Snorkeling for Seniors?
February 7, 2015 8:07 PM   Subscribe

I want to take my 80-year-old mother on a snorkeling trip. Can anyone recommend a good place to go where an old lady could easily walk into the water, kneel down or float to see some pretty sea life, and get out again with minimal assistance?

About 12 years ago I took her to Bonaire; she loved being able to see the fish via snorkel, but getting in and out of the water, up rather rough coral beaches, with some current, was tough for her.

I remember, myself, snorkeling in Turks and Caicos, where it was much more flat sand, no waves or current, very easy to just walk in and out of... but there were only a few large rocks harboring fish to look at... there must be better places?

Scuba is not an option-- she will not qualify and has no interest in trying. Any kind of strenuous swimming, or boat rides to dive sites, are also not her thing. Hotels/country etc we can work around, but think middle-American-friendly please.... sorry, Mom is not very adventurous. She can walk fine and does half-hour on the treadmill daily, but her balance is not good, especially on uneven surfaces. Thanks for any help!
posted by The otter lady to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Phil Foster Park in Palm Beach County, FL
posted by Daily Alice at 8:16 PM on February 7, 2015

Best answer: Akumal in Mexico. There is a little snorkel park called Yal-ku. It's in a really protected area with no waves. If I remember right there are steps down and in the event that it is a total bust.... it's amazing to sit and watch the fish from land.

The area has many other places to snorkel as well.
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:16 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A costly answer is the Maldives. I literally walked from my bungalow into the water and by the time I was thigh-deep I was seeing pretty fish. If I walked out so that I was a little out of my depth there were huge parrot fish in neon pink and blue and before the water was two meters deep there were turtles grazing on the patches of sea grass. This was on the south-east facing side of Kuredu, but I imagine anywhere with a decent "house reef" will be able to facilitate you.
posted by Iteki at 8:41 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: To add that such resorts are also very friendly and accessible, well swept and kept paths, a large array of foods at the restaurant ranging from more local to very western options, all inclusive in a buffet style usually so you can try some other stuff at a low "investment", usually a house doctor on site, everyone speaks great english, etc. It's basically a very relaxed themepark with a pacific island nature theme.
posted by Iteki at 8:45 PM on February 7, 2015

Best answer: Look into freshwater springs in northern and central Florida. Manatee Springs, Ginnie Springs, etc.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:46 PM on February 7, 2015

Best answer: Fiji? Also, most of the Australian coastline.
posted by taff at 9:44 PM on February 7, 2015

Best answer: Maui. There are several places to stay with good snorkeling right offshore. One that comes to mind is the Black Rock Sheraton.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:08 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hilton's Waikoloa Village on the big island of Hawaii has a semi-man-made snorkling lagoon with a sandy beach. It's connected to the ocean, so creatures can swim in and out, and has a nice variety of fish and a lot of beautiful sea turtles. The entrance is entirely sandy and slopes very, very gently. There are also attendants at hand if help is needed. The lagoon is covers four acres, so it's pretty big.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:33 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've heard that Roatan has really good snorkeling and it's possible to walk into the reef at certain points but I haven't been yet. Maybe someone else has been?
posted by fiercekitten at 11:07 PM on February 7, 2015

Best answer: Xelha is a super accessible park in Mexico with steps down into the water. There are also caves to snorkel through in Xcaret, though they can be a bit cold.
posted by asphericalcow at 11:13 PM on February 7, 2015

Best answer: I've been to the Cocoview resort on Roatan, and it is indeed about as easy as you can get. There is a sand path out to the house reef, and you just walk right in. (There are also boat trips available, and there is good snorkeling on those too. Think like a 10min calm boat ride.) I didn't spend much time snorkeling, as I'm a scuba addict, but there was plenty of good sea life around 15ft deep, which should make for good snorkeling. There is also a little shipwreck, Plus the spiny lobsters in the 4-6ft deep water on the way out, and that one magical day a little pod of squid came to hang out with us at the platform for gearing up.

