10 Best Scuba Diving Destinations in the World

Updated: Sep 19


As divers, we all dream about finding perfect destinations for our next scuba diving vacation. Especially now, with so much time on our hands, what diver isn’t dreaming of their next underwater exploration. I know I am…constantly. I also know that I have always enjoyed creating bucket lists because it keeps me goal oriented towards that next number one location. So, here’s a list that we’ve compiled from our bucket list and some of the best scuba diving destinations worldwide. We hope to see you underwater at one of these fascinating diving destinations as soon as the pandemic subsides.


10. Komodo, Indonesia


INTRO

The land of dragons offers some of the world’s most exciting scuba diving with manta rays, sharks, turtles, huge schools of fish, drop-offs, pinnacles, fringing reefs, and brightly colored coral gardens. This is also an amazing “macro” subject location, however due to the potentially strong currents, may not be suitable for beginner divers. While we love liveaboard diving and highly recommend it for this destination, land-based dive resorts provide a unique perspective in the water and on the land. Komodo is a marine protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve made up of three major islands: Komodo Island, Rinca, and Padar, as well as many smaller islands which provide world-class diving. Komodo National Park is home to the world’s largest and heaviest lizard, the endemic Komodo Dragon. This lizard can reach up to 10 feet long and weigh more than 300 lbs. and is found only in this area.


WHO

Due to the nature of the current in both the north and south of Komodo, this is generally not a beginner scuba destination. However, this is a great destination for those interested in underwater and land-based activities such as touring Komodo and Rinca and visiting with the Komodo dragons. Plus, a trip to Komodo would be perfect in combination with a trip to Bali.

Recommended for: intermediate to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and critter lovers.


Can I bring my dog? Unfortunately, at this time, pets are not allowed into Bali and Komodo National Park due to an ongoing issue with rabies. This includes banning entry from rabies-free countries.


WHAT

We highly recommend a liveaboard for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible. However, if you want a chance to partake in both land and sea adventures, or you have non-divers in your midst, there are great dive resorts available as well as land tours. Numerous diving and land tours are available in nearby Bali as well.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard and airlines for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

Komodo National Park is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Komodo is a mere 483 kilometers from Bali, which has the main airport for incoming flights. So, we highly recommend a combo trip starting in Komodo and finishing in Bali. We also highly recommend diving both the north and the south to experience the broad spectrum of marine biodiversity available in few parts of the world.


WHEN

Since the diving conditions are considerably different between North and South Komodo, we definitely recommend planning your trip between March to May or between September and November when you are able to potentially dive both.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this is a popular destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

If you are flying internationally, you will most likely need to fly into Bali. If your dive trip departs from Labuan Bajo or Bima, you will need to transfer planes in Bali to either of these final airports. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights: Emirates, Quatar, Singapore, Garuda, SQ and Cathay


Suggested Liveaboards:


Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:


Suggested for Non-Divers: Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa

9. Bonaire


INTRO

Bonaire is known as the Shore Diving Capital of the world as well as one of the most respected dive destinations worldwide. Klein Bonaire located approximately one-half mile from Bonaire, also has excellent boat diving with a fragile reef around the island. Bonaire is known for its outstanding beginner, macro, and advanced diving. Most of the island of Bonaire, all of Klein Bonaire, and all the water surrounding the islands are Natural Parks. Entrants to the park, divers and non-divers alike, are required to purchase a park permit, attend an orientation, and divers are required to do a checkout dive. Bonaire is definitely a land-based diving destination and most divers mix boating diving with shore diving due to the great boat dive packages that often offer unlimited shore diving and 24-hour tank refills.


WHO

Bonaire is a great place for all levels of divers and offers macro photographers an abundance of opportunities for great shots. It is also a great destination to start or finish up your scuba certification with many highly rated dive facilities. All divers must pass a checkout dive and purchase a park permit prior to diving any of the dive sites from shore or boat.


Recommended for: beginning to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and warm water lovers.


