What is Snorkeling and What Makes it a Fun Sport?

The Coastal Side is supported by readers and some links on this website are affiliate links. We may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you click through our links and make a purchase from one of our partners.

If you’re asking yourself, “What is snorkeling?” then you’ve come to the right place. This ultimate snorkeling beginner’s guide is your go-to resource for being a snorkeling pro on every snorkeling trip.

Snorkeling is a fun water sport for many reasons. Snorkeling is a leisurely physical activity that lets you explore an entire underwater world full of marine life. You get to witness the natural beauty of the ocean firsthand. 

What is Snorkeling?

What is snorkeling

Snorkeling is when you swim along the surface of the water with a shaped breathing tube called a snorkel. The snorkel allows you to breathe underwater with your face submerged under the water’s surface.

We’ll dive deeper into snorkeling equipment later, but snorkelers usually use a diving mask to have more clear vision underwater. This makes it easy  to see underwater attractions and aquatic life in their natural setting. Many snorkelers use snorkeling fins to make swimming while snorkeling easier.

People snorkel in many different types of snorkeling spots. Some people snorkel in the shallow ocean, while others prefer snorkeling in the open ocean. Both types of ocean snorkeling spots have their pros and cons, but some snorkelers prefer to snorkel in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Why Do People Love Snorkeling?

Why do people love snorkeling

Many people love snorkeling for how little effort it takes. There isn’t any special training needed or complicated equipment you need to buy. Some people confuse scuba diving with snorkeling but they’re very different. Scuba divers do need complicated equipment.

They may be able to spend more time underwater, but inexperienced divers can’t go scuba diving without a certified dive instructor. Anyone can go snorkeling with just a snorkel mask and snorkel which is why it’s one of the world’s most popular water sports.

When Did Snorkeling Start?

When did snorkeling start

The history of snorkeling dates back to 3000 B.C. Evidence was found on the Greek island of Crete suggesting early sponge farmers were some of the first free divers.

Ancient snorkels were made from hollow reeds, allowing divers to breathe while still submerged underwater. Snorkeling equipment has come a long way since hollow reeds. Modern snorkeling gear uses a specially shaped breathing tube.

What Snorkeling Equipment Do You Need to Snorkel?

What snorkeling equipment do you need

All of the snorkeling equipment you need to snorkel is basic equipment. It’s nothing like the amount of scuba gear that scuba divers need to go scuba diving.

Basic Snorkeling Equipment


All the snorkel gear you need is a snorkel and mask. The snorkel is the tube you use to breathe while your face is underwater. There are dry snorkels and wet snorkels.

Dry snorkels have a special valve that stops water from coming into the snorkel tube when submerged underwater. A dry snorkel is best for doing a free dive or just a quick dive under the water.

Wet snorkels don’t have this valve but some do have a splash guard. It won’t stop the tube from filling with water when submerged, but it will help prevent water from splashes and ocean waves from getting in the snorkel tube.

Snorkel Masks

Then there are the snorkeling masks. A snorkeling mask and diving mask are basically the same thing. They’re both going to use a mask strap that keeps the mask in place.

Snorkel masks give you clear vision underwater, letting you see things like coral reefs, fish, sea turtles, and other sea life.

Extra Snorkeling Equipment

You can also get a snorkeling vest that helps keep you afloat on top of the surface of the water. As we mentioned earlier, many people who love snorkeling will use snorkeling fins.

The fins aid in movement underwater so it takes less effort to swim. Snorkeling fins are a great choice if you’re not a strong swimmer.

If you are snorkeling in cooler waters, you can use a wet suit to keep warm. Shallower waters tend to be warmer, but it depends on the exact snorkeling site you choose.

Snorkelers with sensitive skin should consider a rash guard. A rash guard is a piece of snorkeling gear that can protect you from harmful UV rays, rock or coral reef scratches, and potential stings from jellyfish.

How Do You Snorkel?

How do you snorkel

Once you have the best snorkel gear picked out, you’re ready to go snorkeling. Since it’s so popular, many people what to know how to snorkel.

Luckily, learning how to snorkel is super easy. We asked snorkeling experts to give us a breakdown of how to snorkel step by step.

