Snorkeling for Beginners: 7 Easy Step-by-Step Snorkeling Tips

Learn how to snorkel with our complete guide on snorkeling for beginners with detailed snorkeling tips to get you in the water with confidence

I was once new to snorkeling, too.

Everyone was at some point. But, I was fortunate to find myself with an unexpected opportunity to learn snorkeling for beginners while traveling years ago and I haven’t looked back.

Since then, I’ve snorkeled hundreds of times all around the world, explored expansive coral gardens, shared the water with all sorts of majestic marine life in every depth and temperature of water, all while testing scores of snorkel gear and learning what I need to do to have a great time in the water.

And maybe the biggest things which I’ve learned along the way that are especially important for those wanting to learn how to snorkel for beginners are that snorkeling is a lot more accessible (more affordable, quicker to learn, etc.) than a lot of beginners might think, and once you do get rolling with snorkeling, exploring the undersea world really can change your life.

So, I’d like to share the tips for snorkeling for beginners which I’ve learned over time as an expert snorkeler to get you on your way.

This article is meant to serve as an excellent overview of the basics you’ll need to start snorkeling as a beginner, and after reading it, you’ll have a great idea of what you’ll need to do to get in the water safely and confidently.

But, there isn’t room for absolutely every detail that might be helpful to know. Instead of making a silly-long article, I’ll provide a useful summary of each one of our snorkeling tips and then link to our more in-depth writeup on that topic (e.g., choosing a snorkel mask, how to clean your snorkel equipment, etc.) which you can use to become a more knowledgeable snorkeler.

If you don’t have time to read every article now, I would recommend bookmarking this page and coming back when you have time for one or two more. If you spend a few minutes with each article listed in our tips for snorkeling for beginners below, you’ll be an expert in no time!

Let’s start with one of the most-asked questions about snorkeling for beginners and then move on to the concrete how-to tips for snorkeling.

Is Snorkeling Hard for Beginners?

Is snorkeling hard for beginners? A woman snorkeling in a coral reef

It’s easy for snorkeling to look complicated, especially if you don’t yet have much experience in the ocean.

But, fortunately, it’s really not, especially when you compare snorkeling vs. scuba diving (the other most popular way to explore the undersea world).

First, the equipment needed for snorkeling is far, far simpler and far, far cheaper than that needed for scuba diving. Really all you need at the core level is a snorkel mask and the snorkel itself (though there are some other things that are nice to have, like fins). You just need to know what to look for, which I’ll walk you through below.

Then, once you have the right equipment, the actual act of snorkeling is relatively easy to get the hang of, especially if you can already swim.

If you aren’t a strong swimmer or can’t swim at all, that’s not even necessarily a deal-breaker for snorkeling (which is pretty amazing). In addition to it being a lot easier to stay afloat in the ocean than in something like a swimming pool since salt water makes you more buoyant, there are a lot of things you can do (like snorkeling with a life jacket) that will help you learn snorkeling while you improve your swimming ability. We’ll get into those as well.

Overall, if done right, snorkeling is a popular hobby that can be “generally considered a safe activity” [source] for those in good health and ability (and it even has a lot of health benefits) and one that will provide you a ton of lifelong memories that you just can’t make doing almost anything else. Sign me up!

Now let’s get into the actual how-to tips for snorkeling for beginners.

Snorkeling for Beginners: Step-by-Step Tips for Snorkeling

1. Snorkeling Tip #1: Find the Best Snorkel Gear for Beginners

Snorkel gear for beginners showing a snorkel mask, snorkel, fins and a life jacket

Let’s start with something that we need to do before heading to the water: finding the right snorkel gear for snorkeling for beginners.

Rent or Buy

The first decision which you’ll need to make is whether you want to buy your own gear, or just rent it.

Renting gear is certainly the easier and cheaper option (you can learn about what renting snorkel gear should cost) — often free if included in a snorkel tour you’re taking — but it’s not necessarily the best option.