Can I bring my dog? Yes, you can bring your dog to Bonaire without quarantine, but you must have a valid international health certificate issued more than two weeks prior to departure, and all applicable vaccinations including rabies (except from Central and South American countries). Great source for more info here and here. And this site informs you of the local laws some of which disallow walking dogs on beaches.


WHAT

We highly recommend staying at one of Bonaire’s high-quality dive resorts and purchasing a boat diving package that includes both boat dives and unlimited shore diving. We also recommend renting a 4x4 big enough to haul your dive equipment when headed out for shore diving. Many of the dive resorts/operators have good quality gear for rent. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your flight for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Note: booties and closed shoes highly recommended for shore diving due to rocky entries. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

Both Bonaire and Klein Bonaire offer numerous dive sites particularly on the western side of Bonaire and all-around Klein Bonaire. Many of the dive sites are great for snorkelers, too. There are also land tours and many water activities such as windsurfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, yachting, snorkeling, water skiing, swimming, sailing, kitesurfing, wake boarding, and even a submarine tour. Bonaire also has a massive donkey sanctuary which has become a popular tourist attraction. Bonaire and Klein Bonaire are both perfect for all ages and interests. We recommend a combination trip which includes Bonaire, Klein Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao since they are all very close together and all have excellent diving and non-diving activities.


WHEN

Bonaire is a great year-round destination since it is outside of the hurricane belt. The islands receive some rain (only 20 inches total per year), mostly in October and November. Visibility is excellent year-round with very few currents. May to October are the best months for smaller crowds and better prices, while November to April is the peak season.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance.


HOW

Bonaire (BON) is easily accessible through direct flights from Europe, Latin America, North America, and the Caribbean. You can also visit Bonaire by cruise ship. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights: United Airlines, Delta, KLM, TUI


Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:


Suggested Luxury Accommodations:

Suggested Luxury Accommodations that accept dogs:

8. Australia


INTRO

Australia is famous for its amazing Great Barrier Reef, in Queensland, the biggest reef on Earth stretching over 1242 miles (2000 kilometers) with a huge variety of marine biodiversity. However, Australia is host to many wonderful dive sites as well as an enormous number of tourist attractions for divers and non-divers alike. When traveling to Australia, we recommend planning a somewhat lengthy trip due to the enormous number of adventures, sites, and attractions, and the distance to travel between them. Australia is also an excellent place to obtain or finish your scuba diving certification since it has many dive sites for beginners and many excellent dive training centers.


WHO

Australia is a great place for all levels of divers and offers macro photographers an abundance of opportunities for great shots. It is also a great destination to start or finish up your scuba certification with many highly rated dive facilities. Note: you must have a completed Recreational Scuba Diving Medical Certificate prior to starting your scuba certification course in Australia. Additional note: you must also have your certification card with you if you are a certified diver…they will ask for it.


Recommended for: beginning to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and warm water lovers.


Can I bring my dog? Yes, you can bring your dog to Australia, but it is a complex procedure and there are lots of requirements which require advance planning of more than six months. If you do not meet the requirements, your dog will not be allowed entrance. Great source for more info here and here. This is another site that has great information and can help in transporting your pet if needed.


WHAT

We highly recommend a liveaboard for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible. However, if you want a chance to partake in both land and sea adventures, or you have non-divers in your midst, there are great dive resorts available as well as land tours. There are numerous diving and land tours available throughout Australia.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard and airlines for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

While there are numerous dive and tourist attractions in Australia, if this is your bucket list trip and your first time, we highly recommend spending at least four to seven nights on a liveaboard dive trip in the Great Barrier Reef. If you have allowed yourself an extended stay in Australia, then we recommend using the remainder of your time to visit additional dive sites and tourist attractions that are day trips from a good luxury resort location. Some of the must see destinations (beyond the Great Barrier Reef) are: Melbourne, Darwin, Sydney, and Fraser Island.


