When you’re planning to travel somewhere warm and coastal, one of the most useful things you can bring along is a good pair of snorkeling fins. Bringing your own fins allows you to hop in the water anytime you feel like it – and explore the enchanting world beneath the waves!
Full-sized fins are often too long and bulky to fit in carry-on bags. Unlike full-length snorkel fins, travel snorkeling fins feature short blades that easily fit inside a backpack, small piece of carry-on luggage, or a compact dive bag. Their compact blades are designed to provide maximum propulsion for their size, so you won’t need to sacrifice speed for a shorter blade length.
Additionally, snorkeling doesn’t require the power generated from scuba or freediving fins. Swimming on or near the surface where the water pressure is lower lends itself to shorter fin lengths.
I’ll break down some of the best snorkeling fins for travel, explain some of the important features to look out for, and hopefully help you pick the right snorkeling fins for you.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Travel Snorkeling Fins
- Best Overall: Cressi Palau
- Runner Up: Wildhorn Topside Snorkel Fins
- Best Closed Heel Fins: Cressi Agua Short
- Budget Pick: CAPAS Snorkel Fins
- Best Mask & Fins Snorkel Set: Cressi Palau SAF Snorkel Set
Types of Travel Snorkeling Fins
There are several different fin types to be aware of when you’re picking out a pair for travel.
Closed heel (also called full foot fins) fins feature flexible one-piece foot pockets that provide your heel with a solid fit. They can be worn either with or without dive boots or socks, but in warm weather, many people prefer to go without this additional layer.
The advantages of closed heel fins are they fit better (providing you have the right size), they don’t need to be worn with dive socks, and they don’t need to be adjusted when putting them on. On the negative side, they can’t be swapped between people with different sized feet.
Open heel fins have foot pockets that are open in the back. An adjustable heel strap allows you to tighten the foot pocket and find the ideal fit for your feet. These fins are typically worn with dive boots or socks, as the rear strap can rub on your heels and get uncomfortable with prolonged use.
Open heel fins are highly versatile, and can easily be swapped between people with different sized feet. They generally perform well in both warm and cold water but don’t provide quite as good of a fit as closed heel fins.
Split Blade vs. Solid Blade
Unlike the one-piece design of solid blades, split blade fins have a slit in the middle of the fin blade, separating the blade into two independently moving parts. Split blades change the way the fin behaves in the water – requiring less energy per kick – but sacrificing some maneuverability and power.
Most snorkeling fins – especially shorter ones built for travel – feature solid blades. Split blade fins can also work well, but are typically longer than necessary for traveling.
Best Overall: Cressi Palau
Cressi makes some of the best dive and snorkel gear on the planet, and this compact set of fins is no exception. They feature a soft, short blade and foot pocket that’s easy to put on and take off and a well-made heel strap that won’t slip or loosen as you swim. The open heel design makes them highly versatile – and able to accommodate 3-4 consecutive sizes.
With an overall length of just 16.5 inches from tip to heel, the fins are short enough to fit inside a backpack or carry-on bag with room to spare. A roomy mesh bag also comes included with purchase, which has enough space for a snorkel, mask, and dive boots.
The back strap is particularly well-engineered, with a wide design that lessens stress on your heel. The strap closure is also rock-solid, making it easy to adjust and lock, but ensuring it won’t slip or shift as you explore the marine environment beneath the waves. The ‘closed-toe’ design is another strong point and prevents the toe blisters you’ll often get from fins with an open toe design.
Keep in mind these fins are designed to be used with neoprene dive boots or socks, although they can also be worn barefoot.
- Heel Type: Open
- Overall Length: 16.5”
- Short, compact fins are ideal for traveling
- Well-made heel strap is easy to adjust
- Closed toe prevents toe blisters from forming
- Accommodates a wide variety of foot sizes
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Runner Up: Wildhorn Topside Snorkel Fins
Versatile, stylish, and exceedingly comfortable, these snorkeling fins are what you would get if you married a neoprene dive boot with a short snorkeling fin. The durable rubber sole and elevated fin allows you to walk comfortably on land like you would with a regular pair of shoes, while the compact fins provide plenty of thrust to propel you along the water’s surface. Ultra grippy soles provide a high level of traction on slippery surfaces, as well as protection from sharp rocks, shells, urchins and other hazards.
The fins are compact enough to easily fit inside carry-on baggage or backpacks, making them ideal for traveling, backpacking, or anytime space is at a premium. The neoprene upper material is soft and flexible, providing a comfortable fit for a variety of foot shapes.
They also float on the surface just in case a fin manages to work its way loose. This isn’t likely to happen though, as an adjustable Velcro ankle strap allows you to precisely adjust the fit. The floating design means these fins are less efficient for deep diving, so if you’re looking to dive frequently, go with a neutrally buoyant fin.
- Heel Type: Closed
- Soft neoprene upper material fits like a glove
- Durable grippy sole provides traction and protection
- Seamlessly transition from dry land to water
- Short fin length allows for comfortable walking and added thrust
- Great for swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding & bodyboarding
Best Closed Heel Fins: Cressi Agua Short
Lightweight, compact, and highly durable, these closed heel fins are the ideal choice for a traveling snorkel fin. Their foot pockets are remarkably comfortable, made from soft and flexible silicone that molds to the shape of your foot. This makes them great for prolonged use in the water – you’ll be able to snorkel for hours without any discomfort!
The compact overall length (approximately 16”) makes them great for packing in carry-on bags and backpacks, and their feather-light weight means you’ll cut down on excess bulk. It also translates into good reactivity in the water and ensures you won’t tire yourself out from kicking.