For starters, rental snorkel gear is usually pretty basic in terms of quality. That isn’t guaranteed to be a terrible thing if you’re keeping your snorkeling simple, though it does usually mean your gear is a little more limited in what it can do (perhaps how much you can see out of your snorkel mask, how effectively the snorkel keeps water away from your mouth, etc.)

But, more basic snorkel gear can also make an impact in terms of safety, especially when it comes to the snorkel itself.

For the most part, there are two types of snorkels: traditional snorkels (which are the classic open tubes that connect your mouth to the air above the waterline) and dry snorkels (which are a newer type of snorkel that have a one-way valve on the top of a traditional snorkel tube which keeps water from flowing in while still allowing you to breathe normally).

Good dry snorkels are extremely effective at keeping water out of your snorkel tube which makes a huge difference in terms of safety and comfort. I strongly recommend them for everyone but the most advanced snorkelers who have specialized needs.

However, it’s a lot more rare to get a dry snorkel with regular rental snorkel gear, especially as part of the gear included on a snorkel tour (over the dozens of snorkel tours I’ve taken, I don’t think I’ve ever seen dry snorkels offered).

If you do choose to buy your own snorkel gear, though, you can make sure to choose excellent gear that provide you a better edge on safety, like with a dry snorkel.

Ultimately, here’s what I’d say regarding how to choose between buying and renting snorkel gear when snorkeling for beginners:

If you aren’t sure yet if you’re going to like snorkeling, it’s OK to rent gear, but I would recommend doing it through a dive shop near wherever you might be visiting (this is easier in more developed destinations) rather then through a snorkel tour. You’ll be able to get better quality gear, and can most likely score a dry snorkel, even if it’s for a few extra bucks.

On the other hand, if you think you’ll be snorkeling even a couple of times a year (or will be visiting less developed snorkel destinations, or really value freedom of snorkeling anywhere/anytime), buying your own snorkel gear starts to quickly become worthwhile. Plus, the investment is typically very reasonable, and here you can learn more about what snorkel gear costs, and even what everything else related to snorkeling costs.

Then, you can head over to our complete guide on choosing the best snorkel gear (masks, snorkels, fins, and a lot else).

Snorkel Mask

There are all sorts of nice-to-haves when it comes to snorkel masks (high-visibility lenses, purge valves, special strap and buckle systems, etc.), but none of that matters if you don’t get one thing right: how your snorkel mask fits.

The best snorkel mask when snorkeling for beginners, at minimum, is the mask that fits you best.

The best snorkel mask for beginners and intermediates
The best snorkel mask for you is the snorkel mask that fits you best.

Now, for 99% of people, almost any snorkel mask will seal in your eyes and nose such that water won’t easily get in and you’ll be able to see underwater fine. That part is generally not the issue.

But, the details of everyone’s faces are shaped a little bit differently, and what you really need to get right in terms of fit is comfort.

With any snorkel mask you’re considering, try it on and be sure to wear it for a few minutes at least. Do you feel any pinch points? Does it press into your face anywhere that you find uncomfortable even when the mask is loosened slightly?

If so, you’ll probably want to consider a different mask. Those discomforts tend to get amplified in the water over a long snorkel (sometimes cutting your snorkeling short) and it’s way more difficult to adjust your equipment in the water than just getting it right on the beach before you go.

In terms of specific snorkel masks for snorkeling for beginners, I have two that I generally recommend to get started with.

If you’re looking for perhaps the most cost-effective option, check out the Cressi F1 Frameless (on Amazon). It’s a great starter mask with a full silicone skirt (the part that makes contact with your face) so it ends up being comfortable for a wide variety of faces. It might lack some of the features of higher-end masks, but usually at around $30, it’s a great value for beginner snorkelers.

If instead you’re more interested in a mask that you can grow into as you progress in your snorkeling, I like the ScubaPro Solo (Amazon). The overall construction is more advanced and you’ll have a wider field of view with the larger lens that it employs. It will certainly last you longer and hold up to more diverse snorkeling conditions, so it’s worth the higher price if you want a good intermediate mask that will stick with you as your grow as a snorkeler.

