The Top 10 Scuba Diving Destinations in Central and South America

May 7, 2023

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We love diving and we particularly love diving in Latin America. But that part was pretty obvious considering we started a travel agency and named it ‘Dive the Americas’. Without further ado, we’ve put together our list of the top 10 places to scuba dive in the Americas:

1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Where else on earth can you find yourself swimming with whale sharks, hammerheads, playful sea lions, marine iguanas, and penguins all in one place? Sure, the water might be a bit cooler than some other destinations, but trust us, it’s well worth it. Galapagos will truly take your breath away and leave you wanting to come back for more.

2. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Known as the “sharkiest” island on the planet (well, at least sometimes), Cocos Island is a true gem for any scuba diver. With a bit of luck, you can spot more mega schools of hammerhead sharks here than anywhere else in the world. Getting there may require a bit of a trek (a 36-hour crossing, to be precise), but the sheer quantity and quality of marine wildlife you’ll encounter underwater is unparalleled. And to top it off, the island itself inspired the fictional Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park.

3. Cozumel, Mexico

This destination is a classic. Despite its small size, the island is packed with charm and character. Some areas can get a bit crowded, but with the right guidance, you can still enjoy a truly authentic experience. The water is warm and inviting year-round, with crystal-clear visibility. Drift diving here will have you cruising through the underwater landscape like a pro. Just be sure to come prepared for the currents.

4. Blue Hole, Belize

One of the most iconic dive sites in the world, the Blue Hole is a bucket-list destination for many divers. However, not everyone knows what to expect when they get there. What they also might not know is that getting to this unique location can be quite a challenge. It’s located at least 2.5 to 3 hours away by boat from popular tourist areas like San Pedro. But don’t let that discourage you, we recommend booking a stay at the Turneffe Island Resort. Their location is unrivaled and they have a full-day Blue Hole experience every Tuesday so you can spend more time underwater.

5. Roatan, Honduras

Nestled in the Bay Islands of Honduras, Roatan has something for everyone. Roatan is particularly well-suited for training because of the calm waters and easy conditions, so if you’re looking to level up your skill set, this is the place to be. Most sites are just a stone’s throw from shore, which is nice, and you can find everything from wall dives to shipwrecks and colorful shallow corals.

6. Socorro, Mexico

This remote island in the Pacific Ocean is a mecca for advanced divers looking for up-close encounters with some popular favorites like giant manta rays, dolphins, and sharks. The Socorro Islands are located approximately 250 miles (400 km) off the coast of Cabo San Lucas and are best experienced via live aboard. The underwater topography of the area is also incredibly interesting, with underwater mountains, canyons, and volcanic formations. The pristine clear waters are the cherry on top!

7. San Andres Island, Colombia

If you’re looking to step off the beaten path and try something new, San Andres Island is it. Located in the heart of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the island boasts the third-largest barrier reef in the world. Surprisingly, it’s closer to Nicaragua than it is to Colombia, adding to its unique charm and allure. If you’re into shipwrecks, the “Blue Diamond” has intact cabins and cargo holds that can be explored by divers.

8. Coiba Island, Panama

Coiba Island, a former penal colony, was restricted to only guards and prisoners until 2004. Now, thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, remote location, and minimal human impact, it has become a biodiversity haven, home to unique endemic species of plants and animals. Interestingly, it’s one of only two locations in the world where migratory whales from both the north and south can be seen at different times of the year.

9. Caño Island, Costa Rica

If you’ve heard people say that Costa Rica doesn’t offer good diving, it has to be because they just haven’t dove Caño Island yet. I’m prepared to take a little heat for this one making the list, but I stand by it. Only an hour’s boat ride from the small beach town of Uvita, this protected marine area boasts an impressive range of marine life, from an abundance of turtles, migratory whales (twice a year may I add), giant mantas, sharks, and schools of brilliantly colored reef fish. With a lot of luck and the right timing, you may even spot an elusive whale shark or come head-to-head with a bull shark. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem – it’s a guaranteed great time!

10. Corn Islands, Nicaragua

This place offers an experience like no other. The islands, made up of Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island, have a rich history as a stop for pirates and buccaneers in the 17th century. Today, they offer beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a laid-back island vibe. There are only a handful of legit places to stay and limited dive operators, the Corn Islands are an untouched paradise that feels raw and authentic. In fact, you can even walk around the whole island in just about 40 minutes!

Which ones have you been to and what’s next on your list? Let us know in the comments below.

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