Every year, new scuba diving destinations are discovered. Many of them are in hard-to-reach destinations, requiring lengthy boat trips and an Advanced Open Water certification. Luckily, the liveaboard industry is constantly growing, building new and better ships for reaching these destinations. Whether you wish to visit classic favorites like Komodo or try a new destination like Sudan, you’ll likely find a dive boat to take you to the best liveaboard destinations for advanced divers.

With so many liveaboard destinations to choose from, it can be difficult to pick the perfect liveaboard vacation. Consider these 10 amazing yet advanced scuba destinations for your next adventure.

a shoal of hammerhead sharks in Cocos Island, Costa Rica, one of the best liveaboard destiantions for advanced divers

1. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Located 342 miles (550 kilometers) off the west coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island is famed for its scalloped hammerhead shark encounters. To get there, you’ll need a liveaboard to take you on the 36-hour crossing to this lonely seamount. Heavy current attracts several pelagic species in addition to the hammerheads, including mobula rays, manta rays and the occasional whale shark. This same current reserves this liveaboard heaven to advanced divers only.

  • Departure Port: Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 8 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Scalloped Hammerheads
  • When to Go: June to December

diving with mola mola in the galapagos as an advanced open water diver

2. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Famous among divers and non-divers alike, the Galapagos Islands is a bucket list destination above and below the water. While it is possible to dive in the Galapagos from a land-based operation and as a beginner diver, the best diving areas (Wolf and Darwin Islands) are accessible only by liveaboard and restricted to advanced divers. In just one week of diving, you’ll see dramatic scenery dotted with blue-footed boobies, playful sea lions, schools of hammerhead sharks, feeding marine iguanas and diving penguins. What more can you ask for?

  • Departure Port: San Cristobal, Ecuador
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Galapagos Sharks, Manta Rays, Marine Iguanas and Whale Sharks
  • When to Go: June to December

3. Hawaii, USA

Easy to reach for divers in the Americas and Asia, Hawaii’s comfortable blue waters abound with marine life. Humpback whales can be seen from shore, and dozens of manta rays surround divers during night dives. Between cave diving, night diving and wreck diving, Hawaii has it all, particularly around Kona. These islands are magical, but to get the most diving for your dollar, you’ll want to explore them by liveaboard and have your Advanced Open Water certification.

  • Departure Port: Kailua Kona, Hawaii
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Humpback Whales, Manta Rays and Sea Turtles
  • When to Go: December to May

a whale in socorro, one of the best destinations for advanced divers

4. Socorro, Mexico

Extending well out into the Pacific, Mexico holds quite a few of the best liveaboard destinations in the world, including the Sea of Cortez, Guadalupe and the Revillagigedo Islands (a.k.a. Socorro). Currents surrounding the latter archipelago attract humpback whales, manta rays and hammerhead sharks. These islands are at least 24 hours by boat from the mainland, and most liveaboards visiting the area require divers to hold at least an Advanced Open Water certification.

  • Departure Port: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 5 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Manta Rays, Humpback Whales, Whale Sharks, and Hammerheads
  • When to Go: November to May

5. Indonesia

Home to over 13,000 islands, Indonesia is best explored by liveaboard. From Raja Ampat to Ambon and Komodo, there are plenty of exotic itineraries throughout this island nation. Some areas boast the weirdest macro life you’ve ever seen, while others are home to whale sharks, mola mola and manta rays. Underwater volcanoes, black sand flats and gorgeous soft corals are just a few of the dive environments found here. You could spend a whole season diving Indonesia and not cover it all. While much of the diving is beginner-friendly, liveaboard itineraries in Indonesia generally include current-heavy and deep dives, perfect for the advanced diver.

  • Departure Port: Various, but generally, Sorong for Raja Ampat and Labuan Bajo for Komodo.
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 5 to 12 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Manta Rays, Whale Sharks, Mola Mola and Hundreds of Macro Critters.
  • When to Go: Year-round. (October to April for Raja Ampat. April to November for Komodo.)

the maldives from above, one of the best liveaboard destinations for advanced divers

6. Maldives

With 26 natural atolls and thousands of dive sites, the Maldives is the perfect destination for a dive safari. White sand banks and luxury yachts dot a landscape of sapphire-colored sea in this island paradise. Below the surface, a network of pinnacles and channels attracts hammerhead sharks, manta rays and whale sharks among hundreds of other reef-dwelling creatures. While these seas may appear peaceful, diving in the northern and southern sections of the Maldives can be challenging due to the geography of the atolls. Most liveaboards in these areas require guests to have logged at least 50 dives.

  • Departure Port: Male, Maldives
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Manta Rays and Whale Sharks
  • When to Go: December to April

7. Tubbataha Reef, Philippines

Home to 600 species of fish, 300 species of coral, 11 species of shark and 13 whale and dolphin species, Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated 93 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines. The only way to reach this series of shallow coral reefs and sheer drop-offs is by liveaboard. There are so many pristine dives sites surrounding these two atolls that you’ll need at least a week to get your fill!

  • Departure Port: Puerto Princesa, Philippines
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 6 to 13 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: 13 Species of Shark, Manta Rays and Sea Turtles
  • When to Go: Mid-March to Mid-June

diving the white wall in Fiji, one of the best liveaboard destinations for advanced divers

8. Fiji

Known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World,” Fiji’s outer reefs boast strong currents, creating some of the best shark and pelagic dives in the world. With qualifications like these, Fiji is a must-dive location for advanced divers. Recommended dive sites include the the world-renowned Beqa Lagoon, Shark Reef and Viti Levu Coral Coast. While land-based diving is possible in Fiji, a dive charter will certainly allow for more exploration of unique and uncrowded dive sites.

  • Departure Port: Nadi, Viti Levu
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: 9 Species of Shark, including Bull Sharks, 12 Species of Whale and Hundreds of Reef Fish Species
  • When to Go: April to November

giant school of fish in palau

9. Palau

With a rare variety of dive environments, Palau is wild and beautiful with wrecks, sheer walls, high-speed drifts and blue holes. The dive site called Blue Corner is worth the journey alone. Here divers attach themselves to the wall using a reef hook in order to watch huge numbers of pelagics drift by, including lots of sharks. While Koror is the main hub for the islands, many of the dive sites are over an hour away by speedboat. To get the most out of your diving trip, you’ll want to book a liveaboard.

  • Departure Port: Koror or Malakal
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Whitetip Reef Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Eagle Rays, and Tuna
  • When to Go: October to May

st johns reef in the deep south of egypt

10. The Deep South, Egypt

Egypt’s Red Sea is a destination for all scuba diving abilities, but the excellent southern dive sites offer an off-the-beaten path alternative to those near Sharm El-Sheikh. St. Johns, Daedalus, Brothers, Fury Shoals and Elphinstone are all big ticket dives for liveaboard patrons. With that in mind, boats sailing Deep South itineraries are large and comfortable, providing a range of luxuriousness. On the whole, the sites in southern Egypt are more suitable for advanced divers. In addition, many operators stipulate a minimum of 30 dives, as these areas are deep and can experience some strong current.

  • Departure Port: Port Ghalib or Marsa Alam, Egypt
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Oceanic Whitetips, Thresher Sharks, Dolphins and Dugong
  • When to Go: September to November and April to June

If you’re not an Advanced Open Water diver yet, sign up and start the course online here. When you’re ready and want to book any of these liveaboard diving holidays, get in contact with one of the PADI Travel scuba travel experts. We’ll be happy to provide you with more information. Remember, the Seven Seas are yours to explore!

Written by Sandro Lonardi

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