New Year's Eve is the world's biggest party that travels from time zone to time zone — pretty much everyone and every place parties this night. Casting about for a memorable way to celebrate New Year's Eve 2010 with a bang — and a dive or two? Here's a mini guide to our top 10 favorites.
The Place: Sydney, Australia
The Party Vibe: Sydney is the first major city to usher in the New Year. It's warm (seasons are reversed Down Under), you can bring your own alcohol, and a magical fireworks show lights up the sky over Harbour Bridge and the famed Sydney Opera House. Before the midnight boom and blast show, there are also aerial displays and a Harbour of Light parade that features 55 illuminated vessels. And the party goes on until dawn.
The Diving: If you thought Aussie diving was confined to the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland and big animal encounters off Western Australia, consider this: At Fish Rock Cave, along the northern coast of New South Wales, divers have the chance to encounter humpback whales, and turtles and sharks congregate off Lord Howe Island's Balls Pyramid. Leopard sharks are among the pelagic visitors to Julian Rocks Marine Park, near Byron Bay. All you need to celebrate in Oz is your mate and your favorite Australian lager.
The Place: Cozumel, Mexico
The Party Vibe: Live bands on the town plaza in San Miguel. Margaritas served in huge glasses. Traditional food like romeritos with shrimp and red mole sauce. It's a Sunday tradition in Coz for locals to gather in the plaza for live music, food and fun, but it turns into a raucous party on New Year's Eve.
The Diving: It's easy to get the party started underwater, too. The protected west coast of Coz has dozens of dive sites, each one packed with marine life, punctuated by dramatic coral formations and drenched in vibrant color. There are two easily accessible main reef systems, Colombia and Palancar, that start as plateaus in less than 30 feet of water and then drop off into the abyss.
The Place: Fiji
The Party Vibe: Fire dancers, Samoan drummers, hula girls and yummy tropical drinks served in a festive atmosphere. This South Pacific paradise offers New Year's Eve parties throughout the islands, and most feature pool or beach parties, light shows and entertainment. Some of the parties at the resorts and on live-aboard vessels are weeklong extravaganzas.
The Diving: Brilliant soft corals may be Fiji's signature dive attraction, but there's much more to the underwater story here. With more than 320 islands, divers never run out of options. The largest island of Viti Levu offers easy access to the widest range of sites, including the world-famous Beqa Lagoon and the high-octane shark encounters off Pacific Harbour, and has the most extensive diving infrastructure.
The Place: Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
The Party Vibe: The beach is the island's main street. A two-day party at one of the most famous places in the Caribbean, Foxy's. It's OK to sleep on the beach. And with BVI drinks such as the Pain Killer or Bushwacker, you're sure to remember this New Year's Eve party - or not.
The Diving: Playtime continues underwater off JVD at Pirate's Purchase, The Matrix and Rainbow Reef. The wreck of the Rhone off Salt Island is a must-dive for wreck lovers.
The Place: Key West, Florida Keys
The Party Vibe: A conch shell lowered from Sloppy Joe's Bar like the dropping of the ball in Times Square in New York City. Plus, spectacular fireworks over the Atlantic.
The Diving: Historic Key West is at the western end of the Keys and is protected from the harsh north and northeastern winds, which allows marine species to thrive. But the the 523-foot USS Vandenberg is also here. A former military troop transport that was converted to a missile-tracking ship, its massive radar dishes are one of the highlights of this dive.
The Place: Nassau, Bahamas
The Party Vibe: Colonial charm, casinos, and it's where U2, Al Green, Shakira, Widespread Panic and Missy Elliott have all either recorded or spent the holidays. The Bahamas Junkanoo street festival, celebrated on the day after Christmas through New Year's Day, is one of the world's best cultural events — read: costumes, drinking, music, drinking, eating, drinking.
The Diving: From walls to high-octane animal encounters, New Providence's dive sites are unsurpassed. The Tongue of the Ocean, a deep oceanic trench that drops to 6,000 feet and extends to the south for more than 100 miles, wraps around the western side of the island, providing mile after mile of stunning wall dives. N.P. also offers easily accessible shallow reefs and an armada of wrecks on both its north and southwest sides.
The Place: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
The Party Vibe: Family activities, including an early countdown for kids and a bounce house. Live entertainment on two stages. And at midnight, a fireworks show over the city's skyline.
The Diving: Off Florida's Gold Coast Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties there is a world-class collection of both natural and artificial reefs, such as Tenneco Towers. A favorite among local divers, these three oil drilling platforms embedded at a depth of 120 feet, with the shallowest top platform at 60 feet are thickly plastered in corals and sponges. Baitfish attracted to the rig in turn bring in mackerel and tuna.
The Place: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The Party Vibe: You can bring the kids. Lots of world-class restaurants and nightclubs. And if you want a ballroom bash, you can get that, too. Grand Cayman doesn't have the iconic fireworks-and-party-til-you-drop celebration that other islands host, but if you're looking for a family-oriented place for the holidays, this is one of the best islands for adult and kid fun.
The Diving: Grand Cayman has a huge diversity of sites, including plunging walls, dramatically chiseled reefs, and world-famous Stingray City, and the wildly popular wreck of the Kittiwake, which has turned into a fish party.
The Place: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Party Vibe: Live music, from Latin to rock and roll. Digital effects. A giant ferris wheel. And then there's the local tradition of tossing flowers into the water, asking for happiness, wealth and luck in the New Year. Early in the afternoon on New Year's Eve, more than two million people begin gathering on Copacabana Beach in Rio. The fireworks show is launched from the ships anchored just off the beach. It's traditional to wear white. And don't forget the champagne.
The Diving: About 90 minutes south of Rio, the picturesque fishing village Arraial do Cabo is the best diving in the area. These waters teem with marine life, including turtles, moray eels, queen angelfish and sea horses, and there are some wrecks to explore.
The Place: Honolulu, Oahu
The Party Vibe: Fireworks over Waikiki Beach. Proximity to lots of bars. The last major city to celebrate New Year's Eve. Perfect weather. The strip along the beach is closed to traffic and it becomes a block party with food, drinks and entertainment.
The Diving: Oahu's Hawaii Kai and Maunalua Bay boast the largest number of dive sites, including the Corsair wreck, Sea Cave and China Wall, with great diving all year. A little farther from Waikiki are the west side sites, including the classic two-dive combination, the Mahi minelayer wreck and the underwater lava tubes at Makaha Caverns.