Adventure By Justin Gibson

The Many Levels of Ocean Fun

Picture it: day one of your picturesque beach vacation, lounge chair lined up adjacent to the endless expanse of the azure ocean, while a symphony of lulling waves and soft-swaying palms serenades you with the sound of tranquility. As iconic an escape as this is, it's just the ground floor. Peek past the possibility of wiggling your toes in the surf's seafoam and you'll quickly discover there are more layers to your beach vacation-fun you can have near, in, above and below the ocean. To navigate them for yourself, read this introductory guide of what to try over and under the sea.

golfing with friends

ON LAND

Sure, the ocean is the focal point of every beach vacation, but don't forget the other side of paradise: tropical settings-especially tropical resorts-come well-equipped with a bounty of land-based leisure activities. The go-to for most may be a game of golf; after all, it is hard to beat panoramic views of paradise, water hazards with cresting swells and sand traps that double as shores. Look to Cabo for the sunset-gold standard, as there's a reason that legends like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus were eager to design courses here. But, golf isn't everyone's pi?a colada, which brings us to regional flavors, the sort of adventures and activities wholly unique to where you're visiting. Maybe it's exploring Maya ruins outside of Playa del Carmen. Maybe it's witnessing nature's kaleidoscope at Aruba's butterfly farm. Or, maybe it's sipping libations while watching cliff divers put on a show. In any case, it's there, waiting to be savored.

surfing
kayaking

IN THE SURF

Where the bright blue ocean kisses the sand is where the fun transitions from dry to wet. Boards are the staple here, often for rent from a resort or local, with the intensity increasing the farther out you wade. Skim-boarding is done by gliding across the remnant of the wave after it's crashed ashore, whereas bodyboarding sees you lying atop hydrodynamic foam while a wave propels you toward the beach. Surfboarding is the next step, and thanks to a century of pop culture, it needs no introduction- except to say that it is surprisingly plausible for an amateur to enjoy. Windsurfing is where the variety of boards gets extreme. Part surfing, part sailing, your mode of momentum is the wind rather than the wave. The difference between this and kitesurfing is where your sail is located, but beginners may want to consider the latter choice. Alternatively, the much more modern option of a water jetpack provides a comparable adrenaline rush. All of this is to say that you can certainly still have fun without venturing very far from shore.

ocean
beach
paddleboarding

ON THE WATER

For a day of fun spent out on the water, your vessel depends on how far out you're looking to venture, and why. Kayaks and paddleboards are well worth trying at least once, if not only for the exercise they provide, but also the fresh view of your tropical paradise. Sailboats allow for a little more leeway, especially if you've chartered one with a full crew as opposed to operating a boat rental yourself. Either of these sailing possibilities provides a nautical rush: the wind in your sails, the stem of the boat cutting through the surf like warm butter and the smell of sea salt blessing your senses all make for a euphoric experience. Farther out, the opportunities for getting acquainted with the denizens of the deep make for thrills unmatched back on dry land. While whale watching is all the rage up in northern waters like Alaska and Iceland, you're just as guaranteed to spot them in tropical settings such as Cabo and Tahiti, due to migratory patterns. Glimpsing the gentle giants of the ocean as they breach for a breath of fresh air is mesmerizing in the way that you dream vacation experiences can be.

snorkeling
snorkeling

UNDER THE SEA

Ultimately, there is no greater thrill during a beach vacation than to witness the underwater world firsthand. Snorkeling is the easiest way to see the majesty and mystery of the seas-simply a facemask and a snorkel is all it takes for you to enjoy a seabird's-eye view of Poseidon's realm.

However, snorkeling is but a peek. Immersing yourself properly within the alien landscape requires you to dive well below the surface. In some locations, submarines are available; a sort of underwater tour bus to see shipwrecks and coral reefs. But, nothing beats the enchantment of scuba diving-spending hours at a time 30 feet below the surface as if you were a fish is an otherworldly experience in every sense of the word. As with surfing, it doesn't inherently require that you arrive with expertise. In some cases, you can pick up the basics on the boat ride to the dive site or at your resort's scuba diving course, learning about safe ascents, the intricacies of scuba gear and the rule of thirds for air supply. The tradeoff is worth it-a little more effort than beach chair lounging for a whole new level of adventure and fun.

The following hotels provide the perfect setting for diving into the depths of the ocean's leisure possibilities. You'll also enjoy bonus amenities available through SELECT Hotels & Resorts.