Best Places to Go Diving

June 23, 2014 by

Asia, Australia & the Pacific, Caribbean, Europe, Middle East & Africa, North America, Places to Go, South & Central America, Things to Do

Sometimes it might feel like your list of must-see destinations around the world keeps getting bigger, even as you check countries and cities off. Divers have an even more daunting task, however, as they have lists that cover not only places on land but places underwater, too.

Whether you’re an experienced diver, are looking to get certified, or simply want to do a bit of snorkeling on your next vacation, here are some of the best places to go diving around the world.

Explore the Red Sea

Explore the Red Sea

Red Sea, Egypt

Divers who visit the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh will likely already know this, but here’s a tip for everyone else: This is a premier diving spot. There are many places in the Red Sea that are ideal for diving, given the sea’s extraordinary depths and variety of coral and sea creatures, but making your home base in Sharm el-Sheikh puts you close to Ras Mohammed National Park (which includes a marine reserve) and the very dive-able shipwreck of the SS Thistlegorm. The great diving here means there are also plenty of diving schools, too, and snorkeling is also popular if you’d rather stay near the water’s surface.

Get up close and personal with all kinds of marine life!

Get up close and personal with all kinds of marine life!

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Of all the coral reefs in the world, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia’s Queensland state is arguably the most famous. It’s by far the largest – it is quite literally visible from space (it stretches more than 1,400 miles) – and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The easiest spots in which to base yourself for a diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef are Cairns or the Whitsunday Islands, and the diving conditions are good year-round. Keep in mind that the popularity of this spot means that it’s likely to be a less secluded diving experience – there are, after all, about two million divers headed for the Great Barrier Reef each year.

What else can we find underwater in Iceland?

What else can we find underwater in Iceland?

Silfra, Iceland

Diving in Iceland? Really? Yes, really. This is no warm-water dive destination, and yet it may be one of the most fascinating dives you do. The deep rift in Þingvellir Lake near Silfra is cold, all right, and it’s also absolutely clear. The colors are different here – almost surreal – and the landscape is unlike any tropical underwater scenery you’ve ever seen. Visibility extends to more than 490 feet. Divers must use dry suits, and even if you’re an experienced diver you’d be smart to hire a professional guide.

The famous Great Blue Hole

The famous Great Blue Hole

Belize

Belize is home to one of the world’s most famous dive spots – the Great Blue Hole, a massive sinkhole off the coast – but that is by no means the country’s only diving location. In fact, the Belize Barrier Reef is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System – one of the largest reef systems in the world – with more than 100 species of coral, 500 species of fish, and three atolls. Belize is a popular diving destination, so it can get busy during the high season, but the underwater scenery is always outstanding.

Snorkel all over the Hawaiian Islands

Snorkel all over the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands present several excellent sites for snorkeling and diving, especially if you’re interested in the wildlife that lives underwater. Hawaii is home to some sea life you won’t find elsewhere. You can swim alongside Hawaiian green sea turtles with dives from several of the islands, explore the underwater caves off Lanai known as the Lanai Cathedrals, and even see a World War II airplane wreck off the coast of Oahu. From Kona off the Big Island (now known as Hawaii), you can go on a truly memorable night dive with manta rays.

Can't beat a Caribbean Island underwater snorkel selfie

Can’t beat a Caribbean Island underwater snorkel selfie

Caribbean Islands

There are plenty of great reasons to choose a Caribbean island for your next vacation, but if you want to go diving there are a few you should focus on specifically. The Cayman Islands trio allows divers and snorkelers to swim win stingrays and explore multiple shipwrecks. St. Maarten’s diving is relatively shallow and includes shipwrecks as well as interesting rock formations. Bonaire, just off the coast of Venezuela, has the slogan “Divers Paradise” on its license plates – and the water has been a protected marine park since 1979, so they mean business. And if you like your diving with a bit of mystery, head for Bermuda’s collection of shipwrecks near the infamous Bermuda Triangle.

View of the Similan Islands

View of the Similan Islands

Thailand

There are many great dive sites in Thailand, both in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, and it’s a particularly good destination if you’re hoping to learn to dive and get certified while on vacation. Visibility is quite good in Thailand’s clear waters, and you can go diving year-round – which means that it can get somewhat crowded. The Similan Islands and the national park that encompasses them have become Thailand’s premier diving spot, with nine islands to choose from and a wide range of sea life and coral to see.

Swim with the fish off Cozumel

Swim with the fish off Cozumel

Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

The resort cities of Cozumel and Cancún on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula are both diving hotspots. Either can be the ideal home base for a diving trip, but if you plan to spend most of your time underwater then stay in Cozumel, where you’re apt to do most of your diving. In particular, Cozumel is well-known for “drift diving,” where you’ll let the currents carry you along as you check out the huge array of sea life and coral. The whole island is surrounded by coral reefs.

See a rainbow of fish in Honduras

See a rainbow of fish in Honduras

Bay Islands, Honduras

Divers looking for the same fantastic coral reef experience as Belize without the same crowds can head south along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System to Honduras. The Bay Islands are just off the northern coast of Honduras, and the main islands of Roatán and Útila are both excellent bases for diving vacations. There’s budget-friendly diving in the Bay Islands as well as all-inclusive resorts if you want to splurge, and if you visit in the winter you stand a good chance of seeing whale sharks.

Enjoy the warm waters of the Key West

Enjoy the warm waters of the Key West

Florida Keys

A few miles off the coast of the Florida Keys is the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental US, and a great spot for diving. There are plenty of shipwrecks to explore – so many that a dozen of them are collectively known as the Florida Keys Shipwreck Heritage Trail that runs from Key Largo to Key West. The oldest is a Spanish ship sunk in 1733. Of course, the ships themselves act a bit like underwater playgrounds, but they’ve also become home to myriad coral and fish species.

Contributed by Jessica Spiegel



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