Peter Greenberg is the
winning travel editor
for CBS News and host
of The Travel Detective
on public television
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WHEN I’M LOOKING for a great beach vacation,
I don’t just want to look at the water, I want to get
in the water and, in many cases, under it, either
snorkeling or scuba diving.
If you’re curious, have the desire, the ability
and—in the case of scuba, the proper certification—a vast undersea world awaits you when you
visit just about any destination with a coastline.
Here are just a few of my favorites.
Spanish Lagoon, Aruba
This site is about six miles from the capital
city Oranjestad, on Aruba’s southwest coast.
It’s a great snorkeling spot, because it’s one of
the largest natural lagoons in the Caribbean.
The waters here are calm (Aruba is south of the
hurricane belt), which makes for a relaxing snorkeling destination, and you’ll find all kinds of sea
life, including puffer fish (aka blowfish), gliding
manta rays and sea turtles.
You can also rent a very cool noiseless underwater scooter that lets you cover a lot of territory
in a short period of time. You just hold on to the
handles and go.
Valley of the Rays, Cayman Islands
You may have heard about Stingray City in the
Caymans, but most folks don’t know that there
are actually two places with that name. Most
visitors go to the more famous Grand Cayman
Stingray City (it’s really a sandbar), where they
can stand in waist-deep water and feed the very
gentle and friendly rays. But my suggestion is to
avoid the crowds and head to the Valley of the
Rays—considered the real Stingray City by the
locals—which is ideal for both snorkeling and
scuba diving, because the water depth averages
just ;; feet. You’ll find not only stingrays, but
also fabulous coral formations, sponges, eels,
even nurse sharks.
Galleon Beach, Antigua
Galleon Beach lies on the southern tip
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park,
of Antigua in the heart of Nelson’s Dockyard
National Park. The reef is just ;; feet from the
shore, so you can snorkel or scuba right off the
beach. Check out the shipwreck sitting in just ;;
feet of water in the middle of the bay, where you’ll
be surrounded by yellowtail snappers, dolphins
This ;;;-square-mile sea park is home to
rare coral life, limestone reefs and thousands of
tropical fish—fishing is not allo wed. The underwater experience here is varied, with blue holes,
freshwater springs, caves and drop-offs. Be sure to
go with an experienced diver who can tell you the
best places for beginning snorkelers or advanced
divers. You can only get here by plane or boat.
Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Tahiti is an eight-hour flight from California,
making it a manageable distance to get to the
incredible waters of the South Pacific. A one-hour
flight from the main airport in Papeete will get
you to Rangiroa, whose lagoon is so massive that
the entire island of Tahiti could fit inside.
On the north side of the atoll are Avatoru and
Tiputa passes. The currents produced there are
ideal for something called drift snorkeling, but
you must go at the right time: just after
high tide or just after low tide. When
you drift snorkel, you are carried along by the
current, so you can cover a lot of area.
The lagoon holds black triggerfish, longnose
surgeonfish, yellow banded pipefish, parrot fish
and blue coral. If you’re lucky, you’ll drift by turtles, dolphins, even some giant clams.
Manta Ray Night Dive, Kona, Hawaii
If you’re a snorkeler, head for the island of
Hawaii. Two hundred manta rays live right next
to Kaloko-Honokohau National Park. These gentle
giants do not have tail stingers or teeth. It’s a great
daytime snorkel experience, but also one of the
world’s best night dives (for more experienced divers). At night, millions of plankton are attracted
by divers’ and snorkelers’ lights, and that’s when
the manta rays feed.
Wherever you go in the water, make safety
your priority: Research the area, learn about any
dangerous tides or waves, don’t walk on or touch
coral, and don’t swim beyond your abilities. C
Experience travel under the sea
A southern stingray
in shallow waters in
Stingray City, Grand
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packages to these destinations
and many more, as well as
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“Travel” at Costco.com or call