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

12 Best Dive Sites in Antigua and Barbuda in 2022

Best known for its 365 beaches – one for every day of the year, Antigua’s diving scene is seriously underrated. Located at the northern end of the Caribbean chain, Antigua and Barbuda’s turquoise blue seas and white sands attract thousands of underwater visitors and residents.

From the offshore islands that decorate Antigua’s north coast to the barrier reef that flows along the south coast, to the sister island of Barbuda, there are a great variety of reefs offered by this sunny Caribbean island pair.

Since Antigua’s diving scene has not yet made it to the international stage, its dive operators have a laidback approach to the business of diving. That means they’re not in a rush and visitors to the island have the opportunity to see exactly what they came for.

From an abundance of reef sharks to visiting humpback and pilot whales, blooming colors of soft and hard corals, and spectacular dive sites, Antigua should be at the top of your diving bucket list.

By: Sylvia Jenkins

We gave our Dive Team one job:
Find the best and most popular Dive Sites in Antigua and Barbuda

Here you go, now you should be all set for your next dive trip to Antigua and Barbuda.

The Authors:
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Captains Anchor


Located right next to one of the most heavily sighted bays for Green and Hawksbill turtles, Captains Anchor is a great dive site for beginner to intermediate divers. As the name suggests, there is a famous anchor at 60ft, known to be from a 19th-century ship that ran aground while coming into shore. Under this great big anchor, giant Green moray eels are often sighted, and on top the reef you will often see some reef sharks cruising about.

Things to See:

The reef has many sand channels and medium ridges that form some small overhangs and walls for many sea creatures to hide. In the height of the turtle mating season, it is not uncommon to find a turtle tucked into one of these spaces, fast asleep!

A great dive site for lovers of macro photography as the bonus sighting on this dive site includes pipe fish hiding in the sandy channels.

Chimney


Located on the barrier reef known as Cades Reef, Chimney is a spectacular dive site for the intermediate to advanced diver, bottoming out at 85ft (26m).

As the barrier reef slowly tapers off into the deep, it comes to a point where the slope begins to dramatically drop off and on the best days, you can see up to 30 m (or 100ft) into the deep blue. This dive site follows along this ridge up to a small cave called “the chimney”.

Things to See:

While watching the reef below you, you will see many giant pufferfish and balloon fish hiding between the soft corals. If you venture over to some of the sandy plateaus just before the wall drops, you will most likely see some nurse sharks tucked away under some ledges and overhangs.

Out in the blue, it is not uncommon to have some reef sharks cruise up to the ledge, watching you from a curious distance, followed by some lovely pelagic fish in big schools, such as all varieties of Jacks.

Once you reach the chimney, you can look up into it from the cave mouth or from above the reef. There will most likely be some large lionfish hiding out and many other cave-dwelling fish such as the Glass Eye snapper and Soldier Fish.

Coral Gardens

This lovely dive site is located just behind the beautiful Cades Reef and is a great location for beginner divers. As the name suggests, it is a stunning site with garden-like features such as coral boulders located among the sandy patches and a beautiful high rising wall from 10m straight to the surface.

Things to See:

As you follow along the wall, make sure to look up and you will see the excitable triggerfish spinning around at the top of the reef, almost at the surface of the water. Then allow your eyes to follow down the sides of the wall and you will notice many little cuts and crevices in the reef itself where many Reef Lobsters and Coral Crabs are hiding out.

It is very common on this site to find an abundance of Nurse Sharks seeking some shade and a place to rest under these coral boulders or amongst the reef. If you look out into the sandy blue you may also see the Southern Stingray laying peacefully in the sand or looking for a tasty treat of small shellfish.

School House


As suggested by the name, this beginner dive site is best known for the abundance of varieties of reef fish swimming around in their great schools. Bottoming out at a modest 33ft (10m), this dive site follows along the sand channel and a small branching reef to your left, giving the diver an unobstructed view of the ocean in every direction.

Things to See:

The colors are vibrant. At this dive site, expect to find Southern Stingrays grazing on the sandy bottom or the patches of turtle grass. There is a great variety of reef fish found in their schools over the reef, such as Blue and Brown Chromis, Sergeant Majors and Creole Wrasse, not to mention the varieties of beautiful Damsel Fish.

Don’t forget to look among the crevices in the reef to find your spotted lobsters, Red and White Banded Shrimp and many varieties of Moray Eels.

Snapper Ledge


This dive site is an absolute favorite for the experienced diver in Antigua. An incredible stadium-like topography, where the reef rises from sand at 79ft (24m) to form a stunning wall around you. At the beginning of the dive, you might see some overhangs where some Caribbean Reef lobsters gather, and in great schools around you, it is common to see large Yellow Tail and Mahogany Snappers.

Things to See:

As you follow along the walls of the Stadium, be sure to look down at the colorful sponges and hard corals, but also out into the deeper sections as Reef Sharks often patrol these depths. Once you have toured one side of the wall, be sure to swim to the other side as there it is common to see those reef sharks and nurse sharks swimming through the sandy channel.

At this dive site, it is also common to see the resident Nurse shark named George (found out later to be a female!) who is curious and often will interact with cameras and the local dive guides.