WHEN

Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the best times to visit Australia are from March to May and September to November. However, Australia is considered to be a year-round destination, depending on which part you are traveling to, and you may be able to obtain better prices if you plan your trip for the fringes of the high and low seasons. Just remember that Australia’s seasons are the opposite of the countries in the northern hemisphere.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

Australia is easily accessible directly from most countries internationally. However, you do want to make sure that you use caution in searching for flights or even use a travel agent. When flying to Australia from many countries, you may have extremely long flight and travel times and the cheapest flights may not be the best choice. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive. In addition, if you choose to travel with your pet there are restrictions as to how long of flights pets can travel on. We recommend you do your research or obtain help to ensure your bucket list trip is as perfect as possible.


Suggested Flights: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, United Airlines


Suggested Liveaboards:


Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:


Suggested Luxury Accommodations (no pets allowed):


Suggested Luxury Accommodations that accept dogs:

7. Mexico


INTRO

Mexico is a multi-faceted dream destination that ranks high on many divers’ bucket list. With the Pacific on the west side, the Gulf of California in the middle (considered the West Coast), the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean on the east side, along with the world’s largest freshwater cave systems, Mexico has an enormous amount of excellent diving to explore. We recommend the following as must dive destinations: Isla Guadalupe, Socorro, North Sea of Cortez, La Paz, Los Cabos, Cenotes, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Banco Chinchorro, Cozumel, Xcalack.


WHO

Everyone at every level, divers, snorkelers, and landlubbers can enjoy Mexico, it just depends on the location. The Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean destinations (East Coast) have the biggest concentration of destinations that divers and non-divers alike can enjoy, including tourist attractions on land. The Pacific (West Coast) is more suitable for divers, in particular experienced divers due to the depths, conditions, currents, and temperatures.


Recommend: West Coast destinations – experienced divers; East Coast destinations – everyone.


Can I bring my dog? Yes, you can travel with your dog to Mexico. Please follow these regulations here and here, and plan ahead. If you are traveling from other countries, review these regulations here.


WHAT

For the Pacific side of Mexico, we highly recommend liveaboard diving for many of the destinations for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible. However, if you want a chance to partake in both land and sea adventures, or you have non-divers in your midst, there are great dive resorts available as well as land tours.


For the East side of Mexico, there are liveaboards which are an excellent way to dive, however there are numerous dive resorts and luxury accommodations for those traveling with non-divers and intend to explore the numerous tourist attractions and historical sites.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

Pacific/West Coast

Suggested Destinations: Isla Guadalupe, Socorro, North Sea of Cortez, La Paz, Los Cabos


Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean/East Coast

Suggested Destinations: Cenotes, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Banco Chinchorro, Cozumel, Xcalack


WHEN

Since the diving conditions are considerably different between the West coast and the East coast of Mexico the recommended travel dates differ greatly.


Pacific/West Coast

Suggested Travel Months:

  • Isla Guadalupe: August to October

  • Socorro: November to May

  • North Sea of Cortez: September to October for hammerheads; December to May for sea lions

  • La Paz: September to October for hammerheads; December to May for sea lions

  • Los Cabos: Year-round; December to March for humpbacks; June to August for mobula rays

Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean/East Coast

Suggested Travel Months:

Recommend advance planning: Due to the popularity of these destinations, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early. For the Cenotes, if you want to experience the cave and cavern diving here, it’s best if you are an intermediate to advance certified diver.


HOW

There are numerous ways to get to Mexico from the US including airlines, trains, buses, and driving. However, if your destination is farther than northern Baja California (the western peninsula), the northern Sea of Cortez, or you are coming from another country, airlines are the best means of transportation. Most destinations in Mexico are reasonably close to a major international airport. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights: Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue, Aero Mexico, Southwest Airlines, British Airways

Suggested Liveaboards:

Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:

Suggested Luxury Accommodations:

Suggested Accommodations that accept Dogs:

6. Maldives


INTRO

The Maldives, with its 26 atolls and 1192 coral islands, is a diving experience for every divers’ bucket list. With some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet and some of the most exquisite luxury, the Maldives’ warm, clear waters can be enjoyed by all levels of divers and non-divers alike. Whether you choose one of the many liveaboard dive boats or a luxury resort, you will immerse yourself in crystal clear waters that offer encounters with manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, reef and pelagic sharks, and a wide variety of macro photography opportunities. The Maldives is a highly protected area and visitors are only allowed to stay on registered tourist islands or on liveaboards. However, this ensures that the islands remain pristine for all to enjoy.


