If you could dive anywhere in the world. Where would you choose? There are so many scuba diving sites in the world with which to fill your logbook, where would you start? We have collaborated with a number of divers and our readers. We have come up with a list of fantastic dives that cover just about everything our oceans have to offer. From the remarkable Silfra fissure to the magical location of Mary’s place. The wrecks in the Red Sea & the famous blue hole. There are plenty of sites you’d expect to see, but some you would never have thought of.
Exploring the mysterious depths, you’ll find coral reefs teeming with life. Exotic fish and plant life, amazing wrecks. A whole new appreciation for the fragility of our oceans.
Whether you’re just a newbie looking to get started or a veteran searching for new places to explore. Here’s a list of some of the best places in the world to go diving:
Kona Mantas — Big Island, Hawaii, USA
The first dive site that makes our lists is Kona Mantas. It’s only appropriate that divers, come to see one of nature’s wonders. Kneel on the shallow bottom off Keahole Point. Neoprene supplicants pointing their dive lights up to attract plankton. The mantas glide in some with wingspans of 16 feet. A phantasmagoric morph of fish and bird, inhaling the plankton in great sweeping arcs. They approach mouths agape. Often scraping, like downy sandpaper, across the top of your head. On a good night there might be a dozen or more. A languorous melee of looping, banking and inhaling, their mushroom white undersides pinioned. Briefly, in your dive light. Kona’s manta dives are famous and are often crowded.
Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand
New Zealand’s topside views (most from the South Island) get the lion’s share of the Hollywood love.
But for divers who blow bubbles underwater at the Poor Knights Islands. There are a collection of volcanic pinnacles jutting up from the seafloor off the North Island. They have a whole different take on the country’s legendary scenery.
Home to thick kelp forests, the waters here don’t exactly beckon like Bali. During the southern hemisphere summer, water temperatures average about 72 degrees). But it’s precisely the mix of New Zealand’s cooler ocean waters mixing with warm currents. Swept south from the Coral Sea that make for the unusual denizens that cruise the Poor Knights.
Biologically it’s ideal because it’s a mixing of cold and warm water. Which means you might see parrot fish, Moorish idols and sea turtles. Alongside cool water critters like scorpion fish and the ubiquitous blue and pink maomaos. Colorful fish that tend to congregate in arches and shadowy grottoes.
The world’s most fascinating dive destinations blow you away below the water and then again when you surface, too. Case in point. The Solomon Islands. A remote South Pacific nation of 992 islands and coral reefs best known for Guadalcanal. Also for being a major battleground in the Pacific Theater during World War II. A cultural mix of Melanesian, Polynesian and Papuan influences swirl on land. For divers, there are endless shipwrecks, downed airplanes. Even sunken submarines to explore during expeditions. via liveaboard dive boats or from land-based eco resorts.
Add to that abundant fish life, pristine pastures of hard coral and authentic village visits. You’ll find culture, history and marine biology intertwined at every turn.
The Bonegi II is accessible from Honiara. It is a great shore dive for one of the famous WWII wrecks, located in Iron Bottom Sound. It breaks the surface so snorkelers can enjoy it as well. On a calm day, it can be really spectacular, with visibility from top to bottom. With coral growth covering the wreck. Uepi Island Resort, perched on Marovo Lagoon, offers a comfortable base for divers.
Fernando de Noronha
This place may not be well known by travelers. But it’s a world famous dive destination and the best diving site in Brazil. In recent years Fernando de Noronha has definitely grown in popularity. Which isn’t surprising. Here you will find lots of life among the blue waters that circle these islands. You’ll be able to swim with turtles, dolphins, and much more. There is even one of the best wreck sites in the world, the Corveta V 17. Not only is this one of the best dive sites in South America, it’s one of my favorites in the world. Plus, the islands are only allowed to host a limited number of visitors. So you won’t be sharing this paradise with lots of other people!
