Can You Snorkel With Glasses? 7 Great Ways to See Underwater

Even If You Need Glasses to See, You Can Find a Way to Snorkel

There is just so much to see underwater when snorkeling; fish, coral, rays, sea turtles, dolphins — the list goes on and on. But, if you’re like me and not necessarily blessed with perfect vision, being able to both snorkel and see underwater can get a little more complicated than for our friends with 20/20 vision.

So, that begs the question, can you snorkel with glasses? Yes, you can snorkel with glasses by modifying an existing pair of your glasses to fit a snorkel mask, using your glasses prescription to add corrective lens inserts to your mask, or by wearing a snorkel mask with its own corrective lenses built in.

A little creativity might be needed. While it’s possible to snorkel as someone who needs glasses, snorkeling while wearing your glasses like you do on land isn’t recommended since the earpieces will generally break the mask seal and let water in.

But, in addition to the options mentioned above, there are also several other ideas that allow you to see clearly and safely underwater while snorkeling. I’ve tried these methods in the water over the years to find out what works along with the amount of cost and effort involved. So, let’s take a look at how you can see underwater in order from easiest to most involved.

1. Test Your Natural Vision in a Snorkel Mask Underwater

Believe it or not, you may not actually need to wear glasses or other corrective lenses while snorkeling if your vision is only slightly impaired. Water actually magnifies what you see by roughly 25% (think about how printed text on a piece of paper looks bigger if you set a glass of water on top of it and look down through the top of the glass) [source], so if your vision isn’t too far off from normal, you may actually be able to see fine while snorkeling even if you’re missing some vision sharpness on land.

If at all possible, you’ll definitely want to test this for yourself before you get to the beach to check if you’ll be able to see underwater how you want to be able to see, or if you’ll need to instead find something else to try on this list.

If you have a snorkel mask (or even a pair of swim goggles) at home, you can just pop it on and wade into a pool (or even a decently-sized bathtub) and look at an item placed at various distances away from you. You probably won’t be able to get as good of a read on how the water is affecting your vision’s focus as you would in an ocean with boundless distances, but you should be able to gauge whether or not the item is sharper (and sharp enough) than the same distance above water.

Blue Snorkel Mask - Can you snorkel with glasses?
You may only need a regular snorkel mask to see well in water since water already magnifies what you see by about 25%.

You won’t necessarily need to have everything in eagle-eye focus from long distances since visibility underwater is typically less than on land anyway, and most of what you’ll be needing to see on an average recreational snorkel dive is going to be within 50 feet / 15 meters or so.

Or, if you’re already at the beach, see if you can borrow someone’s mask and just wade into some safe shallows and test out how things are looking underwater. If things aren’t looking as good as you would like, a nearby dive shop (but probably not a basic snorkel rental shack on the beach) can probably help you with several of the other options on this list.

2. Wear Contact Lenses While Snorkeling

Yeah, this was probably your obvious first thought because it’s just so dang easy. But, wearing contacts in the water in any scenario is actually strongly not recommended by medical professionals. Some do recognize that it’s not always possible for everyone to avoid contacts, and there are a couple of things that they say to keep in mind if you can’t avoid wearing them in order to keep your eyes safe and make sure that you have a good time.

First, soft contacts rarely cause problems from pressure [source], but you won’t want to wear hard contacts or gas-permeable versions, especially if you plan on diving underwater much. The added pressure of the water above you when you dive down will tend to make hard/gas-permeable contacts pretty uncomfortable and can even cause blurry vision, contacts stuck to your eye, or other problems while diving [source]. Those who have to wear these types of contacts when snorkeling generally stick to the surface to minimize potential issues.

Next, if for any reason you need to take your mask off or you have a leak in your mask, make sure that you close your eyes tight to prevent any water from getting into your eye. We can put this advice in the “duh” category, but it’s important to have it in the back of your mind to avoid something like your contact floating away or into another part of your eye (which is just the worst), or a possible eye infection.

If you do end up getting some water even near your eye, make sure to remove your contacts right away. You should also remove your contacts when you’ve finished in the water even if you didn’t feel any water in your eyes, just to be safe.

After removing your contacts, it’s best to at least soak them in contact solution for 24 hours, if not to just altogether dispose of the pair of contacts you were wearing and move onto the next [source], especially if you wear daily disposables. Ocean water, of course, isn’t going to be perfectly pure, so it’s just a good idea in order to avoid any really nasty eye infections [source]. To that end, it’s a great idea to bring a contact lens case, contact solution, and anti-bacterial eye drops with you so that you can easily switch out to glasses once you’ve finished snorkeling.

Ultimately, though, I think the risks of a really gnarly eye infection or other problems are just too high to justify the convenience of wearing contacts while snorkeling, so I recommend choosing another option on this list. For more on exactly how contacts are affected by snorkeling, check out Can You Snorkel with Contacts? 3 Critical Eye-Saving Answers.

3. Find Snorkel Mask Corrective Lens Inserts

If your vision isn’t corrected by the natural lensing of the water (see option #1 above), specialized inserts do exist for snorkel masks that work to correct your natural vision without to use of glasses or contacts. These are especially helpful if you already have a snorkel mask that you like and which fits you well that you’d like to continue using.

