The Best Diving I Experienced in Central America

For the keen and well-traveled diver, there will always be favorite holiday destinations that provide the most interesting and exciting dives. Central America is one of those destinations.

For me, the opportunity to travel to different countries and dive in a range of locations is the perfect way to develop new skills and enjoy fresh challenges with my family. Not only does the marine life vary from country to country, but so too do the services, equipment, and depth of water.

Woman and kid on a boat ready for diving in Central America
Central America offers some of the best diving spots in the world, with diverse marine life and the most stunning coral reef you’ll see. I’ve even taken my kids diving in various spots across the region.

Central America offers thousands of miles of coastline, and the top dive sites are spread out across a number of countries. After living in Central America for years, I’ve tried out many of the most popular areas for diving and water activities in Central America—always on the lookout for diving spots with particularly unusual marine life, or a great overall experience.

For those looking to make a trip all you need to do is choose the best time to visit Central America, take on the challenge, and explore this special deep-sea world!

Based on 20+ years of living in Central America, these are some of the best diving sites to consider:

Best Diving in Belize

Ambergris Caye

shark looking at the camera while diving in ambergris caye belize
Most diving spots in the region offer good visibility, which is why they stand out more than others.

Number one on the list is Ambergris Caye in Belize, where the coral reef system, the second largest in the world, is shared with the surrounding islands. A large and popular site, Ambergris Caye is easily accessible using connecting flights from many major US airports.

Here divers flock to the famed Great Blue Hole, which measures around 1000 feet across and boasts a depth of 500 feet. This sinkhole provides a special and unforgettable dive across all of the options—it’s brimming with exotic fish and a wide range of strange and unusual plant life.

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Best Diving in Guatemala

Lake Atitlan

atitlan lake - hots prings in guatemala
Lake Atitlan is a hidden gem when it comes to diving spots in Central America, but it’s packed with a lot of fun besides being a unique spot surrounded by volcanoes.

For something off the main diving radar, Guatemala is a great place to consider for an off-beat dive trip. A lot of people don’t even know you can dive here. Although it’s not a major dive destination, it still offers something special—think picturesque landscapes created by the surrounding mountains and volcanoes.

Altitude diving in Lake Atitlan is an unforgettable experience, and the many underwater wrecks on the south coast can create the perfect challenge for scuba explorers in need of a bit more than the usual Caribbean fish you find in most of Central America’s best diving spots.

With dive conditions varying over the year, Lake Atitlan will require a 7mm wetsuit, although the coastal dives are a little warmer. Always check the water conditions before outfitting for your dive anywhere in Central America, as the conditions change a lot as you journey north to south.

Best Diving in Costa Rica

Isla del Coco

view of Bahía Waffer diving spot from a hill in Isla del Coco Costa Rica
Central America is not only good for diving and snorkeling but also, it’s a great place to do sightseeing tours and check out whales, dolphins, and sharks

Costa Rica diving holds a special place in my heart as I lived here for many years before relocating with my family to Guatemala. For a special dive, why not take a trip to the largest uninhabited tropical island in the world and visit Isla del Coco in Costa Rica? Reached by boat, this two-day trip requires a fair bit of planning but will prove well worth the wait.

At 300 miles away from the jungle life of the mainland, the dive off the Isla del Coco is a marine paradise.

It was granted World Heritage status due to the quantity of sea life found in the area, and many keen divers take to the waters here. Some are lucky enough to get a glimpse of a hammerhead shark and bottlenose dolphin.

June, July, and August are the best months for shark sightings, so it’s worth planning your trip well in advance.

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out 21 Best Festivals and Celebrations in Central America

Isla del Caño

cano island costa rica
Costa Rica will give divers unique water activities and the opportunity to spot unusual marine life, like whales and some types of sharks.

A dive site with a reputation for both beauty and affordability is Isla del Caño in Costa Rica. Just 10 miles from the Costa Rica mainland divers will find numerous tropical species and marine life to enjoy here.

Renowned for sightings of large pelagic fish and white-tip reef sharks, this is a place to visit if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Accessible by boat from Drake Bay, it will take around 45 minutes to get to the island, although if you’re keen you can camp out once you get there to make the most of your visit.

Best Diving in Honduras

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Bay Islands

Diving in Central America on a Mesoamerican barrier reef in Honduras
The Bay Islands in Honduras are one of the most affordable places to get your diving certification, and also, a top destination for beach holidays.

Over on the Bay Islands of Guanaja, Roatan, and Utila and located in the warm Caribbean waters of Honduras, you’ll find the second-biggest coral reef on the planet. Known for its stunning beauty as well as its wide range of marine life, this reef is commonly called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

As one of the most affordable dive locations in the area, this reef can at times be one of the most easily accessible and just a short swim away from the mainland. Diving in the waters of the Bay Islands can be enjoyed all year round; with many of the islands offering dive centers and training should it be needed.

Mary’s Place

corals from mary's place roatan honduras
The place to spot unique tropical fish and stunning coral formations is Mary’s Place, often called a “one-of-a-kind” site.

Last but by no means least, try Mary’s Place in Roatán, Honduras. With its unique coral formations and tropical fish, this is described as a ‘one-of-a-kind’ diving site and unique in all of Central America. Divers taking to the water will be able to spot lobsters, crabs, schools of silversides, and seahorses.

With a growing reputation as a must-do dive site, Mary’s Place is a longer boat trip out from the West End than it is from the south side of the island.

However, its crevices and sheer-face wall drops make it worth the trouble.

Best Diving in Nicaragua and Panama

Blowing Rock in the Corn Islands

aerial view of the Corn Island in nicaragua, where you can find incredible diving spots
Corn Island in Nicaragua is perfect for the beginner diver, offering affordable classes and a wide range of other water activities.

The Corn Islands in Nicaragua provide something a bit different for experienced divers, with no big developments or cars spoiling the scenery.

Here, you can can experience unique underwater caverns and a barrier-free system that creates an ecosystem perfect for spotting unusual sea creatures.

For the beginner, you can find a number of dive masters for training or to accompany your drive. Expert divers will love the famed ‘Blowing Rock’, which starts 100 feet down and rises above the water’s surface. The sheer beauty and fun of diving the entire rock makes this a top diving spot in Central America.

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Bocas del Toro

Diving in Central America - Bocas del toro Panama
Bocas del Toro is not only a well-known place for dicing and snorkeling, but it’s also a popular spot for tourists and beach hoppers.

For great diving conditions all year round, Bocas del Toro in Panama is tops on the list of dive sites most scuba divers head to when in Central America. From Hospital Point to Zapatillas Cayes, divers can enjoy both soft and hard reef systems, alongside corals such as staghorn and elkhorn.

Connecting flights to the area are easiest to transit through San Jose, Costa Rica. It is also possible to drive a hire car or take a bus with a connecting water taxi departing for Bocas Town at a cost of about $4.

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out Is Central America Safe?

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Last Updated on January 24, 2024

3 thoughts on “The Best Diving I Experienced in Central America

  1. Wow I have always had a dream to dive and you photos make that little piece of me excited but those photos are also a bit terrifying. That shark photo!! Insane. Great photos and great location highlights. I am headed to Bocos Del Toro next week so I can’t wait to go travel and see the crazy underwater adventures that are offered.

    1. You will have a blast in Bocas!! You will some incredible things for sure 🙂

  2. Great!!! You are uploading very beautiful beautiful picture and i am sure that these. Thanks for sharing

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