Sea, sun, and sand are what the Caribbean is famous for. Sinking your feet into warm sand and lazing the day away on an immaculate beach — what more could anyone want?
But that’s only half the story.
The other half is just under the surface of that sparkling, turquoise water. Indeed, the Caribbean offers some of the most spectacular sites for scuba diving. Otherworldly underwater landscapes and a rich array of colorful marine life bring diving enthusiasts from around the globe. The difficulty lies not in finding a place to dive, but in choosing from the many options available. Here are some of the best diving spots in the Caribbean:
Part of the Netherland Antilles ABC islands, Bonaire is the smallest and best one for diving. Underwater volcanic eruptions formed these islands and created a seascape made up of hundreds of reefs that are bursting with endless varieties of underwater flora and fauna. There are 86 dive sites, and more than 350 species of fish have been recorded there. One of the most famous sites is the Hilma Hooker, a cargo ship that was seized by the authorities for drug smuggling and eventually sunk in 1984. Nearly 100 feet below the surface, the artificial reef is a draw for divers who want to explore the eerie wreck.
This island off the Yucatan Peninsula, renowned for its crystal clear water and abundant sea life, is one of the most popular places for diving in the world. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System runs for 600 miles up the peninsula, and Cozumel is right in its path. Among the most popular sites are Palancar Reef, Columbia Wall, and Punta Tunich. There is much to see, both near the surface and at greater depths, so it’s a great place for novices and experienced divers alike.
The unfortunate British mail steamer RMS Rhone got caught in bad weather and sunk off the British Virgin Islands in 1867. The artificial reef that has developed over the past 150 years is a magnet for divers from all over the world; the ship lies on its side in 85 feet of water, and some parts, including the rigging, steam engine, and propeller, are still visible. Excursions provide two dives in a day, one to explore the still intact bow, and the other to explore the stern. It is considered one of the most spectacular wreck sites in the world.
Marine Life to Remember
At any Caribbean dive site you can see countless varieties of colorful fish and coral. But if you’re after something bigger, here are a few suggestions:
- Tiger Beach, Bahamas – One of the best places in the world to swim with tiger sharks.
- Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman – Teeming with eagle rays and sea turtles.
- Silver Bank, Dominican Republic – You can swim with humpback whales.
- Bimini Island, Bahamas – Great hammerhead sharks come in February each year.
- Utila, Honduras – One of the best places to swim with the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark. Optimum times are March-April and August-September.
- Cara a Cara, Roatan, Honduras – Cara a Cara means face-to-face in Spanish, and you can literally come cara a cara with Caribbean reef sharks.
- Dominica – Here you can swim with massive sperm whales and their young.