Families looking for something extra from this year’s Florida summer holiday should head to the laid-back Florida Keys, where there are plenty of fun new skills waiting to be learned.
Whether it’s exploring the sub-tropical island chain’s underwater paradise during a scuba or Snuba lesson, sportfishing or discovering the art of sand sculpting, the Keys provide options for every member of the family to add a stimulating and rewarding dimension to a Sunshine State escape.
Scuba: The Keys' year-round subtropical weather and calm, clear waters provide a safe and easy-learning environment for parents and children to learn snorkeling and scuba skills. Great underwater visibility enables travellers to enjoy courses ranging from introductory one-day sessions to full open-water certification classes, all while learning about local marine ecosystems. To discover the ‘Dive Capital of the World,’ head to Key Largo and see underwater icons like the Christ of the Deep statue. Numerous professional dive charter operations are available, such as Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo, which offers a ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ beginners’ day course from $175 + tax (around £129) suitable for age 10 and above. seadwellers.com
Snuba: Blending the simplicity of snorkelling and the excitement and freedom of scuba diving, Snuba is the ideal way for travellers aged 8 and above to explore the Keys' underwater world. Requiring no prior diving or snorkelling experience, Snuba allows visitors to dive down and breathe underwater using a 20-foot airline that is attached to an air supply floating above. During guided Snuba sessions, participants are never more than 20 feet from their air source, but can view undersea wonders including reefs, wrecks and diverse sea life. Try Snuba at Hawks Cay Resort near Marathon, which is one of the few places to experience the activity in the continental U.S. Excursions are priced from $150 (around £103) per person. diveduckkey.com
Sportfishing: The 125-mile long arc of islands that comprises the Florida Keys, situated with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, create a fishing environment unique in the world, and means a noteworthy catch is possible virtually year round. In Islamorada, the ‘Sportfishing Capital of the World’, visitors can search for speedster bonefish on the flats, test their determination against a reel-emptying blue marlin and land mahi-mahi for summertime dinners. Bud N’ Mary’s Fishing Marina, which has the oldest, largest and most established fishing fleet in the Keys, offers a variety of fishing opportunities, with prices starting at $65 (around £45) per person. budnmarys.com
Sand Sculpting: Kids and grownups alike can build intricate, eye-catching sandcastles on the beach in Key West at the historic waterfront Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort under the direction of Marianne van den Broek from Sand-Isle Professional Sand Sculpting. Van den Broek has crafted massive sand sculptures to commemorate holidays, special events, proposals and more since her career began in the Netherlands almost 15 years ago. The 2.5-hour beachside workshops are designed for up to six people, who can create their own sand sculpture from scratch during the experience. The cost is $49 (around £34) per person. sandisle.com
For more information on diving in the Keys, visit fla-keys.com/diving
For more information on fishing in the Keys, visit fla-keys.com/fishing
For further information on the Florida Keys & Key West, visit: fla-keys.co.uk