USS Vandenberg — Key West, Florida Keys, USA
Keel down in 140 feet of water just six miles off Key West, Florida. The USS Vandenberg is a thrilling bookend to the Florida Keys Wreck Trek. At 523-feet-long, the former missile-tracking ship deserves more than a single dive. (no seeing end-to-end on this beauty). Hulking barracuda, here from the start, still lurk. Look for enormous goliath grouper near the bow, and bait balls of scads. Which attract schools of hunting wahoo and jacks. A swim through the satellite dish remains the obligatory rite of passage.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
One of the world’s best cold water diving experiences is found in the waters off Vancouver Island. And the bracing water temperatures are worth braving to see the hot colors in cold water. If it wasn’t for that 45 to 50 degree Fahrenheit water. You could easily trick yourself into thinking you’re seeing the colors of the tropics here. The invertebrates, soft corals, anemones and sea sponges — are particularly colorful.
The best dive sites are on the eastern flank of the 300-mile-long island just west of Vancouver city. With year-round access to famed shipwrecks off Nanaimo, including the HMCS Saskatchewan. A 366-foot long destroyer escort. As well as sheltered dive sites off Port Hardy in the Queen Charlotte Strait. You can encounter wolf eels and the giant Pacific octopus. The largest octopus in the world that averages about 110 pounds and 16 feet across.
So much of the area is swept by strong currents. They act as a conveyor belt for the nutrients and oxygen that supercharge marine life. Learning how to dive the tides is key to enjoying what Vancouver Island has to offer.
Tropical islands as beautiful as Micronesia always have one thing in common. They are encircled by vibrant coral reefs. Dive sites like the Blue Wall. Make Micronesia one of the top destinations in the South Pacific when it comes to diving. There are also plenty of WWII wrecks that you can explore, too. If you’re looking for somewhere less visited, inexpensive, and pristine. Then you need not look any further!
Palancar Horseshoe — Cozumel, Mexico
For many divers, Cozumel is like an old friend, one they visit every year. Part of the enormous Palancar reef system. Palancar Horseshoe remains a perennial favorite and why not? Dense, colorful corals cover the structure. Divers drop directly into the large, horseshoe-shaped amphitheater. From which the site gets its name. greeting the resident green moray eel along the way. Depending on the current which is sometimes strong. Dives can also begin farther south. Drift north with the current. Explore the dense, rocky formation’s tunnels and crevices in around 80 feet. among the schools of blue tangs, jacks, parrotfish and turtles that call them home.
Mary’s Place — Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras
Those who have dived Mary’s Place know that it’s truly a magical place, like something out of Lord of the Rings. Good buoyancy is a must to descend and traverse the sheer-walled crevasse. All lined with fans of black coral. (Beginners can still soar over the top.) A crevice takes you to a stunning wall at 70 feet. where you can make a 90-degree turn and take in the wall, or take another crevice back in the opposite direction. Beautiful corals in all colors might reveal anemones. Seahorses as big as your hand. Juvenile spotted drums, huge rainbow parrotfish. Or white-spotted filefish that change colors before your eyes.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Bali brings the traveling masses to Indonesia. But intrepid scuba divers know to hop another flight east in the archipelago. To West Papua, where some of the very best diving on the planet awaits in Raja Ampat.
This archipelago of four main islands. With over 1,500 smaller ones. It sits in the Coral Triangle, at the bullseye of the planet’s marine biodiversity. With sheer walls, fields of healthy coral gardens. With tremendous variety of microhabitats for divers to explore. Divers can base on land at properties like Misool Eco Resort. Or travel the region via a live aboard dive vessel such as the Damai II or the new Aqua Blu. “Raja Ampat is best appreciated by somebody who is truly interested in the sheer variety of marine life.
The clear warm waters of the marine protected areas. Are home to over 1,300 species of reef fish and veritable fields of corals. These are among the most pristine in the world. “You can come back and say you saw nine species of anthias, five species of pygmy seahorses. Indonesia overall has continued to over-impress fish and coral geeks. But Raja Ampat deserves its position at the top.”
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef needs no introduction. Located off the coast of Australia. The world’s longest reef has all the tropical sea life and coral you could ever imagine. The reef itself is almost 350,000 square kilometers; it’s so big you can see it from space! Over 2 million people visit the reef every year. Though unfortunately climate change is having a disastrous effect on the reef. So don’t miss your chance to see the reef while it’s still there!
The reef itself is massive, covering over 344,000 square kilometers. For comparison, that’s the size of 70 MILLION football fields. Attracting over 2 million visitors each year. It’s often considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. It’s so big that it can actually be seen from space! The Great Barrier Reef is actually a collection of almost 3,000 individual reefs. Making it the world’s largest structure made by living organisms.
