Ready to take the plunge and become a PADI Open Water Diver? Choosing between a warm water or cold water location to get certified can be tricky, especially if travel is involved. As you begin to plan where you’ll complete your PADI Open Water Diver Course, use the below information to help you decide what will work best for you.

Whether your first breaths underwater are taken while gliding over a coral reef or while exploring a kelp forest, learning to dive is a life-changing experience.


With more than 6,600 PADI Dive Shops around the world, learning to dive is possible in almost every nook and cranny of our blue planet. Being open to learning to dive in both warm water and cold water environments will automatically present you with so many incredible location options.

You’ll first need to decide if you’re going to learn to dive in your local area or if you’ll travel to a new dive destination. If learning to dive locally, the water temperature and conditions will obviously depend on where you live. For instance, those that live in Egypt have warm water coral reefs of the Red Sea to explore, while those living in California have cold water kelp forest diving in their backyard. Regardless of the water temperature, learning to dive in your local area can help you to gain priceless knowledge about dive sites and marine life found there, setting you up for success on all future dives in the area.

Traveling to a new warm or cold water location to learn to dive also comes with many positives like getting to explore an entirely new place above and below the surface. Incorporating the PADI Open Water Diver course into your next vacation will really take your trip to the next level – whether your travel plans take you to an island in the Maldives or the fjords of Norway.

Visit PADI Travel to start planning your dive holiday.

Marine Life

The opportunity for a student diver to observe incredible marine life during their first open water dives is likely – in both warm water and cold water environments. No matter where in the world you choose to slip beneath the surface, you’re bound to encounter unique and wonderful marine life.

Warm water dive locations around the world are home to an amazing variety of iconic marine life. Glide with manta rays in Bali, be dazzled by the colors of the great barrier reef, say hello to sea turtles in Costa Rica, be dwarfed by goliath groupers in Florida, and so much more.

Cold water dive locations are also home to some of the most sought-after marine life by divers in the world. Twirl with sea lions in the Channel Islands, spot sea dragons in southern Australia, gawk at giant pacific octopus in Canada, observe the sardine run in South Africa, and so much more.


Water clarity, or how far a diver can see while underwater, is a key characteristic of every dive. The visibility at a dive site can even change throughout the day and definitely throughout the year depending on factors like currents, storms, waves, upwelling, and run-off. Both warm water and cold water locations around the world offer a wide range of visibility levels.

Some of the most outstanding visibility can be found in warm water tropical locations, like Tonga, the Cayman Islands, and Malaysia. Additionally, cold water destinations like Scotland, Norway, and Iceland are so renowned for visibility, you might even forget you’re underwater for a second. Cold water diving in fresh water lakes around the globe – from Missouri to Switzerland – also provide opportunities for student divers to experience incredible underwater visibility.


Being introduced to diving in warm water or cold water will provide unique opportunities to feel extra prepared in all environments as you move forward in your diving journey. No matter the location, in the PADI Open Water Diver course, under the guidance of your professional PADI Instructor, you’ll learn important safety concepts and skills.

The water temperature (and related conditions) that are associated with a dive location will play a part in some unique characteristics of your training dives. In warm water locations, divers might be faced with strong currents or surge that will require extra knowledge and skills. In cold water locations, divers will need gear like hoods, gloves, extra-thick wetsuits, or even dry suits. (Your cold water dive instructor might recommend the PADI Dry Suit Diver Speciality Course.) The challenges that both warm water diving and cold water diving present will only help you feel more prepared as a diver, ready to explore the depths of our blue planet.

Weather learning to dive in a cold water location or a warm water location seems like the right fit for you, we know that you’ll have a positive experience exploring the underwater world as a diver for the first time. Get started with PADI eLearning or simply locate a PADI dive shop using our Dive Shop Locator. Happy diving!

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