WHO

The Maldives offers diving and snorkeling for all levels, depending on the dive site, current, and location. There is plenty to enjoy for divers and non-divers alike on these islands including watersports, yoga and spas, aerial flights, and relaxing in luxury over-water bungalows.


Recommended for: beginning to advanced divers, underwater photographers, critter lovers, and snorkelers.


Can I bring my dog? No. Unfortunately, at this time, dogs are not allowed into the Maldives. Sorry Niele!


WHAT

We highly recommend a liveaboard for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible. However, if you want a chance to partake in both land and sea adventures, or you have non-divers in your midst, there are excellent dive resorts available as well as activities for non-divers.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

A small island nation in South Asia, the Maldives consists of 26 atolls and 1192 coral islands among crystal clear, azure waters packed with pelagic and macro critters just waiting to greet you on your dives. The Maldives are comprised of a vast submarine mountain range which is highly protected where visitors are required to stay on registered tourist islands or on liveaboards.


WHEN

While the Maldives is a year-round diving destination, the recommended times for the best visibility and pelagic encounters are December through May and for manta ray encounters May through November.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

If you are flying internationally, you will most likely be arriving at the Maldives main international airport in Male. From the Male International airport, you will need to arrange for a transfer to your final island destination. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive. Caution: the Maldives has four international airports and twelve domestic airports.


Suggested Flights: Emirates, Qatar, Maldivian, Sri Lanka Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific


Suggested Liveaboards:

Suggested Dive Resorts (for divers and non-divers):

5. Belize


INTRO

For crystal clear warm water, plentiful corals and marine life, the Great Blue Hole and the 190-mile-long barrier reef, Belize should be on every divers’ bucket list. The Belize barrier reef is part of the greater Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which is one of the largest in the world and is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Belize has abundant terrestrial and marine species as well as alluring Mayan ruins to explore and culture to experience. The wonders of Belize can be experienced by liveaboard or by resorts, dive boats, and land excursions. There are plenty of fascinating activities for all levels of divers, snorkelers and landlubbers.


WHO

Belize is a great place for all levels of divers, snorkelers, and tourists. From popular tourist attractions to adventurous trekking and diving, there are plenty of activities for all interests and fitness levels.


Recommended for: beginning to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and critter lovers.


Can I bring my dog? Yes, Belize welcomes dogs with the proper vaccinations and paperwork. Please follow these guidelines here and here. For additional recommendations and assistance, check here.


WHAT

While we love liveaboards, Belize can be visited very easily on a liveaboard or at a resort. There are plenty of both. However, if you are interested in diving and visiting all the other great attractions in Belize, we suggest one of the many all-inclusive resorts, especially if you have non-divers with you.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

While planning your trip to Belize, it’s highly recommended to include dive tours to The Blue Hole, the Belize Barrier Reef, Shark Ray Alley, The Southern Coast, Monkey River, Turneffe Islands Atoll, Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary (for the Jaguars!), Thousand Foot Falls (for the hiking!), and Lamanai Archaeological Reserve and San Ignacio (for the ruins!). So much to do…maybe you better plan a longer stay.