Over the past three decades, it’s seen a rapid decline in coral. Losing almost 50% of its coral due to climate change and pollution. But there is still plenty to see during your dive.
You can expect to see clownfish (like Nemo!). Groupers, butterflyfish, and maybe even some turtles. There are actually 6 species of turtle living around the reef), sharks, and more when you go diving there.
Gran Cenote — Riviera Maya, Mexico
There are a number of great cave and cavern dives in the world’s capital for cave and cavern dives. But the best is Gran Cenote. It’s not deep like the Pit, spooky like Temple of Doom or just plain weird like Angelita. No, Gran Cenote is the first stop for many snorkelers and divers because the water is clear & shallow. It’s an easy introduction to what you can expect from the cenotes that dot Riviera Maya. Water lilies near the entry ladder add a touch of color to the cerulean pool. This leads you to a main chamber, where you’ll surface deep inside the rock. There’s always a guide ahead, a guideline below and a gaggle of snorkelers. Taking advantage of the open-air following your every fin kick from above.
Half Moon Caye — Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize
Half Moon Caye Wall in Belize is exactly what you’d expect from a wall dive — and much more. Start with the vertiginous feeling of peering down into the abyss. Visibility extends to impossible depths. So not an eagle ray, loggerhead turtle or tarpon will pass by unnoticed. Course through the warren of caves and swim-throughs that shelter groupers, barracudas and moray eels. Relax among a field of rosy razorfish, conch and garden eels.
Tiger Beach — Bahamas
Tiger Beach is unlike any dive you’ve ever made. For starters, it’s in the middle of nowhere; and no, there isn’t any beach. What’s more, the site is less than 20 feet deep, meaning you’ll likely make the longest dive of your life. And oh what a dive it will be. The stars of the show are the 12- to 14-foot-long tiger sharks. Some with the vivid trademark stripes, which come in after the bait box is placed on the white-sand seabed. One of the oceans’ fiercest predators, the tigers are slow and methodical. In direct contrast to the hordes of ever-present, hyperactive lemon sharks. If the action gets slow, and it rarely does, hop over to one of the rarely dive walls only 15 minutes away. Then head on back to Tiger Beach for another two-hour thrill-a-minute dive.
RMS Rhone — British Virgin Islands
As every dive briefing mentions. The Rhone was featured in the 1977 film The Deep. Just without Jacqueline Bisset and shark attacks. There’s plenty of adventure awaiting divers on the former Royal Mail Steamer. It was wrecked off Salt Island in 1867 during a fierce hurricane. Most dive operators offer it as a two-tank excursion. Starting on the relatively intact bow and making the second dive on the scattered remnants of the stern. After more than 140 years on the bottom. The Rhone is beautifully decorated; don’t miss a night dive to see orange cup corals opened and feeding. And afterward, stop at the Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke. Best known for inventing the Painkiller. A delicious and potent cocktail that lives up to its name.
Ray of Hope — New Providence Island, Bahamas
Like cream & jam, New Providence Island’s Ray of Hope. Perfectly marries two of divers’ favorite things. The massive wreck of a 200-foot-long former freighter with dozens of gray reef sharks. Purpose-sunk in July 2003. Ray of Hope would be a marvelous dive in its own right. It’s relatively shallow (70 feet at the deepest), intact and sits upright in a bed of white sand. It’s the location that makes the dive so special though. Because it’s only a few hundred feet from Shark Arena. Where local operator Stuart Cove conducts popular shark feeds. The sharks, along with massive groupers and the occasional stingray, are always hanging around. And for the “shark-wreck” lover in all of us, that’s a recipe for success.
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
Located 560 miles off the west coast of Ecuador. The isolated volcanic cluster of the Galapagos Islands. Offers an abundance of unique biodiversity. Quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Both above and below the waves, nature enthusiasts will spot rare endemic species. Such as the marine iguanas. While divers can marvel at the wide variety of large pelagics. They pass through the island’s waters in huge numbers. It’s no surprise the island chain National Park. With the surrounding Marine Reserve have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are two dive areas in the Galapagos that really stand out for us as first-class. Around Wolf and Darwin Islands you can dive with the world-famous schools of scalloped hammerheads. Alongside Galapagos and silky sharks, turtles, mantas, and regular appearances from whale sharks. In contrast, at Punta Vicente Roca, arguably the best cold-water dive site in the world. Watch the mysterious Mola mola. Visiting cleaning stations amongst a huge variety of smaller fauna. Such as the red-lipped batfish, frogfishes, barracuda, seahorses, and large schools of salemas. Which offer wonderful opportunities for underwater photographers.
