Portugal is a stunning place to learn to dive. It’s blessed with beautiful coasts, remote islands, and eight dedicated marine reserves. The vibrant waters of the Atlantic Ocean are home to some incredible marine life. When scuba diving here, you have the opportunity to spot some of the “big stuff” and plenty “little things”. There’s always something to catch your eye. Whether you’re passing through caverns or investigating wrecks, Portugal has something for every level of diver.

Lisbon – Sesimbra & Peniche

The capital of Portugal is the perfect place to base yourself for a range of underwater explorations. Situated 25 miles/40km away is the beach town of Sesimbra. Here, the beaches are sheltered from the north swells, so you can dive year-round. Inside this protected area is Luiz Saldanha National Park. This park covers an area of approximately 53 square kilometers (20 square miles) and is home to more than 1,000 identified species.

Peniche is a little further from Lisbon, about 56 miles/90km, but is well worth the visit. You don’t want to miss the Ilhas Berlengas Nature Reserve, because it’s the oldest natural park in mainland Portugal. Comprised of three inlets, each offers amazing and unique flora and fauna experiences. To get to the marine reserve, you’ll need to leave from the Peniche Fort. But before leaving be sure to check out the fort!


Situated along the southern section of the Portuguese coast is Algarve. Algarve is much renowned for its picturesque clifftops with sheer drops and the incredible scuba diving on offer. You can search for giant squid in Lagos, or head to Smugglers Cove in Portimão to find cuttlefish, nudibranchs, and schools of bream and damselfish.

Also situated inside Algarve is Sagres, Portugal. Here the Martinhal Islets offer plenty of excellent diving. While exploring canyons and caves, be sure to keep an eye out for the common octopus in the chilly waters (19-21 Celsius/66-70 Fahrenheit).

the azores in Portugal

Madeira & The Azores

As autonomous regions of Portugal, the island of Madeira and the Azores should be included on every diving bucket list. Located in the middle of the Atlantic, these islands often see pelagic species passing through. Including some of everybody’s favorites, whales and dolphins. The islands are full of biodiversity. After enjoying the marine life, swimming in volcanic peaks, in grottos, and alongside shipwrecks should be next on your Portugal to-do list.

How to Learn to Dive in Portugal

There are three steps to learning to dive via the PADI Open Water Diver course. First, you’ll need to complete the knowledge development section of the course. This can be done from the convenience of your own home with PADI eLearning. Complete all the theory sections of the course at you own pace beforehand. This will mean more time spent in the waters off the Portuguese coast!

Next, you’ll need to connect with a PADI Instructor to complete your confined water and open water dives. This is the practical part of the class. Read the next section below on how to find a dive shop in Portugal to learn more about signing up for the in-water section of your Open Water Diver certification course.

How to Find Dive Shops in Portugal

We’ve talked about the scuba diving you can enjoy in Portugal; now let’s identify how you can find dive shops in the country. PADI has many ways to help. You can use PADI Travel or the PADI Dive Shop Locator, and in a few clicks, you will have identified a dive shop near you for your certification course. Simply search the area you’re interested in the search bar and browse through each shop until you find the right school.

Featured image courtesy of Pedro Oliveria, PADI Course Director at Haliotis.

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