Do You Need A License To Snorkel?


No, you don’t need a license in order to snorkel. Since you’re floating at the surface of the ocean, just like swimming, there is no need for a certification.

If you want to go scuba diving you will need to get a license first (like a PADI for example). Diving down with a tank full of compressed air, a regulator and more advanced gear requires training. Besides that, descending and ascending the ocean water comes with risks.

Why You Don’t Need A License To Snorkel

Ocean Surface

Snorkeling is a hobby where you float on the surface of the ocean. Sure, you can take a quick and shallow dive if you’re able to hold your breath for a few seconds. This being said, snorkelers stay afloat while they explore the marine life below them.

The most interesting shores to snorkel are usually shallow. This allows a snorkeler to easily watch the fish or even corals from a small distance. If you join a snorkel trip to an outer reef for example, you still stay at the ocean surface.

In other words, consider snorkeling a bit like swimming. The difference is that you wear snorkel gear that allows you to take a glimpse of what’s beneath. Snorkeling doesn’t always require you to swim like we once explained in this article. If you’re able to stay afloat, and if you’re able to stay safe, most of us are able to enjoy this hobby.

Fresh Air

Snorkelers wear a snorkel mask and a snorkel. The mask facilitates watching the marine life. The snorkel enables you to breathe. The air that you breathe is the same as you normally would when swimming. However, this time it’s through a snorkel.

The atmospheric pressure is what we humans breath throughout our daily lives. It’s the air that surrounds us at the surface of our planet. Breathing through a tube doesn’t change that. As long as the tube, or the snorkel so to speak, allows for enough airflow.

This is a totally different story for scuba divers. Scuba divers dive down much deeper and for longer periods. Therefore, they need to take some compressed air with them. Once deeper down into the ocean, the surrounding pressure increases. This can be dangerous if you’re not a trained person. We cover this danger in more detail in our article “Can you snorkel before flying?“.


We’re not saying that snorkeling doesn’t require any skills at all. The point we’re trying to make, is that most of us are perfectly capable to do so. And even if you have some limitations, there is a lot of helpful gear to assist your adventure.

Like we already mentioned, it’s all about staying afloat. You can do so by floating naturally, if you’re able to do that. Most people combine floating with a few swimming moves. You can just as well swim like you normally would in order to explore a bigger area along the shore. More information can be found in our discussion about snorkeling and floating.

If you’re able to float, if you’re able to wear snorkel gear and if you know how to stay safe, you’re pretty much there. Therefore, a license is not necessary. However, you are responsible for your own safety. If you’re uncertain about your skills, you can always practice in a shallow pool and go from there.


Compared to scuba diving, snorkeling gear is pretty simple and easy to understand. It’s not that hard to find a mask that fits you well. Simply go to your local shop and let the owner help you out. The same goes for the snorkel.

Most snorkelers prefer to wear fins around their feet. They come with a lot of advantages like we explain in our snorkel fins guide. They can make everything easier and safer if you’re used to them.

Another thing worth mentioning are the full face snorkel masks. These masks cover the entire face and have an integrated snorkel. This makes snorkeling a lot easier as well. We once explained their pro’s and con’s and how to be aware of possible CO2-buildup. If however you choose the right mask you’re all set to go. Definitely not necessary to get a license for that.

There’s more to cover when it comes to gear that facilitates snorkeling. Think about life vests, rash guards, underwater scooters, you name it. Especially a life vest makes people float a whole lot. So again, a certificate is not obligatory.


Staying safe and playing by the rules is important. If you know what you are doing and if you take no risks, snorkeling is often fine. It’s easy these days to do some research about currents, ask a local lifeguard or watch the beach flags. A lot of precautions are available in order to stay safe.

Just like anything in life, there is always a risk. But it’s not necessary to get a license in order to snorkel. It’s common sense that you need to use. If you don’t feel like swimming in a certain location, you should not go snorkeling either.

Safety is enhanced by a lot of gear that we just mentioned. Staying close to the shore, wearing a life vest, being able to stand, all things that make snorkeling a pretty safe hobby. Practice in a pool first, stay in shallow water, and listen to what your body tells you. In case of currents, cramps or other issues you will be able to leave the ocean immediately.

Always snorkel together with at least one buddy. If you agree on certain signs and to keep an eye on one another, safety definitely increases even more. Make sure you learn more about the dangers of snorkeling on this website.

Final Thoughts

We once wrote an article called “Is snorkeling easy?“. Even though for most of us this is the case, some people find it hard and some of us are even scared to snorkel. Therefore, even if you don’t need a license, be wise and think before you enter any water.

More and more gear is coming to market in order to help people out. These days it’s possible to snorkel with dentures, beards, braces, earplugs and even glasses. The comfort and accessibility all add to the fact that you don’t need a license.

If you’re capable to snorkel and you take responsibility wisely, you should enjoy this activity a whole lot. Experienced snorkelers sometimes snorkel in the rain or join a snorkel trip. Don’t feel like you need to be capable to do the same thing. Remember, everyone has his or her own limitations.

Tip: If you snorkel with children, make sure you look after their safety. Not all kids can snorkel. Feel free to read more about this topic in our giant guide for snorkeling with kids.


Snorkeling doesn’t require a license, but you should comprehend what it’s all about. If you master the skills and if you take the necessary precautions, its’ a marvelous hobby to enjoy for years to come. You are responsible for your own safety. Read more about safety on this website.

A lot of gear is available in order to assist you. Wherever you go, make sure you understand the weather conditions and whatever risks could show up. We cover a good amount of snorkel locations on our website and will be adding more over time.

We hope you enjoy your next adventure and stay safe!

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