Top dive destinations every scuba diver should have on their bucket list.

So many dive sites, so little time! Does your bucket list need a refresh? From Indonesia to the Red Sea, these destinations offer some of the best marine life, reefs and beaches in the world. Here are the top dive destinations you must add to your bucket list from a few of our Diventures Dive Pro experts. 

top dive destinations

1. Palau

Palau is a must-see location known for its biodiversity, pelagic animals, dramatic walls and world-class diving. Palau is made up of 340 islands situated in Micronesia in the northwest Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Guam. The archipelago’s green jungle-covered rock islands are surrounded by shafts of sunlight that peek through the clear turquoise waters.

With a shark sanctuary the size of France, 500 species of coral and over 1,000 species of fish, there is something for everyone. A paradise above and below the surface, divers can relax as they drift with the currents, hook into the reef or visit Micronesia’s largest collections of WWII shipwrecks. Be on the lookout for whale sharks, manta rays, cuttlefish and turtles. Want to take a day off from diving? Head to the jellyfish lake to snorkel and swim with thousands of non-stinging golden jellyfish.  

Dive Pro Nolan Hardison is a big fan of Palau. “I loved this trip and would go back again in a heartbeat.  The Blue Corner requires you to hook into the reef so you can watch, sharks and rays of all types swim by just off the wall.  The anemones and anemone fish are abundant and beautiful.  This is the only place you will find fresh water jellyfish of this variety and the mandarin fish are found nowhere else in the world.”

2. Galapagos

Dive Pro Claude Smith knows the Galapagos Islands are a world of wonder. Diving here offers the adventure of a lifetime because of the untouched waters and stronger currents. The Galapagos Islands offer a variety of dives (drift, deep, reef) but even more of a variety of wildlife. There are countless unique animals such as sea lions, Galapagos sharks, sea horses, hammerhead sharks, devil rays, whale sharks, manta rays, silky sharks, nudibranchs, the list goes on! During your surface interval, be on the lookout for penguins and blue-footed boobies! 

Galapagos is about 620 miles from the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. The 19 islands sit at the conjunction of three ocean currents and are considered the “melting pot” of marine life. The island inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection during his visit in 1835.

One of the most popular dive sites in Galapagos is “Darwin’s Arch”. It provides great drift diving with medium to strong currents. Unfortunately, in 2021, the top part of the arch collapsed due to natural erosion, but the pillars remain standing and still provide incredible diving.

3. Red Sea

Dive Pro Doug Junge believes every diver needs to experience the Red Sea at least once. “Diving off of a liveaboard, going to remote sites and seeing amazing healthy reefs will not disappoint.”

Scuba divers might choose to travel to the Red Sea for any number of reasons, but among them are intact shipwrecks, shoals of sharks and colorful coral reefs. Reef sharks, oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, tigers and thresher sharks can be encountered throughout the region. Whale sharks, manatees and dolphins may also surprise lucky divers. The reef life is also breathtaking. There are more than 800 species of fish. Sheer walls, shallow reefs, pinnacles and open ocean drifts are common.

“If you get the option to do a land excursion take that as well,” says Doug. Seeing the tombs, temples, and pyramids is surreal. Being able to see it all in person is a life-changing experience! 

4. Bonaire

Bonaire is often referred to as the “shore diving capital of the world”. Its crystal-clear waters are perfect for any diver at any level. The calm waters allow novice divers to swim parallel to the shore with minimal currents. Advanced divers will enjoy the unlimited shore dives and the freedom to explore the ocean floor. Swimming along with the large sponges and sea fans, you’re bound to spot angelfish, butterflyfish, seahorses, crab and shrimp.

Dive Pro Michael Drago loves Bonaire.”This diving mecca is home to 24/7 diving and has everything you would ever want to do! From beautiful shallow reefs, a wreck, walls and fringing reefs Bonaire offers you unlimited shore diving with 63 marked dive sites.” This makes it easy for you to hop in the car and just drive to your next site.

