Snorkeling Guide for Beginners

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Beginner’s Guide to Snorkeling

Is it your first time snorkeling? Are you ready to explore the ocean under the surface but not sure what to expect? Are there things you can do to prepare for your first time snorkeling even if you are stuck at home right now?

We love Lahaina snorkeling tours and have guided thousands of other first time snorkelers just like you to explore the ocean, making safety and fun our top priorities!

Follow the Following Snorkeling Guide before you go

Snorkeling Guide – All things you need to have


As a first-time snorkeler or beginner snorkeler we recommend starting with evaluating your equipment. You can do this from your home, if you don’t have any yet, you can shop online as well!
You will need a mask, snorkel and fins. Optional gear also includes a wetsuit and flotation devices which we will cover as well!

Let’s start with your mask and snorkel! There has been a lot of hype about the full face mask which became available a couple years ago to snorkelers. We actually tried them out and did our own research before we determined that they are unsafe and should not be considered, especially for beginner snorkelers.

Here’s why:

  1. Full-faced snorkel masks do not circulate CO2 or oxygen well! Instead of air going directly in and out of a snorkel, it fills the face cavity, limiting the fresh oxygen you should be receiving. If oxygen is limited, experiences like shallow water blackout and drowning can occur. Standard 2 piece snorkel mask and snorkel set-ups allow your Co2 and oxygen to flow directly in and out without settling in your face mask.
  2. Increased change of swallowing water. If you get a crack in your facemask, that water leak doesn’t just get in your eyes, it now is also being breathed in by you! The 2 piece snorkel mask and snorkel are separate so a leaky mask does not interfere with your breathing!
  3. You can’t equalize. You may not know what that is yet, but remember being a kid swimming in the pool or a lake? When you dove down deeper you felt pressure on your ears? There is a technique that relieves that pressure you can dive deeper without damaging your ears, it’s called equalizing. This method cannot be performed with a hard full-faced snorkel mask, but is easily performed with a regular snorkel mask. To summarize, we recommend always using the 2 piece mask and snorkel set up, even if the full-faced snorkel mask appears easier, it has the potential to be unsafe and lead to a negative snorkel experience.

When selecting your standard 2-piece mask and snorkel set-up, you want a mask that fits your face snug even when the head strap is loosened. There should be no pressure on your nose or forehead. Your snorkel should fit comfortably in your mouth so you can relax and enjoy the experience.

If you wear glasses, there are prescription goggles available for you to try that will give you the best viewing experience!

For fins you want to make sure they are snug, not painfully, but your feet will shrink a bit once they are wet and loose fits are also uncomfortable- if you need to, size down!

Don’t want to have to purchase or rent your own? We provide masks and snorkels and size each of them for our guests before we go on a Lahaina snorkel trip! When you book a Lahaina snorkeling tour with us, masks, snorkels, fins and flotation devices are included!

There are a few options for flotation devices. What first comes to mind for many first time snorkelers is the safety of a lifejacket. While those are great for boating, they are made to float your head above water which doesn’t allow you to comfortably snorkel with your face on the surface.

A better option would be to use our floatation belts. They secure around the waist of the snorkeler, giving them float while allowing them to relax in a snorkel position on the surface of the water.

We also have pool noodles which are great for fun and flotation as they can float your waist and arms while snorkeling and are easily removed if the snorkeler wants to dive deeper!

Wetsuits are also a great option as they not only provide for warmth and prolonged snorkeling time, they also provide sun protection and act as a flotation device themselves, allowing your body to stay on the surface easier!

Do I need to know how to swim before I snorkel?

It is important you already know how to swim, not because you have to swim in order to snorkel (flotation devices can help with that), but because knowing how to swim helps the snorkeler with their comfort level in the water and is MUCH safer!

Not knowing how to swim can cause more fear of the water and uncertainty, leading to difficulty breathing through a snorkel and less enjoyment during the experience. We recommend taking swimming lessons before you attempt snorkeling.

How to Snorkel?

