In the debate between whether you should rent or buy your snorkel gear, at the end of the day, one major limiting factor is simply which option is more affordable. We can argue all day about the joy of owning your own gear – how hygienic, comfortable, and reliable it is – but that’s a moot point if you aren’t able to afford the gear in the first place. Renting is often cheaper, particularly if you don’t snorkel that often. But how much money are you saving?
How much does it cost to rent snorkel gear? Naturally, the cost is variable depending on where you are in the world. It also depends on how much gear you are renting, and for how long. As a reference point, based on online research, the average cost to rent a snorkel set (mask, snorkel, fins) in Hawaii is around $10 – $16 per person per day, and $38 – 48 per person per week. Hawaii is considered on the expensive end, so if you were to rent gear somewhere in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand or the Philippines, it would be cheaper after the currency conversion.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know regarding the costs of renting snorkel gear, tips to keep in mind when renting gear, and how you can potentially save money when renting.
Why is there such a difference in snorkel gear rental costs?
Much in the same way that the general cost of living will differ from country to country, state to state, even city to city, this extends all the way to the costs of snorkel gear rentals. In areas where it’s generally more expensive (has a higher cost of living), you can expect to pay more to rent your gear. Conversely, areas with a lower cost of living will be more affordable to rent from.
This concept of areas having different prices is measured and quantified using what’s called a cost of living index. The index is a number that is produced after accounting for all of the various costs associated with living in a specific area and putting it into a complicated equation. Suffice it to say, a higher index number means that overall it’s more to live in that area, and a lower number represents the opposite.
Following this logic, it makes sense that a dive shop owner in an area where the cost of living index is lower can afford to charge less for gear rentals to survive and to be competitive (again, the reverse is true for more expensive locations).
When you are researching the costs of renting snorkel gear at the destination you will be vacationing in, check to see if the dive shops nearby have their own websites that list the cost of renting their gear. Surprisingly, we found this information hard to find at times, or even non-existent. Not all dive shops have their own websites. You will have to call them to confirm.
As we have just discussed, we can use the cost of living index to get an idea of how much to pay. We mentioned already that the average cost of renting snorkel gear per day is around $10 – 16 per person and $38 – 48 per person weekly in Hawaii. Hawaii is an area with a high cost of living index. Thus, you can expect these prices to be on the upper end of snorkel gear rental costs.
Conversely, if you were snorkeling in Southeast Asia, where the cost of living index is low and the currency conversion favors the American Dollar, you can expect to pay literally half the price compared to elsewhere.
How to maximize your dollar when renting
First of all, it’s probably not worth choosing where you will be vacationing based on how much it could save you on rental costs. There are other things to do besides snorkeling, so it probably should not be a factor at all when picking your holiday destination. However, if you want to have a cheap vacation overall, then find a destination where the cost of living index is lower.
Second, the example prices we provided are for renting a full snorkel set – that is, mask, snorkel, and fins. Who says you need to rent all three? If you already have a reliable snorkel and mask, then you only need to rent a pair of fins to save on costs.
The mask and snorkel are where most people have issues with hygiene. They are also arguably the most crucial pieces of snorkel equipment because you can snorkel without fins. Some places actively discourage or even ban fins outright because too many tourists accidentally kick and destroy the coral reefs.
If you know you will be snorkeling often, it’s better to purchase your own mask and snorkel. You’ll have to run the numbers yourself, but if you find that the amount of money you’re paying in renting your snorkel gear exceeds the cost of buying the mask and snorkel, you should probably just buy your own. They are important for safety and comfort, and they don’t take up much space unlike fins, so bringing snorkel gear on a plane should not be an issue.
Third, most dive shops shops offer either daily rentals or weekly rentals. The way they are priced is typically that renting for an entire week is more cost efficient, assuming you are snorkeling most days. If you are snorkeling at least 3-4 times a week, it’s probably worth it just to rent for the entire week rather than splitting it into 3-4 daily rentals.
Again, you will have to do the math yourself to see what is most worth it. We cannot predict how dive shops price their rentals, or if they even offer weekly rentals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, most dive shops don’t even offer mask and snorkel rentals due to concerns over spreading the disease.
Fourth, you might want to consider joining a snorkeling boat tour. If you do, then the tour operator will usually loan gear to you for “free” (it’s included in the cost of the tour). This can be really beneficial if you’re a first-timer because now you have a dedicated guide to help get the right fit and show you how to use it properly.
Should I rent daily or weekly?
Let’s use a real-life example of snorkel gear rental costs to give you an idea of the math regarding their cost efficiency. If you’ll be snorkeling in Hawaii, Snorkel Bob’s is a popular dive shop to rent gear from. Let’s take a look at their daily and weekly rental prices. Their snorkel package for adults is $11 per day, and their weekly prices for that same package is $38.
