What’s the Best Depth for Snorkeling?

snorkeling depth

Learning to snorkel should be top of your bucket list if you are visiting any tropical destination. Hawaii’s warm water and unique marine life, make snorkeling a must-do! Snorkeling takes a little skill and a lot of fun!

It’s important to get your snorkel questions answered what is the best depth for snorkeling? prior to diving in, so your time underwater can be spent exploring marine life!

Before you snorkel it’s important to have the right equipment, understand ocean conditions and have a snorkel buddy (see our other blog on snorkel tips). As you explore the ocean more you have have questions about diving deeper and longer instead of just snorkeling at the surface. 

What is the best depth for snorkeling?

Technically snorkeling occurs when you are at the surface, your face submerged into the water and floating on your stomach. When you began to dive under the surface you transition from snorkeling to what is call freediving.

Freediving is a term used to describe a style of diving that relies on breath holds and resurfacing rather than using breathing equipment like scuba or snuba tanks. 

Freediving can be dangerous if you do not learn the correct techniques for breathing and equalizing. 

Stay on the Surface When Snorkeling

The first reason to stay on the surface when snorkeling is so you can breathe! Snorkel equipment is designed so that the diver can keep their face in the water while they breathe through the snorkel tube. The top of the snorkel must be kept above water so the snorkeler can breathe in and out of the snorkel.

Another reason to stay on the surface while snorkeling is to protect your ears. As you dive deeper into the water it increases pressure on your ears, without the proper equalizing technique, this can cause long term damage.

Equalizing is a technique free divers use to balance the pressure in their ears as they dive. It’s important to learn this technique from a skilled diver and if you ever have pressure in your ears while diving stop immediately to prevent damaging your ear drums. 

Your body can float on it’s own to stay on the surface while snorkeling, but wearing a wetsuit or using a flotation device can assist with the flotation, enabling you to stay on the surface longer and enjoy a relaxing snorkeling experience!

Shallow Water Blackout Dangers

Shallow water blackout is a common and dangerous consequence of not learning proper breathing techniques. Shallow water blackout is when a diver loses consciousness underwater due to lack of oxygen from holding their breath too long.

Participating in freediving training gives you the skills to learn to hold your breath longer, but more importantly know when you have held it long enough and it is time to return to the surface for your safety. 


Equalizing is another important technique for diving below the surface. Not learning this technique can result in pressure increasing in your inner ear, causing permanent damage to the ear drums.

During a freediving course they will teach you how to equalize and know when that pressure is released so diving to depths while snorkeling and freediving won’t cause damage to your ears. 

An important part of enjoying the ocean is respecting it. This means more than taking care of it’s environment, it also means knowing our relationship with the ocean and how to engage in ocean activities while being safe. 

Contact your local dive shop or a dive shop at your vacation destination to inquire about freediving instruction so you can safely explore underwater paradise! If you’re looking for the best snorkel tours in Lahaina, contact us at Ultimate Whale Watch today!