My favorite vacation activities revolve around the water - or more accurately, IN the water. I think that's why cruising has always had such a huge appeal to me; a cruise is an entire vacation at sea! People often ask me if the activities I partake in while traveling would be appropriate for children, and I am happy to report that snorkeling is the perfect family activity! Of course, snorkeling (as well as diving) are lovely activities for adults to enjoy on their own, but it's just as well suited for families traveling with children. Of all of the places I've traveled, these Family-Friendly Snorkeling Spots in the Caribbean offer everything a family might look for when planning a vacation: a fun atmosphere, clear waters and tons of tropical fish just waiting beneath the water's edge!
Family-Friendly Snorkeling Spots in the Caribbean
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands are a beautiful little oasis in the western Caribbean Sea, made up of three islands surrounded by some of the bluest water you'll ever see. The Cayman Islands draw diving and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world and it's easy to see why!
Whether it's a long, lazy day on the sandy shores of Seven Mile Beach with your snorkeling gear in tow, or a shore excursion through Carnival Cruise Line to nearby "Stingray City," you'll find that the Cayman Islands offer pristine waters that are perfect for an underwater adventure!
One of the most important things to look for when planning a snorkeling trip is high visibility in the water. The waters surrounding the Cayman Islands are so clear that you don't even need to dip your head under the water to see the marine life! This makes for a great environment for beginners, who may be nervous about what may be lurking beneath the water's surface.
One of the biggest fears I hear expressed when it comes to snorkeling is the fear of encountering sharks while in the water. The Cayman Islands are surrounded by coral reef, which makes the probability of coming face to face with a shark highly unlikely. In many of the popular snorkeling areas, the water is waist-deep for most older children and adults, which makes for a very relaxing snorkeling atmosphere!
There are many popular snorkeling spots in Mexico, but Cozumel offers something that isn't as readily available elsewhere: inexpensive snorkeling.
While the more exotic fish seem to congregate a little farther away from the port at the coral reefs, you can find great snorkeling spots just a mile or so away, and these are the least expensive snorkeling excursions. You can purchase a shore excursion through Carnival for an all-inclusive day in Cozumel for around $100 per person, which includes transportation back and forth from the port, an open bar and food, and access to snorkeling and non-motorized water activities like kayaking. If you're on a tight budget, you can purchase a shore excursion that includes transportation to and from a restaurant and bar with snorkeling access for about $39.99 per person, without any of the extras.
On a recent cruise on the Carnival Breeze, I accompanied some friends to a snorkeling spot near the port, where we found the water simply teaming with fish! We even found a starfish near the rocks, which is only the second time I've seen a starfish while snorkeling. It was kind of a big deal.
Snorkeling Tip: If you find a starfish while snorkeling, please do not remove it from the water. When you see a starfish on the beach, they're usually white and dried up - that's because they're dead! These colorful starfish you find in the water are still alive and should be left where you find them.
Looking for something a little farther away from the mainland?
The West End of Curacao
Located just off the coast of Venezuela, Curacao is one of my favorite cruise ports. While there are many different things to do in Curacao, I love to jump onto a boat and go snorkeling!
The kids will have just as much fun splashing in the waves on the beaches of Curacao as they will taking a peek beneath the water's surface.
For older children, a trip to Curacao's famous Blue Room offers an unforgettable snorkeling experience. To reach the Blue Room, you must take a boat to the partially enclosed cave - depending on the tide, you may have to swim underwater to enter.
Once you are inside it's easy to see why it's called the Blue Room; the light reflects off the white sandy floor and fills the room with a beautiful blue color. It's not uncommon to find a school of fish swimming inside!
If the thought of an underwater cave is a bit overwhelming, no worries! You can go snorkeling at any beach on the West End of Curacao! Many bring their own snorkeling gear and simply explore the waters surrounding the beach and rock walls.
In Curacao I swam with my first sea turtle in the wild, and it was right at the beach!
Tips for Snorkeling with Kids
When snorkeling with young children, there are a few things you should keep in mind, regardless of your level of expertise in the water.
Children should always wear a life jacket. Most snorkeling excursions require you to wear a life jacket or inflatable vest, and while you may not think it necessary, it's important to set a good example for the kids and ensure their safety.
Ensure that your child's snorkeling gear fits properly. You may not realize it by looking at snorkeling masks, but children wear different sizes in gear, just like they do in clothes! Make sure that your child is wearing the correct size life jacket AND snorkeling mask - if their mask doesn't fit properly, the seal may break and they'll get a face full of salt water.
Encourage children to LOOK, DON'T TOUCH. Unless your snorkeling leader invites you to touch a fish or other marine life swimming by, make sure that your children know to keep their hands to themselves. This goes for adults too! While some marine life are so beautiful that you just want to reach out and touch them, there are many things in the sea that will cause you a great deal of pain if you touch them.
Have you ever been snorkeling with your family? I would love to hear about your favorite spots!
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