Can You Snorkel in the Rain?

Snorkeling is one of the most fun and most popular attractions on a tropical island adventure! If you want to have a relaxing day in the water with some beautiful views of the waves, and see some even more beautiful landscapes under the sea, then snorkeling is a great option for your vacation. But before you get out into the water, it is important to check the weather forecast.

You can safely snorkel when it is raining. Light rain will not negatively affect your snorkeling experience. You will still be able to enjoy the underwater views. Heavy rain and storms need to be avoided.

Tropical venues naturally come with some tropical rains, so some rainy weather is to be expected, and most of it will not ruin your snorkeling experience. However, heavier rains and other weather conditions can change your snorkeling experience for the worse. Keep reading to find out which weather conditions are the best for snorkeling and when it’s best to hang up your gear for another day.

What to Do if the Forecast Calls for Rain

If your tropical beach vacation is coming up soon, and the forecast says to expect rain, you may worry that your plans to snorkel may be ruined. But you don’t have to cancel your plans just yet. The thing about the tropics is that rain comes and goes all the time. It may start raining, but it isn’t likely to keep raining for long. So, stay on top of the forecasts to check what the weather will be like minute to minute. (Source: Maui’s Best Snorkeling)

Another thing to consider is how heavy the rainfall is. The amount of rain coming down will affect your experience, too. Here are some tips for snorkeling, depending on the weather.

Light Rainfall

If the rain is pretty light, it won’t affect your visibility underwater. You will be looking at the floor of the ocean and not the surface, so you should still be able to see everything just fine. With a gentle, light rain, you probably won’t even notice a difference. Usually, very light rainfall doesn’t last very long, either. Many snorkelers who go through a patch of rain hang out in the water for a bit and wait for it to pass.

The best thing to do during light rain while snorkeling is to:

  • Wait it out around 10 minutes
  • Keep snorkeling
  • Move to another spot

Your snorkeling guides will be able to attest to the ever-changing weather in tropical locations. Light rain could come and go in an instant, and the bottom line is that you will still be able to see the fish and the corals, so you may as well keep snorkeling! You may get a great surprise like this dedicated snorkeler.

Rain kept falling, he kept snorkeling and got to see a Manatee!

Heavy Rainfall

A forecast that calls for heavy rainfall is an entirely different story. If the rain is very heavy, it is best to change your snorkeling plans for another time. Heavy rain will significantly affect the visibility underwater. It will disturb more of the surface area of the water, which will make the views of the coral distorted.

If a lot of wind accompanies the rain, your snorkeling experienced will be affected even more. The wind will cause the water to be rocky and choppy. This will make staying afloat more difficult, and it will make it much harder to see anything underwater. The wind will likely stir up sand from the seabed, causing the water to look cloudy and murky.

In general, during heavy rainfall, it is best to postpone your snorkeling plans. Because snorkeling is mostly about enjoying the underwater scenery, you won’t have much to enjoy if heavy rain and wind is stirring up the seafloor.

You can learn more in my post about how and why underwater visibility is affected by the weather.

Storms and Runoff

Another way that rain may affect your snorkeling is storms and runoff. If the conditions are very bad, then it is likely that your snorkeling instructors will cancel the trip for you. Snorkeling in a storm can be quite dangerous, so it would be better to wait until there is better weather. Storms with runoff ruin visibility, and since snorkeling is all about fantastic underwater views, it is better to postpone the trip for another day. (Source: Chiruta)

Snorkeling in a Storm

During a storm, the rain is extremely heavy, and there is a lot of wind. This rain and wind not only affect the beautiful under the sea views, but it also makes it much more dangerous to be out in the water at all.

Ocean conditions during a storm include:

  • Rough waters
  • Bigger waves
  • Higher tides
  • Changing currents

During a storm, the water becomes very choppy. The waves get bigger, and the tide comes in, causing the water levels to rise. The rougher movements of the water may even take you out into a current. It is important to be aware of changing currents during a storm so that you can keep yourself safe in the ocean.

Your snorkeling guide will likely take you to a spot with calmer waters if it does happen to be raining, and if a storm is approaching, then they will not take you out on the water at all.

Snorkeling with Runoff

When you are snorkeling in the rain after it has been raining for a while, something else that can affect the visibility is runoff. When rain has been coming down for a while, the rain will also cause rivers on land to rise, and it will bring a lot of mud, dirt, and sand from the land or the beach.

The runoff from the rivers and the shore will significantly impact visibility underwater, and you won’t have a very good snorkeling experience. Your guide will likely avoid areas close to the shore or near the mouth of a river during lighter rains.

Can You Snorkel When It’s Cloudy?

So, the amount of rain can make or break your snorkeling plans, but what about cloudy weather? It is certainly possible to snorkel when the sky is cloudy or overcast. However, it may change the way the ocean looks underwater. (Source: Ultimate Whale Watch). My wife requires a swim shirt, rash guard or thin wetsuit even in the Caribbean when snorkeling on cloudy days or in light rain. If you tend to get cold easily, that’s something you may need to keep in mind. You will fatigue quicker if your body is burning calories to stay warm.

Cloudy weather when snorkeling may affect:

  • The vibrancy of the underwater scenery
  • Shadows and darkness
  • The temperature of the water

While your snorkeling experience will be largely unaffected, the corals and the fish reflect light in a very beautiful way, so if the sun is gone, you may not get the dazzling pictures you wanted. Flash photography can help, and using a diving flashlight might even come in handy on cloudy days.

You can still see everything when the sky is overcast, but the corals and the fish seem much more vibrant when the sun is shining down on them. When it’s overcast, the ocean will look a bit dimmer, and there will be more shadows.

Final thoughts 

Overall, the best weather to snorkel in is sunshine with clear skies and calm waters, but life doesn’t always work out so perfectly. If your tropical destination calls for some rainy weather, you don’t have to throw all your plans down the drain! Keep an eye on the forecast, and be prepared to wait out the rain if it comes to that.

Watch out for rough waters and storms. It is best to hang up your gear for another day if the rain gets too bad. With the rapidly changing weather in snorkeling areas, you are bound to be able to snorkel soon! Whether you snorkel in light rain or sunshine, you will definitely see some amazing sea life and unforgettable underwater scenery.


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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