If you still sing “Under the Sea” in the shower, believe in Atlantis and are waiting for Team Zissou to enlist your services, our 10 Best Places to Scuba Dive Around the World are guaranteed to get you wet. Life’s more fun 30 feet below—as long as that mask keeps working.
This reef, deemed “the most remarkable in the West Indies” by Charles Darwin, bubbles with crystal clear water warm enough for year-round access and has the highest population of West Indian manatee on the planet. Cuddle with the friendly sea cows, then move on to the Big Blue Hole, allegedly-largest sinkhole on Earth. Jacques Cousteau said this joint was one of the best diving locations you can get to—and who are we to argue old Aqualung himself? Set aside three or four days here and about $300, and you’ll be a certified master before we can say dive.
The largest structure on the planet made entirely by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef is like live seafood soup with crazy-looking and endangered animals swimming at you from all angles. Able to be seen from space, this Reef is a World Heritage site and its throngs of visitors and pricy certification trips reflect this designation. Your best bet is to get certified before you go, so upon arrival, it’s just you and 1,500 species of fish.
Koh Tao’s got as many nightclubs and bars on the island as whale sharks in the surrounding water. Forget chartering a private yacht to the Similan Islands—if you’re not a serious diver and like drinking your liquid gold as much as searching for it under the sea, this is your place. Three days and $290 will get you properly certified.
In terms of underwater visibility, it doesn’t get much clearer than these Caribbean waves. You don’t have to go far from the coast to get deep. The island is actually the top of a mountain, meaning there’s an intense vertical drop-off. Be sure to check out Stingray City, where stingrays have been tamed by years of feeding on fisherman’s scraps. Certification here runs you up to $400, and takes three to four days.
The freaks come out at night and Maaya Thila offers night diving, where you can get eye to eye with octopi, stonefish, cleaner shrimp, ghost pipefish and all sorts of bizarro creatures who otherwise only appear on really good acid trips. While you can get certified here, if moolah and minutes are important, get it done before you go.
Known as the Everest of scuba diving, the waters around Malpelo are brimming with sea life—especially of the shark variety. Divers have reported seeing hundreds of Hammerhead and Silky sharks in a single dive; this one's not for the faint of heart. Aside from a military post, the island itself is vacant, but you can get certified in other parts of Colombia in four to five days for $300.
If you love history and pirates, this is your spot. The Straits of Gubal have claimed dozens of ships over the course of history, and they’re as much a part of these waters as algae. Certification is $300 and takes about five days in surrounding areas (eye patch and cursing parrot not included).
You know those nature shows where the dude goes down in a cage and gets all cozy with Jaws? For less than $300 in Gansbaai, you can do a day of cage diving, surrounded by man-eaters, with or without scuba certification. Apparently, inexperience pays when it comes to dangerous predators as this region doesn’t offer any certification programs—you’ve got to head to Cape Town for that.
This may be spring break, meathead paradise but the waters off Cozumel are part of the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic’s warm-water superhighway and make it worth a dive. The Gulf Stream is the prime place for drift diving, best described as underwater “flight." For $270 and 3 days of certification training, you can pretend to be Superman while you check out the surrounding natural beauty.
If you can't cough up the bucks to get scuba certified, this is the best place to take the pussy snorkel route. Located on Eil Malk Island, Jellyfish Lake is famous for its massive golden jellyfish population and only snorkeling is permitted for fear that scuba gear would harm the jellies. Don’t worry, you won't emerge looking like a porcupine-hugging leper. These blobs have miraculously evolved to be completely stingless.
When ground level congestion gets the best of you, dive down into some international fish traffic instead. They're much more colorful and are less likely to give you the finger.