Another strong benefit of these lenses is that you can typically buy one for each eye. So, if your left and right eyes aren’t the same prescription, you can pick up separate inserts to match. These inserts usually just stick right inside your mask and will refract what you see just like your glasses lenses typically would.

The most common version of these inserts come in sort of a bi-focal format, so they’re smaller strips of adhesive lens that you would install lower in your field of vision. This will work great if you’re far-sighted and only really need corrective lensing for nearer items (or for checking your watch, etc.), but not as well if you’re near-sighted and need general lensing for everything beyond arm’s length. Something like DiveOptx or Wenda (here it is on Amazon) works well for farsighted folks, avoids adhesive and ends up being removable and reusable, a definite plus.

To install these lenses, first put on your snorkel mask, then with a white board marker or small square of tape, mark on the outside of your mask where you would typically look when you need magnification. Clean the inside of your mask thoroughly and allow it to dry. Then, just stick the lenses to the inside of your mask where you have marked your ideal vision path and smooth them from the center to the edges to work out any air bubbles. Sight is a wonderful thing!

4. Pick Up a Snorkel Mask with Drop-In Corrective Lenses

If you need a general corrective lens (not something in a bi-focal format), your best bet is likely going to be an optical dive mask with corrective lenses installed directly into the frame. This tends to be the most popular option among corrective masks since it’s a decent balance between expense and effort.

Prices can vary on these widely, but if you’re just a very casual snorkeler who prefers the occasional relaxing float, it’s definitely possible to pick up a mask with the right set of lenses for your eyes for around $60. Something like this would be a relatively no-frills mask, but if you aren’t snorkeling a ton, it could be a great option. If so, the Promate optical mask is basic but makes it super easy on Amazon (you can check out their snorkel mask here) by allowing you to order the mask and select your lenses in one step.

If you do snorkel regularly, or like to do a little diving while you’re out on the water, investing in a more sturdy mask with tempered glass and other nice-to-haves can be more of an investment, often running $75-200 depending on the level of mask you choose. But, over years of use, being able to actually see the details of the underwater world through a mask that you like is well worth it.

Snorkel mask with optical lenses
Snorkel masks with drop-in optical lenses have become the most popular way to add corrective eyewear to your dive since availability has increased, prices have come down, and dive shops have begun stocking them for rentals. Cressi’s Focus masks (pictured above) is our recommended optical mask and easy to pick up on Amazon here as well as the prescription lenses here.

A great introduction into these masks from a good, established snorkel/scuba manufacturer is Cressi’s Focus line. Cressi is well known for solid snorkel and scuba masks, and their new venture into optical masks is a highly welcome one. You can take a look at both a Cressi Focus mask in various colors as well as separate Focus lenses to pop in on Amazon through those links. With tempered glass inserts, easy availability of optical lenses, solid manufacturing in the mask materials and mask straps/buckles, and a very reasonable price, it’s our pick for the best drop-in optical snorkel mask for the typical person.

And, if you prefer a full-face snorkel mask, the advancement of snorkel technology now allows many manufacturers to create corrective full-face masks that are even designed with built in prescription lenses, like the Vista Vue II Prescription Snorkeling Mask from Deep Blue Gear. Incredible.

Regardless of which mask type you end up choosing, you’ll need to know what lens power to order. Dig out your glasses prescription (or call your optometrist’s office if you cant find your prescription, not that I personally have experience with this or anything…) and look for the SPH or SPHERE number for each eye. That number should be something like -1.5 or -4.0, and that’s the value you’ll use when ordering lenses for your corrective snorkel mask. Make sure that you get the correct number for the correct eye, and include the negative sign if there is one!

Drop-in optical masks, fortunately, are also often available to rent. You’ll likely need to head to a bona fide dive shop near your location (give them a call first to ask if they have them available); most tour operators aren’t going to have them on hand. They’ll usually cost a few extra bucks to rent, but it will be well worth it.

5. Send in Your Favorite Mask to Have Bonded Lenses Installed

If you already have a mask that you love, and none of the other options work for you, you do have the option to send in your mask to a company that specializes in creating bonded lenses for snorkel masks.

In this process, your prescription is used to create flat lenses that are then bonded to the inside of your existing snorkel mask. The benefits here are that the direct impact on your mask is minimal while you gain a set-up that allows you to jump right in and see clearly without glasses or contacts. It will add some weight, however, and if the lenses aren’t exactly the same size or shape as your mask, cleaning may be a little bit of a pain around the edges. And, prices usually start around $200.

Lastly, if you have an extremely strong prescription or significant astigmatism, these lenses might not work 100% for you, but one of the next two options can address those conditions.

Chances are that you’ll end up spending less money if you pick up an optical mask with drop-in lenses already installed (see option #4), but if you have a mask that you don’t want to lose and this sounds like an option that might work for you, you can check out UseMyFrame which is commonly recommended by many folks in the industry.

