Snorkeling For Beginners – Dos and Don’ts for First-Timers

Snorkeling is an easy-to-learn water activity that doesn’t require too many skills nor gear, but still, many people are scared of getting into the water due to various reasons. Some are afraid of drowning, some are from sharks, but the most common problem is that they are not confident in the water or with their snorkeling equipment. If you are a first-timer, study this snorkeling for beginners guide where we share ten tips to get over your fear to become a confident snorkeler.

Useful first time snorkeling tips

Improve your swimming

You can absolutely enjoy observing the marine life by floating on the surface wearing a life vest that keeps you afloat, but we don’t recommend snorkeling for non-swimmers. As you don’t grab the wheel in a car without some basic driving skills, you don’t jump into the ocean without knowing how to swim.

Swim training

Beginner snorkelers will find a lot of interesting creatures to see even in waist-deep water where they can stand if needed, but the best marine life can be found in greater depths, where you need to know how to swim.

Of course, you don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer, but the better you swim, the safer you will be in the water. Ask a friend to practice with you in your local pool or take a few lessons to learn how to swim and float properly before jumping into the big blue!

Choose good quality, fitting equipment

A common beginners’ mistake when snorkeling is that they use the wrong equipment. The quality and fitting of your snorkeling gear determine how your first experience is, so make sure to spend time researching what equipment to use.

Man wearing tempered glass snorkeling goggles

Your gear can be rented, but it is always better to have your own snorkeling kit so you will know that it fits well and is in a good condition. The basics include only snorkeling goggles, a pair of flippers, and a snorkel tube, so it is a little investment that brings big benefits for beginners.

Practice in a swimming pool

Buying the right snorkel gear is just part of the job, you should know how to use it. If you have never snorkeled before, during your first time in the water you may find it unnatural swimming with a mask on your head and breathing through a tube.

Girl snorkeling in the pool

This might may scare first-timers, but you can easily make your body and mind adapt to this new situation by practicing in a pool with a friend who can explain to you how to snorkel.

Master your snorkeling skills

In the next step, practice in a shallow, current-free bay or in a designated swimming area. The most important is to learn how to float on the surface without making too much effort. You need to swim slowly and breathe easily. You don’t even need to use your hands.

Girl snorkeling in shallow water

If there is a dive center nearby, ask them if they offer a snorkeling course for beginners where they teach how to clear your snorkel of water, the right finning technique, and how to stop your mask from fogging. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Choose a safe place to snorkel

Although the best coral reefs are available by boat only, such snorkeling trips require a little more experience since they usually happen in deep waters. For those who are not that advanced yet, we recommend going snorkeling from shore.

Man goes snorkeling from the shore

There are many excellent destinations all over the world no matter it’s the Caribbean, North America, Europe, or Asia where you find fantastic marine life with easy beach access. Choose a safe area where with calm waters which is not too deep, there are no strong currents, no boat traffic, and ideally, there is a lifeguard. If possible, snorkel in the morning because the water is usually calmer than in the afternoon.

Take safety precautions

No matter how experienced you are, the ocean conditions can change quickly; therefore taking safety precautions is recommended for everyone entering the water, even for advanced snorkelers, but it is a must for first-timers.

Snorkeler wearing an orange life jacket

One of our most important tips for beginner snorkelers is that to use safety equipment: get an inflatable snorkel vest or a flotation device if you don’t feel confident floating in open water. To be visible for passing boats and for people on the shore, carrying a surface marker buoy is also highly recommended.

Never snorkel alone

Underwater sports require buddy system where both parties are responsible for each other’s safety. This rule especially applies to scuba diving and freediving, and however snorkeling alone is possible, it is absolutely not recommended.

Group of people snorkeling

Several human and natural factors – for example, leg cramping or coral injury- can create dangerous situations, so always have a snorkel buddy in order to snorkel safely.

Learn to read the weather and water conditions

Determining where to snorkel and what is the best time to go snorkeling is a complex process that includes analyzing various elements.

Man checking the weather conditions before snorkeling

Most of these aspects are obvious even for people who spend time by the ocean just occasionally such as stormy weather or extreme waves, but some factors that are not so evident or maybe invisible, so even novice snorkelers should know how to read the weather and water conditions that include understanding currents, tides, waves, and winds.

Think about sun protection

Also, don’t forget sun protection; beginners usually wear their usual swimsuit only when going on their first snorkeling adventure and get a bad sunburn. The reasons for this are simple; first, snorkeling is better when there is a lot of enough light during the day, which means the time when UV radiation is the highest. Second, it is easy to get mesmerized by the sea life, forget about the time and stay too long in the water.

A sunburn is not only painful but also dangerous, so make sure that your snorkeling gear includes sun protection accessories. We recommend a rash guard that protects your skin against the sun and helps prevent jellyfish stings too.

Practice reef etiquette

Snorkeling is an activity where people actively interacting with nature. You sure will be mesmerized by the variety of creatures you will witness, but remember you are just a visitor in their world so don’t cause any damage to this sensitive ecosystem.

Snorkeler and a turtle - Hawaii

Learn how to snorkel responsibly and respect the underwater world: don’t touch the corals, don’t chase or feed marine animals. Get a few marine life identification books; it will help you identify the species you see and know what creatures can be dangerous if you get too close to them.

Conclusion – Dos and Don’ts for Beginner Snorkelers

Snorkeling is a fun and very enjoyable way of exploring the underwater world. This water sport is easy to learn, requires only a few skills and very little equipment, but there are a few rules that beginners should learn and follow so their water experience will be safe and comfortable. To sum it up, here are the most important dos and don’ts:


  • improve your water confidence
  • get good quality, fitting snorkeling equipment
  • know how to use your snorkel gear
  • practice in a pool or in shallow water first
  • learn how to float on the surface and stay relaxed while swimming
  • use safety accessories
  • snorkel with a buddy
  • understand the weather and ocean conditions
  • learn about marine species


  • don’t be afraid in the water
  • go into deep water until you don’t swim well
  • use bad-quality or damaged equipment
  • swim with your hands, learn to use your fins
  • go snorkeling alone
  • be in the ocean if the weather conditions are not good
  • touch or chase marine life
  • feed the fish

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Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!