Naming the best dive sites in the world is certainly a risky business. The ocean is constantly in flux, and the desires of scuba divers are also wildly varied. However, a few sites do stand out above the rest in terms of diver reviews, consistently favorable conditions, and regularly being featured in lists of the world’s top 10 dive sites. So, in this collection, we highlight a mix of the top dive sites across the continents to suit different diving interests and abilities.
By the way, this is the summary article for our “Best Dive Sites” series. For even more recommendations, be sure to take a look at the other dive site round-ups before planning your next scuba diving adventure:
- Night Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- The 10 Best Liveaboard Destinations For Advanced Divers
- Freshwater Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- Muck & Macro Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- The 10 Best Dive Sites for Underwater Photography
- 6 Best Dive Sites for Kids Around the World
- Whale Shark Diving: The 13 Best Dive Sites in the World
- Shark Diving: The 12 Best Dive Sites in the World
- Manta Ray Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- Technical Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- The 9 Most Extreme Dive Sites in the World (for Recreational Divers)
- Cave & Cavern Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- Wreck Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
- Liveaboard Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World
Keep reading to discover our picks for the best dive sites in the world.
1. Bajo Alcyone – Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Cocos Island, which lies far from the Costa Rican Pacific coast, is only accessible by liveaboard but is consistently ranked as the top destination in the world for hammerhead diving with this first-class dive site. The seamount known as Bajo Alcyone rises to 82 feet (25 meters) below the surface and is regularly home to large shoals of hammerhead sharks. The diving can be tricky, but the plan is simple. Divers descend to the top of the seamount, wedge themselves between the rocks, and watch the action above. This is truly an epic site and worthy of a place on every “best dive sites” list!
- Dive Type: Shark
- When to Go: June to November for the best marine life; December to May for the best water conditions.
2. SS Thistlegorm – Ras Mohammed, Egypt
One of the best wreck dives in the world (and probably one of the most famous dive sites), the SS Thistlegorm lies in the northern section of the Red Sea. As a popular day trip and liveaboard stop, it’s easily accessible from Sharm El-Sheikh. The wreck itself was previously a 420-foot (128-meter) British transport ship. Unfortunately, she met her fate in 1941 when she was sunk by a German air attack. Today, she remains a window into history with a visible cargo of trucks, jeeps, motorcycles, tanks, and even a locomotive. For this reason, many divers consider it one of the top 3 dive sites in the world.
- Dive Type: Wreck
- When to Go: March to May; September to November
3. Blue Corner – Ngemelis Island, Palau
Blue Corner is a dive for the ages. It consists of a reef-covered wall that runs along the side of Ngemelis Island in Palau. While the dive is great at any time due to the massive schools of fish, this drift-diving site shows its best face when the currents are strong (think more current, more fish – it’s never been more apt). Divers use reef hooks to carefully attach to the wall and watch a number of pelagic species swim past. Common sights include tuna, sharks, and eagle rays. This is undoubtedly some of the best reef diving in the world, and many Blue Corner alumni claim that they have never seen so many sharks on a single dive.
- Dive Type: Drift
- When to Go: October to May
4. Manta Night Dive – Kona, Hawaii
Certainly one of the most unique night dives, the Manta Night Dive is a ballet for manta rays which lands this Hawaiian destination on countless lists of the top 10 dive sites worldwide. Just off the coast of Kona is an artificially illuminated area where divers descend to the sandy observation areas. As the light attracts plankton, mantas arrive to take advantage of the feast. All the divers need to do is relax and enjoy the show while the graceful manta rays turn and spin overhead.
- Dive Type: Night
- When to Go: April to October
5. Cenote Angelita – Tulum, Mexico
Mexico is unquestionably one of the best diving countries in the world, and thousands of cenotes are scattered throughout its Yucatan Peninsula. While many of them could easily find a spot on this list, the mystical quality of Cenote Angelita makes it hard to ignore. At approximately 100 feet (30 meters), the clear freshwater is separated from the saltwater below by a layer of hydrogen sulfide. The appearance of this cloudy substance is otherworldly and makes for fantastic underwater photography.
- Dive Type: Cave/Cavern
- When to Go: May to September
6. Tiger Beach – Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
Known for shark diving, the Bahamas is a wonderland country of fantastic dive sites and home to some of the best diving in the Caribbean. While you can swim with hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and reef sharks, at Tiger Beach, you’ll find daily encounters with several tiger sharks all at once. While you wait on the sandy bottom, these large sharks circle around the group in an experience that will delight thrill-seekers and underwater photographers alike. There’s also a chance to see nurse, lemon, and Caribbean reef sharks at this famous Bahamas shark dive site.
