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11 Top Scuba Diving Destinations

Updated on July 30, 2012

Come and explore some of the most popular scuba diving destinations in the world. Discover wrecks and reefs that are sure to deliver world-class and a once in a lifetime dive experience. See some of the beauty and splendor of the marine life that these popular destinations have to offer.

Scuba diving is underwater adventure at its best. It puts you face to face with all of the elements in that environment. You never know what type of fish, turtle, shark or other marine life that you may encounter.

Many avid scuba divers want to explore around the world and others are content with staying closer to home. It does not matter, the main thing is to go and dive as often as possible and enjoy!

Fish in beautiful waters around Bali, Indonesia.
Fish in beautiful waters around Bali, Indonesia. | Source

Top 11 Dive Destinations

While opinions vary among divers, here is my top 11 list of 'must-see' locations. I could not leave out Fiji.

  1. Florida Keys
  2. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
  3. Bonaire
  4. Belize, (Blue Hole)
  5. Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
  6. Indonesia
  7. Cozumel, Mexico
  8. Turks & Caicos
  9. Galapagos
  10. Malaysia
  11. Fiji Islands

Premiere locations are not always achievable for all underwater enthusiasts. However, you can save up for a couple of dream excursions to help satisfy the craving to be up close with extreme marine life within an exotic locale. One important tip is to seek out top dive shops in the locale or area that you plan to visit. The local experts can provide great 'inside' information on where to find the best reefs, wrecks and spots to dive in your chosen destination.

Take your underwater cameras along for some great photos and leave the marine life safe and unharmed.

show route and directions
A markerFlorida Keys -
Florida Keys, FL, USA
get directions

B markerGrand Cayman -
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
get directions

C markerBonaire -
Caribbean Netherlands
get directions

D markerFiji -
Fiji Islands
get directions

E markerGreat Barrier Reef -
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
get directions

F markerBelize - Blue Hole -
The Great Blue Hole, Belize City, Belize
get directions

G markerCozumel, Mexico -
Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico
get directions

H markerGalapagos Islands -
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
get directions

I markerMalaysia -
get directions

J markerIndonesia -
get directions

School of Permit in Dry Tortugas, Florida.
School of Permit in Dry Tortugas, Florida. | Source

1. Florida Keys:

When planning a dive trip to the FL Keys, it is important to keep in mind that the island chain is stretched out over 120 miles. Divers of all experience levels can enjoy a plethora of places to dive and marine life to see. The Florida Keys also has the only coral barrier reef in the U.S. The main locations to plan scuba trips around include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, Dry Tortugas and Key West.

If you dive out of Key Largo, plan some time for the USS Spiegel Grove wreck.

2. Grand Cayman:

The Caymans have over 350 dive sites that are marked with easy to locate mooring bouys. This is a convenience when you want to rent your own dive boat and adventure out with some GPS coordinates. Those that wish to enjoy the day under the guidance of experienced experts can choose from about 40 different dive operations for charters.

3. Bonaire:

One reason why diving in Bonaire consistently ranks as a world class destination is the fact that it's waters have been legally protected as a marine park since 1979. Diving enthusiasts of all skill levels can enjoy an assortment of snorkeling and dive sites. Expect to encounter a diverse population of fishes, sea life and marine creatures while underwater.

4. Belize (Blue Hole):

Located near Ambergris Caye, Brazil, the huge vertical cave and underwater sinkhole attracts thousands of divers each year. The 'Blue Hole' is located about 60 miles off the coast of Belize City and is part of the Lighthouse Reef System. The circular sinkhole is over 400 feet deep and almost 1000 feet in diameter. Scuba divers can experience unique limestone formations along the wall of the cave during their descent.

Great Barrier Reef - Australia

5. Great Barrier Reef (Australia):

The world's largest reef system is a snorkeler's and scuba diver's dream destination simply for the fact that you could spend your whole life along the reef system and never see it all. The Great Barrier Reef includes more than 900 barrier islands and 2,900 separate reefs. Without a doubt it is one of the few places in the world where you can possibly view several species of whales, porpoises, dolphins, turtles, sea snakes and sharks all in one reef system. More than 1,500 species of fish call the reefs their home, so enjoy during your underwater adventures.

6. Indonesia:

The island archipelago surrounding Indonesia is comprised of thousands of islands, and provides many choices for divers of all skill levels. Some of the more popular islands and places to choose from include Nusa Penida (east of Bali),Tulamben, Bunaken, Bintan Island and Komodo Island. The entire area is home to many exotic corals and fishes. It is also not entirely explored, as new marine species are discovered each year.

7. Cozumel, Mexico:

Located just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is a very popular tourist destination in Mexico. It is also known for having great open water diving opportunities. The underwater areas of Cozumel and Akumal Bay are rich with limestone caves and caverns that provide some of the best cave diving in the world. The water is crystal clear and the diving pristine. Approximately 85 percent of the dive spots around the island are protected and part of the Cozumel Reefs National Park. The protection of the marine park helps to maintain the beauty and splendor that the reefs offer to divers.

8. Turks & Caicos:

Many divers still come to these islands to search for sunken ships and buried treasure. True stories of reef stricken vessels that handed their bounty over to the sea, has long been talked about and explored. People will still occasionally find silver coins lost during the 1800's. The area is located approximately 540 miles to the southeast of Miami, Florida, and consists of 40 islands. While many think that the Turks & Caicos resides within the Caribbean Sea, in truth, they are technically located in the Atlantic Ocean.

Dakuwaqa's Garden - Fiji & Tonga

9. Galapagos:

The Galapagos Islands are located in a remote area off the coast of Ecuador, and is known for unique creatures that seem lost in time. It is also a biological marine reserve and an excellent retreat for underwater adventures. One of the most popular ways to enjoy scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands is to charter your space on a liveaboard vessel. The boat becomes your home for the duration of your trip, which can vary from 7 days to a few weeks.

10. Malaysia:

One of the best places in the world to experience an environment filled with exotic marine life is to scuba dive in Malaysia and the Celebes Sea. There are many spots to consider when planning a trip to this region, and the island of Sipadan is probably one of the more popular destinations to base your trip around. The area is home to breathtaking coral reefs and exotic fishes.

11. Fiji Islands:

The underwater beauty of the scenery and sea life around the Fiji Islands is exceptional. It is a paradise for underwater photographers and videographers. You can view fishes and corals in bright saturated colors. The Fiji island archipelago is composed of 322 islands and more than 500 additional islets, (not large enough to be considered islands), which provides for a wide choice of diving possibilities.

Wall of herring off of Bonaire.
Wall of herring off of Bonaire. | Source

How often do you scuba dive each year?

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Spiny lobster off the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Spiny lobster off the U.S. Virgin Islands. | Source
Moray eel
Moray eel | Source

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    • C. Betancourt profile image

      C. Betancourt 8 years ago

      Wonderful read on scuba diving, thank you!!! I would also love to visit the Grand Cayman Islands!

    • gss profile image

      gss 8 years ago from Florida

      Yes. The Caymans and Grand Cayman, some of the best diving. Thanks.

    • Direxmd profile image

      Direxmd 8 years ago

      I've heard that the cayment islands are the finest place to scuba dive, is that true?

      Good hub by the way, very informative :)