No boat? No problem. Learn how to snorkel from the shore at the beach.
Many people think that snorkeling is an activity that requires a boat and a distant island, where you can dive into the water and discover a hidden coral reef. And, yes, that can be an excellent way to experience it. But did you know you can also snorkel from the beach, right from the shore? And, you can often find unique places to snorkel from the beach if you know what to look for.
However, snorkeling from the beach is different from snorkeling from a boat, and there are some additional things to consider to find a good spot and some tips to follow to do it safely and competently. So, let’s explore 4 easy tips to make your beach snorkeling from the shore as awesome as possible.
Can You Snorkel From The Shore?
Yes, you can Snorkel from the shore, but you may have to swim for a while to get to the best part of the reef, where you can see more fish and turtles. Don’t put your fins on too far from the water, but wait until you’re close enough to the shore. Then, move sideways or backward (like a snorkel dance) until you’re deep enough in the water to fall in and swim to where you want to go.
1. Find The Best Beach Snorkeling Spots
Before you get into the water at the beach, you need to decide where you want to get into the water.
Any safe spot will do if you just want to practice snorkeling. But, if you see some beautiful scenery and marine life while snorkeling from the shore, only some spots will be equally good.
Some places, like Bonaire, are unique because the water will lead you to some fantastic snorkeling from the beach almost anywhere you enter. Bonaire has a protected marine park covering its entire coastline, with a barrier reef surrounding the island. That makes it easy to find great places to snorkel from the shore. But this is also very rare.
If you are somewhere else more familiar, like a resort in the Caribbean or an island in the Andaman Sea, you must know how to choose your shore snorkeling spot more carefully.
One of the most important things to remember is that fish-like structures. They like to stay near something they can use to hide or escape predators. This can include things like docks, rocks, or even buoys.
So, does your resort have a dock they use for boat trips? Are there buoys that mark a swimming area? These would be good places to try snorkeling and see if you can find some colorful fish.
Another thing you might look for is whether there is a spot that might be attracting some marine life with food. For example, we found a place in Curaçao with a dock where local fishermen returned in the afternoon with their catch. This brought birds, which ate the scraps. Some of those scraps fell into the water, which brought fish and crabs, which then got a lot of sea turtles. It was a really excellent spot to snorkel from the beach.
Another great tip is to ask a local for suggestions on the best places to snorkel from the beach. If you are staying at a hotel or resort, the reception or concierge staff might have some good recommendations.
Otherwise, you can also ask someone at the beach for some advice — most locals are happy to share their knowledge about their area and its beach snorkeling. So, now that we know where we want to snorkel from the beach let’s talk about how to do it and how to do it safely.
2. Check Snorkeling Conditions
Water Conditions Before Snorkeling from the Shore
When you snorkel from the beach, you must be careful about some things to do safely. The currents and the waves can be stronger and more unpredictable than farther from the shore. One of the easiest ways to know the water conditions before you enter is to learn the beach warning flag system.
Many places where you can snorkel from the beach have a flagpole with different colors of flags that show how the ocean is.
Usually, green means the water is calm and safe, yellow represents the water is moderate, and you should be careful, red means the water is rough and you should not go in, two red flags indicate the water is closed, and purple means there may be dangerous animals (like jellyfish) in the water.
Green is the best color for your beach snorkeling, so try to find that.
This system can change depending on location, but it is mostly reliable. It is always a good idea to ask someone (a resort staff, a lifeguard, etc.) to confirm before snorkeling from the beach.
If there are no flags, that does not mean the water is always calm. If that happens, it is helpful to ask someone nearby, like a dive shop owner, or even check the conditions online, as many places worldwide have updated water conditions available. For that purpose, you can visit our complete article about Snorkeling 101: The Complete Guide to Snorkeling.
When you snorkel from the beach, you must check more than just the water. You also need to avoid anything that could go wrong from the start to the finish.
For example, what is the beach like? If the beach has soft, smooth sand, you can walk on it without shoes.
But some beaches have different kinds of sand. For instance, in Bonaire, many of their beaches had fossilized coral pieces from thousands of years ago, which made walking on them very uncomfortable. In these cases, I always wore my water shoes. By “water shoes,” I mean light, tight shoes that protect your feet and fit well in your fins.
Also, before you go snorkeling from the beach, you should learn about the area and make sure it is safe. Are there any big rocks that the waves hit hard?
Stay away from them as much as you can. Or is there a lot of algae in the water? You should go somewhere else that has clear water. And choose a place that lets you get in and out quickly. It’s a good sign if you can walk into the water from the shore.