6. Send in Your Favorite Mask to Have Integrated Lenses Installed

This option works very similarly to the last method where you send in your favorite mask, but instead of a manufacturer creating separate lenses that are bonded onto your mask, they instead create an entirely new lens based on your glasses prescription that is inserted directly into your snorkel mask.

The big upsides here are that you end up with a seamlessly-integrated lens in your mask that works directly with your prescription. If your eyes aren’t changing any longer, this is a big win. However, it is typically one of the most expensive options on this list (expect to pay $200-300), and if your eyes change in the future, you would need to have a new lens made all over again.

Similar to last option, chances are that you would save money (maybe even half) by just buying a new optical mask with drop-in lenses (option #4), but again, new integrated lenses may be an option for you if you have a mask that you don’t want to part with. SeaVision is a good place to start looking at lens replacement options.

7. Modify a Pair of Your Old Glasses to Fit in Your Snorkel Mask

Wearing glasses while snorkeling
If you already have a snorkel mask you want to keep, you can add glasses to your mask for just a few bucks.

Lastly, with a bit of ingenuity and a few minutes, you actually can integrate one of your existing pairs of glasses into your snorkel mask. Your steps will differ slightly depending on your mask type and what you have on hand, but it’s a pretty easy task. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. An old pair of glasses. You won’t want to use your current pair because we’ll be making some modifications. It’s probably OK if the prescription is slightly out of date because the lensing effect of water (see option #1 above) will likely make up for the difference. If your prescription is uniform (that is, the same power is needed for the same eye), you can pick up a cheap pair of readers (or “cheaters”, as my father-in-law calls them) from the drug store for this purpose.
  2. A glasses screwdriver
  3. A tube of superglue
  4. Either a whiteboard marker or some tape (painter’s tape works great since it’s easy to see and remove)
  5. A suction cup (optional) if you have a single-lens or full-face snorkel mask

Here’s how to add glasses to your snorkel mask:

  • If you have a single-lens mask (where the mask lens is one piece that stretches across the front of the mask, and not separated into two parts, one for each eye) or a full-face mask (a mask that covers the entire face with one lens)
    1. Put on your mask and note which areas of your mask are most centered to each eye looking out at the world. Use the whiteboard marker (or a small square of tape) to put a dot on the outside of your mask for the center of each eye.
    2. Remove your mask once you have your markings and thoroughly clean the inside of the mask lens, allowing it to dry completely.
    3. Use your glasses screwdriver to unscrew the tiny screws from each side of your frames to remove the earpieces. You should be left with just the front frame and lenses.
    4. Now it’s time to attach the glasses frame to the mask. You have two options here:
      • My favorite way is to use a suction cup so that the glasses can be removed later, which is helpful for cleaning and also if my prescription changes significantly. If you have a suction cup for this purpose, put a dab of the superglue on the bridge of your glasses frame and press it firmly into the back of the suction cup. Once the glue is dry, you can attach the suction cup/glasses hybrid to the inside of your mask, using the dots you made earlier to guide where the frames should rest.
      • If you don’t have a suction cup available, you can place a dab of superglue across the bridge of your glasses frame, then, using the dots you made earlier as a guide, affix the glasses to the inside of your mask, directly on the mask lens. Press firmly, and allow to dry.
    5. Wipe off the whiteboard marker dots (or remove the tape) and clean the outside of the mask thoroughly. You’re good to go!
  • If you have a dual-lens mask (where the mask has two separate defined lens areas, one for each eye)
    1. Put on your mask and note which areas of your mask are most centered to each eye looking out at the world. Use the whiteboard marker (or a small square of tape) to put a dot on the outside of your mask for the center of each eye.
    2. Remove your mask once you have your markings and thoroughly clean the inside of the mask lens, allowing it to dry completely.
    3. Remove the lenses from your spare set of glasses. Sometimes using the glasses screwdriver will allow you to do it, and sometimes you’ll just need to pop them out along the edges. Once the lenses are out, make sure that you keep track of which is right and which is left.
    4. Place a very small dot of superglue on the outside of each lens where it is most convex (that is, where it sticks out the most) and press them into the inside of each lens in your mask, using the dots you made earlier to guide where they should go. Allow the glue to dry.
    5. Wipe off the whiteboard marker dots (or remove the tape) and clean the outside of the mask thoroughly. You’re all set!

Of course, this is a bit of a shoe-string method. But, it’s really inexpensive and can be really useful for those with extra-strong prescriptions or conditions like astigmatism that other optical mask options might not be able to address as easily.

The Deep Dive

Everything in life is just a little bit more challenging for those of us who need some sort of corrective eyewear. But, that definitely doesn’t mean that we have to miss out on really experiencing the magic of the undersea world. By following one of these methods, you’ll be seeing marine life sharply, clearly and safely on your next trip. Vision is a beautiful thing!

Up Next

Curious what else you can do while snorkeling? Check out these helpful guides below:

Alex Axon snorkeling

Alex Axon

Alex was born landlocked, but has been hooked on the ocean ever since first wading in. He's obsessed with snorkeling as a beautiful and easy way to experience the underwater world, and having been able to learn first hand from in-the-water experience across the world what gear, tips and trips work, he shares that knowledge in the hope that it will inspire others to find their own underwater adventure.

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