Snorkel vests are small inflatable vests that can be worn in the water to help improve buoyancy while snorkeling. Snorkel vests are not designed to be life vests or to allow those who can't swim to snorkel. Rather, these vests provide buoyancy that allows the wearer to relax a bit and focus on the sites below the water. Snorkeling vests are usually inflated by blowing through a small tube, and the air is released by pressing on a small valve.
Vests are an excellent idea for those who may not be the strongest of swimmers (especially children) or for those who simply want to expend less energy moving around in the water. (Editors note: I had never used a vest until a recent trip to Hawaii - and although I am a strong swimmer I was amazed at how much more enjoyable the vest made my time on top of the water.) If you plan to dive underwater to see more then don't wear a vest - you won't make it very far! Prices for snorkeling vests are usually $25-$50, though vests are often provided for free on snorkeling tours. Note: Standard vest life preservers and foam waist preservers are decent alternatives when a formal snorkeling vest isn't available.