Snorkel masks for beginners
Both the ScubaPro Solo (Amazon) and the Cressi F1 Frameless (Amazon) are great options for snorkeling for beginners depending on your budget.

Ultimately, there’s plenty of other information regarding the best snorkel mask for beginners and how to choose the one that’s right for you, even beyond fit (considering purge valves, skirt materials, field of view, etc.), so check out our more-detailed guide on the best beginner, intermediate and advanced snorkel masks.

Also, if you happen to wear glasses or contacts, or have a sweet beard or mustache (I can often qualify for all of the above), you should learn about snorkeling with glasses and snorkeling with contacts as well as snorkeling with a beard or mustache because those situations do impact how you should select a snorkel mask.

Dry Snorkel

The thing that makes snorkeling, snorkeling, is a snorkel, so when we’re talking about snorkeling for beginners, we definitely want a good one.

As I mentioned earlier, I strongly recommend dry snorkels for pretty much everyone. They’re just so much better, safer, and more enjoyable, especially for snorkeling for beginners.

And, in my opinion, this is the one gear area where it’s always worthwhile to get one of the best since a snorkel is your main piece of safety gear.

In my experience, the best (and my favorite) dry snorkel is the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (here on Amazon).

The best dry snorkel for learning to snorkel
A dry snorkel with a purge valve, like the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (Amazon), is hugely helpful for snorkeling for beginners.

Aside from having really excellent construction with a comfortable mouthpiece, the dry valve at the top works fantastically and it even has a purge valve for any water that does happen to dribble into your snorkel. If you’re not familiar, a purge valve is comprised of a small reservoir beneath the mouthpiece that catches any water that comes down your snorkel tube before it gets to your mouth which you can then blow out the bottom of your snorkel with a puff of air — great for snorkeling for beginners.

The Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (Amazon) is the snorkel I personally use 99% of the time, and I tend to recommend it to everyone looking for a new snorkel because it works so well for me. For more background on this dry snorkel, its alternatives, and more information on snorkels in general, check out our deep-dive on the best dry snorkels.

Snorkel Fins

When we start talking about snorkel fins, we’re no longer talking about things that you absolutely need to snorkel (those are just the mask and snorkel itself), but fins will definitely make your experience better (and even safer).

If you’re a decent swimmer, you can certainly snorkel without fins without much issue. But, no matter your swimming level, a pair of fins will make you more efficient and faster in the water while saving more of your energy. You can see more and not risk getting tired as quickly.

Woman swimming with snorkel fins for beginners
A good pair of snorkel fins helps to conserve your energy in the water.

Fins come in all shapes, sizes and orientations. I’ll quickly go over three of my favorite snorkel fins for different purposes here in this article, and if you want to learn more, you can read our full guide to the best snorkel fins.

The first real decision that you’ll need to make is about how you’d like the area where you slide your foot into the fin to function. There are two options: a full-foot pocket that’s made of rubber which you slide your foot into and the rubber holds tight around your foot to keep the fin on, or an open heel version that has an adjustable strap that connects around the back of your foot.

Generally, open-heel fins are best if you plan on sharing fins among different people (or if they’re for someone whose feet are still growing), though you will also need to pick up a pair of snorkel booties (like the Mares 2mm Neoprene Warm Water Boots [Amazon]) to wear with the fins because without them the strap can really dig into the back of your heel and rub the skin raw while snorkeling, which is not pleasant.

However, the full-foot pocket fins are generally better if the fins are just for you. You won’t need to wear extra snorkel booties with them, and the full-foot pockets tend to be more comfortable and slip less provided that you chose the right size (i.e., as tight as possible without making you lose feeling or being super uncomfortable).

Fins can really run the gamut in terms of price, from $30 to $300. When we’re talking about snorkeling for beginners, we don’t need to break the bank with the fanciest fins available, but the low end fins are typically so far behind that they’re not worth considering.

If you just plan to snorkel a couple of times of year, I really like the Avanti Superchannel fins from Mares. They hit more of a lower-middle price point that is helpful for beginners, and you still get some excellent snorkel fin technology (e.g., the so-named “superchannel” built into the fin that guides water along the fin while kicking, which gives you a better boost and more efficient swimming). And, they come in both full-foot pocket (Amazon) and open-heel versions (Amazon).

