The holidays are approaching, and while that usually means hot chocolate, large meals and family time, this time of year also brings blizzards, ice storms, and freezing temperatures for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s face it, December and January can be frankly overwhelming for the toughest of us.

Are you ready for some underwater stress relief? Take a break from it all with the best scuba diving destinations for the holidays. Whether you travel over December 25th or take a vacation immediately following the festivities, these 15 destinations are in peak form at this time of year.

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Norway

1. Norway

A cold water destination, Norway offers some pretty noteworthy winter experiences. From October to February, pods of orcas patrol the coast and local dive operations offer orca watching and snorkeling trips.

To make Norway even more appealing, December is also known as the best month for spotting humpback whales in Norwegian waters. These large creatures follow the herring track along the Kaldfjord, a sheltered area outside of Tromsø. After the end of December, they tend to move back into the open ocean.

Book a liveaboard (and pack a drysuit) if you want to swim with orcas this holiday season.

Note: A Dry Suit Diver certification, Advanced Open Water Diver certification and Enriched Air (Nitrox) Diver certification are beneficial if you are planning this trip (and required by some operators).

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Chuuk Truk Lagoon

2. Chuuk Lagoon, Federated States of Micronesia

One of the best wreck diving destinations in the world and one of the best scuba diving destinations for the holidays, December and January are great months to visit Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia. During World War II, more than 200 aircraft and 60 ships were sunk in this lagoon during an Allied attack on the Japanese naval base. Today, Chuuk is a Japanese memorial, but more than 50 of these wrecks are open to scuba divers.

The peak season for this part of the South Pacific is from October to April, and during these months, you can expect dry conditions and warm water temperatures. You’ll find both dive resorts and liveaboards in Chuuk, making this a wonderful option for wreck divers looking for warm water over the holidays.

Note: Chuuk is also a mecca for technical divers as some of the wrecks are below recreational dive limits. If you are thinking about getting tec certified, it’s well worth it prior to your trip!

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Maldives

3. Maldives

Imagine spending the holidays on a pure, white sand beach looking over crystal clear waters. Famous for whale sharks and manta rays, the 1200 islands of the Maldives represent a scuba diving paradise. The waters around this island country are defined by a series of pinnacles (thilas) and channels (kandus), which draw in pelagic species from the open Indian Ocean. Because of this geography, currents can be quite strong and many of the dive sites are ideal for drift diving.

Diving in the Maldives is accessible year-round, but from December to March, dry weather and calm seas dominate as the northeast monsoon arrives. This makes for great underwater conditions and comfortable water temperatures (77 – 86°F / 25 – 30°C).

All of the above combines to create a wonderful scuba diving destination that’s hard to beat during the holiday season.

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Thailand Similan Islands

4. Similan Islands, Thailand

It’s impossible to talk about the best scuba diving destinations for the holidays without mentioning the Similan Islands in Thailand! Only open from November to April annually, these islands along with Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon and Koh Tachai are some of the best scuba diving destinations in Thailand. During these months, the water is calm, and the weather is generally clear.

In addition to great weather, this time of year also brings frequent plankton blooms and an abundance of cleaner wrasse. These, in turn, attract manta rays and whale sharks as well as black and white-tipped reef sharks to dive sites like Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock.

Although you’ll need to travel to these islands by liveaboard, trips to the Similan Islands are comparatively affordable. Grab a spot on a 2-day trip or a 1-week vacation to enjoy scuba diving in Thailand and one of the best scuba diving destinations for the holidays.

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Palau

5. Palau

Palau has something for everyone. Shark diving, wrecks, beautiful soft coral reefs and exciting drift dives are sure to please. Plus, heavy currents sweep in pelagic species, like manta rays, reef sharks and sea turtles. And coral beds create a habitat for large schools of fish as well as macro species. Visiting Palau should be on every scuba diving bucket list.

You can dive Palau year-round, but October to April represents the peak season, making the holidays a great time to visit. If you pick the right weeks to visit, you might even get to see the famous parrotfish spawning event that takes place around the new moon. Liveaboards in the area generally feature special itineraries for the event.

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Raja Ampat Indonesia

6. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

One of the hottest scuba diving destinations! There’s still time to visit Raja Ampat before the end of the year. This part of Indonesia is famous for having the highest marine biodiversity on Earth – and that’s a pretty incredible claim to have! Huge schools of fish, colorful corals and macro creatures welcome divers to the underwater world. On any given dive, you might spot wobbegong sharks, epaulette sharks, manta rays, bobtail squid, pygmy seahorses and, even, whale sharks.

The diving season in Raja Ampat lasts from October to April. During these months, divers will enjoy clear weather and relatively smooth seas. In addition, diving during the high season gives you the greatest chance of seeing manta rays.

If you’re looking for a bit of adventure to end the year, set sail on a liveaboard or book a dive resort in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Galapagos Islands Ecuador

7. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are the stuff of legends. These far-flung islands have been discussed in science classes around the world for decades, making them one of the highest-ranking bucket list destinations ever. And, it’s easy to see why.

Whale sharks, penguins, marine iguanas, hammerhead sharks and mola mola are just a few of the animals you might log during a trip to the Galapagos. Topside, you’ll enjoy the stunning scenery and epic expeditions, following in the footsteps of Darwin himself.

June to December brings the dry season to this part of Ecuador. With that comes colder temperatures above and below the surface, but that’s great news for animal activity. The holidays are really one of the best times of the year to dive into this archipelago.

Help this year go out with a bang, and book your trip to the Galapagos Islands today.

