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January 08, 2008

Bring Your Own Snorkeling Gear. PLUS: Five Great Spots for Snorkeling

Having your own snorkel gear means no waiting in line for rentals, disavowing snorkels that have been in the mouths of who knows how many strangers, and knowing that your masks fit before you leave home (leaky masks bring kids to tears). U.S. Divers makes compact travel sets in adult and youth/small adult sizes (fits ages six to 12 and petite adults). The company also makes kids' sets for ages three to five, but not specifically for travel. I tested an adult set with excellent results (once I fiddled with the mask). I liked the shorter fins—in my luggage and in the water—and the kit didn't weigh my suitcase down. Find them on and check the store locator for your nearest retailer. You can also try online outlets like, Dick's Sporting Goods, or, which offer various combo sets (including mask, fins, snorkel, and carrying cases) from U.S. Divers for between $20 to $40.

Once you've got the right gear, here are a few of my favorite family snorkeling spots—all with lots of fish and good shore access, so no expensive charter trips necessary:
>> Kahalu'u Beach Park, Kailua Kona (Big Island, Hawaii): Spot zillions of fish plus sea turtles.
>> Hanauma Bay (Oahu, Hawaii): Hawaii's most famous and fish-filled snorkeling beach. Go early or you might not get in.
>> Chankanaab State Park (Cozumel, Mexico): This Caribbean-side enclave has fish, restaurants, and more iguanas than you can count (we tried).
>> Yal-Ku Lagoon (Akumal, Mexico): Ideal for youngsters, the lagoon has easy entry and generally calm waters.
>> Lover's Cove Undersea Gardens (Catalina Island, California): Check out the abundant marine life; it's for snorkelers only, too. Nearby, Casino Point Marine Park also has cool kelp forests.

By the way, starting kids snorkeling at the beach is a much better way to go than booking an expensive snorkel-sail trip. Even kids who swim well suddenly feel far from safety if they're not used to being out on a boat in what seems like the middle of nowhere. Learning to breathe underwater through a snorkel at the same time—scary for some kids all by itself—often turns out to be overwhelming and no one has a good time.

Photo: Hanauma Bay, Oahu (Robert Coello)

To help you plan the perfect family escape to Hawaii, check out "Book 'Em, Daddy-O", a guide to eight great resorts on Hawaii's four main islands from Outside magazine.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation


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