Pros and Cons of Liveaboards and Resorts

We get asked a lot, “Which is better, a liveaboard or a resort for a snorkleing safari?” There’s no real right answer, both are fantastic ways to explore the many different destinations we snorkel, especially with the top-notch liveaboards and resorts we use. A lot of it comes down to your individual preferences, and what you want to get out of the trip. So, to help you get a better idea of what each is like, I’ve put together a Pros and Cons list for each. Side note, I spent quite a bit of time–twenty-seven minutes to be precise– trying to come up with a better word in place of “Cons”, as I believe it’s far too negative of a word for the items listed beneath it, however, my vocabulary is lacking at this point in time and I decided to move on. Apologies!

Resort Pros

  • Spacious rooms

Most of the resorts we use will have airy rooms with large bathrooms, closet space, desks, seating areas, and verandas.

  • Lots of space to walk around

Resorts typically have many different areas to explore on foot, some of which lead to secluded parts of the property where little beaches or viewpoints are accessible

Papua Explorers resort

  • The ground is stable, even in bad weather

For those of you prone to seasickness, this is a major bonus!

  • More privacy and places to relax in solitude

If you like your personal space while not having to reside specifically in your room, resorts are great as many of the ones we use have little comfortable nooks and lounge areas where you can just relax in peace.

  • You get to explore one snorkeling area in-depth

If you really want to explore one area, for example, Misool in the south of Raja Ampat, Misool Resort would give you the best opportunity to explore that area from tip to toe.

  • Better chances of Wi-Fi

Not all resorts, but most resorts will have better chances of getting reliable WiFi signal as they just have more infrastructure to do so.

  • People who love to photograph birds and stars generally have plenty of opportunities

If you like to wander around in search of birds to add to your list of species you’ve encountered resorts are great as they typically have a healthy population on the properties. Not to mention, stable ground is a must-have for capturing crisp long exposure photos of the Milky Way!

Resort Cons

  • Less downtime throughout the day

Travel times from resorts to snorkeling sites vary depending on the location, but the average time can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. This time adds up throughout the day, and as a result, it does cut into the available downtime.

  • Distances from rooms to restaurants can be quite significant, depending on the resort

Depending on the resort, you can expect to walk anywhere from twenty meters to a couple hundred to get from your room to the restaurant, and the same on the way back. Also, many of the resorts have quite long jetties or piers which can again be up to a hundred meters long.

  • For multi-stop resort safaris, there will be more travel logistics involved

If you’ve looked through our catalog of resort-based snorkeling safaris you’ll notice that most of them make stops in multiple destinations. This is awesome and allows you to explore new and exciting snorkeling destinations on one trip. That being said, getting to these different remote islands and reefs means a decent amount of flying, driving, and boat rides, not to mention several different sessions of packing and unpacking. 

  • You only get to explore the snorkel sites accessible by the resort’s boats

While you will explore the area accessible by boat from the resort in depth, which is great, it does mean that you will only be seeing a smaller section of that region. Raja Ampat and the barrier reef in Belize, for example, are vast and it’s just not possible to be able to explore Raja from north to south, or all the different atolls in Belize from one resort.

Snorkelers on Kusu Island Resort's snorkel boat

  • You are more constrained by time when it comes to choosing snorkeling sites

There are only so many hours in the day, especially when you factor in travel times to and from snorkeling sites, needing to be back at the resort for meal times, and the fact that in the tropics the sun sets around six thirty year-round. So, with that in mind, it doesn’t give us guides much wiggle room when it comes to snorkeling sites at the absolute best time for that specific site. We do our best, we will delay a little or go a bit early to give us the best possible conditions for that site, but we are at the mercy of available daylight hours, current sea and weather conditions, and transit times.

  • If sea and weather conditions are unfavorable at that moment in time there’s not much you can do

We run our tours in the best parts of the season for any given destination, however, our tours take place in the tropics where weather and sea conditions can be unpredictable. Storms do happen from time to time, and visibility can be poor at times as well. Given the fact that we are based at a resort, we just have to deal with what we are given. Luckily we have spacious rooms that don’t rock!

