• Blog
  • What To Wear Snorkeling In Hawaii?

What To Wear Snorkeling In Hawaii?

Last update: 2023-11-29

Snorkeling in Hawaii is one of the top activities that tourists enjoy when visiting the islands. With incredible coral reefs, colorful fish, sea turtles, and more, Hawaii offers world-class snorkeling. However, to fully enjoy the underwater sights, it's important to wear the proper snorkeling gear and clothing. Here's a detailed guide on what to wear when snorkeling in Hawaii.

Main Factors To Consider

When deciding what to wear snorkeling in Hawaii, the main factors to consider are:

Woman with mask dive to the deep near corals in tropical blue sea. Snorkeling with woman in Hawaii

Comfort - You'll be swimming and floating for extended periods, so comfort is key. Look for a well-fitted mask, snug yet comfy fins, and lightweight clothing that moves with you.

Protection - Hawaii's tropical sun is intense. Seek lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing that provides UPF sun protection.

Buoyancy - Your snorkeling outfit should help you float. Opt for swimwear with bright colors and reflective materials to be easily spotted.

Warmth - Even Hawaii's waters can get chilly with ocean currents. Consider wearing a rashguard and/or wetsuit depending on the season.

Durability - Look for quality gear that will hold up through extended use in the ocean.

Mask and Snorkel

Your mask and snorkel are the most crucial pieces of snorkeling gear. When shopping, focus on comfort, fit, and quality:

Preteen girl in mask and snorkel floating at surface of ocean with brother and father adventuring around caves on Catalina Island

  • Mask - Get a mask that forms a complete seal on your face. It should have low profile tempered glass lenses and a silicon or rubber skirt. Pay extra for prescription masks if needed.
  • Snorkel - Choose a snorkel featuring a flex tube, open top, and comfortable mouthpiece. Splurge on dry top models that seal shut when submerged.

Make sure to properly clean/defog your mask and rinse out your snorkel before each use. Always inspect for cracks, tears or malfunctions.


Fins help you move through the water efficiently while snorkeling. Three key factors for fins are:

  • Size - Measure your feet and select the proper fin size. They should fit snugly but not be painfully tight.
  • Blade style - Opt for shorter, stiffer blades if you're new to snorkeling. Longer, flexible blades work for strong swimmers.
  • Material - Fins can be rubber, plastic or composite. Each offers pros and cons for comfort, durability, and performance.

Practice swimming with fins before snorkeling to get used to them. Be sure to rinse fins in freshwater after each use.


For your base snorkeling layer, choose:

Snorkeling woman exploring beautiful ocean sealife. Water sport outdoor activities. Swimming and snorkeling on summer holidays. Under and above water photography.

  • Swimsuit - Women should opt for a one-piece rather than bikini to avoid unwanted exposure. Men can wear swim trunks or boardshorts.
  • Rashguard - These lightweight, synthetic long sleeve shirts provide sun protection and modesty. Look for snug-fitting yet flexible flatlock stitching.
  • Wetsuit - A full or partial wetsuit traps warmth while allowing mobility. Consider wearing one during winter months.

Look for quick-drying swimwear in bright colors for visibility. Avoid baggy clothes that can get caught or reduce mobility.


You have three main options for footwear when snorkeling in Hawaii:

  • Bare feet - If snorkeling from shore or shallow reefs, going barefoot is fine. But take care of foot abrasions on coral.
  • Booties - Neoprene booties insulate and protect feet from hot sand/coral. They also provide traction for entering/exiting the water.
  • Reef walkers - These rubber aqua socks have a durable non-slip sole to walk on rocky or sharp reefs. They also keep feet warm.

When possible, wear foot protection while snorkeling to avoid injuries. Just ensure they don't reduce your fin mobility.

Other Accessories

Some other useful snorkeling accessories include:

Female beach accessories with snorkeling mask and immune passport on white wooden background

  • Hat - Wear a wide-brim hat or visor to shade your face and neck from the sun.
  • Sunglasses - Polarized sunglasses improve visibility and reduce eye strain underwater.
  • Gloves - Lycra gloves help avoid jellyfish stings or coral cuts on your hands.
  • Vest/float - An inflatable vest provides flotation and makes you more visible to boat traffic.
  • Waterproof camera - Capture memories of sea life and the incredible reefs below the surface.

Wetsuit vs Rashguard

What To Wear Snorkeling In Hawaii - A wetsuit or rashguard? This is a common question, especially for cooler Hawaii snorkelingconditions. Here are a few tips:

Back view of woman in bikini, carrying snorkel gear towards the ocean. Get set for an amazing snorkeling experience. Concept of tropical summer vacation.

  • Wetsuit - Provides warmth and sun protection. Go for a full suit in winter or a vest/shorty in summer. Downside is limited mobility.
  • Rashguard - More flexibility and mobility than a wetsuit. Offers good sun protection but less warmth. Better for summer snorkeling.
  • Combination - Wear a rashguard as a base layer under a wetsuit for warmth plus unrestricted movement.
  • No additional layers - Okay if snorkeling in warm shallow waters during summer. But increased sun and jellyfish risk.

Make your decision based on the water temperature, your sensitivity to cold, and desired level of sun protection. When possible, try both options to compare.

Snorkeling Activity Level

What To Wear Snorkeling In Hawaii - The level of snorkeling activity can also impact your gear choices:

  • Casual reef snorkeling - Sticking close to shore and cruising slowly over reefs. Basic gear like mask, snorkel, fins and swimsuit/rashguard is fine.
  • Long or deep snorkeling - Swimming long distances or diving deeper. Consider booties, wetsuit, gloves and bright colors for visibility.
  • Snorkeling with gear - Using equipment like a flotation device, waterproof camera or spearfishing rig. Account for their bulk/drag when selecting streamlined apparel.
  • Rough conditions - Braving larger waves or surges offshore. Opt for snug-fitting gear less likely to shift or come off.

No matter your plans, prioritize quality gear that's comfortable and designed for snorkeling activities.

Snorkeling Outfit Examples

Here are a few examples of recommended snorkeling outfits in Hawaii for various scenarios:

Young men scuba diving explore underwater coral reef landscape background in deep blue ocean with colorful fish and marine life

Warm, Calm Shallow Reef

  • Swimsuit or rashguard
  • Mask, snorkel, fins
  • Hat for sun protection
  • Water shoes (optional)

Moderate Depth Offshore Snorkeling

  • Shorty wetsuit or rashguard
  • Mask, snorkel fins
  • Booties for foot protection
  • Lycra gloves to avoid jellyfish stings
  • Floatation device

Winter Shore Snorkeling

  • Full wetsuit for warmth
  • Mask, snorkel, heavy duty fins
  • Hood, booties and gloves
  • Bright colored inflatable safety vest

Snorkeling with Camera Gear

  • One-piece swimsuit for unrestricted movement
  • Mask, snorkel, flexible split fins for easy kicking
  • Waterproof camera float or harness
  • Bright colored inflatable vest for visibility

Shallow Reef Snorkeling with Kids

  • Rashguards with SPF for sun protection
  • Prescription or junior masks with flexible fins
  • Reef walkers for foot protection
  • Float vests for safety


The key to an enjoyable and safe Hawaii snorkeling experience is wearing the proper outfit. Consider the water conditions, climate, your plans and personal preferences when selecting gear. Focus on fit, comfort, protection and quality. With the right clothes and equipment, you can fully immerse yourself in Hawaii's spectacular underwater sights. The islands offer world-class snorkeling - so get out there and enjoy it!

Related Articles