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Last Updated on January 26, 2021

Find out what to bring for any snorkeling trip, whether snorkeling from the beach or a charter or liveaboard boat trip at sea! I’ve got tips for clothing, gear, and must-pack items for any snorkeling adventure.

Have you discovered the world of liveaboard trips yet? These are diving and snorkeling excursions when travelers stay on a boat for the duration of their trip, usually 3-6 nights. You’ll eat and sleep overnight on a boat, so that you can maximize the time you spend snorkeling and diving each day. Often, you’ll have the chance to wake up in a new destination every morning! Since you’ll spend your day in and out of the water, you won’t need to pack too much other than your gear. But I’ve got great tips and necessities in my snorkeling liveaboard packing list that you won’t want to forget, like an underwater camera!

These tips are perfect for what to pack for a snorkeling trip or diving trip, whether based on land or water. I’ve used this list for snorkeling in spots in Southeast Asia like Thailand, throughout the Caribbean, and in the Florida Keys.

Snorkeling liveaboard boat in Thailand
Liveaboard boat from my snorkeling trip in Thailand

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What to Expect on a Liveaboard Trip

I have done charter and liveaboard trips in both Thailand and in the Virgin Islands. I’m not a scuba diver – I only snorkel – but some boats cater to both. Liveboard boats vary from steel hull vessels to smaller catamarans and even traditional sailing boats like a wooden phinisi in Southeast Asia.

Expect to be in and out of the water at least 2-3 times during the day as the boat navigates to different places. It’s easiest to take items like shorts and loose t-shirts, cover-ups, and dresses that you can easily put on over your bathing suit. Often boats will have rinse showers or a spray hose for you to use when you get back on board; this way you can rinse off the salt water each time, and then take a shower after the last excursion of the day.

Charter catamarans and sailing yachts usually have small private cabins, while liveaboard boats have larger bunk rooms. Be sure to find out the sleeping arrangements on your boat, so you know what to expect.

Another big factor to consider with liveaboard trips is the sun. You’ll spend all of your day either in the water or above deck. If you go below deck, it will likely be very hot. It’s also possible to get seasick below deck. So be sure to bring fabrics with sun protection. Even if you don’t usually burn, the glare from the water makes the sun’s rays extra strong.

Lastly, most liveaboards and boats don’t allow hard-sided luggage. If you’re traveling as part of a longer itinerary, ask about storing something in the tour company office, or look into storage at the airport. For my trips I’ve been able to fit all my clothes and gear in a small duffel bag.

Learn about one of my best adventures ever – sailing the Virgin Islands in a catamaran charter!

Sailing the Virgin Islands: Airbnb & VRBO Catamaran Charters

Plan your best vacation ever with family or friends: sailing the Virgin Islands in a catamaran for beaches, snorkeling, and laid-back beach bars in the US Virgin Islands & British Virgin Islands!

Read more

Snorkeling & Liveaboard Ultimate Packing List

Packing list for a liveaboard snorkeling or diving trip in Southeast Asia or the Caribbean

Cover upCover up #2 | Casual maxi dress | Casual short dress Rashguard | Cover up pants | Sarong | Dry Bag | Duffel bag | Sun hat Visor | Prescription snorkel mask | Snorkel, mask and fin set

What clothing to pack for a for 3-4 day trip

  • At least 2 bathing suits
  • 2 cover ups or sarongs, one long-sleeved if possible
  • 2-3 dresses for evenings.  I pack dresses because they can also double as cover-ups
  • Or 2-3 t-shirts and 2-3 shorts or loose elastic waist/drawstring pants (beach shops in places like Phuket have tons)
  • 1 UPF rashguard shirt
  • Pajamas – bathrooms and sometimes sleeping areas are shared, so bring something practical
  • Undies and bras (although keep in mind you’ll mostly be wearing bathing suits all day)
  • 1 sweatshirt and/or jacket, in case you get cold at night or after dives
  • Sunhat or visor – I like this hat because it gives a lot of sun protection and fits snugly.  The boat will be windy when moving, so you might prefer a visor with an adjustable band.
  • UPF headband –  to keep your hairline from getting sunburnt while you’re in the water.  I made fun of them until I got a weird forehead tan.  (Bonus: it holds your hair back in case you’re seasick!)
  • Recommended: 1 pair of UPF capris or pants – in case your backside gets really burnt from snorkeling (true story)

If you’re traveling for a full week, double the items like dresses, t-shorts, shirts and underwear.

