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my wife and I are planning to go for our first ever caribbean vacations. I have some experience diving, she will get her OW license this summer. we're thinking of going sometime in the winter. we would be diving recreationally (i.e. no cave diving). i have a few questions that maybe of a broad spectrum but i'll try to narrow down. I'm sure there are lots of awsome places and for each place there would be someone who thinks it's the best one. At this point, we're trying to narrow down to an island.
(1) what's considered the best place for diving that is also good for not diving folks (beaches, snorkling, food).
(2) we might take our son who'll be ~1 y.o. by then, so we might take turns babysitting him. Also, we might take grand-parents with us who don't dive at all.
(3) at this point we don't care too much about night life, just comfort, nice beaches and great diving.
Easy answer, Bonaire, Bonaire and Bonaire. Best diving, a little weak on beaches. But Eden Beach has a nice small beach or the Divi Flamingo. The diving is as good as it gets anywhere and great for new divers.
The little one is going to be problematic anywhere you go. There are babysitters but it takes some amount of trust which many would not do.
I'd have to also agree with Bonaire. I stayed a week with my non-diving girlfriend and we did a ton of snorkeling together. She loved it. We stayed at Habitat and the snorkeling was great (day and night). She lounged around the pool while i dove. The only thing it doesn't have is a beach. It's the perfect place for new divers. The water is absolutely calm which makes it good for swimming, diving and snorkeling.
Grand Cayman has the beaches and the diving plus topside attractions like shopping, etc.
Be thorough when researching a resort, etc. Often you find that the hotel website doesn't show you things like the main road being six feet away from the rooms, etc. I've found tripadvisor to be handy. Check on weather (hurricane and rainy season) and water temps.
Remember that "the best place for diving" will change with time. As you were quick to describe "no caves". There are other considerations as well. Just as shore dive entries on Bonaire are a next or "advanced" step in diving, maybe concentrate on building blocks.
Either of these two islands have great dive-ops that know well how to cater to your needs, but "the best places for diving" might not necessarily mean "the best reefs/fish", etc.
Consider also the more common Freeport/Grand Bahama or Nassau locations. When your new diver & buddy's experience level gears-up to where she can get some value and appreciation out of nicer condition reefs, then spend the more $$$ and go to Bonaire and Cayman. Until then- your vacation dollar will go further at the more well worn paths.
You should check out the Sandals resorts, I know there's one in Turks and Caicos.
They have onsite, professional child care: you can both go diving!
The island (Provo, Turks and Caicos) is small. Non-diving activities include going to the AWESOME beaches, biking, light hiking, snorkeling, drinking.
Bonaire is fantastic for begininer and experienced divers, but there few beaches and even fewer that are 'nice'. But the diving is awesome. As far as non-diving activies there is biking, some easy hiking, great snorkeling and wind surfing.
Cayman.....I cannot reccomend. The diving is adequate, but it's no Turks and Caicos or Bonaire. Stay FAR away from 7mile as the dive sites (especially those frequented by cruise shippers) are trashed. As far as non-diving activites there's really nice beaches, decent snorkeling, shopping, and drinking. Grand Cayman qualifies as a tourist trap in my opinion.
I lived in all 3 of those places so if you want further details just pm me.
As much as I like Bonaire, my suggestion would be Curacao instead. It's easier to get to-esp if traveling with children, has some nice beaches which are good for the non diving amoung you. The island also has lots of good places to eat.