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Diving in Central America: A Guide to 8 of the Best Dive Sites

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

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

Knowing just where the top diving spots are and what they offer is therefore crucial to both the experienced diver and the beginner. Being in the know means easy and stress-free travel, not to mention the chance to enjoy some of the best and most famous diving destinations in the world.

Some of the most popular areas for diving or other water activities in Central America, along with an insight into a particularly unusual marine life. For those looking to make a trip, take on the challenge, and explore this special deep-sea world, here are some of the best diving sites in the Central America area:

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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

Top 8 Places to Go Diving in Central America

1. Ambergris Caye – Belize

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.

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.

Here divers can experience 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, brimming with exotic fish and a wide range of strange and unusual plant life.

2.  Isla del Coco – Costa Rica

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.

view of Bahía Waffer 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

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.

With June, July, and August known to be the best months for shark sightings, it’s worth planning your trip well in advance.

3. Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – Bay Islands, Honduras

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.

Diving in Central America - Mesoamerican barrier reef 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.

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.

4. Blowing Rock – Corn Islands, Nicaragua

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

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

For the beginner, there is expert tuition and for the expert diver, there is the famed ‘Blowing Rock’, which starts 100 feet down and rises above the water’s surface.

aerial view of the Corn Island in nicaragua
Corn Island in Nicaragua is perfect for the beginner diver, offering affordable classes and a wide range of other water activities.

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5. Bocas del Toro – Panama

For great diving conditions all year round, Bocas del Toro in Panama is well worth a visit. 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 can be made 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.

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.

6. Isla del Caño – Costa Rica

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.

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.

7. Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

For something off the main diving radar, Guatemala is a great place to visit. Although this is not a major dive destination, it can still offer something special with picturesque landscapes created by the surrounding mountains and volcanoes.

Altitude diving in Lake Atitlan will make for an unforgettable experience, whilst the many underwater wrecks on the south coast will create the perfect challenge for scuba explorations.

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 diving.

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.

8. Mary’s Place – Honduras

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. 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 well worth the trouble.

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.

What other places do you know of where you can go diving in Central America?

Looking for More Inspiration?

I have been traveling and living in Central America for over 25 years
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3 thoughts on “Diving in Central America: A Guide to 8 of the Best Dive Sites

  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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