Idyllic IslandsTropical islands capture the imagination of traveling divers like no other terrestrial environment. Perhaps it’s the promise of languid living, warm water and beautiful natives. Maybe it’s the fantastic diving that typically comes with the package. From Palau’s Rock Islands (shown here) to Hawaii, French Polynesia, Fiji and beyond, there are thousands in the Pacific — take your pick.
The world’s largest ocean impresses in every way, from its underwater diversity to its life-changing topside splendor. There are countless things for scuba divers to celebrate in the Pacific Ocean, but here are 10 of our favorites.
1. Idyllic Islands
Tropical islands capture the imagination of traveling divers like no other terrestrial environment. Perhaps it’s the promise of languid living, warm water and beautiful natives. Maybe it’s the fantastic diving that typically comes with the package. From Palau’s Rock Islands (shown above) to Hawaii, French Polynesia, Fiji and beyond, there are thousands in the Pacific — take your pick.
With more than 63 million square miles of salt water in which to thrive, the countless species of marine life lucky enough to live in the Pacific Ocean (like the schooling chevron barracuda shown above) have room to grow large and multiply, creating an astounding biomass — and endless opportunities for divers.
3. Blue Water Dives
With vast stretches of open ocean to cruise, the pelagic creatures of the Pacific are as varied as they are exciting. From mola mola (shown above) to bluefin tuna, humpback whales and other far-reaching travelers, sometimes if you hang there long enough, an amazing creature will swim by.
4. Amazing Underwater Structures
Divers enjoy great benefits from the Pacific’s Ring of Fire — caverns, tunnels, arches, swim-throughs and all other manner of compelling underwater structures. From Lanai’s First Cathedral (shown above), to Palau’s Saies Tunnel and beyond, the region’s volcanic heritage has created some of the world’s most intriguing dives.
5. Astounding color
For some reason, everything seems more vibrant, rich and dramatic in the Pacific — fish, crabs, corals (like the eye-popping Fijian Dendronephthya shown above), flowers, sunsets — everything. We’re not sure if it’s the quality of the visibility, a special hue of the water or just the dreamy state of mind that often occurs when we’re there. And it really doesn’t matter why.
6. Sea Lions
Few oceangoing creatures are more fun to encounter underwater than sea lions and their pinniped cousins. Encountered most frequently by divers in California, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and the Galapagos Islands, the mammals’ incredible agility, strong curiosity and ability to hold their breath for amazingly long periods of time make them one of the most adept — and entertaining — critters in the Pacific.
The Ring of Fire — a horseshoe-shaped string of volcanic hot spots that stretches from Peru north to Alaska and down to New Zealand — is directly responsible for many of our favorite Pacific destinations, whether active (like the Big Island of Hawaii’s Kilauea shown above) or not.
Haunting songs, spontaneous breaching and unexpected underwater swim-bys — there are myriad reasons why divers have an affection for whales. In the Pacific, there are so many to love: minkes on the Great Barrier Reef, Bryde’s off Baja California and humpbacks in Hawaii, like the above photo of a mother and calf learning the ropes in the prolific cetacean nursery between the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai. But be advised, there are serious rules governing in-water encounters with whales in most parts of the region.
9. Soft Corals
As delicate as they are beautiful, soft corals of the order Alcyonacea (such as the above cluster in Indonesian’s Raja Ampat) exist without producing a hard skeleton like their stony cousins. They’re a signature sight at top Pacific dive destinations including Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysian Borneo and Palau.
10. Heavenly Beaches
From the storm-lashed coast of Northern California to the golden shores of Central America, black sands of Hawaii to the palm-fringed strands of Tahiti and beyond, the Pacific has created some of the most memorable beaches on Earth. And chances are good that you can still find an amazing one all to yourself.