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Written by Scuba Divers ~ DIVEIN.com’s Complete Guide to:

Top 10 Caribbean Islands for Scuba Diving

Z

Our divers at work

We gave our Scuba diving geek one job:
Check 20 Caribbean Islands and write reviews of the best.

The result is 10 of the best Caribbean Islands for Scuba Diving.

summer worsley

Summer Worsley

PADI instructor & Writer
Summer has been teaching scuba for the last 10 years

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh, I wanna take you to Bermuda, Bahama…

The Caribbean, a place where you can fulfill your island fantasies with a coconut rum in hand, kick back on postcard-perfect beaches, and indulge in some truly world-class scuba diving.

The region is one of the planet’s true gems and home to diving so good you’ll book your next trip the moment you get back home. But with more than 7,000 islands, 13 sovereign island nations, and 12 overseas territories, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking your Caribbean diving destination.

To help you choose between great and greatest, here’s our round-up of the best Caribbean islands for scuba diving.

Top 10 Caribbean Islands for Scuba Diving

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

The largest of the US Virgin Islands, little St. Croix is only 22 by 7 miles. The island has a history of trade and industry and, at one point, St. Croix was the wealthiest island in the Caribbean, a result of its slavery-fuelled “plantation economy.” This practice ended on the island only after the 1848 slave rebellion prompted the Governor-General to pass laws abolishing slavery.

Nowadays, St. Croix is a key tourism hotspot and became part of the US Virgin Islands after the government purchased the island from Denmark in 1916. NBA player, Tim Duncan was born in St. Croix and Alexander Hamilton grew up here.

Why we love scuba diving here?

One of the best things about diving in St. Croix is how much diversity the waters contain. More than 500 marine species including fishes, turtles, seahorses, octopuses, rays, sharks, eels and more live in St. Croix’s reefs. Visibility ranges between 18-30 meters (60-100ft) and the water temperature averages a balmy at 26°C/80°F.

Diving hotspots include the Butler Bay wrecks, Salt River Canyon, Frederiksted Pier, and Cane Bay — the latter two are commonly listed among the world’s best dive sites. St. Croix fulfills the needs of all divers and is the perfect place for beginners, seasoned divers, nature spotters, and underwater photographers alike.

Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010 when the country dissolved and is now a special municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Regardless of its political status, Bonaire is a favorite among land-loving tourists and divers alike.

With near-perfect weather, because the island’s location prevents hurricanes from hitting, Bonaire is ideal to visit year-round. The national airport is dubbed Flamingo Airport after the 10,000-strong population of the birds who call Bonaire home. Approximately 20 percent of Bonaire’s land and 100 percent of its waters are designated national parks and are therefore protected. The municipality is considered a rare natural gem.

Why we love diving here?

The fact that Bonaire’s government officially printed license plates that read “Diver’s Paradise” should tell everything all you need to know. The smooth weather and protected waters mean that its diving spots are pure and often seem untouched by human intervention.

There are more than 400 species of fish alone, the majority of which are colorful and a feast for photographers. A 2018 poll listed Bonaire as the best dive spot for beginners, conservation, freediving, macro diving, shore diving, and snorkeling. Top dives include the famous 1000 Steps, the Hilmer Hooker wreck, and Bari Reef.

Read more about diving in Bonaire.

Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

Little Cayman was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503. Back then, it was known as Las Tortugas due to the dense population of turtles. This tiny little island is only 10 miles long and 1 mile wide with a population of less than 200, most of whom are expats.

The island’s official language is English. Little Cayman has one ATM, one grocery store, and a weekly barge that delivers essentials to islanders and tourists.
As the island is surrounded by the Cayman Trench, the water in between the islands is deep and unpredictable, there is no ferry service between islands. The only way between island is to fly on Cayman Airways Express.

Why we love diving here?

Regardless of the island’s size, diving sites around Little Cayman is noted for what its waters have to offer. Diving is almost synonymous with this island and sub-aqua activities are the main attraction.

