As the saying goes, there’s no glory without sacrifice. Luckily, in this case, sacrifice means traveling to distant locations on well-appointed liveaboard diving boats, eating delicious foods, and spotting sought-after marine life. The glory in this story comes in the form of some of the best dive sites known to man.

Indeed, liveaboard diving opens up a world of adventure in the farthest-flung corners of our blue planet. It also provides an effortless way of exploring a large number of dive sites in a short space of time. The question is, where do you begin?

Keep reading for our pick of the 13 best dive sites in the world frequented by liveaboard scuba diving safaris.

Table of Contents

A scuba diver swims next to a giant whale shark in the Galapagos Islands, one of the best liveaboard locations for megafauna

1. Darwin’s Arch (Pillars of Evolution) – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Perhaps one of the most classic scuba liveaboard destinations, the Galapagos Islands serve up endemic species galore. In particular, Darwin and Wolf Islands on the far outer reaches of the archipelago are the highlight of any tour. While there are several notable dive sites around these two islands, one is more famous than the rest, namely the Pillars of Evolution (formerly known as Darwin’s Arch before its collapse in 2021). Schools of hammerheads, sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, eagle rays, Galapagos sharks, and perhaps a whale shark await when you make the journey to this incredible marine ecosystem.

  • Dive Type: Wall/Drift
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and whale sharks
  • When to Go: June to November for the best marine life. December to May for the best water conditions.

Hundreds of hammerhead sharks silhouetted below the ocean surface at Cocos Island, one of the world's top scuba destinations

2. Bajo Alcyone – Cocos Island, Costa Rica

The best place in the world for hammerhead shark diving, Bajo Alcyone at Cocos Island is a must-dive on any list of the best sites accessible by liveaboard boats. As an underwater seamount, which rises to 25m (82ft) below the surface, this site attracts dozens of hammerhead sharks throughout the year. You’ll also see manta rays, eagle rays, mobulas, and the occasional whale shark at this distant island. Simply descend to the top of the mount, then find a spot to wedge yourself into before taking in the action!

  • Dive Type: Seamount
  • Recommended Level: Advanced
  • Featured Creature: Scalloped hammerheads
  • When to Go: June to November for the best marine life. December to May for the best water conditions.

A giant manta ray swimming beneath the surface, and a top sight during liveaboard dive trips to the Revillagigedo Islands

3. Roca Partida – Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico

Known as Mexico’s “little Galapagos” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Revillagigedo Islands are a liveaboard-only scuba diving destination. During any liveaboard diving trip to the four islands, you’re sure to see amazing dive sites, but one site, in particular, always stands out above the rest. This is Roca Partida, a vertical wall that drops to 40m (120ft) as currents rage past, attracting pelagic species. Manta rays are the most famous visitors, but dolphins, hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, Galapagos sharks, and whale sharks also join the party.

  • Dive Type: Pinnacle
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Creatures: Manta rays, whale sharks, and hammerheads
  • When to Go: November to May

A tiny, pink pygmy seahorse hiding in coral in Raja Ampat, one of the world's best liveaboard diving holiday destinations

4. Cape Kri – Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Cape Kri is one of the dive sites that put Raja Ampat on the map. It currently holds the record for the most fish species recorded in a single dive. If that’s not enough to convince you that Cape Kri is one of the best dive sites in the world, we don’t know what is. Diving here is fairly easy. Firstly, jump into the warm water and drift along the healthiest coral you’re ever likely to see. Then, keep your eyes peeled for everything from tiny nudibranchs to Queensland groupers as big as small cars.

  • Dive Type: Sloping coral wall
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Creatures: Whitetip reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse, and giant groupers
  • When to Go: October to April

A hammerhead shark approaching the camera and a top marine life encounter while enjoying Red Sea liveaboard diving packages

5. Habili Ali Reef – St. John’s Island, Egypt

One of the best dive sites in the Red Sea, Habili Ali is one of St. John’s reefs and often features as a stop on Deep South liveaboard itineraries. Giant gorgonians and black corals populate the reef, while grey reef and silvertip sharks glide around the edges. Occasionally, schooling hammerhead sharks make an appearance along the western edge. Complete your dive by searching the overhangs and short tunnels for some smaller critters, or enjoy the abundance of colorful fish.

  • Dive Type: Coral Reef/Wall
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Featured Creatures: Grey reef, silvertip, and hammerhead sharks
  • When to Go: April to June or September to November

A huge school of giant trevallies on a coral reef at Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines, one of the best liveaboard dive trips

6. Amos Rock – Tubbataha Reefs, Philippines

Reachable only by liveaboard, Tubbataha Reefs National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to 360 species of coral, 600 fish species, 11 species of shark, as well as 13 whale and dolphin species. There are so many dive sites scattered around the two atolls that you must stay an entire week to explore all of them! But, one in particular stands out above the rest. That’s Amos Rock, a gorgonian-covered wall featuring a variety of soft corals and massive schools of fish. Mackerel, groupers, and snappers are a common sight, but the area is most famous for its large reef sharks.

  • Dive Type: Reef
  • Recommended Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Featured Creatures: Reef sharks, groupers, and massive schools of reef fish
  • When to Go: March to June

A scuba diver at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, which is one of the best trips in the world for swimming with giant tiger sharks

7. Tiger Beach – Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

If you want to dive with tiger sharks, there’s no better place than Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. Located an hour by boat from Grand Bahama Island, Tiger Beach acts as a magnet for these giant sharks. This is one of the most unique dive sites in the world, where you have the chance to watch tiger sharks swimming around in their natural habitat. Every day of the year, up to a dozen tiger sharks will show up and circle around you. If this isn’t enough of a rush, you’re also likely to see Caribbean reef, nurse, and lemon sharks during a dive at Tiger Beach. The site is quite shallow – around 6-10m (20-33ft) deep – and you’ll comfortably kneel on a sandy bottom while observing tiger sharks (some females reach up to 4.5m/15ft long).

