World's Best Dives: Top 10 Weekend Dive Destinations | Sport Diver

World's Best Dives: Top 10 Weekend Dive Destinations

Need help planning your next weekend scuba diving trip? Don't know where to dive next? Whether you're looking for a vacation that's close to home or one that requires a bit more travel, we've got 10 suggestions for your next dive trip.

Grand Bahama

No. 1 Grand Bahama
The big advantage to the Bahamas is that you don’t lose a day — or any time at all — if you travel back to Florida by sea. The high-speed ferry Balearia departs Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale at 8 a.m. every day but Wednesday, and starts the three-hour return from Freeport at 7 p.m. Althea Johnson, of UNEXSO dive resort, says that most divers start with the Saturday-morning dolphin dive, and in the afternoon do the Caribbean reef shark feed. “If you’re looking for big animals, it’s definitely the way to go,” she says. On Sunday, if the boat captain elects to do so, divers can see the 230-foot Theo’s Wreck, at 103 feet deep, or Sea Star II, a 172-foot freighter at 93 feet deep — all before saying goodbye.

Masa Ushioda/

Cozumel, Mexico

No. 2 Cozumel, Mexico
Life on Cozumel is defined by diving, and for those touching down for just a weekend, this means the extra attention to details makes shorter trips seamless. The island sees direct flights from a lot of airports you’d expect — Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Newark — plus a few you might not, namely Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Dive with Martin, a locally based outfitter, wants visitors to bypass bag-weight restrictions, luggage fees and waiting at suitcase carousels, so they include free gear use on all dive trips. Their boats also get a jump-start by departing at 7:30 a.m. to be the first on the reefs at Cozumel’s classic sites such as Palancar Reef, home to huge coral pillars thousands of years old.

Shawn Rener


No. 3 Aruba
It’s one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations — and higher traffic means visitors benefit from more air-travel choices. Multiple carriers fly direct from major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Most weekenders flock to the beaches, but those with C-cards kick back by kicking among wrecks: the 240-foot Jane Sea cement freighter, a pair of intentionally sunk airplanes, and the most famous, the 420-foot SS Antilla. For divers seeking turtles and other marine life, J.P. Fang, owner of JADS Dive Center, points out that the island has lots of choices when it comes to reefs; his favorite is Baby Beach. “It’s a drift dive close to the southern tip of the island where lots of nutrients flow past, so it’s common to see eagle rays and stingrays.”

Howard Moss/Alamy

La Paz, Mexico

No. 4 La Paz, Mexico
There are direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego to San Jose del Cabo, only 22 miles from Cabo San Lucas. From there, it’s two hours via shuttle to La Paz, but it takes only one call or email to arrange the entire journey. “We get a reservation, and we take care of the hotel, the diving and how you’ll reach us,” says Ricardo Fifield, manager of La Paz’s Cortez Club. “The main attraction year-round is sea lions,” he adds. It’s a great spot for interactions thanks to water temps in the high 80s and, from July to November, visibility averaging 100 feet. From October to February, it’s whale-shark season. Fifield says that encounters are almost guaranteed. And the sharks keep good company. He says, “We often see mobula rays feeding on the same plankton as the whale sharks, and dolphins in the same area — it’s amazing.”

Greg Lecoeur

Puerto Rico

No. 5 Puerto Rico
“People don’t want big changes in their currency, time or diet if they’re traveling for just a few days,” says Arnaud Erhart, owner of Isla Nena Scuba on Vieques, 30 minutes via puddle jumper from Puerto Rico’s east coast. For Americans, especially East Coast residents, this island is convenient for all these reasons — plus the fact that the San Juan airport is a major Caribbean hub. From there, three carriers offer daily flights to Vieques. Erhart’s favorite site is Mosquito Pier, a man-made breakwater home to green and hawksbill turtles, southern stingrays and goliath grouper. “The best part,” he says, “is that you can leave New York around 8 a.m., and by 1:30 in the afternoon, you’re here, in the water.” For weekend travelers, that’s one big change that’s welcomed.

Ty Sawyer

Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

No. 6 Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras
It’s easy to think that this exotic-sounding locale is too far for a weekend jaunt, but flights to Roatan from Miami are less than two hours — you can make direct hops from Atlanta and Miami. The trick is that if traveling for just a few days, divers will likely have to connect through San Pedro Sula, a mainland city, for one leg of the trip. But the payoffs are many: At Tobri Divers Resort, motor times to dive sites are roughly seven minutes or less. Plus the island stretches only 33 miles long, so it’s all easy to access. From Tobri, divers looking for night life can taxi to West Bay, 25 minutes away. If guests stay until Monday, they’re on island for Sunday night’s festivities, crab races and fire-dancing performances.

Greg Lecoeur

Oahu, Hawaii

No. 7 Oahu, Hawaii
The five-hour flight from California makes Oahu a destination better suited for a three-day weekend, but it is convenient nonetheless — especially if you’re trying to squeeze in dives during the family holiday. Most dive trips start early, around 8 a.m., so divers can rejoin the nondiving members of their party for other activities by mid-morning. Some of the island’s most popular underwater attractions are the turtle-cleaning stations at sites like Nautilus Reef, where divers are almost guaranteed to see 700- to 800-pound turtles, plus 250 species of reef fish. Topside, Oahu is also popular for its museums and World War II history — it’s far more than just wrecks and reefs. But it’s those dive sites that are worth the ocean crossing.

David Fleetham

Catalina Island, California

No. 8 Catalina Island, California
“It’s 26 miles to Catalina from the 405,” says Tina Kennedy, owner of Catalina Scuba Luv, of the distance from Los Angeles’ often-packed freeway to her pocket of paradise. It’s an easy choice for day-trippers, but about half the folks ferrying over stay for the weekend. That’s enough time to squeeze in at least 10 dives — from what is possibly the country’s most famous shore dive, Casino Point, to more-remote spots accessible only by boat. That’s plenty of opportunity to pack a logbook with kelp dives and encounters with sea bass, garibaldi, sea lions, and more.

Matthew Meier

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

No. 9 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The Fort Lauderdale airport is 10 minutes by taxi from the Atlantic shore and dive resorts like Sea Experience. “You don’t need a rental car,” says Bill Cole, owner and boat captain for the resort. As a dive destination, Fort Lauderdale is known for reefs but more so for wrecks. One of the area’s most popular sites is Hog Heaven, a 180-foot barge sitting next to a second barge, concrete culverts, an airplane wing, and a radio tower covered in soft coral. Cole likes the site because divers can spread out, and because it provides prolific habitat for animals like eagle rays, tarpon and turtles. Says Cole, “You don’t know what you’re going to see there, but there’s always something big.”

Ty Sawyer

Grand Cayman

No. 10 Grand Cayman
Nonstop flights connect a number of U.S. cities to Grand Cayman. Once you’ve landed, it’s easy to feel worlds away. “You can be at a totally isolated area — a small beach all to yourself — within minutes,” says Sergio Coni, of Don Foster’s Dive Cayman. But of course, most divers want to see the reefs. “We get a lot of people who come for three to four days,” says Coni. “They arrive and dive Friday night, squeeze in as much as possible on Saturday and Sunday, and then parasail and kayak on Monday.”

Ellen Cuylaerts

Caradonna Destination Guide

Explore the World

Plan your next getaway, and get awesome dive deals and travel tips on 10 destinations featured in Caradonna Dive Adventure’s Must-Dive Destination Guide:

Matjaz Boncina


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