Tips for Snorkeling in Tropical Islands

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Expert: Cameron – I have been snorkeling for over two decades and have a certification with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Most of my time in the water has been spent in local tropical islands and islands in the Pacific which have provided unforgettable experiences.

Snorkeling is one of the best activities that you can have when visiting a tropical island.

Making sure you are prepared and ready for whatever comes your way while snorkeling is important.

I have been up and down the tropics to include the Pacific Islands, and can guarantee you that these tips will ensure a most memorable snorkeling excursion!

Here we will break down what you should be keeping in mind when deciding your location during your tropical experience.

Essential Snorkeling Equipment

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the underwater world, but you need the right equipment for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Below we are going to break down your equipment list that you will need for your adventure.

Click here for a full, in-depth breakdown of what to wear when snorkeling.

Snorkel and Mask

Snorkel Gear Outside

A mask and snorkel are the most important pieces of equipment for snorkeling.

Be sure that you purchase a quality mask and snorkel that fits comfortably and provides an adequate seal around your face.


Fins provide propulsion underwater which helps you move quickly and more easily.

Given this, they greatly increase your energy conservation while in the water.

When looking for fins, be sure you find a pair that fit comfortably and are adequate for your adventure.

Be mindful that some fins require booties.

Click here to see if you really need fins to snorkel.


Depending on your location and time of year, you might consider getting a wetsuit to stay warm in cold water.

Wetsuits can also protect you from minor scrapes or stings from jellyfish.

Flotation Device

A flotation device is always a good idea to have, especially when entering water with currents.

There are many PFDs (personal flotation devices) that are specifically designed for snorkeling, but you can use a standard life jacket just the same.

Underwater Camera

Wolfang Camera Unboxing

A wonderful addition to your snorkeling kit is an underwater camera.

They are a great way to capture the beautiful underwater world around you.

Be sure to get a camera that is waterproof and easy to use.

A GoPro is a great option and there are cheaper models available online for a fraction of the price.

If all else fails, a standard underwater disposable camera will work just as good.

Safety Tips

Snorkeling can be a safe and fun activity if you follow some basic safety precautions.

Here are some pointers for staying safe while snorkeling.

Check Weather and Current Conditions

Red Beach Flag

Before heading to the shoreline, check the local weather and ocean conditions.

Look out for strong winds, current conditions, and high waves which can make snorkeling unsafe.

If you are unsure about the water conditions, check the flag when arriving at the beach.

Most beaches post a standard flag color system for safety of entering the water.

Stay Close to Shore

Try to remain close to the shore and in shallow waters.

Some beaches can drop off abruptly, bringing with it a stronger current.

Remaining near the shore will help prevent being swept away or dragged down by any of these currents or rip tides.

Always Go with a Buddy

Never go snorkeling alone.

Always have a buddy with you in case something goes wrong or anyone needs assistance back to the shore.

Wear Appropriate Sun Protection

Wearing a wetsuit and applying sunscreen will help protect yourself against any UV damage from the Sun.

Be mindful of the sunscreen that you bring with you since places like Hawaii has banned sunscreens containing avobenzone and octocrylene.

The reasoning for this is because these chemicals were damaging the reef within the marine environment.

Best Snorkeling Locations

Freediving Snorkeler

The best location depends on your vacation destination ultimately.

For serene spots be sure to check out any local tours near you to really get an in-depth look at the sea life around.

Every location that I have been has had a snorkeling or diving tour that brings you to several locations to see all the island has to offer.

What to Look for While Snorkeling

When snorkeling, there is so much to view and explore.

Here are some things to keep an eye on while your out in the water.

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are colorful and vibrant underwater communities that provide a home to a wide range of marine life.

Within the reefs you can see colorful corals, sea sponges, and anemones decorating the sea floor.

Marine Life

Sea Turtle Philippines

This is most likely why you decided to head on into the water to snorkel in the first place.

There is a massive amount of marine life you can swim around with to include fish, sea turtles, whale sharks, and more.

Be respectful of these creatures when you are in their habitat and do your best not to disturb them.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), attempting to touch marine animals, like otters, seals, dolphins, sea turtles, or manta rays could seriously injure them, cause them to flee, or evoke aggressive behavior, using up the precious energy they need to perform basic life activities.

And if you are venturing in Hawaii, do not touch the sea turtles at all since they are protected by law, unless you have a permit.

This is another time to mind the beach flag conditions since some colors also warn for harmful marine life.


Underwater Seaplane Wreck

Many tropical islands are home to shipwrecks, making it a key point for a nice snorkeling experience.

Like anything else in the water, marine life makes these their home as well as they are slowly taken over by algae and plant life.

Natural Features

Natural features like underwater caves, archways, and walls can be wonderful viewpoints to see.

Be sure not to enter any underwater caves while snorkeling to prevent currents from causing potential accidents.

Tips for Taking the Best Photos

Snorkeling Man Sitting

Underwater photography can be challenging, but with the right tips and techniques, you can get amazing results.

Use Natural Light

Natural light will assist in bringing out the vibrant colors of the underwater world.

Be sure to turn off the flash on your camera so to keep this natural light and not scare away any potential sea life.

Keep the Camera Steady

Keeping the camera steady will keep your photos sharp and prevent any blurring.

I prefer to record videos while snorkeling and taking photo clips from the video to ensure there is no blur and everything is captured.

Use a Neutral Density Filter

Using a neutral density filter will assist in reducing the amount of light entering the camera and make it easier to capture more vibrant colors.

These can be purchased as lens attachments for your action cameras like the GoPro or similar substitutes.

Shoot in Shallow Water

Shallower water provides the best light and visibility when taking underwater pictures.

The further you go down the less frequencies of light can penetrate the water.

If you decide to go down deeper, definitely consider purchasing a neutral density filter for your camera.

Getting the Most out of Your Snorkeling Experience

Snorkeling with Sardines

Snorkeling is an incredible experience that can provide an up close and personal look into the underwater world.

Be Patient and Take Your Time

Snorkeling is meant to be a stress relieving activity.

Slow down and take in the sites and sounds of the underwater world.

The calmer you are within the water, the more likely marine life will feel more comfortable with you around them.

Listen to Your Guide

If you are snorkeling with a guide, listen to their advice and follow their instructions for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Respect Marine Life

Remember to respect the marine life you encounter while snorkeling.

Do not touch, chase, or disturb the animals.

Stay Calm and Enjoy the Moment

Snorkeling can be a very calming and peaceful experience.

Take a moment to relax and enjoy the beauty of the underwater world.


Snorkeling in tropical islands is an amazing experience that can provide an up close and personal view of the underwater world.

With the right equipment and safety precautions, along with some patience and respect for marine life, you can discover the beauty of the underwater world and capture some amazing photos.

[Sources and References]

“Hands to Yourself Keep Wildlife Safe and Healthy.” Hands to Yourself | Office of National Marine Sanctuaries,’t%20Touch&text=Attempting%20to%20touch%20marine%20animals,to%20perform%20basic%20life%20activities. Accessed 22 May 2023.

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

#1 Image by Paul Brennan
#2 Image by Arhnue Tan