The Caribbean is both a quintessential vacation destination and well-established scuba diving hotspot. But, with so many destinations spread across thousands of kilometres, it can be more than a little tricky to plan the perfect trip. 

To give you a helping hand, we’ve combined our expertise and knowledge of this iconic diving destination into an inspiring guide that includes what marine life, accommodation, conditions, and type of diving to expect. 

So keep reading to discover all you need to know before booking your dream dive getaway to the Caribbean. 

Different diving experiences in the Caribbean

There are many tempting underwater experiences to discover in this diverse region, including countless world-class Caribbean dive sites, ensuring divers of all interests and certification levels can enjoy the getaway of their dreams.

Caribbean coral reefs

At a glance…

  • The Caribbean sustains around 10% of the world’s coral reefs
  • Coral reefs are typically better on the protected leeward coasts
  • Home to the planet’s second largest barrier reef system
Exploring a beautiful reef in Belize
Exploring a beautiful reef in Belize

The Caribbean may not be the first place you think of when it comes to coral, but this region actually sustains around 10% of the world’s coral reefs. In fact, many of the islands have fringing reefs, particularly on the leeward side where conditions allow corals to develop. The health and vibrancy of these reefs varies between destinations, with some noteworthy spots offering colourful, sun-soaked coral gardens at satisfyingly shallow depths. In the west of the Caribbean four coral atolls and the planet’s second largest barrier reef system – the mighty Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – which touches the coasts of Mexico, Belize and Honduras

Shore diving in the Caribbean Sea

At a glance…

  • Fringing reefs and volcanic topography create quality sites close to shore
  • St Lucia and Dominica are home to some world-class shore dives
  • Bonaire is the undisputed shore diving capital of the world
Diving in Bonaire – the shore diving capital of the Caribbean
Diving in Bonaire – the shore diving capital of the Caribbean

In many people’s minds, the Caribbean is synonymous with a laid-back, stress-free lifestyle – and in some destinations, the diving is no different. Surrounded by fringing reefs and dramatic volcanic topography, several islands offer breathtaking dive sites just a few fin-kicks from the shore. Destinations such as St Lucia and Dominica both offer one or two renowned shore dives, but it’s the island of Bonaire that can rightly claim to be the undisputed shore diving capital of the world. This incredible island is home to more than 50 accessible shore dives, all of which are clearly marked and thoroughly mapped.

Shark diving in the Caribbean

At a glance…

  • Whale sharks regularly gather on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
  • The Bahamas delivers the region’s most thrilling encounters
  • Tiger sharks, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and more
Sharks gather off the stern of a dive boat in the Bahamas
Sharks gather off the stern of a dive boat in the Bahamas

Shark diving is becoming one of the biggest underwater attractions for adventurous scuba divers visiting the Caribbean. Broadly speaking, the Caribbean’s marquee shark diving experiences can be divided into three regions – whale sharks in the west, powerful predators in the north, and reef shark sightings in the east. Some of these encounters are among the most reliable and exciting shark interactions in the world, particularly those in the Bahamas, Mexico, and Honduras. Bucket-list worthy species that can be encountered include tiger sharks, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, whale sharks, and Caribbean reef sharks, among others. 

Wreck diving in the Caribbean

At a glance…

  • Abundance of natural and artificial shipwrecks to explore
  • Top spots include the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands
  • Grenada is widely known as the wreck diving capital of the Caribbean
Diving the wreck of the Captain Keith Tibbetts, Cayman Brac
Diving the wreck of the Captain Keith Tibbetts, Cayman Brac

Comprising hundreds of islands scattered over thousands of kilometres, it’s no surprise that the Caribbean region has a rich seafaring history. Today, the seas remain a key mode of transport for locals and tourists alike, as well as for the islands’ extensive exports of sugar, fruits, and spices. And, as an obvious rule, the more marine traffic, the more wrecks – particularly so when considering the Caribbean’s confrontational colonial past and susceptibility to large tropical storms. What’s more, a plentiful selection of old, unused vessels ensures a constant supply of artificial reefs which are being put to good use throughout much of the region. The result is a plethora of natural and artificial shipwrecks for divers to explore during their time in the Caribbean, particularly around the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Grenada, as well as Anguilla, St Maarten, and St Barts.

Iconic Caribbean marine life

At a glance…

  • Over a thousand fish species are known to reside here
  • Mammals such as dolphins, manatees, humpbacks, and sperm whales
  • Macro marine life including batfish, frogfish, nudibranchs, and seahorses

The Caribbean Sea plays host to the highest concentration of marine biodiversity in the entire Atlantic Ocean. More than 12,000 marine species are known to reside here, including over a thousand types of fish – from grunts, groupers, and blue tangs, to mahi mahi, wahoo, barracuda, and sharks. Macro marine life is also on the cards in the Caribbean, with batfish, frogfish, nudibranchs, and seahorses hiding out amongst the coral, along with all kinds of crustaceans. St Vincent is one of the region’s stand-out destinations for smaller marine life, along with Saba, St Lucia, and Bonaire. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a sizable selection of marine mammals can be seen in these waters throughout the year, including dolphins, manatees, humpbacks, and sperm whales. 