The resort is geared towards people who want to spend tons of time in the water, and it is a little isolated from town -- you have to take a (short easy) boat ride to go into town, but that's doable. The food is mostly simple but very good. There are other options on Roatan, but I don't know about the ease of snorkeling at any of them.
posted by ktkt at 12:27 AM on February 8, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, Hawaii. On Honolulu there's a great marine reserve at Hanauma Bay where you just walk in off the sand into a shallow lagoon where you can float around and see all sorts of fish, turtles, etc. It's pretty crowded and you have to go in the morning before people have stirred up all the sand and made the visibility low, but it's great. There's a steep walk down to the beach from the cliff top where the tour bus drops you, but they have little mini-buses for the elderly for $1 each way.
posted by lollusc at 1:24 AM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Vieques
Beautiful almost empty beaches without the rough surf found on the main island. Not the dramatic sea life that Bonaire and Roatan have (had) but friends who live there snorkel every week and cannot say enough about it.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:37 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: on Kauai I found there was excellent, highly accessible snorkeling at Poipu beach park. Actually saw grandmothers and little children wading around to look at pretty fish there.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:40 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I came in to recommend Poipu Beach Park too! We saw a ton of fish and it is very friendly in April. Surf conditions vary by season in Hawaii, so be mindful of that when you are planning. The north shore was unsnorkelable in April, but Poipu was flat.
posted by advicepig at 5:55 AM on February 8, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, Hawaii. On Honolulu there's a great marine reserve at Hanauma Bay where you just walk in off the sand into a shallow lagoon where you can float around and see all sorts of fish, turtles, etc

I've done this, it's pretty straightforward. I went on a bus and all the gear was provided. Plus a lot of folks in our parents' cohort love Hawaii because it's still the US, they can see the Pearl Harbor Memorial and do all that stuff from Hawaii Five-0 and Mitchner.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:12 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thirding Kauai. Poipu Beach Park would also be my first suggestion. Lawai Beach and Anini Beach off the top of my head also allow for easy walking access and gentle waters.
posted by rdnnyc at 6:58 AM on February 8, 2015

Best answer: In st. John VI it's possible to snorkel just off the beach in fairly shallow water. Its very warm water and quite calm. We saw amazing varieties and numbers of fish just off the beach from our campsite - this was a while ago but the coral formation was pretty intact there. There is also a snorkeling trail that was fun but at a beach that is much more crowded. There are many lovely hotels but you can also stay at pretty nice campgrounds that are comfortable and some have kitchens.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:25 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first time I ever snorkeled was at Melones beach on Culebra, an island near Puerto Rico. (Going to Vieques this fall-thank you, InkaLomax, for the endorsement!!)

I can recommend several beaches on Culebra, but actually want to offer some suggestions. I am not a strong nor confident swimmer, so my kids had me wear a ski vest, the front zip kind. I bobbed like a cork, and it took all the work out of keeping myself afloat. I was able to relax, learn to use the snorkel properly, and the few times i had any difficulty, i just rolled over on my back and easy peasy! Face out of water, both hands available to clear mask, adjust snorkel...

Don't use swim fins, instead have her wear some water suitable sports shoes. Merrell, Teva and others make some excellent ones. She'll have much better mobility getting out to water deep enough to float. Ideally, if two people can accompany her, and walk her to deeper water, she can just stretch out and they can tow her from place to place while she totally enjoys the show! (I swam along behind my daughter, not terribly difficult even with just the water sandals.) Even if she's just walking out over sand, fins can really drag and trip you up. And a lot of places where you are going out over reef/rock are treacherous.

Melones beach was very rocky, and the underwater reefs were incredible! There were a few places where the reefs were near the surface, so caution is in order so as to not shred yourself! Tamarindo beach was more sandy, with great sea grassy underwater fields where we saw lots of turtles! Neither beach was crowded, we were actually the only ones for a long time. A tour boat arrived later in the afternoon, and we were greatly entertained by the staff trying to teach 20 some folks to snorkel, whilst also trying to keep them from swimming away in all directions!

Have a great time!
posted by LaBellaStella at 7:05 AM on February 9, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, very much!!
posted by The otter lady at 9:31 AM on February 10, 2015

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