How to Plan the Perfect Snorkeling Vacation

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The summer season is upon us, and that means it is a great time to take that coveted snorkeling vacation that you always wanted to take. While tropical destinations like Hawaii or the Caribbean are great winter escapes, if you want to go during the heat of the summer, snorkeling can be a great way to refresh yourself and cool down for the rest of your vacation activities.

While snorkeling vacations are undoubtedly fun, vacations in general can be a major pain in the ass. So many things can go wrong, and that is true even more so if you don’t do your research on a destination and its snorkeling spots beforehand. So before you start your snorkel vacation planning, keep our tips in mind.

Decide Where To Go

You could technically go snorkeling in a lake if the water was clear enough and not cold enough to chill you to the bone. However, typically you want to go snorkeling closer to the equator where the water is warmer and typically more clear. While waters around areas like Southeast Asia are warm, they also occasionally suffer from visibility problems that make snorkeling difficult. So your best bet is the Caribbean, but we are particularly partial to Hawaii as it is an archipelago of legendary snorkeling spots.

Tours or Self-Guided?

This is the first decision you need to make after you know where you want to go. If your destination has clear beautiful warm water, it will also likely have at least a dozen tour operators that are ready and willing to take you out on a snorkel tour. Tours have their benefits since the guides know the waters well, provide a certain degree of safety, and can even sometimes provide equipment. However, planning your own snorkel adventure allows you much more freedom with time and location. Plus you can find a number of even the most off-the-beaten path snorkel spots on the internet these days.

However, if you are still new to snorkeling and not completely at ease in the water, you still want to go with a tour until you have built up your knowledge and confidence. It is part of a tour operators job to be there to save you if something goes wrong, and if you are on your own, then it is just your job.

Plan Backups upon Backups

The success of a snorkeling adventure is wholly dependent upon the weather and water conditions. Even if the weather is nice, it doesn’t mean the water at your planned snorkel destination will be safe or clear. Even tour operators usually have backup snorkel spots if their main one doesn’t pan out, so you should too. Always have at least one backup snorkel spot that is nearby or within reach and always check the water and weather before heading out for the day.

Look for Activities Nearby

This is important especially if you are taking kids out for their first snorkel experience. Snorkeling is a little tougher than it looks and, quite frankly, it can be tiring when combined with hot sun and even a light current. If you are snorkeling near shore, you can always repurpose your outing into a day at the beach, but it doesn’t hurt to know of a little cafe or other attractions that you can go enjoy if the water gets to be a bit much.

Bring Your Own Snorkel Gear

You can rent snorkel gear and many tour operators do provide it, but while this is okay, usually it is better to have your own. The problem with rentals is that it isn’t necessarily a good fit for you. You might get the wrong sized mask, your fins might rub, and many times you get a pretty poor quality snorkel. If you are a snorkel enthusiast, owning your own set is a must, but even if you are just casual, owning your own gear is a great one-time payment for when you need it.

Purchase Gear Well Before the Vacation Date

When buying your gear, make sure to order it well in advance to your vacation. Just like clothes or just about anything else, the size you think you need might not actually be the size you need. As with anything, you can also get a defective product, so it is important to give yourself enough time to make returns and get your order right.

Check Your Packing Lists

If you are taking a tour, usually they will have a recommended list of things to bring, but if you are going solo, you should check out our recommended snorkel trip pack list.  One thing we can’t stress enough is sunscreen. Ocean water magnifies the sun, and the closer to the equator, the stronger the sun is. This means that without sunscreen, once you get into the water it won’t be long before you start to sizzle like bacon. If you are snorkeling with a coral reef area, you will also want to make sure your sunscreen is coral-safe as well.

Brush Up on Safety

Do you know the perfect conditions for a rip tide to form? Do you know how to care for a cut or a cramp in the water? Safety is important in all things, but it should be more important when you put yourself right in the path of the mighty ocean. Even if you read up on snorkel safety in the past, before a vacation is a pretty good time to brush up on water safety as well as potentially dangerous conditions.

Leave a Travel Itinerary

This is important on any vacation even if you are just sticking to the tourist areas, but if you have ever seen movies like Open Water, you will know that even going on a snorkel tour doesn’t mean you are completely safe. Due to the unpredictable nature of the world, always leave a travel itinerary with a family or friend before leaving that details where you will be and what you have planned. If plans change, give them a quick call, text, or e-mail to let them know where you will be. Most of the time, it won’t matter, but when it does, it could save your life.

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Snorkel fanatic and water deviant. My snorkel and life partner (Lizzy) and I take to the beaches and bays to use all of the snorkel gear that we can. We try, test and review that gear for you...and we have a lot of fun in the meantime. Other than that, I'm a Soldier, father, bird lover, WoW player and a Boston sports fan.

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