Snorkel Tips and Tricks 101              Maui's best beaches for snorkeling

1) What is snorkeling?

Snorkeling is swimming on the surface of the water with a face mask, a snorkel (breathing tube) and fins, which allows you to have your face down in the water and still breathe. It is a fun activity with friends and family of all ages, especially in clear water where you can see lots of fish and water creatures.

2) Do I need to be a good swimmer to go snorkeling?

Of course it is easier to snorkel when you are comfortable in the water, however it’s not required to be a good swimmer. If you feel you’re not a capable swimmer it is recommended that you purchase or rent a flotation device, such as a Life Vest or a Life Belt. A snorkeling vest can be inflated to provide you with extra buoyancy to help keep you at the surface.  You can also lie on top of a boogie board and put your face in the water over the edge, and your legs off the other edge.  Many snorkeling spots are right off shore and are in water less than 10 feet deep. Your comfort and confidence will depend on which sites you go to, the water and weather conditions, your familiarity with your snorkeling gear and your general comfort level with the water. If possible, it is a good idea to practice snorkeling in a pool first, to get comfortable with your equipment, before going out to snorkel.

3) What equipment do I need to go snorkeling?

There are 3 primary pieces of equipment that most snorkelers use.

Dive Mask – A face mask (or dive mask) allows you to see underwater while protecting your eyes and keeping your nose out of the water. It’s important that the mask you select has a good fit. If the mask doesn’t fit well, you will experience water leaking into the mask. The best and most comfortable masks have a “silicone skirt”. The skirt is the soft and pliable substance that conforms to fit your face and prevents water from entering the mask.  Silicone skirts are also free from Latex, which some people are allergic to.                                                                                                                                                            Kihei and wailea snorkel store

Snorkel – A snorkel is a hollow curved tube that allows you to breathe while you are face down in the water. While you’re snorkeling and looking down into the water, the end with the mouthpiece is in your mouth and the other end is sticking out of the water so that you can breath. There are many types of snorkels to buy or rent on Maui. There is the simple “J” snorkel which is a curved tube with a mouthpiece. (The type invented back in the 70’s) Here at The Maui Snorkel Store we carry the newer “purge” snorkel that includes a one way purge valve at the bottom of the snorkel to make it easier to clear water that enters the snorkel when diving below the surface. Some snorkels have “splash guards” that prevent splashed surface water from entering the tube. And, there are also “dry” snorkels that have a closing mechanism at the top of the snorkel that will close to seal out water when you dive below the surface. 

FinsFins provide extra propulsion (you can go from point A to point B faster) and allow you to swim like a fish! There are 2 basic types of snorkeling fins, closed heel fins and open heel fins (also known as adjustable fins). Closed heel fins are available in more sizes than closed heel fins; however, closed heel fins are adjustable to fine tune to your foot size. Both types of fins are good, it is really a matter of personal fit and preference. Here at the Maui Snorkel Store we rent closed heel fins for Snorkeling, which are much smaller and lighter than longer and heavier scuba fins, as Scuba Divers use the open heel fin more often.

Whether you purchase or rent fins from the Maui Snorkel Store, make sure that they are a good fit. If the fins are too tight they may cut off circulation to your feet, and if they are too loose they may easily come off while snorkeling. Make sure they are a snug fit, but you should be able to wiggle your toes at least a little.

4) How do I make sure my mask fits?                                                                                                                                                                                maui snorkel gear rentals and lessons

To make sure your mask fits correctly to seal out the water, make sure you have No Hair in your face (pull it back) and hold the mask up to your face lightly.The mask face skirt should make contact with your face all the way around the skirt. Once the mask skirt is touching your skin, inhale gently through your nose. (sniff) The mask should create a vacuum and seal on your face, not allowing any more air to be inhaled. The mask remains on your face until you stop inhaling, indicating that the mask is a good fit. For men with a mustache, try using Vaseline or Chap Stick on your mustache.

5) My mask is leaking, what do I do?

First, make sure you have a mask that is a good fit for your face, as described in the FAQquestion #4. If you feel you have a mask that fits properly then adjust the straps for a comfortable fit but do not over-tighten. Sometimes over tightening can cause a leak and is not as comfortable too. Also, make sure to clear your hair from your face so you get a good seal. If you have a mustache, try using chap stick or Vaseline on your mustache to help create a seal.

6) How do I keep my mask from fogging up?

Just before entering the water, rub de-fog solution inside your mask and rinse it out. It is important to make sure to rinseafter using defog as the solution can sting your eyes. If you don’t have any defog solution, you can spit in your mask and rub it around. You will probably find yourself doing that while in the water, when your mask fogs up. If you did not get a good seal to begin with.

7) Can I wear contacts while snorkeling?

Yes you can; however be aware that if your mask floods, you may lose your contacts .An alternative to wearing contacts is to rent a mask with prescription lenses. Here at the Maui Snorkel Store we rent RX Dive and Snorkel Masks for Near Sighted people. From a -1.5 to -6.5 Prescription. 