Shoes and footwear for liveaboards

When I arrived at one snorkeling liveaboard, they collected our shoes in a bag so we wouldn’t damage the slip-safe flooring.  Generally flip-flops or watershoes are all you’ll need (if any) unless you’ll be taking trips ashore.  If you’ll have a chance to hike on any islands, bring sneakers or hiking sandals like these.

Synthetic EVA Birkenstock sandals are traveler favorites for beach and tropical destinations: check out the thong and slide variations.

I prefer to take my own prescription mask and snorkel when I travel but borrow or rent flippers to save on luggage space. Why do I love snorkel selfies? 😀

Equipment and gear for snorkeling trips

  • An underwater camera like a Go Pro or Olympus TG-6
  • Mask, snorkel and flippers set (if not provided by your tour company). I prefer to have my own mask and snorkel but don’t usually take fins when I travel.
  • Or get a prescription snorkel mask if you wear glasses. You can order a relatively inexpensive prescription mask from Amazon with quick shipping.  I recommend it – you’ll be amazed how much more you see underwater!
  • Beach towel. On my trips, we were provided with one towel for showers and another for activities; check with your tour operator.
  • Quick-dry bath towel – I still brought an extra towel and was glad I did.
  • Dive socks – you’ll be wearing flippers a lot and will be in and out of the water several times a day.  If you’ve ever had problems with fins rubbing your feet and causing pain, try a pair of dive socks or wear regular low-cut socks inside your flippers
  • Dry bag – these are a must for dinghy trips to islands or swimming in to islands from the boat.  I always test mine first in a bathtub before I put a phone or camera in.  You’ll press the air out and fold the top down several times before latching it to make it water-tight.
  • A duffel bag or large backpack – there won’t be room in the cabins for large or hardside luggage.
  • If you’re taking your own snorkeling equipment, consider a mesh bag.  It will keep your stuff from getting mixed in with the boat’s equipment and you can easily rinse it out.
sundeck lounge area on a snorkeling liveaboard boat
Some boats may have a for lounging. In any case, you’ll spend all day in the water and above deck, so be sure you have plenty of sunscreen and UPF fabrics.

Don’t forget: snorkeling and liveaboard “must-haves”

  • Reef-safe sunscreen like Sea2Sea or SunBum
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Seadrops Anti-Fog for masks
  • Spray leave-in conditioner and wide-tooth comb – if you have long hair, using a spray conditioner after you rinse off will help with tangles.
  • A neoprene mask strap or strap cover will keep long hair from getting tangled in your mask strap
  • Sunglasses
  • Pain reliever, swimmer’s eardrops, and basic medications including seasickness pills like Dramamine or Bonine. Even people who haven’t had issues with boats before can get seasickness on smaller vessels.  Bring some just in case, and don’t forget any regular medications you take.
  • Earplugs – the sounds of the sea are nice, but if any of your fellow travelers snore, you might want these.
  • Tampons or menstrual cup. Take these just in case because they are not as common to find in all destinations. (I once had to buy tampons at an airport in Thailand, and there was only like one option.)
  • Small toiletry bag – you won’t be able to leave toiletries in the shared bathrooms, so I recommend also bringing a small bag so you can take along only what you need from your larger bag.  An eBags drawstring shoe pouch will work in a pinch, but check out this cute flamingo mini-toiletry bag.
  • Sink packs of laundry detergent or travel soap sheets to rinse out your bathing suit, etc.
  • Cash – ATMs tend to be few and far between at sea.  Take cash to pay for things in villages along the way, any park admission fees or extras on board.

Ready for your snorkeling adventure?

Be sure to check with your charter or tour company too – they might have additional items that they recommend based on their boat and your destination.

Looking for a liveaboard adventure?  Check out my Thailand Snorkeling Liveaboard post and my guide to sailing in the US and British Virgin Islands!

Also check out sailing small group adventure tours: both Intrepid Travel and G Adventures offer reasonably-priced sailing trips in many destinations.

Sailing the Virgin Islands: Airbnb & VRBO Catamaran Charters

Plan your best vacation ever with family or friends: sailing the Virgin Islands in a catamaran for beaches, snorkeling, and laid-back beach bars in the US Virgin Islands & British Virgin Islands!

Read more

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Adrienne, The Haphazard Traveler

I used to be a hot travel mess, but I got better! I kept the name and now blog my best tips for culture and adventure travel from around the globe. Follow along for travel advice, destination info, and photography from faraway lands - and at home in Washington, D.C.

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