  • Dive Type: Shark
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creature: Tiger sharks
  • When to Go: October to January

Dozens of Caribbean reef sharks in Cuba, which has some of the best Caribbean liveaboard diving at Jardines de la Reina

8. Pipín – Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

While Cuba may not come to the top of the mind when considering the best liveaboard diving destinations, the Gardens of the Queen (a.k.a. Jardines de la Reina) is one of the premier scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean. It’s also only accessible by liveaboard. Several dive sites are worth the trip, but at Pipín, you can see upwards of 30 Caribbean reef and silky sharks in a single dive. These sharks have no fear of humans due to decades of governmental protection, and they often approach and swim alongside divers.

  • Dive Type: Shark/Wall
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creatures: Caribbean reef and silky sharks
  • When to Go: December to April

A colorful display of fan corals in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, one of the best liveaboard dive destinations

9. North Horn – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

One of the most sought-after dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef, North Horn is located in the Osprey Reef. You might see grey sharks, silvertip sharks, rare hammerhead sharks, and the occasional tiger shark in a single dive. When currents allow, drift diving along the western wall reveals superb soft corals and gorgeous gorgonian sea fans. In addition, North Horn attracts numerous pelagic fishes. You can see barracuda, giant trevallies, mackerel, rainbow runners, and big dogtooth tuna. Magnificent eagle rays and manta rays might also glide by if you’re lucky. This is, without a doubt, some of the best liveaboard diving in the world!

  • Dive Type: Shark/Drift
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creatures: Grey, silvertip, hammerhead, and tiger sharks
  • When to Go: June to December

A whale shark swimming below the surface of the ocean, and a popular encounter for liveaboard scuba divers visiting Thailand

10. Richelieu Rock – Similan Islands, Thailand

Part of Thailand’s Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock is located 124 miles (200km) northwest of Phuket. Here, you’ll swim among gorgeous soft corals, plentiful critters, and larger species, such as barracuda, manta rays, and huge groupers. This might also be one of the top dive sites in the world for spotting whale sharks. The dive site can be found on the itineraries of short liveaboard diving trips from Khao Lak, as well as on longer scuba diving charters traveling to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar. Expect white, powdery sand and a castaway feeling.

  • Dive Type: Pinnacle
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Creatures: Manta rays and whale sharks
  • When to Go: October to early May

Scuba divers watching reef sharks hunt after dark during a night dive in the Maldives, a top diving liveaboard experience

11. Maaya Thila – North Ari Atoll, Maldives

With 1,192 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the easiest way to explore the Maldives is undoubtedly by liveaboard. One dive site you won’t want to miss is Maaya Thila, a protected pinnacle marked by exciting caves, overhangs, and swim-throughs. You’ll encounter lionfish, moray eels, turtles, rays, tuna, and barracuda, against a vibrant backdrop of soft corals and giant gorgonians. However, the main event is gatherings of reef sharks. The thrill of watching these sleek predators hunt after dark makes Maaya Thila one of the world’s best night diving destinations and a firm favorite on Maldivian liveaboard itineraries.

  • Dive Type: Pinnacle/Night
  • Recommended Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Featured Creature: Whitetip reef sharks
  • When to Go: December to May

A close-up encounter with a Napoleon wrasse, one of many creatures to see while scuba diving from liveaboard boats in Palau

12. Blue Corner – Ngemelis Island, Palau

Palau is home to many celebrated dive sites. For instance, there’s Jellyfish Lake, Big Drop-Off, and German Channel’s prolific manta cleaning stations. However, the star of the show is Blue Corner. This exposed plateau attracts strong currents, as well as an unrivaled line-up of pelagics and reef critters. Look out for tuna, barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, pipefish, snappers, trevallies, frogfish, and eagle rays. Blue Corner is also a mecca for shark diving, especially with its impressive congregations of grey reefs. Opting for liveaboard diving around Palau’s islands is an effortless way to tick off multiple bucket-list adventures in a single trip.

  • Dive Type: Reef/Drift
  • Recommended Level: Advanced
  • Featured Creature: Grey reef sharks
  • When to Go: October to May

A stunning and colorful coral reef at Bikini Atoll, which is also one of the world's best technical diving liveaboard trips

13. USS Saratoga – Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands

The 270m/886ft-long USS Saratoga is undeniably one of the world’s ultimate wreck dives. Sunk during US atomic weapon tests on mock naval vessels, it’s one of the few aircraft carriers accessible to scuba divers. It takes 25-34 hours by boat to reach the USS Saratoga, which is part of a fascinating fleet of 21 shipwrecks that average 50m (164ft) deep. This makes it not only one of the best liveaboard destinations, but also one of the most coveted dive sites for technical divers. However, don’t forget to glance away from the metal; Bikini Atoll’s remote, pristine reefs are a haven for turtles, dolphins, and a myriad of shark species.

  • Dive Type: Wreck
  • Recommended Level: Technical
  • Featured Creatures: Grey reef, lemon, and Galapagos sharks
  • When to Go: May to September

A liveaboard boat in Raja Amat, Indonesia

Discover the Best Places for Liveaboard Diving

Have we inspired you to take your next scuba diving adventure to one of these great destinations? If so, then head to PADI Travel®, where you’ll find the largest collection of diving liveaboards alongside curated collections to discover new depths of our shared blue planet.

Whether you’d like more information about luxury liveaboard diving, budget options, group travel, liveaboard diving for singles, or itineraries focused on beginners or conservation, don’t hesitate to contact one of our PADI Travel experts by chat, email, or phone to schedule your trip today!

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