Over 70% of the Earth is underwater, and what better way to explore the wet and wild than scuba diving? Home to kaleidoscopic reefs, clouds of fish, schools of sharks and rays, turtles, eery shipwrecks, and a boatload of the big stuff, the ocean is as tempting as it is teeming with all manners of life and adventure.
For those seeking to take the plunge for the first time, choosing the best place to learn scuba diving can seem daunting. Ideally, fresh-faced divers need calm waters, good visibility, and shallow dive sites when popping their diving cherry. Worry not, for this list featuring some of the best destinations for beginner divers below might just inspire you to book that trip you've been dreaming of.
9 The Visayas, Philippines
The Philippines is one of the best places in the world for those who seek a slice of everything on their vacation. Stunning beaches, historic towns, energetic nightlife, luscious jungles, jaw-dropping mountains, and one of the richest underwater worlds on the planet make this archipelago of 7,640 islands irresistible. Its idyllic spot in the Coral Triangle means divers are in for a treat. Think shipwrecks, caves and caverns, walls, heart-pumping drift sites, and mind-blowing macro critter action, and you've barely scratched the surface.
Of course, some of these kinds of sites are more suited to divers with experience, so what is there for beginners? It would be more accurate to ask "what isn't there for beginners?" Easy shore and boat diving, thriving reefs, endless fish species, turtles, and no lack of shark, ray, and other large pelagic action. Newbies will especially love Negros Island and Malapascua Island – both are great starting points for those new to diving.
With its year-round warm water temperatures and sunny weather, Thailand is a top choice for divers – particularly those who are just starting out. Many diving hotspots have calm currents and shallow reefs, which are ideal conditions for newbies. Plus, Thailand diving is among the world's most affordable, so it's no surprise that it's a popular choice for backpackers and those on a budget.
Koh Tao is full of shallow sites and chances to spot a whale shark in the right season! There's also plenty to do above the surface – think tasty restaurants and lively beach bars in addition to powder-white beaches, hiking amongst lush jungles, and sightseeing opportunities.
Another superb diving destination is Koh Phi Phi, which also offers calm conditions, shallow sites, beautiful reefs, and topography, along with turtles and sharks. And, like Koh Tao, there's an abundance of topside activities and attractions for adventurers and lazy beach bums alike.
7 Red Sea, Egypt
Sharm El-Sheikh is a world-famous diving destination, and for good reason – diverse dive sites, a myriad of underwater species, outstanding visibility, and an abundance of affordable and reputable dive operators. However, Dahab is equally awesome – plus it's much less crowded, and home to mesmerizing coral reefs overflowing with fish just steps from the shore. Calm conditions, shallow sites, and year-round clear visibility here are perfect for beginners, and the opportunity to enjoy some of the world's best shore diving makes this an all-around top place to take the plunge for the first time.
6 Roatan, Honduras
As a scuba diving mecca, Honduras is one of the best dive locations for beginners – not only in terms of marine life, warm water, and minimal currents but also affordability. The small island of Roatan off the northeast coast of Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to dive, which is surprising seeing as it's part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system – the second largest in the world – and home to everything from colorful corals and vibrant tropical fish to turtles, large pelagics, rays, and sharks – including the whale shark.
Also, the Roatan Marine Park strictly regulates all water activities, which ensures the reefs in this magical underwater sanctuary stay pristine and protected. Roatan's busier and livelier neighbor, Utila, is equally an epic place to learn to dive. However, it's more popular, so expect more crowded dive sites and higher numbers of people per dive course.
5 The Bahamas
It's not just idyllic beaches, calm seas, and stunning ocean life that makes the Bahamas enticing to divers – it's the superior visibility that makes for a happy dive day. Clear visibility can be difficult to come by, and unreliable even during the best of seasons. But the Bahamas can safely offer great visibility for most of the year. Combine this with its shallow dive sites and rich tropical fish action, and the Bahamas has more than earned its place on this list.
4 The British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands in the warm Caribbean is an idyllic destination for beginner scuba divers and beach bums. It's not solely the reefs that make this place stand out though – it's the beginner-friendly shipwrecks, out of which the RMS Rhone is one of the most popular, and accessible to newbies. Novice scuba divers who want to get their "James Bond" on and explore wrecks will love these beautiful waters. Plus, the south shores of Tortola boast picturesque islands home to pretty reefs and protected areas that make for calm conditions.
3 Klein Bonaire
This tiny little island on the west side of Bonaire is gaining popularity thanks to its ideal conditions for beginners. The protected waters full of untouched reefs are calm with minimal currents, and can often be easily accessed from the shore. With such beautiful dive sites right on your doorstep, this paradise Caribbean gem is an outstanding choice for aspiring divers.
2 Cozumel, Mexico
Mexico is a diver's paradise, and both beginners and advanced divers are kept well-occupied on the island of Cozumel. The island is situated right on the Caribbean's doorstep near the coast of Playa Del Carmen and is part of a huge marine protected area that is a beginner's playground. The reefs here are healthy and abundant, and a diverse wealth of fascinating marine creatures call them home, including turtles, rays, a few shark species, and even the occasional whale shark.
1 The Maldives
The Maldives' vast atolls are among the world's top dive destinations thanks to their impeccable marine life, healthy reefs, and an unbelievable variation of dive sites that blow the minds of even the most seasoned divers who think they've seen it all. Plus, the perfect-postcard beaches and dreamy resorts that range from rustic to six-star luxury attract all kinds of travelers. But it can be a mountainous task to choose where to dive here, mainly because every single atoll has its own unique sub-sea attractions. Most resorts and dive operators can tell you if they have suitable dive sites for beginners, so contacting them to make sure before you book is wise.
On the whole, Ari Atoll is a fantastic choice because it offers the most reliable sightings of large pelagics, including whale sharks, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, and more. On the other hand, North Male Atoll is home to some of the oldest and most popular dive sites in the Maldives, and visitors enjoy easy access from the nation's capital of Malé. The atoll's underwater topography is utterly breathtaking, with underwater mountains, caves, steep walls, and sheer drop-offs. The marine life is equally as exciting, boasting coral reefs, sharks, mantas, turtles, and countless other tropical species living on the bustling reefs.