We bought our own snorkel equipment for sanitary reasons, except for the vests. We have never had much luck with anything inflatable and figured that in the long run it was cheaper and safer for us to rent!
The cost of renting is minimal but of course you have to waste a bit of time in line.
Then again, you have to lug your own stuff around and it takes up a bit of room with flippers and all.
Forgot to mention, Costco has a snorkel set and even has a coupon coming up shortly in their book. It is a good deal. No vest though. Comes with snorkel (a little nicer than the rentals) fins and mask in a carry bag. A good make.
We bought the snorkle kit from Costco - it was $40 - and the best deal we ever did ! ! Since Caribbean packing is light packing, we packed the snorkel packs in our large suitcase. It was well worth the investment, as we'll have them the next time we go....
We bought a standard set about 8 years ago and it has been great. It has evolved over the years. I bought a better mask a few years ago, and a vest. We have saved alot of money by taking our own when we can. At other times when flying, or space is an issue we at least take the snorkel tubes for sanitary reasons, as jmcs mentioned.
We are a family of four and we all have our own snorkel equipment. Got it from target at the end of summer on clearance. We throw it all in a duffle bag so it doesn't take up much room. Then you can just grab the bag and head out when in port. Then you don't have to worry if there will be rental equipment or not.
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Snorkel gear is a great investment. I would be cautious about buying a kit from a big box store however. The most important thing for enjoying snorkeling is to have a mask that properly fits and does not leak. I would suggest getting a mask and snorkel from a dive shop where you will get a good fit - expect to pay in the range of $30-60 for a silicone mask skirt and make sure you have help to assure a proper fit. I would also suggest renting fins and vest since they are bulky to carry and easy to fit. Another pointer is to avoid yellow snorkel vests as it has been shown that they not only attract sharks but may cause aggressiveness.
Hi Dave - what I was trying to get at is everyone's face has a different shape. A mask that fits you correctly may not fit another person. Masks not only come in different sizes but contours. In my own experience, I find the #1 problem that people have is a leaky mask - it is the most common reason that people give up snorkeling. So I was suggesting not just buying off the shelf or via internet but spending an extra $10 and making sure that you have a mask that does fit you. On the other hand, someone like you may luck out - but I see too many folks that give up because of a poor fitting mask.