A snorkeling vacation is the perfect family vacation. Snorkeling is one of the easiest and most fun adventure activities to do with kids (and even seniors!). Our family has always loved snorkeling and we bought our kids snorkel sets fairly young. We started our kids snorkeling at the beach in Florida to look at (and catch) little fish with their nets. But it wasn't until we brought the kids snorkeling on a reef that they finally understood how COOL snorkeling can be.
Before starting your kids snorkeling (or anyone for that matter)...
There are a few things you need to know before heading out on a family snorkeling vacation. First is that you definitely want to buy your snorkel equipment before you leave home! The snorkel sets you can find at most beach or vacation spots are likely to either be cheaply made or very expensive (sometimes both!) Rentals are no better - generally you'll find antiquated snorkel gear that's been used far past its natural lifespan (and do you really want to put something in your mouth for hours that's been used by LOTS of strangers even if they DO sanitize properly?!)
The worst thing you can do is rely on the free equipment most snorkeling packages include. We've found that the snorkels most boating excursions have on board look like they're from the Jacques Cousteau days. They don't even have the dry technology that keeps water from splashing into the snorkel (and into your mouth!)
Snorkeling equipment is very inexpensive (unless you opt to buy top-of-the-line gear) and you can outfit each person in your family for $40-$100 each. We don't recommend the snorkel sets (even kids snorkel sets) that are less than $30. Those are toys, NOT active gear, and your kids may give up on what could be a fabulous experience without the proper equipment.
Before you head out on your family snorkeling vacation
One more thing to think about before you head out for your family snorkeling vacation is a lesson on how to use the snorkel. This is best done before you leave home, in a swimming pool or even in the bathtub.
And this doesn't just apply to kids. We brought my senior mother snorkeling with us in Grand Cayman, along with the kids, and we made the two mistakes I just warned you about: We didn't buy her equipment ahead of time so she had to use the freebie stuff on board the boat and we didn't have her practice first so we had to teach her how to use her equipment in deep water! It was horrible and we wasted a LOT of precious time!
She almost gave up until I traded snorkels with her, just to make sure it wasn't the equipment that was making it hard for her to figure out (With her, I always assume user error ;-). Sure enough, it WAS the equipment that was the problem! She had an absolutely marvelous time, couldn't believe she was seeing such amazing stuff and breathing underwater!! And I didn't have the heart to trade back with her so I had to snorkel with goggles that were SO scratched, I could barely see anything and a snorkel that was almost useless. I swallowed a LOT of water that day! And we bought my Mom her own snorkel set the very next Christmas!
Read our How to Snorkel page and then give everyone in the family a lesson and practice session before you take to the deep water. This will ensure your family snorkeling vacation is a great success and will lead to a lifelong love of snorkeling for ALL of you!
Where to snorkel?
The next thing you'll want to know is the best snorkeling spots for your family vacation. This one's easy. Practically ANY beach vacation your family takes will have a good snorkeling spot or two nearby. We share our favorites on these pages but don't worry if your vacation destination isn't listed here. If there's a beach, bring your snorkel sets and you're sure to be able to use them. A quick Google search on your destination + snorkeling will likely turn up some great spots to try out or, if you're short on research time, ask around once you arrive and the locals will likely tell you even better spots with fewer tourists around. We've found some of the coolest, private snorkeling spots with this approach.
If you're planning a purely snorkeling vacation, where snorkeling is your number 1 activity, then you can read our pages to see which snorkeling spots sound the best to you. Keep in mind that if your kids have never snorkeled before or if they're not the strongest swimmers, they may do best with beach snorkeling, where you can walk right out from the beach to a reef with colorful fish and coral. This way, even if your kids don't enjoy snorkeling (this would be hard to believe, but we all know that anything's possible with kids, right?) then you can take turns snorkeling while your significant other is playing with the kids on the beach. This is FAR better than being stuck on a boat while everyone else is in the water snorkeling! Once your kids get the hang of snorkeling, then your family can try some of the excursions or snorkeling packages that include a boat ride out to a fabulous reef. This is where you'll see the best sites.
Warn your kids before you head out on a guided snorkeling adventure that the guide will give a brief (if you're lucky) speech on safety. They'll tell you where it's safe to snorkel and where it's not! A guide once told us "Don't go to the deep side. That's where the teeth are!" And our youngest son refused to get in the water. If you mention to your kids up-front that the guides have to warn you about anything that might be remotely dangerous, they might be more prepared to hear this kind of thing. And you DO want them to listen to the safety lesson after all.
Here are some of our favorite places for a snorkeling holiday:
Where have YOU brought your kids snorkeling?
Please tell us about it!
We truly hope you'll take the opportunity to get your kids snorkeling, whether it's a one-day outing during a beach vacation or a full-blown snorkeling vacation! It sure beats going to an aquarium!
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