a man on the surface with snorkeling gear

Can You Snorkel When It Rains?

When people think of snorkeling, what often pops into the mind is crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, colorful fish in amazing underwater terrain, along with copious amounts of sunshine.

Though these very same locations can often be accompanied by varied and unpredictable weather at certain times of the year.

Not only is the thought of rain entering the snorkel a legitimate concern, but the rain has a few other effects than potentially might make snorkeling a less than pleasant experience.

So, can you go snorkeling in the rain?

Yes, it’s certainly possible to snorkel in rain. Light or moderate rain doesn’t bring too many issues that alter the experience, other than putting up with the rain. Stronger winds, and storms, however, can stir up the seabed, cause river runoffs and provide dangerous tidal conditions as well as lower light visibility.

There are certainly many issues to consider. After all, who wants to alter the trip of a lifetime because of a little rain.

Personally, rain doesn’t worry me as I’d be in the water anyway, and it certainly doesn’t stop me. The main issue for me is light. In the sunlight, the water looks amazing, and the whole experience is alive with color.

While you can do it in the rain, it’s much more preferable when the sun is shining. Luckily the tropics the rain doesn’t last too long.

a male snorkeler underwater looking at fish

Why The Question Is Asked?

Think snorkeling, and an idyllic picture enters your head, however, there is a reality to life. Snorkeling is mentally connected to a fantastic perfect environment, yet there are some legitimate concerns to rain and snorkeling.

First is the notion that rain often comes with other factors like lowered light levels, cloudy, wind, and waves. Many wonder if the weather drastically alters the enjoyment of your snorkeling.

Secondly, many wonder if rain interferes functionally in the practice of snorkeling. While snorkeling you are meant to keep the rain out of the snorkel, so does it affect your ability to breathe?

There is also the question of frequency, and grade of the rain. While light rain during sunshine seems manageable, heavy rain and storms with thunderclouds seem a touch excessive.

Many of the best snorkeling spots around the world naturally coincide with tropically known areas which are naturally accompanied by tropical rains.

Depending upon the time of year, and whether you can snorkel in certain periods of the year without will depend upon your enjoyment of anything other than idyllic conditions. Some light rains that often happen in these areas really shouldn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the snorkeling you are after.

Heavy rains are often accompanied by other less than welcome weather patterns, so depending upon the severity of the rain, too much rain can significantly alter your perceived enjoyment of the sport.

Determining your comfort level before you go seems paramount.

a snorkeler near the beach in shallow waters

A Word Or Two About Forecast Rainfall With Snorkeling

Most snorkeling is done or at least enjoyed in the tropics. There are thousands of locations around the globe where you are snorkeling that might experience rain.

The important part to note is that rain in the tropics is very different from places you might be familiar with, in a few significant ways.

So if you are looking at gloomy-looking forecasts, with ‘heavy rain expected’ type commentary then it’s not necessarily what it seems. No need to start panicking quite yet.

The thing about tropical places to snorkel is that rain can come and go all the time. In Jamaica, they call it ‘liquid sunshine’. With little cloud cover, you may get a quick blast of light rain, before it disappears again.

It’s also possible, certainly towards the edge of seasons, to only have the rain at night. In southeast Asia, every day during the monsoon it can rain, but only for an hour.

So even though it rains, it won’t last that long.

Tropical snorkeling though is much less enjoyable if a tropical thunderstorm is present. They will produce a lot of wind, heavy rain, and lower visibility quite considerably. Thankfully they are rare during identifiable seasons.

While western rain is accompanied by cold winds, quite the reverse can happen in many parts of the world. Tropical rain can feel like a warm shower.

While many might think that rainfall while snorkeling is a bad thing, there can be a few plus points.

Firstly you’ll be wet anyway, so that’s hardly an issue, but with the rain comes the fact that the sun is likely to be a lot less harsh. For those that burn easily that can be quite a blessing.

So rain isn’t the deterrent to snorkeling you might be worried about. The weather patterns can be brief and immediate. A crystal clear sky one moment, then a dark cloud arrives, stays for 20 minutes, and drops a bit of warm rain, and then departs.

The weather prediction business is difficult at the best of times, but many weather services will just say ‘heavy rain expected’ for weeks on end, despite the fact it’s brief in its appearance.

Unless the weather service uses the word ‘storm’ you may well be Ok.

a female snorkeler looking at the camera

Is There Still Good Visibility In The Water If It’s Raining?

The object of snorkeling is to experience the wonders of the natural world. While you can do it in pools and small lakes, the most interesting snorkeling has an underwater life to it.

So it’s quite natural to wonder if the experience is somewhat diminished because of rain on the water’s surface. Light to moderate rain really won’t affect the snorkeling experience.

Beneath the waves, where you have your head pointed, it will be quite calm towards the seabed.

You will only notice the rain once you resurface or poke your head out of the water.

With heavy rain, it might be a slightly different atmosphere. Many people, including myself, have snorkeled with the rain beating down and found the water perfectly OK to snorkel in.

The exception is if a storm is in the area, and along with the rain, the weather patterns are significantly disrupted. With the rain comes darker clouds, and wind.

At that point, the rain itself isn’t the main issue, but the lower light levels that accompany it. In bright sunlight, the ocean seems colorful and vibrant, but without it, it can take on a darker demeanor.

Essentially your photographs will just look a little less vibrant, as will your underwater video should you be taking any.

For many, rain and clouds won’t prevent them from taking to the water to go snorkeling.

a lone snorkeler in shallow water and caves

Will A Snorkeling Trip Be Cancelled If There Is Rain?