- Dive Type: Shark
- When to Go: October to January
7. Secret Bay (Manit Muck) – Anilao, Philippines
A wonderland for macro lovers and underwater photographers, Secret Bay (or Manit Muck as it’s known locally) is often cited as one of the top 10 dive sites in the Philippines. This site is quite shallow at between only 10 and 70 feet (3 and 21 meters), but it is abundantly productive for macro marine life and critters. In fact, many divers have reported sightings of mantis shrimp, rare nudibranchs, gobies of all types, and even wonderpus octopuses. This is also one of the area’s best dive sites for night diving, when Ambon scorpionfish, Bobbit worms, seahorses, frogfish, and other nocturnal species become active.
- Dive Type: Muck/Macro
- When to Go: October to May
8. Silfra Fissure – Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Diving between continental plates may sound risky, but scuba divers flock to the Silfra Fissure year-round for the pleasure. Granted, these plates are moving so slowly that you will never know it. With 300-foot (100-meter) visibility, exploring the space between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Iceland is a dream. Glide along with the aquatic grasses full of blues and greens before snapping a picture between the rock faces of the plates. This is without a doubt one of the best places to scuba dive in Europe.
- Dive Type: Freshwater
- When to Go: June to September for the best conditions; October to May for fewer crowds
9. Sardine Run – Agulhas Bank, South Africa
Certainly an adventurous dive, the Sardine Run attracts pelagic-loving scuba divers to South Africa on an annual basis. During a few weeks from May to July, millions of sardines spawn at Agulhas Bank before migrating upwards along the coast toward Mozambique. On the way, many predators wait to feast on the tiny fish. These larger animals include dolphins, birds, sharks, and whales. Diving the Sardine Run requires patience because dive boats spend many hours on the chilly seas searching for bait balls. When one of these congregations is finally found, divers jump in quickly to see the feeding frenzy.
- Dive Type: Pelagic
- When to Go: May to July
10. Cape Kri – Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Raja Ampat seems to be on every diver’s bucket list these days. Still, there is good reason for it, and Cape Kri is one of the dive sites that put this region on the map. A few years ago, scientists recorded the most fish species on a single dive at this site. The diving conditions at Cape Kri are suitable for all levels and promise some of the best scuba diving in Southeast Asia. You just need to dive into the warm water and then slowly glide along the healthy coral reef, taking in all the colorful life around you.
- Dive Type: Coral Wall
- When to Go: October to April
11. 1,000 Steps – Bonaire
Home to sensational coral gardens and marine diversity (accessible just moments from calm, easy-to-reach beaches), the Caribbean’s Bonaire is revered for some of the world’s best shore diving. In particular, 1,000 Steps is one of the island’s most popular dive sites. With a gentle reef plateau at 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) deep, it regularly appears in lists of the 10 top dive sites for kids or beginners. It’s also a hotspot for squid, butterflyfish, angelfish, trumpetfish, and green sea turtles.
- Dive Type: Shore
- When to Go: Year-round
12. SMS Markgraf – Scapa Flow, Scotland
Sitting in 150 feet (45 meters) of water, the SMS Markgraf battleship was one of 52 German ships scuttled at Scapa Flow shortly after the end of World War I. However, post-salvage, only seven of this fleet remain underwater today. What sets the SMS Markgraf apart is not only its depth but its colossal size (480 feet/146 meters long), upturned position, and pristine condition. Technical divers will be best placed to explore the iconic features of this world-class wreck diving site to the fullest.
- Dive Type: Wreck/Technical
- When to Go: April to October
13. North Horn – Great Barrier Reef, Australia
We couldn’t talk about the planet’s best dive sites without mentioning the Great Barrier Reef. Indeed, this natural wonder could fill a list of Australia‘s top 10 dive sites all by itself. In Osprey Reef, North Horn is one of the area’s most sought-after dives, especially for pelagic action. Drift dives along vibrant, coral-encrusted walls regularly bring encounters with gray, silvertip, hammerhead, tiger, and wobbegong sharks—sometimes in a single dive! You might also spot barracuda, giant trevallies, tuna, eagle rays, and even manta rays gliding past.
- Dive Type: Shark/Drift
- When to Go: June to November
Discover the Best Dive Sites in the World
Have you already visited these superb dive sites and want to discover more? Or do you still have a lot to check off your bucket list?
Whether you’re seeking the best dive sites for scuba diving with sharks, want to photograph the most beautiful dive sites in the world, or are just curious about what country has the best diving sites, head to PADI Travel for all these answers and more. With support from the 24/7 expert PADI Travel team, you’ll find inspiration and advice alongside unmissable deals to help you plan your next scuba adventure.