If you plan to snorkel more than twice a year and don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, an upgrade is definitely worthwhile, and I’m big on the ScubaPro SeaWing Nova fins.

The price is still plenty reasonable in the middle tier, and not only do you have fins which are built with water-channeling engineering like with the Avanti Superchannel fins above, but the paddle part of the fin connects to the foot part of the fin with a hinge that activates and works as kind of a spring while you’re swimming through the water, giving you stronger propulsion with less effort. It’s pretty cool.

Snorkel fins for beginners
The ScubaPro SeaWing Nova (full-foot and open-heel [Amazon]) as well as the Mares Avanti Superchannel (full-foot and open-heel [Amazon]) have huge advantages over more basic fins.
Like the Avanti, the ScubaPro SeaWing Nova fins also both come in full-foot pocket (Amazon) and open-heel set-ups (Amazon).

If space is at a premium — perhaps you’ll eventually be traveling a lot with your gear (which, by the way, you can also read our article on the best snorkel gear for travel for more than just travel fins) — you may want something a bit smaller than the fins above. The Avanti Superchannel and SeaWing Nova fins do tend to fit in an average size suitcase (I do it plenty), but just barely.

The best travel snorkel fins that I’ve found are the ScubaPro GO Sport (Amazon) and the ScubaPro GO Travel (Amazon). Both are smaller fins that are fantastically well engineered, so you don’t lose a ton of efficiency in the water despite the smaller sizes. And, they both easily fit in suitcases or carry-ons.

The GO Sport is the higher end of the two, with a bit of an upgrade in terms of absolute materials and design (which means it also costs a bit more), but the GO Travel is still an excellent travel fin and totally fine for snorkeling for beginners if you prefer to save a few bucks. Both only come in open-heel designs, so snorkel booties may be beneficial for you.

All of the fins above will do far better in the water than a cheap, basic, flat plastic fin, so they’re well worth looking into for snorkeling for beginners.

Sun Protection

You may not necessarily think of sun protection as a key piece of “gear” for snorkeling, but it is.

Sun protection any time you’re at the beach is crucial, but even more so while you’re snorkeling since your neck, back and legs are pointed up directly at the sun, potentially for a long span of time. If you don’t pay mind to your sun protection, it’s easy to get burned.

So, my sun protection strategy for snorkeling is two fold: a rashguard and reef-safe sunscreen.

Snorkeling Tip: Wear a rashguard and biodegradable sunscreen in the water
Snorkeling Tip: Wear a rashguard and biodegradable sunscreen in the water for ocean-friendly sun protection

I like to use a rashguard (kind of a form-fitting shirt meant for the water) because it’s typically more uniform and effective at sun protection than trying to spray or rub on sunscreen evenly, and it means that I can use less sunscreen, which is both good for me and for the ocean.

I like the Volcom Men’s Solid Short Sleeve Rashguard (Amazon) because I prefer the short sleeve format for extra freedom of movement, and my wife likes the REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard (Amazon) because she gets chilly in warmer temperatures of water than I do, so the sleeves add in a little extra insulation.

When it comes to sunscreen, it’s hugely important to choose a sunscreen that’s biodegradable and reef safe when snorkeling for beginners. Traditional sunscreens that aren’t designated as biodegradable often contain chemicals which have been shown to harm coral reefs and marine life.

I prefer spray sunscreens, so I opt for the Alba Botanica Sensitive SPF50 biodegradable sunscreen (Amazon), but you can also check out our rundown on the best biodegradable sunscreens for snorkeling for other options and more information.

Snorkel Flotation

If part of what has held you back from learning snorkeling for beginners up until now has been your swimming ability, adding some flotation to your snorkel gear is a great idea and totally reasonable. Whether you feel like you want the maximum support possible or just a little boost, there are some great options out there.

