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Make splash next family vacation

By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, FamilyTravel.com
Published: March 16, 2024, 5:20am

Whether you favor a quiet paddle, a deep dive or a shriek-inducing water park, why not center your next vacation on H2O? Here are five ideas to consider.

  • Family diving trips

The pros at Family Dive Adventures have been encouraging families to explore our underwater world for decades. Now some of their earliest guests are returning with multiple members of their own expanding clans. And of course, learning to scuba dive is a great way to discover all that lives in the deep blue sea and to gain an understanding of the challenges our world’s underwater environments face. Margo Peyton, owner of Family Dive Adventures, advises families new to diving to choose family-friendly destinations where the water is warm, clear and there is no current. She often recommends Bonaire, Grand Cayman and St. Lucia for beginners and early diving practice. Trip options for the more experienced include the Galapagos, Sea of Cortez, Palau, Indonesia, and a multi-island tour in the Philippines. When not exploring the underwater world, families can opt for volcano hiking, jungle biking, getting involved in citizen science projects and local outreach.

For more: www.familydivers.com

  • Aquatica, Orlando, Fla.

Offering dozens of water slides, rides, rivers and lagoons this award-winning water park in Orlando is part of the United Parks & Resorts family, which also includes SeaWorld. Check out the Walhalla Wave, a family raft ride that includes more than 600 feet of drenching twists, turns and drops into darkness. The new Turi’s Kid Cove features watering palms, tipping buckets and spraying jets. Tamariki Twirl water slide sports a pint-sized half pipe designed for junior explorers.

For more: www.aquatica.com/orlando

  • Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay

Visitors to the cruise line’s 125-acre private island, CocoCay, can choose to thrill, chill or both while the ship docks for the day at a private pier. For those who opt for the thrill zone, the centerpiece is Daredevil Peak, a 135-foot-high slide, said to be the highest in North America. A dozen other slides, a wave pool and assorted water play areas will keep youngsters and the young at heart engaged for hours. Also, in the neighborhood you’ll find a helium balloon ride, a 1,600-foot-long zip line and casual hang-out zones from which to watch others tackle the heights. On the chill side, expect a long stretch of beach with options for snorkeling, wave running, paddle boarding, kayaking or simply soaking up the sun while floating on a royal blue raft.

For more: www.royalcaribbean.com

  • Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Decades ago, this spirited Maryland city bolstered a movement to transform industrial waterfronts into tourist meccas where restaurants, shops and appealing attractions would soon energize the local economy. Today, visitors flock to the Inner Harbor, which serves the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S. Family travel plans often include a visit to the National Aquarium, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and feasting on the region’s famous blue crabs, oysters and clams.

For more: www.baltimore.org; www.aqua.org

  • The Ozark National Scenic Riverways

In Missouri, you’ll find America’s first congressionally designated national park for the preservation of a wild river system. There is plenty to compel families in this scenic area that boasts two of America’s clearest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers: the Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork River. Plan to fish, float, paddle, marvel at historic sites, explore caves and hike within this extraordinary 80,000 acre park. Kids can get a free Junior Ranger book filled with activities to do on their own, or participate in ranger-guided activities. River Exploration Kits are also available to borrow at no cost.

For more: https://www.nps.gov/ozar/index.htm