Skip to main content
x

Readers Choice: World's Best Places to Go Scuba Diving in 2024

These destinations have it all, from the big thrills of wall diving and blue water encounters to the tiniest of reef wonder
By Brooke Morton | Authored On December 25, 2023
Share This Article :

Readers Choice: World's Best Places to Go Scuba Diving in 2024

Colorful crinoids, sponges, soft corals and fish on this Indonesian reef demonstrate why this part of the world is known as the Coral Triangle.

Brandon Cole

1 Indonesia

It’s little surprise that Indonesia earned top honors as Best Overall in its region yet again. The destination sets the bar for marine species diversity and lies in the epicenter of the Coral Triangle. “You see a wide range of size too, from the tiniest of seahorses to the greatest ocean nomads like mola molas and whale sharks,” says Karen Stearns, manager with Pelagian, a liveaboard cruising the waters of Wakatobi National Park, a marine protected area in Southeast Sulawesi.

Liveaboards such as Pelagian are especially popular in this archipelago country for their ability to whisk divers to many islands, each with a unique mix of environments, including coral reefs and critter-rich hotspots such as seagrass beds, piers and muck dives.

Other operators offer itineraries that target the biggest and the smallest in one week. Liveaboards such as Coralia include weeks at Cenderawasih Bay, known for whale sharks. There, along with the big, divers will likely encounter smaller wonders, from ghost pipefish to nudibranchs, all showcasing the biodiversity that Indonesia is celebrated for.

Readers Picks

Resorts

ABWonderdive Bali Resort, Indonesia

Lembeh and Murex Resorts, Indonesia

Papua Explorers, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Wakatobi Dive Resort, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

Operators

Aquamarine Divers, Bali, Indonesia

Liveaboards

Adelaar Exclusive Liveaboard, Indonesia

All Star Aurora, Indonesia

All Star Velocean, Indonesia

Amira Dive Boat, Indonesia

Arenui Boutique Liveaboard, Indonesia

Coralia Liveaboard, Indonesia

Dive Gaia, Gaia Love, Indonesia

Mermaid Liveaboards, Indonesia

Related Reading: Don Foster’s Dive Cayman

2 Mexico

Mexico delivers big—from the whale sharks of Isla Mujeres and bull sharks of Playa del Carmen to the cenotes of Riviera Maya and the wall diving off the island of Cozumel.

Cozumel is famous for its walls, where constant currents dial up the fun factor. There’s speed, yes, but also relaxation. The water does the work to move divers along, keeping pace, at times, with eagle rays and sea turtles.

Then there’s island life.

With Cozumel, “You’re blending Mexican culture with Caribbean vibes and the second largest barrier reef in the world,” says Michael Penwarden, owner of Dive Paradise. Head to San Miguel de Cozumel, the main city on island, for local cuisine, as well as tequila tasting, holiday festivals and museums, such as Museo de la Isla de Cozumel, where local art and dance are showcased.

In between it all, as you relax on the beaches or enter the shallows for a night shore dive, you’ll find “a slower pace of life than across the channel,” says Penwarden.

Readers Picks

Resorts

Cozumel Hotel & Resort, Mexico

Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Cozumel, Mexico

Intercontinental Presidente Resort & Spa, Cozumel, Mexico

Scuba Club Cozumel, Mexico

Operators

Aldora Divers, Cozumel, Mexico

Blue Note Scuba, Cozumel, Mexico

Dive Paradise, Cozumel, Mexico

Dive with Martin, Cozumel, Mexico

Scuba Club Cozumel Dive Center, Mexico

3 Florida Keys

Readers voted the Keys the Best Overall destination in the United States and Canada for its year-round easy access to coral and artificial reefs.

Perhaps the best perk of the Keys is the number of dive shops. In Islamorada, six shops can be found within a span of 3 miles, all connected by the coconut telegraph. “If Amoray isn’t offering the night dive or deep wreck you’re looking for, one of the other dive shops in our coalition likely is, and we can set that up for you,” says Jeff Gneiser, owner of Amoray Dive Resort.

This means divers are better able to cross off names from their must-dive list. For many Keys visitors, this means metal—both the historic wrecks, such as the 287-foot Eagle wreck, and big-name artificial reefs, such as the Spiegel Grove, that belong to the Florida Keys Wreck Trek. “Our job is to get divers diving where they want,” adds Gneiser, no stranger to accommodating travelers’ preferences.

Readers Picks

Resorts

Amoray Dive Resort, Key Largo, Florida Keys

Courtyard by Marriott Key Largo, Florida Keys

Postcard Inn, Islamorada, Florida Keys

Operators

Amoray Dive Center, Key Largo, Florida Keys

Captain Hook’s, Florida Keys

Horizon Divers, Key Largo, Florida Keys

Islamorada Dive Center, Florida Keys

Key Dives, Islamorada, Florida Keys

Rainbow Reef, Key Largo, Florida Keys

Divers fin through rays of light in Chac Mool, a cenote located in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.