But, if you have to jump from rocks to get in, you might have trouble getting out of the water. Don’t get stuck in the sea by planning your snorkeling trip well.
3. Get Into The Water Gracefully
You have chosen a great, safe place to snorkel from the beach. Now, it’s time to go! But getting into the water from the beach is not the same as getting into the water from a boat.
If you are not wearing any shoes (or just water shoes), you should be able to get into the water quickly from your safe entry and exit point.
But, if you are wearing fins, which can make your snorkeling better, things can get a little… awkward.
You often want to put your fins on before reaching the water. But you won’t be able to walk normally. If you try, you might fall on your face.
Instead, put your fins on as close to the water as possible, then move sideways or backward (like a snorkel shuffle) until you are deep enough to fall in and swim to where you want to go. If the water is calm, you can also hold your fins in your hand as you walk out, then put them on when you are deep enough to float.
4. Get Out Of The Water Gracefully
When you are done with snorkeling from the beach, it’s time to return to the shore. And fins can make it a little tricky to get out of the water after snorkeling from the beach.
You can’t just walk out of the water in fins.
Instead, the trick here is to swim close enough to the shore to stand on the bottom while still being able to float a little if you want.
From here, lean back to float a little and bring one leg up in front of you at a time, then take each fin off.
Hold the fins in your hand and just walk back to the beach. If everything goes well, you should look like an expert.
Bonus: What To Do With Your Stuff While You Snorkel From The Shore
Another thing to think about when you snorkel from the beach is what to do with your stuff while in the water.
The best way is to bring as little as possible to the beach and try to leave anything valuable that you don’t need in the safe in your hotel room, locked in your car, etc.
But, if you can’t leave everything valuable in your room or locked car and don’t want to risk leaving it on the beach while you are gone, get a floating dry bag like the [Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag Roll-Top Dry Compression Sack].
With a roll-top dry bag like this, you can put whatever you don’t want to leave on the beach with you (the 10L-sized bag should be enough), roll the top down to trap air inside the bag with everything else, buckle it, and then you have a floating, waterproof bag that you can drag behind you while snorkeling from the beach with the shoulder strap.
These bags have been waterproof for me, but it makes sense to not take anything with you that would be ruined if it got wet (like an old phone that is not IP68 water resistant).
Also, if I have my GoPro with me (which I always do), the floating handgrip I use, the [CamKix Waterproof Telescoping Handgrip], has a hollow handle that I can put things like rings or cash. That secret compartment has been helpful for me many times when I didn’t want to leave something like that on a boat or beach.
(If you want to know more about snorkeling with a GoPro [it’s fun], check out [Can You Snorkel With a GoPro?])
Best Shore Snorkeling in the World
I want to share some tips on finding the best places in the world for snorkeling from the shore since that is what I enjoy doing these days. I love having one reef to myself for a week and not going anywhere else. It takes more effort to find accommodations that offer only shore snorkeling, but having a kitchen and bed right next door is worth it. These are usually places where there are no other resorts on the island.
I also only choose places these days that are relatively easy to get to by plane. For example, some great places to snorkel from the shore in Tonga, Vanuatu, and the Grenadines are very far and complicated to reach.
French Polynesia – Best Location for Shore Snorkeling
For me, French Polynesia is the best place in the world for snorkeling from the shore. And the islands are beautiful. You can find reefs suitable outside your door on almost any island, whether you stay at a resort or a rental house. Some of my favorite islands are Moorea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Tikahau, Huahine, and their motus, but there are many more to choose from.
You could visit a different island and a nearby motu in French Polynesia for the rest of your life and never snorkel from the shore at every spot. I have often been to French Polynesia, and it is still paradise on Earth, especially for a snorkeler.
More Great Shore Snorkeling Locations
- Another excellent place for snorkeling from the shore is Utila, where you can rent a house on a reef.
- The Cook Islands also have good snorkeling from the beach.
- The Yasawa and Mamanuca islands are still a good option in Fiji, and the Fiji resorts on their own islands (like Qamea, Royal Davui, etc.).
- Another place is Molokai in Hawaii. The reefs are a bit further out but still reachable.
- All Virgin Islands are still the most accessible snorkeling from the shore, but I heard the reefs are not as good as they used to be.
You don’t need a boat to enjoy snorkeling. Following the tips above, you can discover unique and safe places to snorkel from the beach.
Snorkeling from the beach or shore is a great way to improve your snorkeling skills, explore some hidden treasures near where you are staying, and just have fun and see marine life that you would miss if you were sitting on the shore. Use our beginner’s guide to snorkeling to find the best places to snorkel from the shore, ensure you are safe, and then go out and have a blast!