Snorkeling by definition is floating on the surface of water, face down, so you can view the underwater world! With the right equipment, your mask allows you to see clearly underwater and the snorkel allows you to breathe through it while face down in the water!

Before you get into the water, put on your mask and snorkel. Practice breathing through the snorkel which would be only mouth breathing. Relax and breathe naturally. If this is comfortable for you, you are ready to move to the water portion!

To prevent your mask from foggy, remove your mask and add a drop of baby shampoo to the inside of the lenses. Then lightly rinse with fresh water. Put your mask back on and find some water to practice in! Pools are a great option to try your comfort level before entering the ocean.

Leave your fins at home for the first step and just practice breathing through your mask while in the water. Find a shallow spot where you can stand or squat and put your head into the water, relaxing and breathing through your snorkel.

When you are ready, grab onto the side of the pool and float your feet in the water, keeping your face in the water and breathing through your snorkel. If you feel uncomfortable, bring your head out of the water and take a break!

If at any time you get water in your mask, it is an indication that the mask is ill-fitting or you have something preventing the mask from sealing to your skin.

Check for hair that may be between the mask and your face, and if you have facial hair, you will need to shave your lip for the snorkel to seal properly. If you get water in your snorkel and mouth, it is an indication that the top of your snorkel is dipping into the water.

This can be from the snorkel not being securely fastened to mask or you are tilting your head too far forward in the water. To remove the water from your mouth and snorkel, sharply breath out into your snorkel making a “TWO” sound. This will expel the water out of the snorkel so you can continue to breathe freely!

Once you have mastered the mask and snorkel, you are ready to put on your fins. It’s VERY important that fins are always put on IN THE WATER. Do not put on your fins and try to walk into the ocean or pool. This is dangerous and looks very goofy!

Instead put on your mask and snorkel, enter the water and pull on your fins. Now you’re ready to snorkel and you didn’t spend 10 minutes walking backwards in fins down the beach to the water!

It is very important to always snorkel with a buddy. Never snorkel alone. The ocean has ever changing conditions, current and marine life, and if you snorkel with a friend, you can always keep an eye on each other and assist if one of you feels sick, has equipment issues or is uncomfortable with the ocean’s conditions. And it’s way more fun sharing everything you see under the sea with a friend!

Where to Snorkel?

When you’re snorkeling you want to see cool stuff, like fish, turtles and coral! So how do you know where to find those? We have a snorkel map on our website that shows are top snorkeling spots in Lahaina Maui, but you can also contact snorkel stores in Lahaina, Maui to find out locations that are great for snorkeling and have the best weather conditions that day as well!

Our snorkel tours take guests snorkeling locations in Lahaina, Maui and the island of Lanai! Some of Maui’s top snorkel spots include Honolua Bay, Cliff House, Mala Boat Ramp, Oluwalu, Coral Gardens and many more!

Snorkeling the island of Lanai, we have more than a dozen remote snorkeling locations to choose from. Shark Fin is a fan favorite, as are Sweetheart Rock, Dinosaur, Manele Bay, Armchair, Dinosaur and Lighthouse.

When looking for the right snorkel spot we are looking for reefs that provide a home for marine life such as tropical fish, turtles, rays, octopus, sea cucumbers, lobster, eels and more!

Never snorkel in murky water or right after a rainstorm. There is more bacteria in the water from run-off and the visibility is low which will not only hinder your viewing experience but also makes it unsafe as larger predatory animals hunt in murky waters. If in doubt, don’t go out!

Snorkeling with a tour company like ours, we select snorkel locations that have the best ocean conditions, the calmest and clearest waters, the mildest currents and most marine life.

If you are a first-time snorkeler, we recommend going on a snorkel tour before venturing on your own. Not only will you go to amazing snorkel locations, our snorkel guides will ensure your equipment is working correctly, will be in the water to ensure your safety and show you amazing marine life you may not have seen!

We can’t wait to get back on the water soon and hope you’ll be joining us this summer!

Prepare to Have Fun!

We provide mask and snorkels and size each of them for our guests before we go on a snorkel trip! Contact us at Ultimate Whalewatch & Snorkel for more helpful information!