Famous dive sites include the Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson’s Reef. Little Cayman’s waters are thick with marine life including a variety of fish, crabs, lobsters, moray eels, sharks, and turtles. It’s an excellent island for beginner divers, with top-rated visibility between November and April. Jackson’s Bight, a favorite spot, is revered for its exploration opportunities with chutes and tunnels for divers to peek into and suss out.

Read more about Diving in The Caymans Islands.

Saba, Caribbean Netherlands

As with Bonaire, Saba is one of the islands from the former Netherlands Antilles but is now a special municipality of the Netherlands.

It’s believed that Christopher Columbus first sighted Saba in 1493 but chose not to land on the island for fear of its rocky outcrops. Saba is actually a potentially active volcano and was once considered the highest point in the Netherlands. Both Dutch and English are official languages, though the latter is more dominant. The land area spans 13 square kilometers and just over 2000 inhabitants live here permanently.

Why we love diving here?

Saba is a volcanic island, so its land-side views and landscapes differ from other Caribbean dive spots. All of the reefs are protected and the island is known as the Unspoiled Queen.

The island’s rocky terrain makes it an interesting and occasionally challenging dive destination, something seasoned divers will welcome. But beginners are catered for too; the sites are diverse and there are a few easy spots to explore. The island’s weather is temperate and varies depending on the season. Popular sites include the horseshoe-shaped Seamount, Third Encounter, the Man O’ War Shoals and the Customs House Reef.

Roatan, Honduras

Roatan is the biggest of Honduras’ Bay Islands and also the most built-up. One of the best tourist attractions, West Bay Beach, won the popular vote for “best beach in Central America” in 2017 and 2018.

Roatan has a swashbuckling past and in the 17th century was home to more 5000 pirates, including famous names like Blackbeard and Henry Morgan. Today the indigenous people of Roatan, the Garifuna, are listed on UNESCO’s World Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Roatan is also known for its low cost of living, yet good quality of life, as well as easy accessibility throughout the island. You can find more than 400 registered taxis within the island’s 83 square kilometers!

Why we love diving here?

First and foremost, Roatan’s waters contain the second largest coral reef in the world — the Mesoamerican Reef (also known as the Great Mayan Reef). Spanning 700 miles, divers undoubtedly have a lot of areas to explore, discover and even learn to dive. Roatan suits divers of all experience levels and because there are so many spots to choose from, you get a lot of say in how deep or difficult you’d like your dives to be.

It’s a favorite for macro diving and conservation initiatives. Seahorses are a highlight while the El Aguila wreck is a must-see.

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is the largest island in the Carribean at 478 square km and one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world. The island’s name is translated from the original Mayan Ah Cuzamil Peten, meaning “the island of swallows.” Speaking of the Mayans, they were the first people to settle in Cozumel. In fact, the largest Mayan ruin — San Gervasio — can be found in the center of the island.

If you’re not too busy diving, try to time your visit to coincide the Holy Cross Festival, a celebration that marks Casimiro Cardenas’ arrival on the island after fleeing a brutal attack in his hometown Saba.

Why we love diving here

Stunning beaches aside, Cozumel is a favorite because it’s an all-year dive spot with a reputation for easy drift dives. It also features a diverse and colorful population of marine life, including turtles, rays, sponges and sharks.

Cozumel is one of the most popular and frequently visited diving destinations in the world, which can be enticing for inexperienced divers worried about submerging themselves in isolated waters. The sea at the southern end of the island is protected and it’s a stellar spot for photographers. Top dive sites include Columbia Deep, Barracuda Reef, and the C-53 wreck.

Andros, Bahamas

Andros Island is the largest in the Bahamas, but also the most secluded. Though it’s home to some 8000 inhabitants, a large portion of the island remains unexplored and untouched by humans. It’s a fascinating landscape, featuring the world’s largest collection of blue holes.

Bonefishing is popular here as the island’s landscape is perfect for it. Another attraction is the mysterious Lusca — a mythical 75-foot half octopus-half shark said to live in the many blue holes scattered across the island. There’s also an urban legend that Captain Morgan buried his famed treasure northwest of Andros.