Top Holiday Destinations Scuba Diving Hawaii USA

8. Hawaii, USA

“Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas day. That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway,” crones Bing Crosby as he transports us to Hawaii in his song “Mele Kalikimaka.” It might seem a far off reality, but this year, you can make those musings your actuality with a scuba diving vacation to the Aloha State.

Hawaii is a fantastic diving destination year-round, and celebrating the holidays in a tropical climate just sounds right. Warm temperatures, sandy beaches and swaying palm trees will greet you above the surface. Underwater, you’ll find manta rays, tropical fish and even the chance of spotting a passing humpback whale.

scuba diving boat in turks and caicos

9. Turks and Caicos

When discussing the best scuba diving destinations for the holidays, you can’t miss Turks and Caicos off the list. The clear, turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos are a scuba diver’s dream. This area features a vast, thriving coral reef ecosystem and lots of underwater walls to explore. Whether you are looking for breathtaking underwater scenes or wrecks, Turks and Caicos is a great option. It’s impressive and accessible to every level of diver.

Plus, diving in Turks and Caicos is a year-round affair as the islands boast approximately 350 days of sunshine. In December, temperatures will average 29-32°C/85-90°F, and there is practically no chance of hurricanes.

For a super romantic or all-levels scuba holiday, join a liveaboard trip around these sparsely populated islands.

the best diving destinations for the holidays - belize

10. Belize

From Shark Ray Alley to the Blue Hole, Belize is home to any number of famous dive sites. Diving from this coastal country gives you access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest such reef in the world. Thanks to this wonder, Belize is home to a healthy population of stingrays, nurse sharks and reef life. It also hosts whale sharks from April to June.

In December, Belize enjoys a balmy climate that’s ideal for relaxing on the beach and warm water diving. There’s little to no rain during the last month of the year and visibility tends to be very good.

If you’re looking for well-equipped dive resorts or great liveaboards and an easy diving trip, Belize would make a quality destination for your trip this December.

best holiday diving destinations - socorro revillagigedo archipelago mexico

11. Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico (Socorro)

Situated 240 miles (390 kilometres) off the coast of the Baja Peninsula, the Revillagigedo Archipelago (often referred to as simply the Socorro Islands) offers some of the best diving in Mexico. This outcropping of islands in the Pacific Ocean attracts huge numbers of pelagic species, from oceanic manta rays to humpback whales. On any given dive trip, you might also have the chance to dive with hammerhead sharks, dolphins and whale sharks.

December falls at the beginning of the Socorro Islands diving season, which runs from November to May. During these months, divers enjoy calm sea conditions and sunny weather. Whale sharks and manta rays tend to be easier to spot during this season, especially around the full moon.

If you’re an advanced diver who wants to visit an epic, liveaboard-only destination over the holiday season, the Socorro Islands in Mexico should be at the top of your list.

View from the side of a big Thresher shark in Malapascua, Philippines

12. Philippines

The Philippines offers a diverse underwater world that perfectly complements the holiday season’s spirit of wonder and exploration. With over 7,000 islands, it can provide a memorable holiday dive vacation year after year. Discover the bustling marine life in the Luzon region, where beginners and seasoned divers alike can spot macro life and enjoy easy beach entries.

Advanced divers looking to discover the area’s history can explore Subic Bay, where sunken WWII warships have become vibrant artificial reefs teeming with turtles, fish species, and sea snakes. You can celebrate the holidays in the Philippines beneath the waves, swimming alongside thresher sharks, whale sharks, and dancing schools of sardine.

A group of sharks cruise the waters of Cuba, gliding over a coral reef

13. Cuba

In Cuba, the essence of the holidays is reflected in the warmth of the locals and the inviting Caribbean Sea. A healthy and protected reef awaits, ready to make your dives eventful and mark your holidays as unforgettable.

Although divers can explore the waters all around Cuba, one of the most sought-after destinations in the Gardens of the Queen (Jardines de la Reina). Considered an exclusive opportunity and a liveaboard-only destination, these waters are home to a pristine coral reef and a load of very curious sharks. Divers can even jump in with crocodiles in the area. Untamed interactions are the norm here due to the preservation of these ecosystems, establishing Cuba as an invaluable gift for eco-conscious divers during the holiday season.

A school of fish swims through a cave in Costa Rica

14. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

If you are looking for a unique diving holiday, Cocos Island presents an exceptional destination wrapped in wild currents and thrilling seascapes. Accessible only by a liveaboard trip from the coast of Costa Rica, this island offers advanced divers the shark adventure of a lifetime, complete with boulders, pinnacles, seamounts, and other bustling marine life.

While the island delivers rain and currents year-round, the winter months shine with superb visibility and the presence of manta rays and schooling hammerheads. Opt for a holiday season that exchanges traditional festivities for the thrill of a Cocos Island expedition.

A hammerhead shark swims over white sand in the Bahamas

15. Bahamas

The Bahamas are perfect for explorers looking to add excitement to their holidays. From James Bond wrecks to thrilling shark dives, the region caters to every diver’s wish list.

During the holiday season, the Bahamas becomes even more special. The cooler months bring peak shark activity, inviting divers to enjoy festive underwater encounters with tiger sharks and hammerheads. The variety of sites, ranging from the shallow reefs of the Abacos to the deep walls of San Salvador, mean this country can be dived from land or liveaboard.

Book Your Trip With PADI Travel

Are you considering an underwater adventure over the holidays? Visit PADI Travel to find and book the perfect scuba diving vacation for you. We have some epic deals to save you money on your end-of-the-year trip.

Share This

Related Posts