Learn How to Research Snorkeling Weather for Fun, Safe Experiences
Snorkeling weather is an extremely important factor to consider if you want to have fun and be safe out on the water. You can use weather websites to help you decide when to travel to a destination for snorkeling, and they are also useful for planning each day out on the water.
There are four weather factors to consider: wind, rainfall, swell, and hurricane season. We will share with you how to research each one so that you can make the best of your snorkeling trip or day.
When to Travel? Use Snorkeling Weather Statistics to Decide
Have you ever wondered how we decide when to travel to a place for snorkeling? We want to spend as much time in the water snorkeling as we can, so we try to go when the conditions are best. So, we look up wind, rainfall, swell, and hurricane statistics to help us decide. If you want to know where we are traveling next, sign up for our newsletter.
Look at Wind Statistics
Wind is the number one factor that limits snorkeling. It creates waves on the water which makes for uncomfortable snorkeling, but also creates lower visibility. Our go-to snorkeling weather website resource for wind statistics is Windfinder.com, but there are other options out there too.
Here is an example of the Windfinder.com wind statistics chart from St John in the USVI. You can see that the wind speeds are lowest March through May and September through November. You can also see the dominant wind direction for each month of the year.
Find Out Monthly Rainfall Numbers
Rainfall is another factor that can limit snorkeling and just make your trip a bummer. Rain can decrease visibility because it does not mix with sea water, staying on top, creating a layer that is difficult to see through. It can also cause run-off that lowers the visibility underwater.
Here is an example of the rain statistics for Curacao. It is from weather-and-climate.com. You can see that on average, it rains less March through June. The websites we use for rain statistics vary. Just do a web search for the location name and rainfall.
Consider Swell Statistics
Another factor you want to consider for snorkeling is swell. Swell is a type of wave pattern on the ocean. It can be wind-driven, but it can also be caused by other weather systems outside the area. So, it is important to look at both wind and swell statistics.
Here is a link to a great swell website with statistics for Kahaluu Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. It shows you the dominant direction of the swell, wave height, and percentage chance of that size swell for every month of the year. This site also has a similar wind statistics chart. You will find that most swell websites are targeted toward surfers who are looking for big waves, though you are looking for the opposite. If the website we link to does not cover your destination, do a web search for swell statistics and the name of your destination.
When Is Hurricane Season?
The last snorkeling weather factor you should consider for deciding when to travel is hurricane season. For obvious reasons, it is risky to travel during hurricane season, but for a snorkeling trip, a hurricane can completely ruin your trip.
Hurricane seasons vary by location. For example, in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, hurricanes can happen between June and November.
It is interesting to note that in some locations the lowest wind months are during the hurricane season. Occasionally we will travel during this season because of that.
Be sure to know when the season is for your destination, and should you choose to risk travel during hurricane season, we highly recommend getting trip insurance.
Choose the Best Month
Once you can see all the information, choose the month that has the best combination of low wind speed, low rainfall, low swell, and generally not in hurricane season. Low winds are most important for us these days. We have had lots of great snorkeling in the rain, while high wind has stopped many snorkeling opportunities. Using these methods we fortunately have never had a snorkeling trip fully ruined by bad weather. Of course, you may be limited by what months you can travel for other reasons.
Plan for Bad Weather Windows
Increasingly the weather is becoming less predictable. After we figure out how many days we need on a trip, to snorkel all the spots we desire, we then add in 2-4 extra days, in case of bad snorkeling weather. More often than not we need them.
Pick a Safe and Calm Snorkel Spot – Use Snorkeling Weather Websites
Once at our destination, every morning before we head out for snorkeling we look at websites like Windfinder.com, Windguru.com, or websites of local weather buoys, and swell or surf conditions. We look for forecasts of wind speed, wind direction, wave heights, and ocean swell height and direction. Once we know these things we look at a map and see what snorkel spots will be protected from the wind, waves, and swell.
Good snorkeling conditions happen when the winds are either low, below 10mph, or from a direction that the land protects the snorkel area from the wind. You also want small waves or swell, less than one foot, in your chosen snorkeling spot. If a high swell is coming from the direction that the snorkel spot faces, that is not a good time to snorkel there.
The picture above from St John USVI shows what a huge difference finding protection can make. Look at the difference between the water on the right and left side of the point. The right side has big waves, breaking waves on shore, and white caps from high winds, and the left side is calm. We snorkeled several spots that day on the protected side.
The illustration below represents the snorkeling weather the day the picture above was taken and how we used the information from the weather websites that morning to select snorkel sites.
At most locations, even on days with 25 knots (28.8 mph) of wind or higher, we can normally find a snorkel spot that is calm. For example while in St John, USVI we had a week or more of high winds and waves, and another week with a north swell from a different direction than the wind. But we still managed to snorkel a huge list of spots in three weeks by carefully planning where to go using data from snorkeling weather websites. Although, the weather made us crisscross the island in a very inefficient way, and we ended up driving nearly 500 miles in three weeks, on a nine mile wide island!