Why we love diving here?

The waters of Andros are dramatically diverse in their form and appeal. For one, there’s the Andros Barrier Reef, the third-largest of its kind. Andros boasts approximately 164 variations of fish and coral. You’ll be able to dive with sharks, octopuses, turtles and large populations of schooling reef fishes, among others.

If you’re lucky, you may even see or dive with a few dolphins. There are also three wrecks for observation and exploration: the wreck of the Potomac, the Marian, and the LCM Barge. The blue holes offer a significantly different diving experience for those unaccustomed to them. Some of the blue holes are found inland — sure to be an unforgettable diving experience.

Read more about Diving in Bahamas

Dominica

This island is known for its beautiful terrain and is one of the mountainous locales in the Caribbean with dense rainforests and rugged landscapes. Not to mention the hot springs and spas — a result of Dominica’s volcanic activity.

In 1978, Dominica gained independence from Great Britain and is now part of the Commonwealth. Because of British colonization, English is the official language spoken. Even if you have never traveled to Dominica before, there’s a chance you’re familiar with some vistas because the majority of Pirates of the Caribean: Dead Man’s Chest was filmed on the island.

Why we love diving here?

Dominica has many, many dive spots and it’s unlikely that any of them will bore you. There’s something for everyone. The most popular spot is the Champagne Reef — the perfect spot for both scuba divers and snorkelers. It gets its name from the streams of bubbles caused by volcanic emissions underwater.

L-abymes is revered as a beginner’s diving spot while the Toucari caves are worth exploring if you’re adventurous and experienced. Dominica is also known for its whales, giant barrel sponges, and gorgonians.

St. Vincent, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

St. Vincent is the largest island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is considered the country’s mainland. It’s a volcanic island with its highest peak, La Soufrière, last erupting in 1979.

St. Vincent has a history of war and bloodshed, as it was a key battleground between the native populace, the French, and the British in the 18th century. Now the nation is an independent commonwealth country with approximately 130,000 residents. Almost all of St. Vincent’s beaches feature black sand. Like Dominica, this island was the location for Pirates of the Caribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Why we love diving here?

St. Vincent could be among the best macro diving spots in the world. It gained the nickname “muck diving heaven” thanks to the lava that has blended with the water and the proliferation of tiny critters hiding in the nutrient-rich sands. Visibility sits at a welcoming 30m/100ft, and there are sites for all skill levels around the island where it’s possible to see an array of fish, turtles, seahorses, eels, crabs and even sharks.

New Guinea Reef and Anchor Reef are famous for their black coral, and The Wall is another impressive site based on the sheer size of it. Bat Cave is a dive for the experienced and adventurous. It’s worth noting that St. Vincent has many dive shops for you to indulge in.

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

Last, but certainly not least, is the sorely underrated and overlooked island of Grand Turk. First established by Bermudian salt collectors in 1681, it became the capital of Turks and Caicos almost a century later in 1766. A landmark is the 60-foot Grand Turk Lighthouse which was built in the UK and shipped to Grand Turk in pieces. History boffins have much to enjoy here

Because of the island’s diverse culture, its main currency is the US dollar. A fun fact is that nudity is banned in Grand Turk; the opposite of the law throughout the rest of the Caribbean.

Why we love diving here?

Diving is one of the main attractions in the Turks and Caicos as a whole thanks to the country’s abundance of walls, reefs, and shipwrecks. Grand Turk is sunny all year round and hosts high turtle populations. You might also spot sharks, rays, and dolphins. The Columbus National Marine Park is an eternal favorite and a great place to start your Grand Turk diving adventure.

Check out Amphitheatre, The Aquarium, Library Reef, and Tunnels, all popular dive sites for good reason.

No matter where your Caribbean diving adventure takes you, you’re sure to come across some stunning underwater vistas, rare creature encounters, and plenty of white sand beaches and bays to keep you happy.

These ten islands are our favorites for scuba diving in the Caribbean, what are yours? We’d love to hear from you so drop us a comment below!

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