Getting SCUBA Certified on Vacation, Without Spending Your Vacation in Class

I got SCUBA certified many years ago while I lived in California by NAUI. Although I love to dive, my husband tried it on our honeymoon in Tahiti and hated it because of his claustrophobia. So, while raising three boys, I haven’t had much chance to dive over the last twenty years.

We have enjoyed snorkeling over the years in Mexico and the Caribbean. I love snorkeling, but something feels much freer about SCUBA diving. When I dive, I feel like I am part of the peace and nature underwater. But I needed to wait until my kids were old and mature enough to involve them in my diving life.

But good news, my kids can now join me under the water!

getting scuba certified on vacation

I did all my initial diving training in California. I have to be honest; I vastly prefer diving in warm locales where I can dive only with a bathing suit and dive gear. Although the weather in California is warm, the water can be pretty cold, so I took my certification dives with full wetsuits on, including a hood.

We planned our first trip to Hawaii and knew we wanted the boys’ first dive in this beautiful place. But we didn’t want to spend our whole time diving or with the boys in class.

But we especially didn’t want the boys to do their certification dives in the even more cold water of Rhode Island. I wanted their first dives to be fantastic, so they would love this sport as much as I do.

I researched and found out that you can do your classroom and pool dives at a local SCUBA shop and take your certification dives (called referral dives when they are separate from where you get schooled) somewhere else.

So we found a local PADI dive shop and signed up for classes, ensuring that they would help us find a shop to dive with in Maui.

Steps to getting Open-Water Dive Certified

Classroom Learning

Our first time in SCUBA equipment together.

Your first step is spending about 20 hours learning all about SCUBA diving in a classroom. It is an adventure sport, so there is the possibility of getting injured if you aren’t well-trained. This was also another reason I didn’t want my kids to learn quickly on vacation. While they were getting their certification, I was doing a refresher course alongside them as it had been a while since I had dived. Another bonus was the quality family time together.

We did our local certification with Giant Strides in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Pool Dives

Playing games underwater in the pool to learn buoyancy skills and get used to the equipment.

Soon into your diving education, you start taking dives in a swimming pool, and this is a part you can do at home. We had four dives at a local pool, so we all felt very comfortable with SCUBA equipment before heading to Hawaii.

Open Water Dives

referral dive certification Maui
The boy’s first dives were shore dives at Ulua Beach on Maui.

The Hawaii dive shop, Maui Dreams, first tested the boys to ensure they had the book knowledge to dive.

Learning about nature underwater at Molokini Crater from our excellent instructor, Maddy.

The last step is to get into some natural water! For your certification dives, you have an instructor with you the whole time. It is like a guided dive in the water. Our instructor was testing our skills but also using an underwater writing tablet to teach us about corals and fish we found underwater.

Dive Boat Maui
Sharing time and the beauty of the undersea world with my boys is so precious.

The boys first headed out for a shore dive while I snorkeled with my youngest son nearby.

diving the Molokini Crater

The next day we headed out on a boat and were able to dive to Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater off Maui’s coast. We also did another dive on the way home.

The visibility in Hawaii isn’t the best in the world, but the number of turtles we saw was outstanding.

The whole experience was nothing but positive for the three of us. My boys are itching to get back into the water, and I see a life-long love of diving in their future.

The sun setting over our first, but not last, dive adventure.

How Do I Know if My Teen is Ready to Learn to SCUBA Dive?

A child can get PADI certified as early as age 10, but I can tell you that all of my kids weren’t ready to dive at that age. Diving takes an understanding of complicated tables and concepts. They have to be good swimmers. But emotionally, they also have to stay focused, serious, and aware of their surroundings underwater. Not only that, but diving uses a buddy system. That means if something happens underwater, they need to be physically and emotionally able to help someone.

My boys got certified when they were 14 and 16-years-old and were ready to do it then. My older son wanted to dive before this, but I felt 16 was the right age for him in which to undertake this responsibility. My current 14-year-old has yet to choose to dive but enjoys snorkeling.

How Much Planning Will This Take?

I would recommend trying to plan at least six months in advance. Our home training took about three months, and we waited a month or so for a new class to open.

Since we got our certification, we headed to the Red Sea in Egypt to dive and dove with sharks in the Bahamas.  Follow along on my Instagram to experience our dives with us.

Read more about our SCUBA adventures.

Are you a SCUBA diver? What was your certification experience like? What is your favorite spot to dive?

If you liked it, please share it. Thank you!

11 thoughts on “Getting SCUBA Certified on Vacation, Without Spending Your Vacation in Class”

  1. I love that you can dive with your kids now! I am a PADI instructor, and your recommendations are excellent. People should also know that you can do the classroom learning independently – it’s called E-Learning and it’s easy to do on an IPAD. So excited for you and all the dives ahead with your boys!

  2. I was so glad I finally got my scuba certification. It adds some great adventures to our travels. We too avoid cold water diving and leave our scuba to trips to the south. We too got our kids certified so they could join in. Although sadly as they aged nobody really kept it up.

  3. I’m so glad you’re able to get SCUBA diving again. I can only imagine how beautiful it is under the sea. Sadly, I think I’m with your husband and would probably find the experience wildly claustrophobic. I hope you’re able to get a lot more dives in now that your kids can go with you!

  4. This is so cool. I love that you managed to stretch out the family time (and the excitement for the holiday) by having those sessions in the pool. It’s fab that your kids can now join you in your love of scuba!

  5. I love the idea of getting scuba certified as a family – what a fun experience! I’ve loved snorkeling and I took a one hour introductory course to scuba diving while on vacation in the DR. I’d love to actually get scuba certified one day – my Dad is certified on goes on several dives each year – he loves it! I think I would prefer the warmer locations like you as well!

  6. I agree with you that the age of 10 is the minimum age for PADI certification, but that doesn’t mean that all children are ready to dive at that age. Some children may be physically and mentally ready to dive at a younger age, while others may need more time to develop the skills and maturity necessary for safe diving. It’s important to consider your child’s individual needs and abilities when deciding when to start scuba diving lessons. If your child is interested in scuba diving, I recommend talking to a PADI instructor about the requirements for certification and the best age to start lessons.

  7. Some kids might be ready to start diving when they are younger, both in their bodies and their minds. But some kids might need more time to learn all the important things they need to dive safely. So, if you want your child to learn scuba diving, you should think about what your child is good at and how grown-up they are before deciding when to start learning. If your child really wants to learn, you should talk to a PADI instructor. They can tell you what your child needs to do to become certified and when it’s a good time to start learning.

  8. I was really happy that I got my scuba certification at last. It brings exciting experiences to our trips. We also choose not to dive in cold water and only go scuba diving during trips to warmer places. We also made sure our kids got certified so they could join us. But as they grew older, unfortunately, they didn’t continue with it.


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