The comfortable foot pockets can be worn with or without neoprene socks – it comes down to personal preference. If you’re planning to use them without dive socks, then going a size down will ensure a good fit. Also, due to the self-adjusting foot pocket system, both wide and narrow feet will fit well.
- Heel Type: Closed
- Overall Length: 16”-17”
- Soft and supple silicone foot pocket molds to your foot shape
- Lightweight design requires less effort to kick
- Ideal fins for traveling light
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Budget Pick: CAPAS Snorkel Fins
If you’re looking for a good pair of travel fins without breaking the bank, then these short fins make an excellent choice. They feature soft foot pockets, compact and lightweight blades, and easy-to-adjust heel straps with large thumb loops. The overall length is approximately 16 inches, making it just the right size for packing in smaller pieces of luggage.
Available in three sizes (including a kid’s size), the adjustable heel strap allows you to adjust the size between 4 consecutive sizes – making them great for swapping between friends and family. The fin material is fairly flexible, making them easy to kick with in the water.
Designed to be used with thin neoprene dive socks, the foot pocket can also be worn barefoot in a pinch. The heel strap is fairly comfortable but can cause blisters if worn without neoprene socks for prolonged periods.
All in all, if you don’t want to shell out money on fin rentals, this inexpensive pair of fins will allow you snorkel anytime you like.
- Heel Type: Open
- Overall Length: 16”
- Lightweight, compact fins are great for carry-on luggage
- Flexible fin material
- Designed to worn with neoprene dive socks
Best Mask & Fins Snorkel Set: Cressi Palau SAF Snorkel Set
If you’re looking for a full snorkel set for travel (mask, fins, and snorkel), then you’ll have a hard time beating this well-made set from Cressi. Made with typical Cressi quality, the set blows most other all-in-one snorkel sets out of the water – especially at this price point. It features the same Palau fins discussed above, as well as a Cressi’s Onda two window snorkel mask and Supernova dry snorkel.
The mask’s soft silicone skirt adapts to most face shapes and features a low internal volume for easier clearing during diving. The dry top snorkel prevents any water from seeping into your mouthpiece as you swim and dive. A mesh carry bag also comes included – giving you a quick-draining carrier for all your gear.
Four different sized fins area available (XS/S, S/M, M/L, L/XL), ensuring you can find the ideal size for your feet. They’re much easier to walk in than full-sized fins, making them great for shore entry and exit.
- Heel Type: Closed
- Overall Length: 16”
- Well-made fins, mask, and snorkel set with mesh carry bag
- Low internal volume mask
- Dry top prevents water from getting into the snorkel
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How to pick the right snorkeling fins for travel
With so many different makes, manufacturers, and designs, choosing the best snorkeling fins for your needs can be a tricky job. Let’s take a look at some of the most important features to be aware of when picking out a pair of travel snorkel fins.
When it comes to snorkel fins for travel, blade lengths tend to be on the shorter side. Stubby, compact blades still provide enough propulsion to keep you moving along rapidly on the surface, but won’t work as well when it comes to strong current or freediving.
Shorter fins are easier to fit inside smaller bags than full-sized ones, making them ideal for packing and traveling with. Short fins also have the advantage of being highly maneuverable, so you’ll be able to snorkel in more condensed locations than with other fins.
Other than their compact size, having comfortable fins that fit your feet well might be the biggest benefit of bringing your own flippers.
Good quality fins will feature soft foot pockets and straps that won’t chafe against your skin and cause blisters. Compared to cheap, ill-fitting rental gear – you’ll have a pair that’s perfectly suited to the size and shape of your feet.
As mentioned previously, if you’re looking at getting a pair of open heel fins, a pair of neoprene dive socks or booties will enhance your comfort. These prevent chafing and also help keep your feet warm in cooler water.
Every fin manufacturer differs slightly in terms of fit. Make sure to check the manufacturers sizing chart before purchase.
Generally speaking, open heel fins can accommodate 4 shoe sizes – for example, a medium fin will fit men’s size 7 through 10 and women’s sizes 9 through 12. This makes them great for swapping between friends and family with different sized feet.
Closed heel fins necessitate a more precise fit, so make sure to consult the sizing chart when picking out a pair. Many closed heel fins are designed to be worn with dive socks, so if you plan to wear them without, then sizing down is a good idea.
If you’re not sure exactly what size you’ll need, you can always order several pairs and return the ones that don’t fit.
Another important factor to consider is how you plan to use your fins.
If you plan to use them once a year on vacation, then a cheapo pair will probably work fine. On the other hand, if you plan to use them often, stepping up to a more durable pair is the way to go.
Why buy your own snorkel fins
You might be wondering if buying a pair of fins is worth it – considering you can usually rent a pair at most popular beaches and snorkeling spots.
While it’s certainly true that you can usually find snorkeling gear to rent, it’s often poor quality, the rental store may be out of your size, and even if they have your size not it might not fit very well. Rental locations typically purchase cheap fins – as their snorkeling gear gets used constantly – and breaks down from the constant wear and tear.
Rather than relying on gear of dubious quality, getting a compact pair of travel snorkeling fins to throw in your bag will allow you to snorkel anywhere anytime! On top of that, high-quality fins that fit properly result in more efficient propulsion in the water – so you’ll be able to swim longer and see more aquatic wildlife.
If you’re looking for a mask to pair with your travel fins, check out my post on the best full face snorkel masks.