Novices and non-divers

Adrenaline-fuelled shark diving and challenging offshore pinnacles aside, the Caribbean is well-suited to both novices and non-divers, making it a great place to start your underwater adventures or simply relax as others take the plunge. 

Activities for non-divers and surface intervals

  • History, culture, vibrant festivities, and volcanic landscapes 
  • Watersports like snorkelling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing
  • Resorts equipped with spas, swimming pools, and golf courses
One of the key attractions of a dive getaway to the Caribbean are the other activities on offer. The region is renowned for its sun-baked golden beaches, vibrant festivities, and relaxing rum-based cocktails, and there’s plenty more to be done here besides diving. The islands are characterised by dramatic and verdant volcanic landscapes, while the towns, cities and plantations are steeped in history and culture. On the coast of Central America, yet more ancient history can be discovered, alongside fascinating geological formations such as cenotes and amazing wildlife like caymans and jaguars. Belize is a particularly good adventure holiday destination on the mainland, while Dominica is a good alternative if you’re interested in the island experience. 

Of course, water-based activities are one of the most popular pastimes in the Caribbean, with snorkelling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing all readily available. Plus, many of the Caribbean’s luxury resorts have a wide range of recreational facilities including spas, swimming pools, golf courses, motorised watersports, and even water parks.

Learning to dive in the Caribbean

At a glance…

  • Favourable conditions for learning to scuba dive
  • Numerous shallow, sheltered dive sites
  • Top-quality tuition from experienced and understanding instructors

As an iconic vacation destination attracting millions of tourists every year, the Caribbean is well-versed in delivering unforgettable holiday experiences to a variety of visitors. In the same vein, the local dive industry caters to guests of all experience levels, offering facilities for absolute beginners, as well as more advanced underwater explorers and even technical divers. What’s more, most Caribbean destinations offer favourable conditions for learning to dive, with warm water, mild currents, and easy access to numerous shallow, sheltered dive sites. And with so many tourists trying scuba for the first-time here, nervous beginners can be confident they’ll receive top-quality tuition from experienced and understanding instructors. 

Liveaboard, boat charter, or resort

A liveaboard moored at the edge of the Great Blue Hole, Belize
A liveaboard moored at the edge of the Great Blue Hole, Belize

At a glance…

  • Resorts combine diving with outdoor exploration and cultural immersion
  • Liveaboards are well-suited to dedicated divers looking to maximise time
  • Charter a private yacht for the ultimate luxury experience

The islands of the Caribbean cater to all guests, offering a wide selection of accommodation options, on land or sea.

Large, luxurious hotels are common throughout much of the Caribbean, as are indulgent all-inclusive properties, though some destinations, such as Bonaire, favour smaller, self-catering accommodation. Thankfully, dedicated dive resorts can be found anywhere in the Caribbean with worthwhile underwater experiences. It goes without saying that a resort, hotel, or guesthouse, is going to suit travellers without sturdy sea legs and are generally the better option if you plan on combining scuba diving with outdoor exploration and cultural immersion. 

The concept of liveaboard diving is believed to have originated right here in the Caribbean, and many world-class liveaboard vessels continue to operate in the region. These vessels are often the best bet for dedicated divers, coming equipped with convenient scuba facilities and operating efficient routes to maximise your time in the Caribbean Sea. Charter yachts are also common in this renowned sailing destination, and are frequently “bareboat” experiences where you’ll have the entire vessel to yourself.


At a glance…

  • Seasons are similar between destinations but diving conditions vary
  • Dry season in the Caribbean runs from December through April
  • Wet season in the Caribbean runs from June through October
  • May and November can be seen as transitional months

The Caribbean covers a large geographical area, spanning thousands of kilometres and with hundreds of individual islands and numerous nations. As a result, the weather and diving conditions do vary between destinations. That said, the seasonal patterns remain relatively similar and only differ by a month or so at most. Broadly speaking, the dry season in the Caribbean runs from December through April, while the wet season runs from June through October. The months of May and November can be seen as transitional months, with each season starting or ending a little later, depending on prevalent meteorological factors. Tropical storms are common in the region, with the hurricane season largely coinciding with the wet season.

Air temperatures are typically in the mid to high 20Cs during the cooler dry season, climbing into the low to mid 30Cs during the wet season. Water temperatures are marginally lower than on land but follow a similar seasonal pattern, averaging around 27°C throughout the year. For the most part, Caribbean destinations can be dived year-round, with only serious storms having a significant and prolonged impact on scuba diving operations. 

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