Want to introduce your kids to diving but unsure where to start? We’ve created the ultimate guide to encourage those you love most to become your dive buddies.
From mid-June to early September, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a 90-minute experience for kids ages 8 to 13. They’ll use surface-scuba gear, and fins alongside sea otters, monkey-faced eels, sheep crabs,
giant green anemones, and sea stars. It’s a Pacific Ocean experience but without the rough entry, currents and other limiting factors, thanks to a rock wall separating the Great Tide Pool — a permanent, open-air
exhibit — from the greater body of water.
KEY LARGO, FLORIDA
With most dive sites falling within 25 to 45 feet, a host of other water sports and quiet evenings thanks to a lack of night life, this island in the upper Florida Keys is a hot spot for families. “That’s pretty much all we get,” says Dan Dawson, owner of local operator Horizon Divers. Especially in spring and summer, his team is accustomed to accommodating moms and dads who dive and kids who either snorkel or take a Discover Scuba course. Everyone is on the boat together, so come suppertime, at a spot like Lorelei
Cabana Bar, where guests nestle on rocking chair- style picnic tables, family members can take turns telling the same tall-fish tale.
At Buddy Dive Resort on Bonaire, you only need to be 5 years old to get hooked on the
ocean. Year-round, the scuba-minded resort offers, by request, two five-day programs
for kids. With its Buddy Rangers Kids Club, swimmers ages 5 and up can try supplied
air snorkeling for youth, aka SASY. “It’s basically a floating BC jacket that can’t go underwater,” says scuba instructor Tina Wall. Kids ages 8 to 10 can join the PADI Seal Team, which includes fish identification and snorkeling skills. With both programs, Wall has seen drastic changes in kids’ attitudes
toward water. She says, “Kids who are totally afraid of the ocean are jumping off the dock by the end of the week.”
Kids Sea Camp president Margo Peyton jokingly calls her August trips to Utila her
“walking-on-whales weeks.” For the past five years, the PADI master scuba diver trainer
and her guests have consistently swum with whale sharks thanks to flat seas that make
for easy sightings. When kids aren’t snorkeling with the spotted giants, they’re engaging
in PADI Seal Team or SASY programs, day-tripping to the outer-cay beaches,
horseback riding or just hanging out. And at Laguna Beach Resort, the program’s host
hotel, two of the best spots for that — with an adult — are the saltwater lagoons, home
to lobsters, stingrays, seahorses, octopuses and whatever other marine life wanders in.
Yes, Manta Ray Bay Resort offers PADI Seal Team and SASY experiences, but that’s just the beginning. During the Kids Sea Camp program, Bill Acker, founder of on-site scuba operator Yap Divers, takes kids on snorkel trips with dolphins. He’ll also show newbies a 30-foot site where they can observe 3-foot juvenile blacktip and whitetip sharks, while their parents cruise over the wall to deeper depths. Perhaps best of all, the manta experience has a maximum depth of 30 feet, so kids ages 10 and older can obtain their manta distinctive specialty course. For some kids, this site is where they complete their final certification dive, sometimes with 10 mantas overhead.
With flat seas, a lack of current, visibility stretching from 60 to 100 feet, and water temperatures of around
80 degrees Fahrenheit, Oahu offers a beginner-friendly experience for divers of any age looking to encounter whitetip sharks, monk seals and green sea turtles. Especially come spring, Dive Oahu caters to at least 10 families a week on its afternoon boat trips, which visit back-to back shallow sites. The shop’s three boats operate out of two harbors: Kewalo Basin and Ala Wai. From either, dive sites — such
as the Waikiki Turtles and USS Nashua — are no more than 2 miles away, making for boat rides so quick that nobody has time to ask, “Are we there yet?”