Shark Bay

At 40ft (12m), this dive site is appropriate for beginner to intermediate divers as it follows along the shallower sloping edge behind Cades Reef. As the name suggests, it was named for the abundance of reef and nurse sharks who use to congregate here. But over time they have found refuge in other locations.

Things to See:

This dive allows you to drift along beautiful spreading reefs, where you can see both sandy patches and great long stretches of the reef. Because of its depth, it is common to spot some Caribbean Reef Octopus here (make sure to look for their cleaned shells and little homemade gardens!), among your usual reef suspects such as Trumpet Fish and Goatfish.

This is also a great site to see some Spotted Eagle Rays cruising along the sandy bottom looking for some lunch of Shellfish and conch, or if you are lucky, you might spot a few of them playing together.

Solomon’s Trail


Found a few miles further out to sea than your regular Cades Reef diving, this dive site is for the experienced diver looking for adventure. At 57ft (17m), this dive site can be experienced from many different angles, and to the uninitiated, looks like a completely new site every time.

Things to See:

Due to its location, a great many pelagic fish visit this dive site, and it is very common to see schools of Barracuda facing the prevailing currents. Horse Eye Jacks, Almanco Jacks, Bar Jacks, Amber Jacks, along with Rainbow Runners, Tunas and Mackerels are common visitors.

Pillars of Hercules


Located near the mouth of the great English Harbour of Antigua, the Pillars of Hercules is so named due to the outstanding rock face that surrounds this dive site. Carved by the wind and the waves, the sandstone has over time taken on the appearance of columns that are now holding up the cliff face. Due to its location being very near to shore, and the relatively shallow depth it provides 33ft (10m), this is a popular dive site for beginner divers as well as snorkelers and free divers.

Things to See:

Beneath these Pillars, you can find a dive site characterized by vibrant soft corals of yellows, reds and greens and a variety of colorful reef fish that live among them. Make sure to follow your dive guide as they take you on an adventure through the tabletops and soft corals. Prove you got good buoyancy and your guides may take you through a small swim through where you can see the feather dusters and Christmas tree worms decorating the roof of this partial cave.

Sunken Rock


A must-see for the advanced diver coming to visit Antigua. This stunning dive site is only available on days where the weather allows, as it is found on the southern corner turning towards the eastern coast of the island which can be subject to high wind coming from the Atlantic.

Things to See:

On the days that the weather permits, this is a beautiful dive site where depths can reach up to 98ft (30m) as it is a pinnacle reaching straight from the depths up to 24ft below the surface.

Following around this pinnacle you will be sure to see some large lobsters walking amongst the reef and may have some pelagic fish visiting from out of the blue. Around you are schools or very large Yellow-tailed snappers. Be sure to look out for some Nassau Groupers and Rockhinds.

Stingray City


Stingray City is a small sandy lagoon found on the Northern coast of Antigua, surrounded by a few patch reefs in the clearest turquoise water you have ever seen. On the sound of approaching boats, the Gigantic Southern Stingrays swim to this lagoon where visitors are invited to get into the water and play with them.

Things to See:

Stingray City is suitable for snorkelers and small children, as the depth can be as shallow as 3ft. These stingrays are very friendly and will swim amongst your legs and into your arms if you so desire.

Palmetto Point (Barbuda)

Not to forget Barbuda, Antigua’s twin island, located off the south coast of the shoreline, Palmetto Point is a dive site worth visiting. It begins as a barrier reef in the shallows and then it eventually peters off into depths of 50ft (15m).

Things to See:

Since this dive site has relatively shallow depths, it is suitable for intermediate to advanced scuba divers and free divers. On this site you can see many hard corals, such as Brain corals, Starlet corals and even in some protected areas you can find colonies of staghorn corals.

In the sandy patches you may find some Queen conch or Tritons Trumpet, along with some Southern Stingrays and Spotted Eagles Rays passing by.

Palaster Reef (Barbuda)

Located on the Eastern Coast of Barbuda, Palaster Reef is a long barrier reef that follows along the beautiful white and sandy coast of the bay known locally as the “Highlands”. From depths of 10m(30ft) to very shallow areas, this is a hot spot for marine life.

Things to See:

You can find Caribbean Reef Lobsters in abundance here, along with schools of Bermuda Chubs and Parrotfish. There are also many Green turtles that come into the reef and bask in the warm, shallow and clear blue waters.

On a very lucky day, you might get the chance to see the fleeting Tiger Shark or Bull Shark passing through the sandy channels!

Finished: 1:35pm.

Quick History of Antigua

Antigua is one half of the island nation Antigua and Barbuda, a sovereign entity in the Lesser Antilles that belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations. There is 25 miles separating these two with several smaller islands in an archipelago.

Antigua got its name from Santa Maria de la Antigua, a patron saint that Christopher Columbus honored when he explored the island in 1493. Antigua was officially colonized by England in 1932 with Barbuda following suit in 1678.

Antigua and Barbuda gained full independence from Great Britain in 1981.

Most of the population (ca. 95%) lives on Antigua. This is also the point of entry by air transport. It has beautiful beaches and several well-run all inclusive resorts.

Antigua is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. There are no issues in the daytime and very little to worry about in the evenings.

In August, the island holds its Carnival, celebrating the end of slavery. Every other day, meanwhile, there’s a celebration of the natural beauty of the ocean surrounding this paradise archipelago.

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