It’s no surprise that Bonaire is referred to as the “shore diving capital” of the world. With over 470 fish species, calm sea conditions, and the option to do both shore and boat dives, Bonaire should be on everyone’s list. The island has great diving year-round with chances to see sea horses, eagle rays, sea turtles, barracudas, eels and more! Want to take a break from diving? The animals above the surface are just as exciting, with flamingos, donkeys, and iguanas. 

5. Maldives

For white sand and crystal-clear waters, add the Maldives to your bucket list of diving destinations. The Maldives are unique because they are made up of over 1,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited, leaving the surrounding ecosystems pristine.  

Sharks are 100% protected here, which is great for the 20+ species that can be seen while diving. The Maldives is the perfect destination for large marine life.

“The Indian Ocean does not disappoint,” says Dive Pro Nolan Hardison. ”The beauty of the anenomies, nuetabrachs, manta rays, sharks and the volume of schooling fish is amazing.”

6. Raja Ampat

Ocean Health Education and Conservation Coordinator, Sabrina Severin has Raja Ampat at the top of her bucket list. Raja Ampat is a remote area, made up of hundreds of islands in Indonesia, offering pristine reefs and breathtaking scenery. “The islands are known for having the richest marine biodiversity on Earth.”

With numerous protected areas, there is an abundance of wildlife that can be found here. From nudibranchs to whale sharks, be on the lookout for small and large animals, and everything in between. Manta rays, wobbegong sharks, blue-spotted stingrays, cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus and large schools of fish, are all reasons to put Raja Ampat on your bucket list.  

Spread across 1,500 virtually untouched islands, Raja Ampat boasts over 1,300 reef fish, 25 endemic species, 12 marine mammals, five species of endangered sea turtles, 600 hard corals and 75% of all known coral species. From black sand muck dives to crystal clear drift dives, Indonesia is a place to visit time and time again. Once is never enough!

7. Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon

Dive Pro Will Andersen loves to travel back in time to this World War II underwater museum. Truk Lagoon is a top diving destination for wreck divers or those fascinated by the past. Numerous wrecks from WWII scattered across 77 square miles can be found frozen in time. This is the world’s largest concentration of divable wrecks.

While diving these wrecks, be on the lookout for torpedoes, Japanese Zero Fighter airplanes, tanks, trucks, ammunition and gas masks. With great visibility, you can also see schooling fish, sharks, giant sea fans and nudibranchs. 

Expect calm surface conditions, warm water, excellent visibility and little current. Diventures Michigan has traveled to Truk Lagoon over a dozen times. Divers of all experience levels will find it an unforgettable experience.

8. North Carolina

For wreck diving enthusiasts who want a closer destination, travel to North Carolina for some of the most pristine wrecks. This bucket list destination is also known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because it has the highest density of historic shipwrecks in the United States.

Dive in the same water only miles from Blackbeard’s infamous ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. Take a glimpse into the past as you explore shipwrecks from all over the world since the 1700s.

There are shipwrecks from World War II that may be surrounded by sand tiger sharks, large groupers, turtles, octopus, eels and fish. Our friends at Lexington Diventures enjoy visiting the coast for these long weekends and dives into history.

9. Great Lakes

The Great Lakes offer some of the best freshwater diving in the world. But, make sure you bring your dry suit because it can get cold! And just like the water, the wrecks are frozen in time. These are some of the most well-preserved wrecks in the world, and you’ll have the opportunity to see unique marine life.

Our Michigan Diventures team spends the entire summer at the Great Lakes diving the Ironsides, Rockaway and Port Sanilac shipwrecks just to name a few. Don’t let the inland location fool you–Great Lakes diving is a unique and must-do experience!

Ready to travel with our experienced and professional scuba diving trip leaders? Diventures offers scuba diving trips around the world with the planning already done for you from airfare to resort accommodations. Before you go, you can also take scuba diving training courses at a Diventures location near you!

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