WHEN

Belize is another great year-round diving and travel destination, however August to October is the wet season. While the wet season brings rainfall, a little lower visibility, and higher temperatures, this can be the best time for diving and tourism due to lower prices and less crowds. You also may have access to more dive sites due to calmer surface conditions. April to June is considered the high season and the best time for overall travel to Belize. It is also whale shark season.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

If you are flying internationally, you will be flying into Belize’s only international airport Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE). To arrive at your final destination, you may need to plan on a taxi, shuttle, local airline, or boat. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights: Delta, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Avianca


Suggested Liveaboards:

Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:

Suggested for Accommodations for dogs:

4. Hawai’i


INTRO

Hawai’i is considered a tropical paradise and dream destinations for many reasons, but we’re going to focus on the best diving spots. Hawai’i offers clear, warm water, great weather, excellent hiking and watersports, and an enormous amount of undersea life. Each island offers a unique style of diving and land attractions. While we love all the islands, we’re going to focus solely on the islands of Maui, Hawai’i (the Big Island), and Kaua’i. Kaua’i many great dives sites such as Tunnels on the north shore, Sheraton Caverns on the south shore, and numerous sites in and around the island of Ni’ihau and Lehua Crater. Plus, Kaua’i has the famous Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast, both of which have incredible hiking and kayaking. Maui also has numerous excellent dives site including Cathedrals off the coast of Lana’i, Molokini Crater, and Honolua Bay. In addition, the road to Hana and its many waterfalls is not to be missed along with sunrise from the top of Haleakala. The Big Island of Hawai’i provides divers with the epic Manta Ray Night Dive and Pelagic Magic Night Dive both off the west coast, shore diving at Honaunau, and liveaboard diving. But a trip to the Big Island must include a visit to Volcanoes National Park for a day of hiking, the Waipio Valley, and Akaka Falls. So much to do, so little time. Maybe you should extend your stay?


WHO

Hawai’i offers excellent diving for all levels of divers from beginner to advanced. In addition, snorkeling is excellent, and watersports abound. For those who will have landlubbers traveling with them, there is an abundance of hiking, biking, horseback riding, museums, cultural events, and spas-- truly something for everyone.


One note of caution from personal experience working in tourism, diving, and teaching in Hawai’ian waters, no matter what anyone tells you, the offshore waters in Hawai’i are not calm. On the best of days, there are mild swells and on average days it’s pretty “bumpy”. So, if you get seasick at all, plan ahead and bring some kind of seasickness preventative. I absolutely love all water in Hawai’i above and below, but it’s not for those who sicken easily.


Recommended for: beginning to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and critter lovers.


Can I bring my dog? Yes, however there are very strict requirements that must be met and fees to be paid. Hawai’i is the only state in the US which is rabies-free. Their policies are put in place to ensure rabies does not enter the islands. You can see the rules and requirements here and here. For more information, read this. If you are bringing your dog to Hawai’i advanced planning is a must.


WHAT

We usually recommend liveaboard diving because it is such an immersive experience and Hawai’i does have high quality liveaboard diving available. However, the Hawai’ian islands offer so much more than diving that we feel it would do injustice to not also recommend some serious island hopping and resort stays. Hawai’i offers luxurious resorts along with outstanding dive operators on Maui, Hawai’i, and Kaua’i as well as excellent watersport, island tours, and cultural events. There is so much to do, you may need to plan a longer vacation.


Our top picks for amazing diving of the Hawai’ian islands include:

  • Manta Night Dive, Kona, Big Island

  • Pelagic Magic Night Dive, Kona, Big Island

  • Golden Arches, Kona, Big Island

  • Molokina Crater and Back Side, from Maui or Lana’i

  • Cathedrals, Lighthouse Point, and Shark Fin Rock, from Maui or Lana’i

  • Ni’ihau, from Kaua’i

  • Tunnels, Sheraton Caverns, and Brenneckes Ledge, Kaua’i

There are tons more, but these are do not miss dives.


Our things not to miss on your trip include: Waimea Canyon on Kaua’i, Na Pali Coast on Kaua’i, Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, the Road to Hana on Maui, Haleakala crater sunrise on Maui.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

Hawai’i is located in the middle of the Pacific in an archipelago made up of 137 islands spread over 1500 miles. This archipelago is made up of 137 islands spread over 1500 miles. There are eight main islands making up the most popular tourist destinations of Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Maui, and Hawai’i, the largest island also known as “Big Island”. The Hawai’ian islands are some of the youngest islands in the world due to their volcanic activity and new islands are currently being formed off of the south coast of the Big Island. Hawai’i offers clear, warm water, great weather, excellent hiking and watersports, and an enormous amount of undersea life. Each island offers a unique style of diving and land attractions. While we love all the islands, we’re going to focus solely on the islands of Maui, Hawai’i (the Big Island), and Kaua’i.