8) How do I help prevent choking on water in the snorkel? 

Snorkels with built in “splash guards” or “dry tops” will keep splashed water out of the snorkel. Snorkels with“dry tops” are designed so that the top will close when you submerge preventing water from getting into the snorkel at the surface and underneath the water. When diving under the water with any type of snorkel, as a precaution, it is always good to clear the snorkel when back at the surface by exhaling sharply as described above. Here at the Maui Snorkel Store we only carry dry top snorkels, with Purge valves.

9) What is the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving?

Scuba diving requires additional equipment such as regulator, a buoyancy compensator and dive-tank, etc. This allows a person to swim and breathe underwater. Snorkeling on the other hand allows you to breathe face down while you are on the surface of the water. Scuba diving requires personal training from a scuba instructor and there is a certification process. Snorkeling doesn’t require professional instruction or certification.

10) Is it OK to use a life jacket when snorkeling?                                                                                                                                                             the maui snorkel store rents snorkel vests

Rather than using a life jacket it is better to use a snorkeling vest. Snorkeling vests are worn onthe front and held in place with straps around the back and chest. You inflate the vest by blowing air into it with your mouth. Even a little air in the vest can make a nervous snorkeler much more confident, and fully inflated vest allows one to rest comfortably at the surface. Snorkeling vests are recommended for people that are not confident swimmers.

11) Directions on how to Snorkel

If you’re going to be out snorkeling for long, during peak sun hours, don’t forget to use waterproof sunscreen or wear a dive skin suit or a light wet suit. In cooler water a wet suit keeps you warmer and helps you float. Just before entering the water rub defog solution inside your mask and rinse it out. It is important to make sure to rinse after using defog as the solution can damage or sting your eyes. If you don’t have any defog solution, saliva works too, but either way rinse after using! Put your mask on by pulling the strap over the crown of your head. Then adjust the straps for a comfortable fit but do not over-tighten. Make sure to clear your hair from your face so you get a good seal. Finally, adjust the snorkel so it fits comfortably in your mouth on the left side of your face.

Before putting on your fins try putting the snorkel in your mouth and breathe. Don’t try to breathe with your nose or the mask will quickly fog up. Breathe through your mouth in normal, relaxed breaths. Now try breathing with your face in the water and take the time to get used to breathing with your face underwater. Once comfortable with breathing then it’s time to try your fins. After your gear is on, put your face down in the water with your body stretched out and start kicking with your fins. Kick from your hips without bending your knees too much. Stay relaxed, and swim around to get used to breathing, kicking, and looking around. Lifting your head up to breathe wastes energy and wears you out, so use your snorkel, float, relax and have fun. As you swim, keep your arms at your side.

12) What is the best way to get in the water at the beach?

If you have to walk on the sand or through shallow water with your fins on, shuffle your feet backward or sideways so you don’t trip on the blades. Slowly move into the water until it’s about 3 feet deep then easy yourself in and start swimming. If you walk in your fins they will rip and we will charge you $20.00.

13) Can I go underwater with a snorkel to get closer to things I want to see?                                                                                                                                           snorkel with turtles in Maui

If you want to get a closer look at fish or something several feet below you, just take adeep breath and dive down. Since you using one of the Maui Snorkel Store’s  “purge” & dry top snorkels (which is recommended), you will rarely get water back in your mouth, as it is easier to clear all the water from the tube with just one blast of air. This is because some of the water will exit the top of the snorkel and some will exit the bottom of the snorkel through the one way purge valve. If you dive down more than just a few feet deep you’ll feel pressure on your ears, which is normal. To equalize the pressure, pinch your nose and blow gently against it. You should feel the pressure equalize in your ears. Do this every few feet, before you feel discomfort. If you can’t equalize your ears, do not descend further. It will hurt, and you can injury your ears. If you can’t equalize, stop, go back up, catch your breath and try again. With some practice, you’ll find you can equalize your ears easily. You may also feel your mask pressing against your face as you go down. Blow some air through your nose into the mask to equalize the pressure. When you feel the urge to breathe, swim up.

14) What is a “Dry Top Snorkel”?

Dry-top snorkels (also know as submersible snorkels) have a closing top to keep water out of the Snorkel while you’re underwater. Although the snorkel should be free of water when you surface, just exhale lightly to release the pressure so that the top will reopen. If any water has entered in your snorkel it can be cleared with a sharp exhalation.

15) What are the best conditions for snorkeling?

Here on Maui, the best time to go snorkeling is in the morning, the earlier the better. Our trade winds usually pick up at 2:00 PM and can make snorkeling more challenging. Also you want the sun, for the colors of the Fish and Corals to show. So sunny days when the waves and wind are minimal,Large waves make it more challenging and potentially dangerous to get to the snorkeling area, and tend to make the water murky, greatly decreasing visibility, which can be unsafe for a multitude of reasons.

Now that you have read our Maui Snorkeling Tips and Tricks, click here for a list of Maui’s best snorkeling beaches, so you can go snorkeling (with a buddy) to see the colorful live corals and tropical fish.