The 5 Steps of Snorkeling

The 5 steps of snorkeling

Step 1

Snorkeling starts with swimming, but don’t worry, it’s easy to snorkel even if you’re not a strong swimmer. Once you’re in the ocean, or wherever you’re snorkeling, you’ll want to adjust your snorkel gear. Make sure your snorkeling mask fits correctly and doesn’t leak.

Step 2

Then take a few deep breaths. Breathe in and out of the snorkel mouthpiece to get familiar with how breathing through a snorkel feels. If this is going to be your first snorkeling experience, you’re in for a treat.

Step 3

The next step is to put your face in the water with the snorkel pointing straight up in the air. Now try breathing with your face submerged underwater. Once you feel comfortable with breathing underwater this way you can start to float.

Step 4

Layout flat and float in the water. Concentrate on how each breath feels and familiarize yourself with the entire experience. First-time snorkelers should start in shallow water. This way, if you start to feel uncomfortable or if anything goes wrong, you can just stand up. When you feel you have the hang of floating then you can level up to finning.

Step 5

Fins aren’t a required piece of snorkeling equipment. You can still have plenty of fun without fins, but they do make swimming much easier. They’re especially great for snorkeling in the ocean. If you are going to use fins, here are a few tips.

Use slow but firm kicks to guide yourself through the water. Keep your hands and arms at your sides and use your fins to gently swim through the water.

Tips for First-Time Snorkelers

These few tips for first-time snorkelers will take all the guesswork out of your first snorkeling trip, and improve every snorkeling experience.

Research The Marine Life

Be aware of the marine life where you are snorkeling. You aren’t going to run into any whale sharks in a lake, but you should know what marine life is in your snorkeling sites. It helps with having fun and staying safe. This will help you identify different fish and other sea life while you’re swimming. 

Know the Snorkel Lingo

Knowing the snorkel lingo can help you look like a snorkeling pro.

  • SCUBA – SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. SCUBA divers and snorkelers run in the same circles so it’s good to know this one.
  • PFD – PFD stands for Personal Floatation Device. Some snorkel vests can serve as PFDs.
  • VHF – VHF stands for Very High Frequency. It’s used in reference to a VHF radio that is usually aboard most boats that take people on snorkel excursions.

Have Fun

The best snorkeling for beginners tip is to have fun. The best part about the entire experience is having a good time and connecting with an interesting underwater world.

What Are The Rules Of Snorkeling?

There are no set rules for snorkeling but there are some good guidelines to keep you and those around you safe.

  • Always snorkel with a buddy. Snorkeling with some sort of partner is the safest way to snorkel. 
  • Do not interact with marine life. This is for their safety and yours.
  • Do not snorkel in any snorkeling spot above your swimming ability.
  • Be mindful of your fins. They can be harmful to marine life, like coral reefs, even if they’re only grazed lightly.
  • Be polite to other snorkelers around you.
  • Swim slow to see the most aquatic life.
  • Stay calm at all times. Remaining calm and taking nice slow breaths is one of the best rules of snorkeling to follow for a good time.

Wrap Up

By now you know everything there is to know about snorkeling. It’s a fun water sport that’s easy for everyone to begin and enjoy right away. You don’t have to be especially good at swimming to enjoy it, and you don’t need any fancy snorkeling lessons to learn it.

It also doesn’t take much equipment or special gear, which makes the cost of snorkeling low. Snorkeling is great for people near the ocean looking for an inexpensive hobby where you get to explore the underwater world in its natural setting.

Wherever you’re planning your next snorkeling trip, it’s sure to be a fun and fulfilling experience. Remember to use our tips for first-time snorkelers, and abide by the unwritten rules of snorkeling. These are the best ways to ensure you have a safe and fun-filled snorkeling excursion.

About the Writer

Share this article

More to Explore

what is the best tide for snorkeling with a turtle
Snorkeling Guides

What is the Best Tide for Snorkeling [Beginner vs. Pro]

Snorkeling is one of the most enriching and awe-inspiring hobbies in the ocean. It allows you to get up close …

Read Article
How to Clean Snorkel Gear with Mildew
Snorkeling Guides

How to Clean Snorkel Gear with Mildew [Quick Guide]

During a snorkeling session, the last thing you want is for your snorkel gear to be damaged or dirty. If …

Read Article
when is it too windy to snorkel
Snorkeling Guides

When is it Too Windy to Snorkel?

Many factors will affect your snorkeling experience, and the wind is no exception. Wind can generate waves that make swimming …

Read Article