WHEN

The islands of Hawai’i are considered a year-round destination, however there are definitely better times to visit, especially if you want to dive some of the top dive sites such as Ni’ihau or the Back Wall of Molokini Crater. While the offshore waters generally have good visibility during most of the year, many dive operators just don’t offer trips to Ni’ihau or the Back Wall of Molokini Crater in the winter months. However, there are plenty of good dive sites for the entire year.


High season: December to March and June to September


Low season: April to May and October to November


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

There are three international airports in Hawai’i and two are on the same island. Most people fly into the Honolulu International Airport and then transfer to a local flight to arrive at their island destination. However, there are two international airports on the Big Island of Hawai’i, and you want to make sure you fly into the Kona International Airport if you will be staying on the west side of the island. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights: Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Delta


Suggested Liveaboards: Kona Aggressor II


Suggested Dive Operators:

Suggested Luxury Resorts:

Suggested Accommodations that accept dogs:

3. Galapagos


INTRO

The awe-inspiring biodiversity on land and underwater in the Galapagos Islands establishes its high stature on each divers’ bucket list. The enormous abundance of terrestrial and marine life and preservation of endemic species is due to the great efforts of the Ecuadorian government and the Charles Darwin Research Station and its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are strict regulations defining types, quantity, and location of allowable tourism within the islands. The Galapagos archipelago consists of eighteen main islands, three smaller islands and 107 rocks and islets formed through volcanic activity and dispersed on either side of the equator. As a scuba diver, the best way to visit these islands is on a liveaboard, however for non-divers and those who want land tours, there are also land tours and day boat trips as well as a limited number of hotels on select islands.


WHO

Due to the nature of the depths and currents, scuba diving in the Galapagos is considered more for advanced divers. Most liveaboard dive trips require a pre-dive checkout prior to allowing access to the actual dive sites. Most liveaboards include one land tour during the seven-night trip.


There are snorkeling tours and land tours for those who are not advanced divers.


Recommended for: advanced divers, underwater photographers, and critter lovers.


Can I bring my dog? No. While you can travel to Ecuador with your dog, your dog will not be allowed into the Galapagos. Dogs (and animals of any kind) are not allowed on the tour boats either due to the strict regulations followed to protect the endemic species of animals, flora and fauna.


WHAT

We highly recommend a liveaboard for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible. However, if you want a chance to partake in both land and sea adventures, or you have non-divers in your midst, there are great snorkeling and land tours available. There are some accommodations on a few of the islands where you can stay if you will not be traveling on a liveaboard.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

The Galapagos Islands are located off of the west coast of Ecuador and consist of eighteen main islands, three smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The best way to experience the amazing underwater and terrestrial biodiversity of the Galapagos is by liveaboard and the best islands to visit are Darwin Island, Isabela Island, Fernandina Island, San Cristobal Island, and Santa Cruz Island. This archipelago is centered on the equator and hosts marine life native to both warm- and cold-water climates. While these islands are world renowned for large pelagics, however the macro critter environment is outstanding as well.


WHEN

Diving in the Galapagos is considered a year-round dive destination, however there are two distinct seasons based on water and weather. The warm season, December to May, tends to have better visibility and tons of sharks (and I do mean tons!). The cold season, July to December, has much colder water and is best if you want to see whale sharks, penguins, and mola mola. No matter what time of year you visit, there can be cold water dives due to the Humboldt current coming up from the south. Be prepared, this is not the Caribbean even though it’s located at the equator.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

If you are flying internationally, you will need to fly into either Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito, Ecuador or Aeropuerto Internacional Jose Joaquin de Olmedo (GYE) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. From there, you will need to fly into Galapagos to one of the two airports in the archipelago: Seymour Airport on Baltra Island (GPS) or San Cristobal Airport on San Cristobal Island (SCY). Important: Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive or you’ll spend extra money and time boating to the correct island.


