Students prepare for an open water dive at Prybil Beach...

Students prepare for an open water dive at Prybil Beach in Glen Cove. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Whether you favor a quiet paddle, a deep dive or a shriek-inducing adventure, why not center your next vacation on water? Here are four ideas to consider:

Family diving trips

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 South Carolina-based Family Dive Adventures, advises families new to diving to choose destinations where the water is warm, clear and there is no current. She often recommends Bonaire, Grand Cayman and St. Lucia for beginners. 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.

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Aquatica, Orlando, Florida

Offering dozens of water slides, rides, rivers and lagoons, this award-winning water park 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. The Tamariki Twirl water slide sports a pint-sized half-pipe designed for junior explorers. Aquatica Orlando was among the world’s first water parks to be recognized as a certified autism center, with the ability to offer resources and tools for families with special needs.

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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. Now, visitors flock to the Inner Harbor, which serves the Chesapeake Bay and is bordered by the Susquehanna River on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. 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.

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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 attract families in this scenic area that boasts two of America’s clearest 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 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.

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