Explore our underwater world during a family dive vacation. Here are five places to consider:
1. Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros Island, Bahamas. Check into one of this family-run resort's 21 cottages and prepare to explore, relax and enjoy a special holiday. Young children can begin by participating in the young naturalist program before moving on to shoreline snorkeling lessons, a snorkel reef trip and then on to SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) Diving. The latter enables kids 7 to 9 to experience the underwater world wearing a small tank and other dive gear. At age 10, the Discover Scuba program is available for those interested in pursuing the next level. The resort's on-site dive staff will provide scuba lessons for one or more. The all-inclusive resort offers complimentary baby-sitting from 6 to 9 p.m.
Contact: 800-223-6961; http://www.smallhope.com.
2. Florida Keys. Explore the only living coral reef system in the continental United States during a visit to this scenic South Florida region. For kids 8 and older: The Summer Marine Science Camp at Pigeon Key, a historic site 100 miles southwest of Miami, offers programs that include information about reef fish, coral reef systems, underwater photography and the gathering of specimens. Kids can get scuba certification during a camp session or brush up if already certified. Also included: underwater obstacle courses, volleyball and snorkeling. Also in the region: the Wreck Trek Passport Program, spotlighting the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, where certified divers can explore a string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs with local dive instructors.
Contact: 305-289-0025; http://www.pigeonkey.net; http://www.fla-keys.com/diving.
3. Brac Reef, Cayman Brac. From this small, family-friendly island, families can enjoy a dive vacation that includes exploring the waters around Cayman Brac as well as the Russian Frigate and the Bloody Bay Wall near Little Cayman Island. The on-site dive shop provides personalized attention to the soon-to-be certified as well as the seasoned diver. The all-inclusive beachfront resort also offers free bike rentals to explore the island, spa services and volleyball. Ask about special packages for families.
Contact: 1-800-594-0843; http://www.bracreef.com.
4. Grand Wailea, Maui. For families who choose to blend a luxury resort holiday with a scuba experience, this hotel fits the bill. Give the sport a try by joining instructors twice daily in the comfort of Hawaii's only specially designed scuba pool. Interested in learning more? Certification classes are offered at every level. Once the instruction is complete, escorted ocean dives are available. Meanwhile, families can enjoy the super-cool pool on the property, an expansive beach, a spa and numerous family-focused resort programs.
Contact: 808-875-1234; http://www.grandwailea.com.
5. Harbour Village, Bonaire. Children ages 5 to 12 can join the Kid's Great Adventures program at this Caribbean resort. They will learn about the Bonaire Marine Park, snorkel, identify fish and get comfortable with the park's SASY program. Children 8 and up can take part in the Professional Association of Diving Instructors' Bubblemaker program, which lets young enthusiasts breathe with a regulator in shallow ocean water. At 10, kids can earn their Junior Scuba Certification. From now through Dec. 16, the second diver in your party dives free when you book the Dive Into Luxury Package. Children under 16 stay free in the room with their parents.
Contact: 1-800-424-0004; http://www.harbourvillage.com.
Lynn O'Rourke Hayes is editor of FamilyTravel.com: lohayes@FamilyTravel.com