Liveaboards Pros

  • You get to wake up in a new destination each day

On many of our liveaboard tours we travel through the night which means we get to wake up in a new destination each day.

  • You can travel between sites as you relax on board or enjoy your meals

Instead of transiting between the different snorkeling sites in a smaller boat in your wet snorkeling gear, liveaboards provide you the luxury of doing so in dry clothes while enjoying a nice meal and a bit of a siesta.

Mermaid II liveaboard in front of Islands

  • More downtime between snorkels

On liveaboards, we typically access the snorkeling sites via tender boats or zodiac-style ribs from the main vessel. Transit times can be anywhere from two minutes to ten at the very most. All this time saved means more downtime throughout the day to relax or even the option of extending the snorkeling sessions.

  • You have more opportunities to choose sites based on sea and weather conditions

We really want to snorkel each site in the best conditions for that specific site. Some sites need higher tides, like the mangroves in Raja Ampat for example, or, it could mean we need a falling tide instead of a rising. On liveaboards we have more available time in the day because our transit times to the snorkeling sites are much shorter, this means we can play with the time more and choose to snorkel each site with the best condition possible.

  • Less walking

The length of the liveaboards we use are anywhere from thirty to forty-five meters in length and 8-12 meters in width. As you probably already guessed, there’s just less space to walk. There may be a few steps as the boats normally have several decks, though.

  • You can visit multiple destinations in one trip with less flying and packing/unpacking

Liveaboards are great in this respect as you can travel many hundreds of miles over the course of a snorkeling safari which allows you to explore not one, but several destinations without having to catch a single flight or pack and unpack your bag once you’ve boarded the vessel.

  • You are more able to avoid unfavorable sea and weather conditions

Liveaboard’s talk amongst each other via radio to see how conditions are in the different regions, so, if we find out that it’s rainy in the south of Raja Ampat, or that the water is green in the eastern parts of Palau, we can then choose to spend our time in the areas where the sea and weather conditions are more favorable and then make our way to the other parts of that destination once the storm has passed and the ocean has blued up.

Liveaboard Cons

  • Boats move

It should come as no surprise that boats do have a tendency to rock or roll a bit. In most cases, it’s not too noticeable and after a couple of days you’ll naturally acclimatize yourself to this gentle motion. However, there are times when the boats can rock a bit more than you may find comfortable, especially during some of the open ocean crossings between islands.

  • Boats can be a bit noisy

Engines, generators, and anchor wenches are an integral part of liveaboards and they do tend to create an ever-present humming sound onboard, or the occasional bang as the anchor is secured back into its pocket onboard. If you are on a wooden liveaboard then you’ll likely notice a gentle creaking sound as the boat moves in the water. It’s just all part of the “charm” of life on a boat.

cabin on coralia liveaboard

  • Less space

We do choose the most spacious boats in that particular area, but space on liveaboards is far more limited than at a resort. That being said, most of the boats we use have large rooms—by liveaboard standards—where you’ll have your own bathrooms, storage space, comfortable indoor and outdoor lounging areas, rooftop bars, and even Jacuzzi in a few cases.

  • You don’t necessarily explore one particular area as in-depth as you would with a resort

The idea of a liveaboard is to allow you to explore an entire destination, from north to south and east to west. We typically spend anywhere from two to four days in each region before moving on the next. We don’t usually spend an entire liveaboard safari only exploring Turneffe Atoll in Belize, for example. In that particular scenario, we will spend a few days at Turneffe, of course, but we’ll also explore the atolls around like Glovers and Lighthouse Reef, and of course the Blue Hole. 

About Author

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Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture and Dive Safari Asia guide as well as the video and photo pros for both companies. Alex is also a field editor for a popular underwater photography magazine. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world working as an underwater cameraman, with five of those years living/working on a yacht in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards such as Underwater Photographer of the Year and can be seen on NatGeo, Discovery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.