A lot of people ask this question because they are on a cruise. A snorkeling tour will be part of a package that they sign up to.

If the rain is known to be just a tropical rain then it’s unlikely that a tour operator will cancel a trip, purely due to rain. It would most likely only be done if there’s a safety issue.

That could either be for transport safety or an issue with water safety like a transport boat being deemed unsafe to go out on the water.

Again, this is still only likely to be done in the event of a storm, or at least heavy rain due to it. Typical tropical weather is unlikely to cause anything to be canceled.

What Rain Types Affect Snorkeling

As a holiday approaches many will start looking feverishly at the weather. The thought of it being anything less than idyllic can bring many worries.

As this post is pointing out, the weather in tropical areas can be quite different, and it’s quite something to witness a small shower appear out of nowhere, rain a bit, and then leave in the space of 20 minutes.

There’s really no need to get unduly worried for most of the rain you will encounter, if it comes at all it can be unduly brief.

Just look out for majorly low depressions that are more indicative of a storm.

Here’s a quick look at what you might be able to suspect.

Snorkeling in Light Rainfall

Very light rainfall is nothing to worry about at all. Even if it is normally warm and idyllic and just get a sudden shower you will be fine for snorkeling. It really shouldn’t affect anything too much.

It can even be quite fun, but the rain should soon pass.

Most who experience light rainfall will either just carry on, or wait it out, and then continue. It shouldn’t be enough to put anyone off.

You don’t need to take any specific precautions or take anything extra, other than the dry bag which is always a good idea anyway to keep clothes dry.

For the most part, though, you should be able to snorkel without interruption.

If you have a guide, then they should be able to inform you more accurately.

Snorkeling In Heavy Rainfall

While light and moderate rainfall with short duration is nothing to worry about, certainly with respect to enjoyment of the activity, if the rain is part of a storm or particularly heavy weather, that might alter perception.

Everyone has a different gauge of what they are happy to tolerate though.

Either heavy rain or rainfall that will persist could be a different story depending upon the location. With persistent rain, you may not enjoy the activity as much, but it would still be doable,

Heavy rain severely disrupts the surface and is normally accompanied by much darker skies, so the visibility drops along with the ability to snorkel efficiently.

Then there might be the increased wind that will chill the air, and make the whole experience much colder.

The fact is, it’s just not as fun with heavy and persistent rain.

If there is a heavy rainfall that will last, it may be better to postpone any snorkeling plans until the weather improves.

a woman snorkeling underwater looking at tropical fish

Persistent Rain Effects And Snorkeling

While rain in the moment can be easily brushed off, there’s the question of location and persistent rain that may alter the experience.

The world is a wonderful, array of amazing locations, but it can be brutal. Especially if trying to interfere with snorkeling.

Persistent rain can make nearby rivers overflow. Overflow from the nearby hills from soaked rain can seriously cloud up the water.

The mud and silt will come down off the hills and if it deposits into where you are snorkeling, the water may not be as crystal clear as you want it to be.

That will affect the visibility for as long as the river is overflowing into the ocean.

Severe storms and certainly tropical cyclones can stir up the seabed for several days, as well as depositing silt into a bay. Luckily the tides help keep the area fresh over time, but it is something to consider if a heavy storm has recently passed.

When You Shouldn’t Snorkel In The Rain

If you are on a cruise or part of a snorkeling package of some kind, more than likely the instructors will make a judgment that’s based on experience.

They may cancel a trip, or at least postpone it until the weather has improved.

The main time you shouldn’t snorkel is during a storm or a cyclone, and this isn’t just because of the weather. While you may not be too concerned about the view, and putting up with the rain, there are other issues to consider.

For a start, a storm brings much rougher waters. The waves that you may encounter may be stronger than you had anticipated.

The main danger though might be from tides. Tides are the natural and rhythmical flow of the ocean, but during a storm, with the increased water flows those tides can be strong. The effects of a riptide will not matter how much of a great swimmer you are.

I saw someone once get carried away by one of these tides once in Thailand. He’d strayed outside of the assigned lanes, and there was nothing he could do. He had to be rescued by a speedboat from the tour.

You shouldn’t underestimate the dangers.

Currents can change, so always be aware. Rough waters and strong currents are potentially fatal.

Consider A Semi Dry Snorkel

A problem often thought to be an issue is that of rain entering the snorkel as you swim face down, and the snorkel tube taking in water.

While that may be true for a basic water snorkel in heavy rain, there are technologies out there that can help alleviate the problem.

A semi dry snorkel.

A semi dry snorkel essentially has a splash guard atop the snorkel designed to deflect and alter the angle of water entry to the snorkel.

The top of the snorkel will take the rain, and angle it away. It’s designed for busy areas and splashing so does quite well in rain. The rain is angled away so the breathing passageway remains clear.

Additionally, there’s a purge valve, so water can be flushed away quite quickly and easily. It doesn’t keep every single drop of water away, but it’s better than an open top snorkel.

Final Thoughts 

As a rule, don’t let the thought of a little rain spoil any plans, you only need to have a backup plan if there is a severe storm or heavy persistent rain on the horizon.

A little rain now and again is unlikely to affect anything.

As the rain gets heavier, you will get increased wind, waves, stronger currents, and an increased chance of murky river runoff.

While most in season snorkeling will almost certainly be fine, out of season for the location can bring increased risks.

Assessing those factors, and your comfort levels is largely a thing you will have to decide for yourself.

It’s not worth canceling a snorkeling trip for a light bit of rain, but a tropical storm would, and should alter plans.

In case all this still worries you, here’s a video showing rain and snorkeling visibility that I think pretty much matches most people’s experiences.

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