*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Whether you are a scuba pro or you are seeking a paradise vacation, there are a lot of popular destinations that are diver “must sees.” For many, the ocean is a relaxing escape from the stresses of daily life. And while a large part of the world is covered in water, there are some sites that distinguish themselves from the rest of the vast blue landscape as particularly amazing. Below, we have reviewed ten amazing spots that should be on your diving bucket list, regardless of whether you are a scuba pro looking for your next big adventure or a beginner diver just getting your feet wet.
Scuba Community FAQs
Who Should Visit These Sites?
Whether you are a scuba pro or it is your first time diving, many of these destinations are perfect for well-experienced and beginner divers alike. The sites that we have described below have a lot of diving options, from shipwrecks and coastal dives to boat dives and a plethora of marine life; and these options are a great getaway for anyone looking to explore the water. While most are great for the scuba pro or the beginner, some of the sites described are best for advanced divers with a minimum of twenty logged dives— we have made sure to note when this is the case.
What Should You Consider When Choosing a New Diving Destination?
You should consider the location and airtime that it would take for you to get there, as well as the quality of the dive, the variety of the diving spots, and the destination as a whole. You should also consider whether you are seeking a laid back vibe or a busy and entertaining atmosphere. While all of these spots are beautiful, your priorities will determine which spot is the best pick for you.
How Did We Choose the Sites Below?
All of these scuba sites are popular amongst divers and are known for their high-quality diving experiences. While they are renowned as diving “hot spots,” there are key factors that distinguish them and support their popularity. We have listed some of the reasons for their high popularity in the reviews below.
What Should You Evaluate before Deciding on a Place?
You should think about your budget and the accessibility of the site. Depending on where you live, some places are easier to visit than others. Also, while some are accessible by plane, others are only reachable by boat. There are a variety of price options within each location, and you can certainly make a diving visit work on a tight budget. Make sure to research economical options, food prices, and diving deals before choosing your spot.
How We Reviewed the Diving Destinations
Image from Pixabay
In reviewing these destinations, we considered the variety of the dive sites, the water temperature, the destination outside of the diving factors, and the quality of diving (such as sea life and coral). We have listed the pros and cons for each location, and it was honestly difficult to come up with cons for these snippets of paradise. We hope that our reviews give you some context for why these places are so popular, and we hope that the details listed will help you decide which spot will be your next diving destination.
Overall Price Range of These Diving Destinations
Diving is not a “budget” activity, but you can certainly find reasonable prices and deals within these locations. All of these locations offer a variety of diving packages from different companies, and you can find affordable options that are single day trips or multiple day deals. Further, you can find swanky hotels to cheap hostels in all of these destinations, so you can make your budget work with a little research and planning.
Image from Pixabay
What We Reviewed: Ten Destinations for the Scuba Pro and Beginner Diver
- Eilat, Israel
- Cairns, Australia
- Bora Bora, French Polynesia
- Darwin Island, Galapagos
- Koh Tao, Thailand
- Ishigaki Island, Japan
- Tulum, Mexico
- Ambergris Caye, Belize
- Anacapa Island, California
Image from Trover.com
Israel offers a unique diving location that is a favorite amongst divers: The Red Sea. Water temperatures range between 70 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are few currents, making diving easy for the beginner and the scuba pro. Israeli marine biologists have been spending the last ten years restoring reefs, which makes the area beautiful and colorful.
- Great visibility (up to one hundred feet)
- Local restoration efforts make the area extremely vibrant and colorful
- Warm waters that range from 70 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit
- Popular amongst tourists
- Hot temperatures, even at night, with moderate humidity
- Popular holiday destination and popular party area
Image from Lonely Planet
Bonaire is a paradise oasis and a much-needed escape from the noise and chaos of everyday life. It is dry season year round with little rain, and the small island of close to 17,000 has been one of divers’ favorites for decades. There are hundreds of fish to see, including peacock flounders, seahorses, reef squids, blue parrotfish, ocean triggerfish, and a plethora of beautiful coral.
- One hundred feet of visibility year-round
- $39 cost for one-tank dive is very affordable
- Over 469 species of fish to see
- Popular amongst tourists, very busy
- Island is only 21 miles long, not a lot to do besides water activities
- Relaxing and slow pace of life, not a fast moving culture
Image from Lonely Planet
Cairns, Australia is the “gateway” for the Great Barrier Reef. Not only is it an excellent diving destination, but it is also an awesome destination for extreme sports, such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, hang gliding, and more. Further, there are a ton of cafes, great food spots, hiking, and treetop adventures with lots of stuff to do. The scuba pro will not be easily bored in Cairns.
- Great destination for extreme sports
- Access to diving in the Great Barrier Reef
- A lot of diving spots, great for beginner divers and scuba pro divers
- Bleaching is impacting the quality of the Great Barrier Reef
- Not a lot of time left for divers to enjoy the beauty of this destination
- Expensive and very popular amongst tourists
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Image from WendyPerrin.com
Bora Bora offers the unique opportunity for you to dive in two different experiences— both inside and outside of the lagoon. It is a great place for beginner and expert divers, and Bora Bora offers over-water bungalows for a relaxing overnight experience after a great day of swimming. The Tapu dive site, just outside of the lagoon, is known as a popular spot to see sharks. You can also see Humpback whales during late July and November, as they migrate through the waters during those times.
