When planning a family vacation that includes diving, it’s important to consider the group’s non-divers. These top destinations offer both fun land-based activities and stellar dive sites.
There is nothing more exciting than planning your next dive vacation unless, of course, some of the family doesn’t (or can’t) dive. Compromise is possible when it comes to planning a trip that includes diving but isn’t solely devoted to it. Choose destinations that offer other activities and plan just one or two dives per day. Non-diving activities may still be water-based, but lots of options will keep everyone engaged and excited. Many spots offer a combination of topside activities and opportunities for great bottom-time. Here are just a few top dive destinations when not everyone dives.
Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, is one of the world’s top dive destinations, and for good reason. There are dive sites all around the island, including famous spots like Mary’s Place and Calvin’s Crack. It’s also an excellent choice for snorkeling, due to many shallow and healthy reefs. Non-diving vacationers have nothing to fear, however — the broad, golden beach at West Bay offers the opportunity to play in the shallows, sip a tropical drink, try parasailing or simply grab a nap.
For the more adventuresome in your party, the island offers ziplining, horseback riding and golf. If you make it over to the mainland, you can explore rain and cloud-forests or go hiking in the lush hills and mountains to see a variety of birds and wildlife. You can also visit the Mayan ruins. If you have adventurous teenage children, try whitewater rafting on the Rio Cangrejal.
This verdant Caribbean island offers enough lush landscape, black-sand beaches and diverse culture to please everyone. In addition to offering top dive and snorkeling sites right off shore, such as along the Anse Chastanet Reef in the Soufriere Marine Management area (SMMA), visitors can hike the iconic Piton Mountains or zipline through the rainforests. The island boasts a drive-through volcano, as well as sulphur springs that bubble continuously due to the island’s volcanic activity.
If the family is up for more time on the water, the surrounding seas provide opportunities for whale watching. Tourists often see humpbacks, sperm and pilot whales. Keep an eye out as well for spinner and spotted dolphins showing off around the boat. Kitesurfing and sailing are also high on tourists’ “to-do” list. Since the official language is English, organizing activities or even just finding the best shopping and restaurants is a breeze.
This cradle of evolution is not only a top dive destination, but also a top destination for wildlife in general. Many plants and animals are endemic, so you won’t see them anywhere else in the world. Opportunities for wildlife viewing are outstanding. Topside, you’ll definitely want to get an up-close view of the Galapagos tortoise, which lives over 100 years and is of varying sizes and shapes, depending on which island you visit. You can also hike the still-active Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island or explore the underground lava tubes of Santa Cruz, formed when cooler, outer parts of lava flows hardened into thick rock walls, providing insulation to keep a flow going inside. Long, empty tunnels easily big enough to walk through remain. Just be sure to take a flashlight and sturdy shoes.
Although most divers dream of a liveaboard trip to the Galapagos, there’s plenty of shore or day-boat diving available as well. Divers and snorkelers may encounter sea turtles, the endemic marine iguana, hammerheads, rays, whale sharks, penguins or sea lions. Most trips to the Galapagos begin and end in mainland Ecuador. Take some time while there to visit Quilotoa, an 820-foot (250 m) deep caldera with exquisite aquamarine water. The country’s capital, Quito, is home to the Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. The Virgin Mary at El Panecillo, an iconic lookout similar to the Christ of the Redeemer statue in Brazil, also merits a stop.
Cozumel and Cancun
A small island just off the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is a mere 12 miles via water taxi from Cancun, the hub for travel into and out of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Long known for fantastic drift diving and beautiful corals, Cozumel also offers horseback riding and 4-wheeler exploration excursions. Traditional hiking tours feature paths that are manageable in tennis shoes.
Families can explore Mayan Ruins in both Cozumel and near Cancun, as well sun themselves on pristine beaches. Mom and dad can go kid-free for a night out in Cancun, which offers plentiful nightlife options, or opt for a quieter night out in San Miguel on Cozumel. Both Cozumel and Cancun also offer spas, golfing and snorkeling. Cozumel also features a submarine trip that takes the family to a depth of 100 feet so that non-divers can see some of the underwater world that they would otherwise miss.
This Central American nation is well known for its boat, shore and live-aboard diving opportunities along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and, of course, the Blue Hole, which can be seen from space. Divers can expect to see lots of sharks, turtles and reef fish no matter where they choose to dive; however, Belize also offers the adventuresome family lots of options when it comes to activities like cave tubing, horseback riding and ziplining.
There are Mayan temples and lush rainforests to explore, and families can visit Placencia, which is known as a manatee haven, due to its protected lagoon where three rivers merge. Although it’s home to fewer than 1,000 manatees, the population is nonetheless stable. Charming Ambergris Cay, Belize’s largest island, is a great base for a family vacation. There are lots of restaurants, snorkeling, windsurfing and kiteboarding, as well as access to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve where you can snorkel or dive with sharks and stingrays. Belize offers an exotic, yet accessible, destination. With English as the national language, logistics are easy.
Just because a few members of your family don’t dive doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your time underwater. Choose one of these top dive destinations and everyone can enjoy what they love.