Sharing incredible experiences with your kids is one of the best parts of parenthood. And, experiencing the magic of snorkeling with the little ones is definitely no exception.
As with pretty much any activity, finding the best snorkel gear for kids is a little different than for adults, though.
Kids aren’t yet usually as adept in the water as adults and won’t be as quick to deal with any equipment issues, so the best snorkel gear for kids is going to need to rank highly in safety so that they can just focus on having fun and not have to worry about major equipment leaks or anything else.
The best snorkel gear for kids should also be comfortable. Kids tend to be extra sensitive to discomfort, and it’s especially tough to invite them to enjoy snorkeling if they just don’t feel right.
And, kids outgrow stuff. Sometimes quickly. That’s why I see the best snorkel gear for kids as also being affordable. Otherwise, reloading on new equipment for your kids every handful of years can get a bit tiresome.
So, give us kids snorkel gear that’s safe, comfortable and affordable, and both parent and child will be happy in the water. This extends beyond basic masks and snorkels, too. Equipment like fins, snorkel sets, flotation devices and sun protection are also hugely important in making sure that your kids have a blast in the water while staying safe and healthy.
In general, most kids around 13-years-old and up should be fine to fit into adult snorkel gear, but kids in the preschool/kindergarten and elementary school age brackets tend to need their own sizes of snorkel gear.
Let’s take a look at the best snorkel gear for kids (masks, snorkels and everything else) that in my experience rank highly under our requirements of being safe, comfortable and affordable.
The Cressi Piumetta mask (on Amazon) is awesome for young ones because while many snorkel masks for kids are just minified versions of adult masks, Cressi actually took the time to reconfigure all of the different parts of the mask (lens, nose protection, etc.) for kids’ faces. That means a couple of things.
First, everything being kid-oriented helps the mask shape to their faces much better, which creates a stronger seal. And the stronger the seal, the less chance of water getting into the mask and the less you have to worry about your son or daughter having to fumble around with leaking equipment.
And second, the Piumetta helps kids to see their surroundings much better. Since kids’ eyes are positioned a little uniquely relative to adults, regular snorkel masks almost always leave kids halfway staring into the nose piece or the frame around the mask. But, with the kid-oriented design, their eyes actually end up looking out the center of the lens so they can see much more around them.
This kids snorkel mask also uses super soft silicone (comfortable) for the parts of the mask that come into contact with your child’s face and head, and the lens is made of lightweight polycarbonate that Cressi says is unbreakable (which is huge because we all know every kid is going to drop their mask, like, all the time).
The Cressi Piumetta (Amazon) typically works best for kids ages 2-7. If you have a child in the next age group up, take a look at the Cressi Ondina (on Amazon) which provides the same benefits but is oriented for a slightly larger face. Both are of course made by Cressi, which is a respected and established snorkel gear manufacturer, so both masks are also almost certainly going to last for as long as they can fit your kid’s face. And, at around $20-25, they are fortunately very easy on the wallet.
In my opinion, the biggest piece of safety equipment for snorkeling with your kids is the type of snorkel that you choose for them.
Traditionally, snorkels were just an open tube that connected the air above you to your mouth. Now, however, “dry snorkels” are quickly becoming one of the most popular improvements on the traditional snorkel.
Dry snorkels work similarly to traditional snorkels in that they connect your mouth to the air above the water, but they also have a one-way float valve built into the top of the snorkel tube which allows you to breathe air in and out, but then closes up when it comes in contact with too much water, keeping that water out. This is huge improvement in snorkel safety for kids (and adults, honestly), especially if they’re just getting going with swimming and snorkeling.
These dry snorkels aren’t perfect and it’s common to still get some dribbles of water here and there, so of course always teach your kids how to handle snorkel water. But, they make a huge difference over traditional snorkels.
So, I always recommend dry snorkels for kids, and even most adults. They’re just too awesome to not.
The Piumetta mask (for kids roughly 2-7) from above pairs nicely with Cressi’s Mini Dry Snorkel (on Amazon). It’s a smaller child-sized dry snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece that gives your kid the benefits of a dry snorkel without making things any more complicated than they need to be.
For the slightly older kids using the Ondina mask from above, Cressi’s Youth Dry-Top Snorkel (on Amazon) is the way to go. It gives us the same benefits as the Mini, but is slightly bigger to fit a bigger child.
I really like the Cressi Kids Fins (on Amazon). Like most of Cressi’s best snorkel gear for kids, it’s actually designed for the little guys and gals who use them.
