take safety precautions

No matter how experienced you are, the ocean conditions can change in an instant, therefore taking safety precautions is recommended for everyone entering the water, but a must for first-timers.

One of our most important tips for all snorkelers is to use an inflatable life vest or other floatation devices, even if you feel confident floating in open water. To be visible to passing boats, carrying a surface marker buoy and wearing brightly colored rash guards or wet suits is also highly recommended.


Never snorkel alone

Utilize the buddy system where both parties are responsible for each other’s safety.  Because you just never know when you’ll get a sudden leg cramp, feel sick, or get cut on coral, it’s always better to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach when snorkeling. Besides, what fun is it if you can’t share the experience?  


Pay attention to weather and water conditions

Determining where and when to go snorkeling is important for even the more experienced swimmer, but for beginners,  especially, it’s critical to check the water and weather conditions before heading out to sea.  

Avoiding stormy weather may seem obvious, but less visible factors like strong currents and high winds are just as important.  Most snorkeling tours will not allow swimmers to go out in dangerous conditions,  but in places like Cozumel, where there are a lot of public access beaches in which you can snorkel on your own, it’s safest to be aware of the conditions before heading out, even if you’re staying close to the shore. 


CaliCase waterproof phone case for great snorkeling photos

Bring a waterproof camera or phone case

No one wants to bear witness to the great and colorful creatures of the deep without having their camera to save the memory. No longer do you need to spend a fortune on expensive underwater cameras. Instead, choose a quality waterproof phone case with a secure lanyard that protects your phone so you can capture the fun without the fear of ruining or losing your phone.

Reef etiquette

Practice Reef Etiquette

  • Do not touch the corals
  • Do not stand on the reef
  • Don’t chase sea creatures
  • Do not feed the fish or other marine animals
  • Save the Oceans: Don't Pollute
  • Wear a rash guard instead of sunscreen to prevent polluting the seas 
  • Don’t take souvenirs