Suggested Flights to Quito or Guayaquil: KLM, Delta, United, American Airlines, Avianca, LATAM


Suggested Flights to Baltra or San Cristobal: TAME, Aerogal, Icaro, LAN


Suggested Liveaboards:

Suggested Expedition and Adventure Tours for non-divers:

Suggested Land Based tours for non-divers: GalapagosIslands.com


Suggested Accommodations for non-divers:

2. Palau


INTRO

Palau diving is world-class and unique with seemingly endless visibility. Remarkable underwater features including blue holes, walls, drop-offs, caverns, caves, and channels. There is unique must-see marine activity such as the spawning of the two-spot red snapper or green humphead parrotfish on new and full moons. Palau is one of the only places in the world to see Nautilus in their natural habitat. And who wouldn’t want to capture a video of a mandarin fish peaking at you from the reef? Palau also has easily accessible and intact World War II and other wrecks to dive. With warm water and an abundance of marine life, plus great wreck diving and a ton of non-diver types of land tours and watersports, Palau is consistently a dream destination on most travelers’ bucket lists and an ultimate must-do scuba destination.


WHO

Due to the nature of the current in Palau, diving here is only recommended for intermediate to advanced divers. However, there are easy, shallow sites in some locations, which makes it a great place to start or complete your scuba certification. Palau is also an outstanding destination for non-divers, snorkelers, water sports enthusiasts, and landlubbers as there are many places for hiking, waterfalls, land and boat excursions, kayaking, and city tours.


Recommended for: intermediate to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and critter lovers.


Can I bring my dog? Yes. Palau allows dogs, however there are many rules and regulations and advanced planning of a minimum of 6 months is a must. Please see these sites here and here for more information. Basically, Palau has the same requirements as Hawai’i.


WHAT

We highly recommend a liveaboard for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible as well as some of the best land excursions. However, if you have non-divers in your midst, there are great dive resorts available as well as land tours and water sports.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

The country of Palau, located in the western Pacific Ocean, consists of approximately 340 islands and is part of the western chain of the Caroline Islands. Palau shares maritime boundaries with Philippines, Indonesia, and Micronesia. Palau has created the world’s first shark sanctuary protecting approximately 230,000 square miles of ocean and is a global leader in protecting marine ecosystems. Due to this sanctuary, Palau has some unique marine events and wildlife not visible in other areas such as the Nautilus, mandarin fish, and large number of schooling sharks. There are also numerous wrecks including World War II ships and planes that are easily accessible and intact. Additional must-see attractions include Jellyfish Lake, Rock Island, Milky Way, Ngardmau Falls, Stone Monoliths, and Mandarin Fish Lake.


WHEN

Palau is considered a year-round destination; however, the best diving season is from December to March. There is usually less rain during these months which is ideal for land tours and most above surface water sports. However, many dive experts recommend extending that from September to May since during these extra months the prices are lower, and the diving and accommodations are less crowded.


Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

If you are flying internationally, some countries fly directly to Palau and some require connections. Palau’s Roman Tmetuchl International Airport (ROR) can be connected to from Honolulu, Hawaii, USA (HNL); Yap (YAP); Manilla, Philippines (MNL); Taipei, Taiwan (TPE); Seoul, Korea (ICN); and Guam (GUM). All other international flights should connect to one of these airports first, then to fly on to Palau. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights to Palau: United, Korean, Asiana, China Airlines


Suggested Liveaboards:

Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:

Suggested Accommodations that accept dogs:

1. Red Sea


INTRO

I once asked my master scuba diver trainer friend after he got back from diving the Red Sea if it really was as good as everyone claims. His only answer, “Epic!” Enough said?


