Imagine sitting under palm trees in warm tropical weather and going over dive maps / fish charts with your Divemaster and fellow divers just before your dive. After the pre dive talk, you walk down through white sand to a small boat floating on crystal clear turquoise waters… waiting to take you to a reef just off-shore that is overflowing with colorful life.
Idyllic without a doubt, this scene is one that most scuba divers dream of and many turn into reality. Tropical environment, warm water and white sand are staples of many of our best beaches we have chosen but, there are a few others that are more rough and wild that are for sure worth a look.
All of the places mentioned below have dozens of dive sites and beaches so make sure to do some extra poking around. Some sides of islands are ideal for shore diving and others have waves where you have to get a boat to go to the outside reefs. The spots mentioned below all have different topography throughout the islands, both on land and sea so make sure to keep your eyes open to the dynamic landscapes. Enjoy the list and hopefully you’ll find yourself at one of these dreamy destinations.
Before you head out on your adventure, make sure to check out our top scuba gear page to make sure you have the best scuba gear for your needs!
This little island (114 sq. miles) sits in the Caribbean, less than 100 miles off the coasts of Venezuela, and is world renowned for it’s shore diving. Pretty much all of the dive centers and outfits on the island are located on the shore so the idyllic description above can be a daily reality.
The people of Bonaire have protected the surrounding sea and marine life for the past 40 years and it shows. 450 species of fish thrive in these waters creating a beautiful eco-system that is the bedrock of scuba tourism. The coral reef surrounding Bonaire is touted as one of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean and is easily the most accessible. While a majority of the dive centers / resorts have a reef sitting off the sand, there is also incredible reefs and fish life offshore which provides for less crowded spots and solid variety if you’re staying awhile.
#2 Grand Cayman Island
Deep in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman (largest of the Cayman Islands) is a diving paradise in many ways. Because of its location in the Caribbean, it’s white sand beaches and light blue Sea are major attractions, but scuba diving is embedded on the island. This being said, the scuba community is alive and well so you’ll likely meet other divers while out on the island.
The wall diving that surrounds the island is the main focus of most of the scuba diving. Coral reefs full of vibrant fish and coral life begin to slope gradually from shore, and a few hundred feet out is where the mind blowing stuff really begins. Dramatic sloping cliffs coming up from the ocean floor bringing in all sorts of marine life that feed on the nutrient rich water. The smaller life forms attract the bigger predator fish and often this interaction is stunning to observe. Visibility often 20 meters or more is normal for these waters so it makes for quite a place to dive and observe the drama of life under the surface.
#3 La Jolla, San Diego
La Jolla is one of the gems of southern California. The quaint beach town sits behind beautiful sandstone cliffs that drop into golden sand and pebbles leading into the Pacific. Healthy reefs and ecosystems are often only feet away from the beach, and further out is stunning kelp forests that feel other worldly. I personally recommend spending some time in the kelp forests, it’s quite an experience.
La Jolla differs from our other choices for many reasons, but the main one is the cold Pacific water ranging from 55-66 degrees. This brings a whole different underwater eco system which is exhilarating. There is a surprising amount of variety in the ocean floor allowing for a constantly engaging dive... on a single dive one can see numerous invertebrates, schools of fish, sting rays and harmless reef sharks.
You’ll see divers walking on the beach nearly every day of the year here since the water is constantly clear and accessible. While the water can be chilly, the outdoor temperature is mostly pleasant and sunny, it’s called sunny San Diego for a reason. While La Jolla is quite well known for diving it isn’t as busy underwater as many dive spots in the Caribbean putting it high on our list.
#4 Turks and Caicos
Exotic islands, stunning water, miles of coral reefs and scuba centers around the island...dive paradise in many ways. Turks and Caicos is consistently on dive lists and is regarded as one of the finest places in the Caribbean to scuba dive for reasons that make total sense to us.
To begin, there is hundreds of miles of reef in the surrounding waters that holds a massive diversity of life and a highly varied underwater landscape. Also, semi shallow coral reefs sit right off the sand in many places. Providenciales (also called Provo) is famous for this, and is ideal for scuba from the sand or even to practice your ree-diving if you’re not diving every day.
Last but certainly not least, the water is turquoise blue, pristine white sand beaches and coves cover most the islands and English is widely spoken making it easy to get around in a exotic location. Oh, and the wreck diving is out of this World...check it out.
#5 The Hawaiian Islands
Hawaii. The word speak of island paradise in many respects and diving is no exception. While there is a plethora, literally hundreds, of diving spots between the 8 main islands... there are a few stand outs. Oahu, also called the Gathering Place lives true to its name and handles most of the diving tourism. Hawaii (Big Island), Kauai, Molokai and Lanai are much more mellow, Maui is in the middle ground, but all absolutely beautiful. Even the Ocean outside Waikiki is full of reefs bursting with fish life. While there is fun diving just off the shore, most dive companies have a boat to reach the pristine spots sitting just offshore.
More than 600 species call the Hawaiian waters home including dolphins, whale sharks, reef sharks, sea turtles and a stunning variety of tropical fish. All the islands have some of the most breathtaking beaches on the planet...lush jungle dropping from the mountain to the sea on one side and open desert like landscape one the other. Some beaches are gold, others white and a few on the North shore a deep volcanic black. So I would say it’s safe to say diving anywhere in the Hawaiian Island chain is well worth the trip.