As a new scuba diver, the world of liveaboards can be intimidating. But, it doesn’t need to be. Some of the best liveaboard routes are open to freshly certified Open Water divers. Picking the right destination will ensure you’re always comfortable in the water, and a good choice of boat can give a reassuring atmosphere. Not to mention, you’ll probably make diving friends for life.

From Belize to the Philippines, these destinations are perfect for your first liveaboard experience. With so many great options, we don’t know how you’ll choose only one!


Located in the heart of the Caribbean, Belize boasts spectacular waters for diving, including the second biggest barrier reef in the world. Interactions with turtles, rays and reef sharks are common in Lighthouse Reef, Half Moon Caye and Turneffe Reef. Whale sharks can occasionally be seen. In addition, these destinations are easily accessed by liveaboard from Belize City, and almost all of the dive sites are easy enough for beginners (with the exception of the Blue Hole). However, it should be noted that most liveaboards request divers have at least 20 dives under their weight belts.

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Cayman Islands

Three major islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, sit like emerald gems in sapphire seas. Diving here is superb with sites like the Babylon Pinnacle or the drop-off called the Wilderness Wall. Furthermore, the wrecks of the Captain Keith Tibbets and the Kittiwake host all manner of tropical marine species. Stingray City, too, is famous for its encounters with stingrays in shallow waters. Liveaboards in the area have no minimum dive requirements, because most sites are shallow with clear waters and no current.

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With over 700 islands, the Bahamas features dive sites for every level of diver, including beginners. The third largest barrier reef is found offshore, and there are deep walls, wrecks, blue holes and some of the best shark diving in the world. In fact, you’ll find dive sites for nearly guaranteed interactions with tiger, bull, hammerhead, silky and oceanic whitetip sharks at sites like Tiger Beach. So, get your cameras ready! Liveaboards are the best way to get the most out of your diving vacation in the Bahamas, and many boats have no minimum dive requirements due to the shallow, calm nature of most sites.

  • Recommended Boat: Bahamas Aggressor
  • Best Itinerary for Beginners: Exuma Cays and Southwest Eleuthera
  • Departure Port: Elizabeth on Bay Marina – Yoga Dock
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 6 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks and Dolphins
  • When to Go: October to June

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While scuba diving is a popular pastime throughout coastal Thailand, the best sites in the Land of Smiles are found in a remote section of the Andaman Sea. Liveaboards ply the waters off Phuket, hitting up the Similan Islands and Koh Bon en route. Only accessible by liveaboard, you’ll find some of the best dive sites for whale shark and manta ray encounters in these waters. The reef life is also prolific as these islands have been protected as a marine park since 1982. Most areas in the Andaman Sea have protected areas suitable to beginners, but Richelieu Rock should only be attempted by divers with a bit more experience.

  • Recommended Boat: The Junk
  • Best Itinerary for Beginners: Similan and Surin Islands (4 Nights)
  • Departure Port: Khao Lak
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 3 to 9 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Whale Sharks and Manta Rays
  • When to Go: November to May

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A favorite among liveaboard divers, the Maldives is a tropical scuba diving destination with lots of big marine life. In particular, whale sharks and manta rays are seen with regularity and sometimes hammerhead sharks make their way to the country’s many pinnacles and channels. While Maldivian liveaboards plying the northern and southern atolls require advanced certifications, the central atolls are great for beginners. These waters don’t have the heavy currents found elsewhere, and most of the marine life can be found within a few meters of the surface. Some ships even offer the Open Water course as an optional addition to the itinerary.

  • Recommended Boat: Scubaspa Ying
  • Best Itinerary for Beginners: Best of Maldives (7 Nights)
  • Departure Port: Male
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Manta Rays and Whale Sharks
  • When to Go: December to April

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A popular destination for tourists wishing to combine their Open Water course with a liveaboard trip to one of the most famous destinations on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef spans 132,974 square miles (344,400 square kilometer). In this part of Australia, you’ll see mantas and several species of sharks, including silky sharks, grey reef sharks, whale sharks and even tiger sharks. Coral gardens, bommies, pinnacles and channels make up the majority of dive sites. Night diving, too, is possible. While you may be able to sample the inner reefs on a day trip from Queensland, the outer reefs can only be seen by liveaboard and offer better biodiversity, healthier corals and fewer divers.

  • Recommended Boat: Spoilsport
  • Best Itinerary for Beginners: Fly Dive Coral Sea (4 Nights)
  • Departure Port: Cairns
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 2 to 7 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Manta Rays and Sharks
  • When to Go: June to November

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One of the most popular liveaboard destinations in the world, Egypt and the Red Sea have no shortage of epic dive sites. And the good news for beginners is that most of the northern sites aren’t too deep, and there’s little current in protected areas. Liveaboards visit healthy coral reefs and some wrecks, including the SS Thistlegorm, which is considered not only one of the best wrecks in the world, but also one of the best dive sites in the world. You might even see a few sharks, if you’re lucky! Plus, Egypt’s liveaboards tend to be cheaper than others around the world, making this a great budget liveaboard destination. The two major ports of departure for northern routes are Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh. Because there is a healthy mix of diving in Egypt, be sure to check the certification and logged dives requirement on your chosen itinerary.

  • Recommended Boat: MV Emperor Superior
  • Best Itinerary for Beginners: Reefs and Wrecks (7 Nights)
  • Departure Port: Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 6 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Sharks and Tropical Fish
  • When to Go: March to May and September to November

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Turks & Caicos

Featuring a fantastic barrier reef and dramatic drop-offs, Turks and Caicos consists of 40 islands southeast of the Bahamas. In many areas, you’ll drift dive past coral-lined walls that fall to infinity. Pelagic species, like hammerheads and eagle rays, may join you from time to time. In other places, you’ll find beds of soft corals that are part of a 14-mile barrier reef. The majority of these dive sites are protected from heavy current and boast crystal clear water. Because much of the country is uninhabited, liveaboards are an excellent choice for discovering this scuba wonderland.

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The 7,107 islands of the Philippines are diving paradise. This area is home to 1200 species of marine life. While many of these are macro species, the Philippines is also known as a pelagic destination and a haven for shark lovers. Thresher sharks, manta rays and whale sharks can be found. Furthermore, most of the diving areas of the Philippines (with the exception of Tubbataha and Malapascua) are accessible to beginners. And liveaboards in the area tend to be uniquely luxurious. Look for liveaboard itineraries traveling to Apo Reef, Anilao or the Visayas.

  • Recommended Boat: PY Atlantis Azores
  • Best Itinerary for Beginners: Bohol (7 Nights)
  • Departure Port: Dumaguete or Puerto Galera
  • Typical Liveaboard Length: 4 to 10 Nights
  • Featured Creatures: Hammerheads and Eagle Rays
  • When to Go: November to April

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If you’re a diver just beginning your underwater adventure, get in contact with our PADI Travel team. We’d be more than happy to provide you with information on any of the above destinations.

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