World’s Best Destinations for Beginner Diving

Why do the Top 100 Readers Choice Awards, now in their 23rd year, still matter to divers? Because these are your picks, based on thousands of votes from the most experienced dive travelers on the planet. Why do they matter to us? Because every month you hear from our editors on what we think matters in the world of dive travel. For the January/February issue of Scuba Diving we get to listen to you, and we’re taking notes.

Here, we proudly present the No. 1 ranking destinations in the Best Beginner Diving category of the awards. The full list of winning destinations is below.

scuba diving bonaire beginner underwater



Best Beginner Diving in the Caribbean and Atlantic

While shore diving on Bonaire is often touted as being as easy as a walk in the park, truthfully, some of its sites are challenging to enter and exit, what with rocky, ironshore bottoms, broken corals and sea urchins clinging to the shore substrate. Beginners will find all the resort house reefs easy — for one, gear lockers and gear setups are either near to or right on the dock, and ladders aid the enter and exit process. Getting in is usually also possible by giant-striding from a dock and then swimming just a few fin kicks to where the reef begins. Try Buddy Reef at Buddy Dive Resort, 18 Palms at Plaza Beach Resort, Bari Reef at Sand Dollar Resort and Calabas at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort. Easy coastal road spots include Windsock, which has one of the few sandy beaches on the island; Oil Slick Leap, where you can giant-stride in and then use a ladder to get out; and Bachelor’s Beach. Novice divers may also be more comfortable doing their dives from a boat with a divemaster, which all the big dive resorts offer.

Best Beginner Diving in the Caribbean and Atlantic

  1. Bonaire

  2. Dominica

  3. Curaçao

  4. Cayman Islands

  5. Bahamas

florida keys key west largo scuba diving underwater beginner



Best Beginner Diving in North America

Not all the diving in Florida is tailor-made for beginners, but it’s not surprising that readers voted the state No. 1 in its region for beginner diving. In North America there’s nowhere better to go than America’s Caribbean, the Florida Keys. Leave the famous deep wrecks like Spiegel Grove, Vandenberg and Eagle to advanced divers, and hit the shallow reefs to add to your brand-new logbook. Most of the time, you’ll be in the 20- to 35-foot range, which is the perfect depth to build confidence, log tons of bottom time and still see everything this chain is famous for — the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. and reef fish, such as yellowtail snapper, grunts, goatfish and damselfish galore. The notable sites perfect for novices read like a survey course in literature: Christ of the Deep statue in Key Largo in 25 feet of water; French Reef, also off Key Largo, in 15 to 40 feet of water; Islamorada’s Davis Reef in 25 feet; Sombrero Reef off Marathon in the 10- to 25-foot range; Looe Key, a spur-and-groove reef in five to 35 feet of water; and Key West’s Eastern Dry Rocks in about 35 feet of water.

Best Beginner Diving in North America

  1. Florida

  2. California

  3. Washington

hawaii maui scuba diving beginner dive underwater butterflyfish



Best Beginner Diving in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

More visitors flock to the islands of Hawaii than just about any other dive destination in the world. So, it’s probably no surprise that the region’s operators are highly skilled at training new divers. And with shallow, sheltered reefs such as Maui’s Molokini Crater and easily accessible, purpose-sunk wrecks, including Oahu’s Sea Tiger, there’s no shortage of beginner-friendly options to hook rookies right away.

Best Beginner Diving in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

  1. Hawaii

  2. Indonesia

  3. Philippines

  4. Thailand

  5. Red Sea

How We Got the Numbers Thousands of Scuba Diving subscribers and online users rated their experiences at dive destinations in a variety of categories on a scale from one to five. Final scores are an average of the numerical scores awarded. A minimum number of responses was required for a destination to be included in these ratings.

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Hawaiian Rafting Adventures Inc. / Dive Maui

We offer a full range of tours and services to all divers, pro’s and novices alike! Whether you want to go on your very first ‘Intro Dive’ or you want to go on a Nitrox or night dive – we can show you the best Maui has to offer. Want to get cer…

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Dive Honokohau in Hawaii

scuba diving kona hawaii

Jack’s Diving Locker

Heading out for a day of diving

Location: Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii
Depth: 90 ft
Visibility: 30-80’
Who it’s For: Intermediate to Advanced Divers

What Makes it Special:

Located within Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in Kona, Honokohau dive site is a local favorite for coral reef marine life and big animal encounters. Daily dives are offered by Jack’s Diving Locker.

Honokohau features lava tubes and basaltic rock swathing the sea floor. The natural crags and crevices are peppered with hard and soft corals, and house dozens of fish species, including resident schools of raccoon butterflyfish, goatfish and Heller’s barracuda. Eels such as the dragon moray and the whitemouth moray also frequent the site.

Dive guides often lead groups to the reef’s drop off for a chance to spot eagle rays and pods of spinner dolphins. Diver might even catch a glimpse of the critically endangered, hawksbill turtle and – on a good day – a tiger shark.

To book a dive on Honokohau today, visit www.jacksdivinglocker.com.

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Manta Ray Night Dives in Kona

scuba diving manta ray hawaii

Jack’s Diving Locker

Get up-close with Manta Rays.

Location: North of Keahole Point, Kona, Hawaii
Depth: 20-80 ft.
Visibility: 15-30’
Who it’s For: Novices

What Makes it Special:

Manta Ray dive site makes for an evening of entertainment with two dives – one in late afternoon and one at night.

First, explore the reef as the sun begins to fade over Kona. Watch as colorful reef fish search for a cozy place to sleep, garden eels rhythmically dance in the sand, and a green sea turtle swims by to say good night. Then witness large, graceful Manta Rays gliding into the reef to be cleaned by the Hawaiian Cleaner Fish.

Come up from your dive to view a beautiful Hawaiian sunset, relax and have a bite to eat. On the second dive, descend into darkness and watch the night life come alive in the beam of your light. Observe in awe as Manta Rays glide in from the darkness to feed on the microscopic plankton attracted to your light. Follow a hunting moray as it searches for its next meal. And watch as he attacks an unsuspecting tang, twists his body in a knot and swallows the fish whole. Then visit with shy shrimp, crabs, delicate nudibranchs and sleeping fish. It’s a wonderful way enjoy Kona’s night life at its best!

To book a Manta Ray Night Dive, visit www.jacksdivinglocker.com

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Dive the Nashua Navy Tug off the Coast of Oahu

waikiki scuba diving octopus

Kachilla Images

An octopus rests at Navy Tug dive site.

Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Depth: 65 ft
Visibility: 15-30’
Who it’s For: Advanced Divers

What Makes it Special:

The Navy Tug Boat, Nashua, sits alone on the sand in 65-feet of water off the coast of Oahu. It was purposely sunk in 2012 to form an artificial reef, and has since become an active training site for the US Navy. Locked bins storing Naval supplies can be seen outside the ship along the sea floor.

It’s also home to numerous species of marine life, including enormous puffer fish and reef sharks who can be spotted through port holes and holes in the deck. Small coral blooms and polyps speckle the hull and deck, while various soft corals fan beneath the ship’s rudder.

At 109 feet long, the ship’s holds provide ample swim-throughs and penetration.

Dive Oahu offers premier charters to Nashua from Waikiki. Visit www.diveoahu.com/divenew to book your next dive.

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