- Popular spot to see sharks, with 16 different species
- Diving opportunities both inside and outside of the lagoon
- Lots of tropical fish, eagle rays, giants clams, moray eels, and sea anemones
- Overwater bungalows
- Strong disparity between ritzy hotels and impoverished areas
- Not easily accessible
- Expensive and not very budget-friendly
Darwin Island, Galapagos
Image from Dive-the-World.com
The Darwin Island in the Galapagos offers unique marine life that can be found nowhere else in the world. You can see whale sharks from late June to October, hammerhead sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, marine iguanas, and more!
- Unique marine life, with 20% of species not offered anywhere else in the world
- Can see whale sharks from late June to October
- Lots of things to do, from beautiful surf to a bustling city
- Strong currents sweep through the area, making it a more ideal spot for experienced divers
- Wet season can ruin the summer months with lots of heat and humidity
- Isolated location and difficult to reach
Koh Tao, Thailand
Image from JonesAroundtheWorld.com
Koh Tao, Thailand is perfect for beginner divers that are seeking to check off their Open Water Certification. It lies north of the Koh Samui, which is Thailand’s second largest island. This is a great place for shore dives, and it is also just a short boat trip to get to various sea life and the HTMS Sattakut Wreck.
- Great for beginner divers
- Easily accessible for shore dives
- Steep hillsides with thick forest and granite boulders, surrounded by crystal clear waters and tropic beauty
- Life of Koh Tao revolves around the water, so it is not known for much outside of diving
- Far from the mainland and susceptible to poor weather
- Low accessibility to the mainland means high prices for food
Ishigaki Island, Japan
Image from Trover.com
Ishigaki Island is known as one of the best islands for diving in Japan. It is recognized as a popular destination to see manta rays, and less-crowded tourist seasons make this a much easier diving location. While diving is only done in this location between April and November, it is known by many as “the most beautiful place in Japan.” It has little to no current, so it is an ideal spot for divers of all levels.
- One of the best islands to dive in Japan
- Popular destination to see manta rays, with 80% likelihood of seeing rays during diving season
- Less crowded and easier to dive
- Diving is only done in this location between April and November
- Remote island and harder to access
- Expensive prices
Image from Lincolnshire Life
While many of the locations described above are accessible for beginner divers and those at the scuba pro level, Tulum is a destination for experienced divers. You can experience amazing adventures through cenote and cave diving in this location, making this a “must visit” for those than have logged a minimum of 20 dives. Mayans believed the cenotes were portals to the gods, and the navigating stalagmites and stalactites during your cave dives in Tulum will be a difficult and exciting experience.
- Exciting and adventurous cave diving
- Adventurous dive that will not be boring for experienced divers
- Experience Mayan history and culture
- For advanced divers that have logged a minimum of 20 dives
- No ability to vertically ascend in an emergency, riskier dives
- Cave diving is not as easy as open water diving
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Image from SouthernUtahDiveClub.com
The Ambergris Caye in Belize is a famous site for divers and non-divers, and it is popular for the natural beauty of the location itself. Divers do not visit the Ambergris Caye for the marine life, but rather for the stalagmites and stalactites that can be found in The Blue Hole itself. It has a depth of about 120 feet, and divers should have their Advanced Certification before exploring this natural wonder.
- Well-known for its Blue Hole
- Beautiful stalagmites and stalactites
- An adventure for skilled divers
- Not known for its marine life
- Only for experienced divers with their Advanced Certification
- Accessible by boat over choppy waters, which makes it a hassle to reach
Anacapa Island, California
Image from VisitCalifornia.com
Anacapa Island is a thin volcanic island that is about 11 miles off of Port Hueneme in California. It is a habitat for seabirds, great white sharks, a variety of plants and flora, and fish. It has 800+ species, and it is accessible to divers with a range in budget.
- Can see kelp forests, sea lions, sting rays, giant sea bass, shipwrecks, and more
- 800+ species to see when diving
- Perfect for a quick diving trip
- Cold water temperatures, ranging between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit
- Peak visibility is about 50 feet
- Only accessible by boat
You cannot go wrong with any of the dive sites described above. If you are an advanced diver, you should consider exploring the caves and cenotes in Tulum, Mexico or the stalagmites and stalactites of Ambergris Caye in Belize. If you are a beginner diver, you should consider visiting Ishigaki Island in Japan to see the manta rays or Koh Tao, Thailand and enjoy the shore accessible dives. While Tulum and Ambergris Caye are best for advanced divers, many of the sites are great options for you if you are a scuba pro or a scuba beginner.Whichever you choose for your next adventure, you should definitely add all ten to your bucket list of dives.