As a quick rundown on my recommendations, I like the O’Neill Superlite Men’s (Amazon) and O’Neill Superlite Women’s (Amazon) life jackets if you’re looking for a high level of flotation (i.e., you could easily float around in them without any swimming effort), or the SeaView Palawan Snorkel Vest (Amazon) if you’d just like a bit of a boost of buoyancy in the water.

Ultimately, life jackets have the most buoyancy while snorkel vests have the most freedom of movement. Both work well, and it just depends on how much flotation you feel that you need.

If you’re looking for snorkel flotation for kids, O’Neill also has great life jackets for smaller snorkelers in the Child Superlite (Amazon) for kids 30-50lbs and the Youth Superlite (Amazon) for kids 50-90lbs.

And, as is par for the course, you can get a ton more info and recommendations over at our full guide on snorkel vests, life jackets and other snorkel flotation.

Snorkel Gear for Kids

If you’re looking to outfit some wee snorkelers, good kids snorkel equipment is obviously super important, but it’s a whole different ballgame in terms of what to look for.

Your best bets to be well versed in outfitting your kiddos would be to head over to our look at the best kids snorkel set (mask, snorkel and fins in one) as well as our complete guide on the best snorkel gear for kids (the best kids snorkel masks, snorkels, sun protection, flotation, fins, etc.)

Snorkel Gear for Travel

Similar to kids snorkel gear, snorkel gear for travel has its own special considerations in order to find the best of the best.

If you’re curious about snorkel gear that’s purposefully made for traveling, read our run-through of the best snorkel gear for travel (masks, snorkels, fins, cameras, bags, and plenty else).

2. Snorkeling Tip #2: Prep Your Snorkel Gear for the Water

Snorkeling Tip: Prepare your gear for the water like this man preparing his snorkel mask

Now that we have our snorkel gear sorted out, it’s time to get it ready for the water, which generally means cleaning our snorkel mask and taking steps to make sure that it won’t fog up on us while we’re out on the water.

Cleaning (and anti-fogging) might sounds kind of boring, but it’s mega important. Snorkeling can be a a real downer with a foggy snorkel mask. Not only can it be tough to even see your own hand in front of your face, but not being able to see where you’re going very well (or trying to deal with it in the middle of the ocean) can be a safety issue. So let’s do it right even before we jump in.

Clean Your Snorkel Mask

The first thing we want to learn in this area of snorkeling for beginners is how to clean our snorkel mask because tiny water droplets (i.e., fog) like to hold onto any dirt or oil that it can find on the lens. Fortunately, cleaning your mask is pretty easy.

The most effective way to remove all excess dirt and oil is to track down some old-school white toothpaste, like classic Colgate toothpaste (Amazon), which can actually be a pretty incredible non-abrasive cleaner. Once you have that, put a couple of dabs of toothpaste on the inside and outside of the snorkel mask lens and lightly work it around with a soft cloth. Once you’re done, rinse it with warm water and dry any remaining water on the lens with a clean cloth. Done!

(You can also rub a little antibacterial soap on your snorkel mouthpiece if you’d like that area to be squeaky clean for you the next time you head out snorkeling. This is a good idea after every snorkel just to prevent any bacteria from growing, but you may also want to do it before you start using the snorkel if it’s a rental.)

Apply an Anti-Fog Coating to Your Snorkel Mask

Next, we want to make it really hard for any fog that might be tempted to stick to our snorkel mask lens by applying an anti-fog coating to the inside of the lens.

One of the easiest ways to do this is actually to mix up several drops of Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo (Amazon) with a few tablespoons of water in a small spray bottle and spray it along the inside of your snorkel mask lens (there’s no need to spray the outside). If you’re lacking a spray bottle, you can also drip a bit of the mixture inside your snorkel mask and move it around so that it coats the lens evenly before pouring it out (avoid using your fingers since they have oil on them).

Woman wearing a foggy snorkel mask
Foggy snorkel masks are no fun, so make sure to prep your snorkel mask correctly.

Once you’ve coated the inside of your snorkel mask lens, just rinse it lightly and briefly with water. Done!