When we’re talking about tiny snorkelers, they don’t necessarily need a lot of the high-performance and high-impact materials that some of the adult fins are made out of. Though some of these fin materials and formats are really effective at maximizing your thrust in the water, they can be more complicated and awkward to put on, especially for children.
Instead, Cressi keeps these fins lightweight and simple, which is just fine for kids. All they really need at this stage is a little bit of extra surface area to add to their confidence as they’re learning how to motor through safe water.
Cressi also built in a couple of strategically-placed gaps in the fin itself to allow for a little less resistance while in use. This is a good call, in my opinion, because little ones can for sure quickly get tired if too much is required of their legs while swimming.
Lastly, these Cressi Kids Fins (Amazon) use an adjustable strap (instead of a formed rubber foot pocket) to secure the foot in each fin, giving you a lot of size adjustment which allows you to not have to buy a new set every few months while your kid’s feet grow like crazy.
If your child needs a little more padding when using these fins (the Cressi Kids Fins are pretty comfortable as far as fins go, but little feet can be sensitive), it’s a good idea to pick up a pair of Fun Toes Neoprene Snorkel Socks (on Amazon). They’ll protect against anything being too tight, possible blisters, etc., and also work well on the beach to guard against hot sand or wading in the water to minimize problems if accidentally stepping on old coral or pointy rocks.
One excellent way to save a few bucks if you know that you need a mask, snorkel and fins for your son or daughter is to pick up a snorkel set meant for kids which includes all three.
I’ve been big on Cressi gear so far since they aren’t overly-fancy but are very established and reliable in terms of quality (perfect for kids since they don’t yet need the super high-end stuff), and are also one of the few established snorkel gear manufacturers that takes the time to create things for kids.
Another very similar manufacturer in this space for the best snorkel gear for kids is Mares, and I like their snorkel gear set for kids, the Mares Sea Pals Snorkel Set (on Amazon), a little bit better than other options.
It’s just more fun. The mask, snorkel and fins that you see in this set are going to be very similar in terms of quality, comfort and affordability to Cressi’s offerings that I detailed above (Cressi and Mares are competitors at this level of snorkel gear, so it makes sense), but in the Sea Pals set, everything comes in bright colors that kids love along with a much more fun “sea pal” carrying bag of different marine life characters that I’ve found also really stokes kids’ interests. The set also has a small and large size, roughly coordinating to Cressi’s youth and junior sizes.
If you prefer Cressi gear, their snorkel sets for kids are also excellent (just a little less colorful) and the Cressi “The Rocks” Junior Snorkeling Set (Amazon) in size S/M for kids 4-8 or L/XL for kids 7-15 are both great options.
Ultimately, parents often give high marks to both Cressi and Mares as the best snorkel gear for kids, so either set will likely be a good bet for you.
(Also, kids snorkel sets and what to know, which are best, etc. are some of the most popular questions among Coral Nomad visitors, so we’ve written a complete guide with more details on the best kids snorkel sets.)
If your kids aren’t yet expert swimmers, that doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on snorkeling with you. Instead, you can just help them with a little bit of flotation.
You’ll of course always want to keep a close eye on your kids while they’re in the water with you no matter what, but something like a life vest, snorkel vest, or even a pool noodle can make snorkeling much safer, much easier and much more fun for kids.
And, in fact, it’s not a bad idea to always have some sort of flotation for your children every time they’re in the water anyway (even if they are relatively strong swimmers) since conditions can sometimes change unexpectedly.
The Best Snorkel Life Vest for Kids
The most flotation help you’ll find is going to be in a full-on life vest like the O’Neill Child Superlite Life Vest (Amazon) for smaller kids (30-50 pounds or 13-22 kg), or the O’Neill Youth Superlite Life Vest (Amazon) for bigger kids (50-90 pounds or 22-40 kg).
These life vests are approved by the US Coast Guard for kids and should allow them to bob around in the water with little effort.
The Best Snorkel Vest for Kids
Next, if your little one is a decent swimmer already but you would like them to have a little bit of extra help, a snorkel vest may work well. Snorkel vests are kind of like lighter-duty life vests, providing some extra buoyancy but not necessarily doing everything for your child. Since they’re lighter, they provide more flexibility and movement in the water, and they often are able to deflate which means that they pack in a suitcase super easily.
Among snorkel vests, the Scuba Choice Kid’s Snorkel Vest (Amazon) and the Scuba Choice Youth Snorkel Vest (Amazon) tend to get the best feedback from parents. It does quickly inflate and deflate for easy packing, and also includes both waist and leg straps to be able to fit just about any size kid (officially, 5- to 14-year-olds).