Jennifer Penner

4 Cayman Islands

We have become the happy place for so many divers,” says Steve Broadbelt, co-founder and operator of Ocean Frontiers, referring to the Cayman Islands, which scored highly in the Caribbean and Atlantic region as a Best Overall destination.

“It checks so many boxes,” he continues, rattling off attributes such as the ease of diving, warm water, abundance of marine life, and safety of the destination.

Broadbelt’s favorite corner in the Cayman Islands is of course the East End of Grand Cayman, home of Ocean Frontiers dive center and Compass Point Dive Resort.

While the west side of the island is known for shore diving, the East End is much more rugged, accessible only by boat. Out there, the topography serves up drama in the form of pinnacles, walls and ledges giving way to deep water where big animals, such as Caribbean reef sharks, pass frequently.

“There’s such a mix on every dive,” says Broadbelt. “You’re not just getting the same flavor of ice cream every day.”

Readers Picks

Resorts

Cayman Brac Beach Resort, Cayman Islands

Compass Point, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Little Cayman Beach Resort, Cayman Islands

Sunset House, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Operators

Divetech, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Don Fosters, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Ocean Frontiers, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Reef Divers, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Reef Divers, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

Sunset Divers, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Liveaboards

Cayman Aggressor V, Cayman Islands

5 Bay Islands

It’s easy to see why the Bay Islands of Honduras ranked so highly among readers who have traveled to this Caribbean dive mecca. Consider the biggest of the three islands: Roatan, which boasts warm, calm water and a variety of diving, including walls, crevices and cracks, reefs and even muck diving. “Roatan has a lot of raw nature that is easily accessible for people in the U.S.,” says Wade Midkiff, co-owner of CoCo View Resort, a dive-centric all-inclusive on Roatan.

Dive sites are within a 15-minute boat ride from shore. And what’s more, the destination itself is reachable via nonstop flight from many major cities, including Houston, Atlanta and Miami.

Upon arriving and dropping in, divers come face to face with a variety of marine life, from eagle rays to large-eye toadfish, a camouflaged reef-dweller that can be challenging to locate.

“The wide variety of species diversity is unique to the Bay Islands,” says Midkiff.

He also credits Roatan’s popularity among divers to the high level of service resorts offer at their scuba centers. “The dive operators are so experienced,” he says. “Divers that come to Roatan are some of the best served.”

Related Reading: Coralia Liveaboard

Readers Picks

Resorts

Anthony’s Key Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands

Barefoot Cay Resort & Marina, Roatan, Bay Islands

CoCo View Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands

Mayan Princess Dive Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands

Turquoise Bay Dive & Beach Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands

Operators

Dockside Dive Shop at CoCo View Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands

Liveaboards Roatan Aggressor, Bay Islands, Honduras

A honeycomb cowfish pops out against a vibrant Cayman Islands reef.

Brandon Cole

6 Hawaii

Hawaii wows readers with its big animals, endemic fish life, calm water and vibrant reefs. “Statewide, we have pretty amazing hard coral reefs,” says Teri Leicher, one of the owners of Jack’s Diving Locker, a PADI Five Star Dive Center located on the Big Island.

Off Kona, on the Big Island’s western coast, reefs support the marine food chain on every level, from plankton up to the island’s famous resident mantas.

But as buzzing with life as the reefs are, it’s the blue water of Hawaii where divers often encounter the most surprises. “You can get in the water and dolphins will swim up to you, or you will be surrounded by thousands of delicate herring—you never know what you’re going to see,” Leicher says.

Readers Picks

Resorts

Aaron’s Dive Shop, Oahu, Hawaii

Big Island Divers, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Dive Oahu, Hawaii

Jack’s Diving Locker, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Kona Diving Company, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Kona Honu Divers, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Lahaina Divers, Maui, Hawaii

Maui Dreams Dive Co, Hawaii

Seasport Divers, Kauai, Hawaii

Caribbean and Atlantic

1.Mexico

  1. Cayman Islands

  2. Bonaire

  3. Curaçao

  4. Bay Islands

  5. St. Lucia

  6. Belize

  7. St. Eustatius

  8. Aruba

  9. Bahamas

  10. U.S. Virgin Islands

  11. British Virgin Islands

  12. Turks and Caicos

  13. Dominican Republic

  14. Barbados

Pacific and Indian

1.Indonesia

  1. Hawaii

  2. Philippines

  3. Thailand

  4. Fiji

  5. Palau

  6. Galapagos Islands

  7. Australia

  8. French Polynesia

  9. Mexico

  10. Red Sea

  11. Maldives

  12. Costa Rica

  13. Colombia

U.S. and Canada

  1. Florida Keys

  2. Florida

  3. North Carolina

  4. California

  5. British Columbia

  6. Washington

What Is Readers Choice?

More than 13,000 readers cast their vote in our 2024 survey to decide this year’s Readers Choice awards. Here we feature some of the top destinations, listing in alphabetical order the winning resorts, operators and liveaboards serving those areas.