If you don’t currently have baby shampoo and/or a spray bottle on you, there are also premade snorkel mask defoggers like Stream2Sea’s Reef-Friendly Mask Defog (Amazon) that follow a similar concept and do work well.

In the case that you lack everything above, you can also spit inside your mask lens and rub it around with your fingers before rinsing it with ocean water. It sounds a little gross, but it works in a pinch.

For more in-depth info, you can read our article on how to clean snorkel masks and prevent fog and damage.

Make Adjustments

Once you have your snorkeling equipment in hand, try it all on and make any adjustments needed to the straps and buckles on your snorkel mask and snorkel.

Everything should be snug without feeling uncomfortable and without feeling any pinching or poking sensations. If you do feel any significant discomforts, try loosening any straps by one stop and/or moving your snorkel mask higher or lower on your face, or moving the strap higher or lower on the back of your head.

Ultimately, you want to make sure that your gear is sized right and sits on your head and face well before heading to the water.

Make Sure You’re in Good Health

You can also consider your body “snorkel gear”, and we should also make sure that it, too, is ready for snorkeling.

Snorkeling is a workout, which is great for those in a place to be able to do such things, but you should be in good health to get the most out of it and avoid potential issues.

A significant number of the relatively small number of deaths that do happen while snorkeling are typically from something like a stroke or heart attack, things that are likely related to some sort of pre-existing health condition. [Source]

So, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you have any questions about your health and how it relates to an exercise like snorkeling.

3. Snorkeling Tip #3: Learn Ocean Conditions

Tips for snorkeling: learn what this green flag on the beach means for snorkeling conditions

OK, one more thing before we actually get in the water. Let’s learn some basics on judging ocean conditions.

Typically with any type of snorkeling, and definitely for snorkeling for beginners, we’re looking for calmer waters to swim in. This is usually pretty easy to gauge on the surface (either the water is wavy or choppy, or it isn’t), but there are also a whole host of conditions beneath the waves that can affect our snorkeling.

So how do we figure out what the conditions are beneath the waves?

Fortunately this is pretty easy in a lot of developed places (public beaches, resorts, etc.) because there will often be flag poles in the sand near the water with different-colored flags flying depending on the underwater conditions. The flags usually break down as follows:

Beach warning flags chart
The beach warning flags system is simple but important. [Source]
  • Two red flags: Conditions are so dangerous that the water is closed to everyone, advanced and beginner alike
  • One red flag: Conditions are highly hazardous and snorkeling is not recommended
  • Yellow flag: Conditions are of a medium hazard, and not recommended for snorkeling for beginners
  • Green flag: Conditions are calm and great for snorkeling for beginners
  • Purple flag: There is dangerous marine life in the water (jellyfish, sharks, etc.) and snorkeling for beginners is not recommended

Pretty easy! And not only one of the great tips for snorkeling, but for swimming and wading as well.

Of course, this doesn’t work as well if we’re in a less-developed area that doesn’t have these beach flags.

In those cases, it’s best to find a spot where there are plenty of other people already swimming and snorkeling safely and stick to the areas where the people are, staying away from rocks, waves and any shallow underwater objects like coral.

Lifeguards and dive shops local to the area are typically also great resources to ask about the snorkeling conditions nearby, so when in doubt, just ask someone!

4. Snorkeling Tip #4: Start by Snorkeling from Shore

Man snorkeling for beginners from the beach

Let’s start actually learning how to snorkel for beginners!

It may be tempting to hop on the next boat out to the shelf reef and jump right in, but with snorkeling for beginners, it’s important to get comfortable with everything in a low-stakes environment first.

This usually means snorkeling from the shore (rather than taking a boat out into deeper water) near the beach. Or, you can even practice in a pool if your accommodation has one.

Your first time out, all you’re really looking to do is to get comfortable with your equipment, breathing in and out through the snorkel, and paddling around a little. I would recommend, even if you have them, for your first time to be without fins. They will eventually be great assets, but first let’s just focus on the mask, snorkel and general swimming. (Though if you do have a life jacket or snorkel vest that you want to use, do put that on.)