The Best Snorkel Noodles for Kids
Lastly, if your child needs almost no help swimming in the ocean, but you’d still like them to have a little something, a good old-fashioned pool noodle can actually do the trick. Just have them tuck a couple under their armpits and around their front while swimming and it will add just a little extra ease to help them keep upright and afloat. The Fix Find Pool Noodles (Amazon) are inexpensive and do just what they should do.
One super important thing that parents do tend to be all over taking care of — but maybe aren’t sure how it differs for snorkeling — is sun protection for their kids. To keep your child’s skin the safest while snorkeling, I think there are two key items to have on hand: a rashguard and reef-safe sunscreen.
The Best Snorkeling Rashguards for Kids
First, while we do need to have the right sunscreen for snorkeling on hand (which we’ll cover next), I think it’s really important to cover as much of our kids’ skin as possible before even applying sunscreen. Their skin is super sensitive to UV rays, and they don’t always realize when they’ve been out in the sun too long on land, let alone in the water.
That’s why I’m a big fan of snorkeling rashguards for kids. Rashguards are a kind of tight-fitting, water-resistant shirt that your kids can wear in the water (or anywhere on the beach, really). Since we spend a lot of time with our necks, shoulders and backs pointed directly up toward the sun while snorkeling, these go a long way toward protecting against skin damage from UV rays.
I’m also big on long-sleeved rashguards since they provide even more sun protection along with a little more insulation for kids if the water is a touch chilly. And, I really like Kanu Surf’s kids long-sleeved rashguards.
They come in a zillion colors, a bunch of sizes, they clean easily (just throw it in the wash), and have a 50+ SPF rating. They make a huge difference for kids, and the excellent Kanu Surf Boys’ Platinum Rashguard can be found on Amazon here, or the also-excellent Girls’ Keri version is here.
The Best Snorkeling Sunscreen for Kids
Next up: sunscreen.
Finding the right kids’ sunscreen for snorkeling in particular can tricky. Ingredients in many traditional sunscreens are damaging coral reefs and marine life and should be avoided anywhere even remotely near the ocean, so we only want to pick sunscreens that are designated reef-safe and biodegradable. (Hawaii, among other places, has even outright banned traditional sunscreens.)
Also, many kids aren’t yet old enough to do well with spray sunscreens (that is, being able to close their mouth and eyes and hold their breath for several seconds), and it can be tough to find rub-on biodegradable and reef-safe sunscreens for kids.
If your child is a little older and can hold still with closed mouth/eyes/breath and also not rub it into their eyes, the Alba Botanica’s Sensitive SPF50 sunscreen (on Amazon) is the best spray snorkeling sunscreen I’ve found. It’s water-resistant to 60 minutes, has a SPF 50 rating (which pairs nicely with the rashguards above), uses much cleaner ingredients than normal sunscreens which are gentle on delicate skin, and it’s fantastically reef-safe and biodegradable. Plus, it’s way easier to apply and doesn’t leave your hands (and kid) all goopy.
If you need a rub-on sunscreen for younger kids, or just for preference, I’m all for Goddess Garden’s Kids SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen (on Amazon). It’s actually water resistant for even longer than the spray sunscreen (80 minutes), has the same SPF 50 rating, also uses cleaner ingredients safe for sensitive skin along the essential oil/shea butter/coconut oil lines, and is very much reef safe.
The Deep Dive
Sharing beautiful experiences with your children is one of the best parts of parenthood. And, as amazing as snorkeling is to me every time I’m in the water, seeing the newness of fantastic coral, colorful fish or curious sea turtles again through a child’s eyes is downright incredible.
Kids have special needs as far as snorkel gear goes, though. They’re much smaller, for one, but snorkel gear that’s just smaller doesn’t make it the best snorkel gear for kids by default. We want snorkel gear that has actually been designed purposefully for kids to make sure that they have the best time out on the water with us.
The best snorkel gear for kids should also be safe and comfortable for our kids, as well as affordable for the parents. This guide should get you well on your way to finding the best snorkel gear for your kids and being able to share the underwater world with them.
I hope you make some incredible memories together!
Planning a snorkel trip with your kids? Make sure that you’re up to date on your own travel snorkel gear as well with Best Snorkel Gear for Travel: 7 Top Masks, Cameras & More.
It’s also so much freakin’ fun to be able to capture the memories that you make underwater with your kids through photo and video, so try The Best Underwater Action Cameras for Snorkeling: GoPro & More if you don’t already have an underwater camera.
Or, if you need general snorkel gear for yourself, follow our adult snorkel recommended-gear guide for all skill levels at What Snorkel Gear Should I Buy? The Full Guide to Getting Started Affordably.