The Red Sea has been known as one of the seven wonders of the underwater world with warm water, the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, abundant marine life, and wide diversity of dive sites and marine life. Both the northern and southern areas offer excellent diving including the world-renowned SS Thistlegorm in the north. The Red Sea can be explored by liveaboard or resort, however we whole-heartedly recommend a liveaboard unless you are determined to sightsee in the local area or are bringing non-divers with you on your trip. Most of the diving in the Red Sea is in Egypt, however there are resorts in Israel, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.


WHO

The Red Sea offers diving for all levels of divers, however many liveaboards offer drift dives which are meant for intermediate or advanced divers. Check with your liveaboard if they offer diving and training for beginner divers before planning your trip. For non-divers, and post-liveaboard tourism, the area is a popular tourist destination offering ancient ruins, cultural excursions, watersports, and spas.


Recommended for: beginning to advanced divers, underwater photographers, and critter lovers.


Caution: it is recommended to check with your government before traveling to this part of the world to ensure you are aware of any potential instability or threats to safety in the area you want to visit.


Can I bring my dog? The Red Sea is bordered by many countries each having their own rules and regulations on allowing pets into their countries. Some allow pets and some do not. Here are links to some of the countries rules and regulations pages: Egypt, Israel, Jordon, UAE. If you do plan to bring your dog, advance planning is a must.


WHAT

We highly recommend a liveaboard for serious divers who want to cover as much underwater territory as possible. However, if you want a chance to partake in both land and sea adventures, or you have non-divers in your midst, there are great dive resorts available as well as land tours.


If you will be diving, the liveaboards and dive operators normally have quality gear. However, if you do want to bring your own gear, keep in mind the airlines fees in today’s travel environment and check with your liveaboard for potential baggage size limitations. We normally like to bring our masks, snorkels, skins, and our own regulators. These can easily be transported in carry-ons.


Suggested packing list here. Don’t forget to purchase travel and dive insurance for your trip.


WHERE

The Rea Sea has some of the world’s best reefs and is teaming with marine life such as pelagic fish, reef sharks, dolphins, and the very rare Dugong. The northern Red Sea diving consists of world-class wrecks to deep walls and drift dives. The southern Red Sea diving is much less crowded and offers an abundance of pristine reefs and reef sharks as well as dolphins. The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean and is situated between Africa and Arabia. The reefs here are better developed because of its greater depths and an efficient water circulation pattern, even though the Red Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.


WHEN

This is a little complicated. The Red Sea is considered a year-round diving and tourist destination. However, there are some guidelines depending on your dive preferences:

  • High season for cultural tourism: December through February, but colder water and cooler weather

  • Low season for tourism: June through August, but warmer water and warmer weather

  • Best season for Oceanic Whitetip Sharks: October to January

  • Best season for Hammerhead Sharks: June to September

  • Best season for Whale Sharks: May through July (mostly in the north)

  • Best season for Thresher Sharks: October through February

Recommend advance planning: due to the popularity of this destination, we recommend planning your trip at least 3 to 6 months in advance. Some liveaboard dive operators sell out well before that, so do your research early.


HOW

If you are flying internationally, you will most likely fly into Egypt. If you choose to fly into another country bordering the Red Sea, you can research flights here. There are two main international airports in Egypt that get you close to the Red Sea: Sharm El Sheikh Egypt (SSH) and Hurghada Egypt (HRG). However, you can also fly into Cairo International Airport Egypt (CAI) and transfer to a small airport to arrive at your destination. Be sure to check with your tour, liveaboard, or accommodation to make sure you know the correct airport in which to arrive.


Suggested Flights: EgyptAir, Lufthansa, Emirates, British Airways, Air France, United, Delta


Suggested Liveaboards:

Suggested Dive Resorts/Operators:

Suggested Accommodations for dogs:


Note: We have curated these recommendations from dive experts and luxury accommodations information and personal experience. We do use affiliate links in our website and blogs, however, there is no additional cost to you (sometimes even better prices) and the small commission we make helps support the cost of maintaining this site. We thank you in advance for your support and wish you the best dive trip ever!

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