Go ahead and put your mask and snorkel on while you’re on the beach. Choose a calm area without much in terms of waves or rocks (both above and below water) and wade in. Plan to stay in shallow enough water where you can stand up should you need to for any reason.

While still standing, put your face down into the water and practice breathing through your snorkel for a minute or two. Once that feels comfortable, try floating your whole body on the water’s surface with your face pointing down and your snorkel pointing up while breathing in and out.

You can then even move your head around a bit to see just how much latitude you have looking around before the top of your snorkel touches the water. If it does, no worries, because we should have a dry snorkel whose valve will close and keep most all of the water out.

If any water does trickle in (with a dry snorkel it will be pretty minimal), you can practice puffing air into your snorkel to expel the water through your purge valve (if you have a snorkel with one like the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 [Amazon] from above). If your dry snorkel doesn’t have a purge valve, practice tipping your head back slightly and sending a puff of air into your snorkel. Any water in your snorkel should be sent out the top of the tube.

One mistake that beginner snorkelers often make is to try to pull their heads up above the water while swimming or floating. This makes the lower part of your body submerge and creates a feeling of sinking. Instead, try to lie totally flat (like you’re face down on a massage table) and allow all of your extremities to float on the water equally. With sea water, it really is pretty easy, and it feels very comfortable once you get the hang of it.

Woman standing in the ocean while snorkeling
Start by snorkeling somewhere simple where you can easily stand up.

Try swimming forward and even paddling backward like you’re trying to back away from something in front of you (that does come in handy if a current takes you too close to coral or something similar). Try spinning around and heading in other directions. It’s all good.

Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of floating, breathing and swimming, feel free to throw on those fins.

The easiest way to put fins on is actually once you’re in the water. Wade out to a spot where you can still stand, but at the right depth where you can crouch down to the point where the water line is at your shoulder and you can bring your foot up to pull a fin on. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get it.

(If you do need to put your fins on while on the beach for any reason, you can do that. Just note that you’ll need to shuffle into the water sideways or backwards — walking forward with fins doesn’t work very well.)

Once you have your fins on in the water, practice swimming around some more with them on.

A common beginner mistake with snorkel fins is to pull your foot with its fin up above the water and then kick downward. This is both inefficient and creates a ton of splashing.

Instead, focus on the top part of your kicking motion being level with the water before pushing downward into the ocean to propel yourself forward. This will ultimately give you more boost since you’re pushing against the water 100% of the time, and you won’t splash near as much (which is obnoxious for other snorkelers and can scare away marine life that you may want to see).

Most of the time, snorkeling from shore isn’t going to be the most scenic (unless you’re doing something like Bonaire snorkeling where the entire island is circled by a ring reef that is often just steps from the beach). That’s OK. We just want to make sure that we get our fundamentals down-pat and then we can move on to the big leagues!

(For more snorkeling tips on how to snorkel from the shore with success, check out our guide on beach snorkeling.)

5. Snorkeling Tip #5: Take a Snorkel Tour

A snorkel tour boat teaching beginners how to snorkel

Now that you’re comfortable with snorkeling itself, it’s time to see some real beauty!

The best way to do that, in my opinion, especially when snorkeling for beginners, is to take a snorkel tour.

Not only do snorkel tour guides know the best spots to go to and have the boats to get you there, but they are typically also expert snorkelers themselves and can often join you in the water. This is a great opportunity to learn more and also have someone there in case you need a hand. Just tell your guide that you’re a beginning snorkeler and in my experience they’ll do whatever they can to make sure that you have an awesome and safe time in the water.

Once you become a more intermediate and advanced snorkeler, snorkel tours are still just as good. The local knowledge and transportation are tough to top, and you’ll be able to have experiences that just wouldn’t be possible on your own (think swimming with whale sharks, exploring offshore reefs, and plenty else).

My preferred place to book snorkel trips is through Viator. I’ve personally never had anything less than a good experience, and the options are usually plentiful. It’s easy to search for your destination + “snorkeling” (e.g., “Oahu snorkeling”) to see what’s out there.