The Galapagos Islands provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience. To also photograph species found nowhere else.
Vibrant and exciting, Mexico has so much to offer as a dive destination. Several locations are worthy of inclusion on our list of best scuba diving in the world. On the east coast. The Yucatan Peninsula offers divers easy access to the second largest barrier reef in the world. and a plethora of marine life that makes its home there. Between June and September, the waters around Isla Majeures, just off Cancun. Host record-breaking numbers of whale sharks. Snorkeling alongside so many of these gentle giants is a thrilling encounter that’s hard to beat.
Twenty miles south. The island of Cozumel offers some of the most dramatic diving in the Caribbean. Easy drift dives along steep walls give access to a colorful world of vibrant corals and sponges. A myriad of fish life, turtles, rays and the occasional nurse shark. From Playa del Carmen on the mainland. Divers can take part in an adrenaline-filled bull shark dive. Where between November and March. The sharks are baited and fed for waiting photographers.
For those seeking a truly out-of-this-world adventure. Yucatan’s famous freshwater sinkholes, known as cenotes. Offer divers an introduction to cavern diving. In what the Mayan’s believe was the entrance to their underworld. Beaming rays of sunlight bounce between shadowy rock formations to create an ethereal dive. That makes this a destination not to be missed.
On Mexico’s west coast, the island of Los Islotes, off La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Is home to a thriving California sea lion colony. Interacting with these mischievous creatures is a unique experience. Their inquisitive nature and cheeky antics will provide some fantastic photo opportunities. There are also resident hammerhead sharks and whale sharks in La Paz.
THE RED SEA
The Red Sea Is to the Middle East what Raja Ampat is to Southeast Asia. A bountiful and varied playground of stunning reefs. With exceptional marine life, and comfortable dive conditions. Provide a very alluring alternative to some of the world’s more far-flung destinations. The region’s isolated geographical location and distinctive climate. Mean that almost 20% of the 1000 or so fish species found here are unique to the Red Sea. Over 200 types of hard and soft coral flourish on extensive shallow reefs. These drop into deep walls and canyons.
Roughly speaking, the Red Sea can be split into two areas. The northern sites from Hurghada to Dahab. Then including Sharm El-Sheikh, offer a plethora of sheltered inshore reefs and walls. In fact, the resort house reefs along this stretch of coastline are second-to-none. There are also numerous accessible wrecks here. Including the famous SS Thistlegorm, Dunraven, and Carnatic to name a few.
Venturing south from Hurghada. The dive sites become more remote, but with it more spectacular to boot. The Brothers, Elphinstone Reef, and Daedalus Reef feature steep drop-offs. Along with overhangs that attract all manner of pelagics. Divers have the chance to spot oceanic whitetips, threshers and the occasional hammerhead gliding silently past. As a world-class diving destination, the Red Sea really does tick all the boxes. With hundreds of top quality dive sites, the only problem is deciding where to go.
With more than 300 identified wrecks in its waters, Bermuda is an epic place to dive and a quick hop from the US. The waters are gin-clear, both in the shallows and at depth. Sometimes exceeding 150 feet of visibility… and there’s much to see.
If you dive just one wreck in the wreck capital of the Atlantic, make it the Mary Celestia. This was a blockade runner ship for the Confederacy during the Civil War. It met its demise after hitting a reef in 1864. The ship is the site of a massive aggregation of parrot fish each June, which come here to spawn after the full moon.
There are 25 pristine reefs around Bermuda to dive. With swim-throughs and enormous barracudas among the dazzling views. For a post-dive celebratory toast. Get the island’s iconic cocktail, the Rum Swizzle, at its oldest pub, The Swizzle Inn.
Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole has been named one of the top scuba dive spots on Earth and is one of the top attractions in Belize. This massive sinkhole under the water is near the Lighthouse Reef. It creates a perfect circle of deep blue water. The blue hole was created by the collapse of a limestone cave system thousands of years ago. Here divers can expect to see many species including angelfish, groupers, and neon gobies.
FIJI – SOFT CORAL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
Located in the South Pacific around 1,300 miles north-east of New Zealand. The 300 or so islands that make up the Republic of Fiji are as rich and exciting below the waves as they are top-side. The vibrancy of Fiji’s soft coral reefs is second-to-none. Providing an exquisite multi-colored backdrop to every dive. There’s excellent opportunities for some stunning photography. The abundance of vivid marine life that lives on the reef makes for fantastic subjects. This is a great place to practice your wide-angle technique.
The lush reefs flourish further as the often lively currents increase. Playing host to a myriad of photogenic species along glowing coral walls. Expect to spot angelfish, butterflyfish, anemone fish, anthias, hawkfish, moray eels, and blue ribbon eels to name but a few. Although sharks are not abundant on these dives, there are a couple of exceptions. One of the best shark dives in the world is at Beqa Lagoon. Where the Shark Reef Marine Park is home to up to eight species. Including grey reef, whitetip reef, silvertip, lemon, bull, and tiger sharks.
Consider taking a photography course before visiting Fiji. The colorful aquarium of lush soft-coral gardens have to be seen to be believed. Sites such as Rainbow Reef and Mellow Yellow help cement these islands as one of our top destinations. Bluewater Travel Advisor & Trip Leader Tim Yeo says. “Fiji has a reputation as the soft coral capital of the world, and divers who have been to Fiji can attest to that honor. The soft coral gardens found at dive sites around the Bligh Waters and Rainbow Reefs regions in Fiji. Will mesmerize any diver. With the cacophony of colors and multitude of anthias dancing around them. Bula!”
Each and every dive in French Polynesia is rich and diverse. With a bounty of high caliber sites to suit all levels and interests. However, what sets these islands apart. Is the concentration of world-class shark and big animal dives. Centered around a tiny cluster of islands to the west of the region. Often casually referred to as Tahiti, this corner of French Polynesia is home to huge numbers. (some estimate millions). At least 16 species of shark. The islands of Rangiroa, Bora Bora, and Fakarava, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, are some of the best places in the world to experience them. The crystal clear waters around the islands’ lagoons and reefs. Afford intimate encounters with lemon, whitetip, blacktip, grey reef, and hammerhead sharks. All to a backdrop of schooling barracuda, eagle rays, dolphins, turtles, and a multitude of reef fish.
To the south-west, the island of Moorea also boasts some fantastic shark diving. With slack currents and fascinating underwater topography making it accessible for all levels. However, what makes Moorea stand out as a world-class destination. Is that it is arguably one of only three places, where visitors can legally swim with humpback whales. From July to November large numbers of these ocean giants. Migrate to the outer reefs and atolls of the island. They’re in search of mates or to nurse their calves. Snorkeling with them is truly a bucket-list experience. Sealing French Polynesia as an extraordinary destination.
Darwin and Wolf
The Galapagos Islands are the second largest marine reserve in the world. With 70,000 square kilometers (43,496 square miles) of protected water and coastline. Second only in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This means that no commercial fishing takes place in the area. Unlike most popular diving destinations. Reefs are not the primary attraction in the Galapagos. Instead, the big attraction here is the sheer abundance of marine life. Some of the best dive spots can be found around the waters of Darwin and Wolf islands. Home to several different species of sharks, including Hammerheads, and Galapagos sharks.
Silfra fissure is near the top of most scuba divers bucket lists. Because it allows you to swim between two continents. The dive takes you through a crack. Between the continental plates of North America and Eurasia. In places it is possible to touch both at the same time.
The dive is also thrilling because it offers visibility of more than 100 metres. Because it is glacial water. Which has filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years.
Few fish venture as far as the fissure. But the coral landscape is stunning and well worth enduring the colder temperatures. The best time you can dive at the site all year round but it can get crowded during summer months. With the water temperature: 2° – 4°C, so a full wetsuit is required.
Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an expert. These dive sites offer up some of the most amazing sights and experiences in the world. From expansive reefs to epic wrecks. These amazing dive destinations will remind you why you started diving in the first place!