Mathematically speaking, if you only plan on snorkeling three days or less a week, it’s not worth it to rent weekly. Even three days would only come out to $33, still below the price of a weekly rental. The math makes sense to rent weekly if you know you will be snorkeling at least 4 days of the week or more. This also gives you the benefit of snorkeling on an extra 3 days for “free” compared to renting daily.
The math works out even more in your favor if you are only renting their basic rubber snorkel fins (assuming you have your own mask and snorkel). It costs $4 to rent daily, but only $12 for a week. That means if you only plan on snorkeling for exactly 3 days, you might as well rent it for a week anyways; it costs the same. Now you have the benefit of 4 extra “free” days where you have the luxury of going snorkeling if you find a good spot.
Personally, we also think it’s worth it to bring your own snorkel vest. Snorkel vests help you stay afloat and they will be your life line in an emergency situation. I would rather use my own trusted snorkel vest than rely on a rental one of questionable quality. Snorkel vests are not particularly expensive, and the cost of renting one for 3-4 days is basically the same as purchasing an entry-level one for yourself. They can also deflate and don’t take up much space in your luggage compared to a life vest.
However, the same argument doesn’t hold for a wetsuit. Even an entry model 3mm snorkeling wetsuit can cost around $55-70, and wetsuits do take up quite a lot of space in a suitcase. It may be a better option to just rent one either daily or weekly at the snorkeling site, particularly if you only vacation once a year. Depending on where you’re snorkeling, a wetsuit may be necessary to help you stay warm.
Can I rent prescription snorkel masks?
If you need to wear glasses to see, then you can even rent prescription snorkel masks. To be fair though, it’s not worth it nor is it practical. It’s not likely that they have the exact prescription lenses that you need, and they certainly cannot account for different prescriptions for each eye. Additionally, in less developed areas, they aren’t even an option.
Those of you who are lucky enough to have access to a dive shop that does offer prescription lenses and even has the right prescription for you, know that it will probably cost 10-15% more than a regular mask rental.
This may seem like a downer for people who rely on their glasses, however don’t lose hope. A trick that has worked for many people is to simply wear daily contact lenses instead of using a prescription mask. You have to be careful not to get water in your eyes because it might wash out the lens, or dirty water can get trapped between your eye and the lens.
If you’re careful, you won’t ever get water in your eyes, and you can just dispose of the daily lens after you’re done. Dailies are recommended in case you lose them, and you don’t have to worry about cleaning them afterwards.
Rental snorkel gear vs. bringing your own
Now that you know roughly how much it costs to rent snorkel gear, the next question is: is it worth it? In terms of the quality of the rental gear vs. your own, well, your own gear wins easily.
The quality of rental gear is typically so-so, and maybe occasionally quite poor depending on where in the world you’re renting from. That’s why we recommend owning the most essential pieces like the mask, snorkel, and snorkel vest, and renting only the fins or foregoing them altogether.
However, you also need to factor in how often you will be snorkeling in the near future. If you plan on snorkeling only once in your life just to cross off a bucket list item, obviously renting is the way to go. Even if you only go once a year on vacation, renting is probably worth it so you don’t have to waste luggage space on something you barely use.
We recommend a hybrid approach of owning your own mask and snorkel and renting fins. This is the best of both worlds – it doesn’t really take up much luggage space, and it’s even cheaper than renting a full set of snorkel gear. Plus, it’s hygienic, comfortable, and you get greater peace of mind knowing the snorkel mouthpiece has only been in your mouth.
That said, renting snorkel gear is actually very affordable, especially when you see the prices of renting scuba diving gear. It could literally cost $100 to $150 a day to rent a full set. Even if you want to bring your own gear, scuba gear are massive space hogs, so you lose either way. Suddenly, the cost of renting or bringing your own snorkel gear seems extremely reasonable in comparison.
Depending on where you will be renting the gear from, renting snorkel gear will cost around $10-15 daily in an area that has a high cost of living index, and around 3-4 times that price for weekly rental. Knowing that, if you will be snorkeling less than 3-4 days of the week, it’s more cost efficient to rent daily. More than that, and weekly rentals are more cost efficient.
Renting snorkel gear is a quick way to let you get in on the action without your own gear. However, renting has a few downsides, namely the hygiene and reliability of the equipment. The cost is surprisingly affordable and reasonable compared to other hobbies like scuba diving.
However, you should also consider how freeing it is not needing to carry your own gear around and being able to rent gear wherever you go. To get the best of both worlds, we recommend having your own mask and snorkel and renting fins, which are much more of a space hog.
Depending on your situation, renting might make more financial sense to you than buying. It might also be a matter of convenience. If you can afford to rent without ever owning, more power to you. However, if you are an avid snorkeler, you should probably buy your own gear.