From there, you can read more about the various tours and check out reviews (which I definitely recommend) to see what other snorkelers — and especially beginner snorkelers — had to say about the trip, staff, etc.

For more on snorkel tours, prices, and things to look for, read our guide to snorkel tours.

6. Snorkeling Tip #6: Clean Your Snorkel Gear

A woman learning how to snorkel through a cloud of sand

This is less urgent if you have rental snorkel gear that you’ll imminently be returning since the rental shop likely will do some form of cleaning and sanitizing of the gear, but this is definitely important if you have your own gear.

Fortunately, it’s pretty simple.

Step one is just to run some fresh warm water over and inside your snorkel mask and snorkel (as well as anything else that you may have worn in the ocean, like fins or life jackets), rubbing a bit with your fingers as you go. The salt from the ocean can slowly break down some of the materials on your snorkel gear over time if it isn’t removed, so you’re just looking to wash that salt away.

Step two is to take a bit of antibacterial soap and rub it on the mouthpiece of your snorkel before washing it away with warm water. This will keep any bacteria from taking hold and will ensure that your snorkel tastes normal on your next swim.

After you’ve cleaned everything, go ahead and prep your mask for next time by applying a defog coating like we talked about in the gear-prep section above.

There is a little bit of an art and a science to it, so if you’re looking for more details on cleaning, defogging, etc., head over to our guides on how to clean a snorkel mask and keep it from fogging up, as well as how to clean a snorkel.

7. Snorkeling Tip #7: Have an Awesome Time Snorkeling!

Women having fun snorkeling

Have fun out there!

It’s totally normal to feel a little apprehensive at first, but once you get the hang of snorkeling, you’ll have a blast.

Remember that it’s totally fine to not be perfect at snorkeling right off the bat and to need to ramp up the difficulty as you learn (that’s what you should be doing anyway), but no matter what, remember that it’s supposed to be fun! And it will be.

It’s not an overstatement to say that learning snorkeling for beginners all those years ago changed my life. Since then, I’ve had more incredible experiences in the water than I can keep track of (and each new one doesn’t get old), have countless unique experiences that I’ve been able to share with my spouse, and seen a lot more of the world that I would have otherwise. I hope the same for you!

More Resources for Snorkeling for Beginners

Along with the articles already linked in this article, any of the articles here at Coral Nomad about the best snorkeling gear, how-to snorkel guides for when you’re in the water, or snorkel travel should be full of snorkeling tips that will be useful when learning snorkeling for beginners, but there are a few more I’ll mention here specifically.

If You’re Feeling Nervous About Snorkeling

If you’re feeling especially nervous about snorkeling for beginners, no worries! The ocean is powerful, but it’s also magical and safety is always the name of the game so that we can experience that magic with wellness and confidence. Check out our article for those maybe feeling scared of snorkeling with 12 more snorkel tips to crush it as a beginner.

Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Snorkeling

You can also read our guide that answers the question “is snorkeling safe?” with a bunch more actionable safety tips to go towards you having a great time in the water.

Snorkeling If You Can’t Swim

If you’re feeling unsure of your swimming ability (or maybe can’t yet swim at all), take a look at the question and answer article “Can You Snorkel Without Knowing How to Swim?” for snorkeling options for non-swimmers. Our rundown on the best snorkel vests and life jackets may also be worthwhile for you.

Snorkeling Costs & Prices

If you’re running the numbers on your next trip and want to know how snorkeling will factor into that, you can read our overview of snorkeling prices and costs from top to bottom. (Spoiler alert: it’s very much less than scuba diving.)

Snorkeling for Beginners Video

Finally, if you’re more of a visual learner, Joe does a good job in the video below going over many of the snorkeling tips we’ve covered in this article which you can watch before continuing on to the next-step articles included below the video.

Joe walks us through the basics of snorkeling for beginners.

Up Next

We’ve definitely linked a lot of other articles from this guide so far. If you’re not sure where to go next, the below are the six most logical next steps with the right snorkeling tips for you while learning how to snorkel for beginners, in my opinion. Happy snorkeling!

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.