South Korea is not considered a scuba diving destination at first glance. Yet, it includes very beautiful spots.
With its four seasons and many other attractions, diving is often overlooked in this country. But, if you want to dive in South Korea, you must go to the province of Jeju.
Indeed, the province is located off the mainland, enjoys a warmer climate, and allows excellent diving.
The province comprises 63 islands, including South Korea’s largest, Jeju Island. Besides, with only 8 islands, it is a popular tourist destination for local and international tourists.
This page is a detailed guide to diving in South Korea.
The best scuba diving sites in South Korea
Scuba diving in South Korea is mostly done along the southeast coast and Jeju Island. It is important to note that diving in warmer waters is limited to summer. Otherwise, diving with a dry suit is a matter of diving.
Jeju Province: The 68 or so islands in Jeju province offer good visibility on soft coral reefs. Indeed, the water is clearer than elsewhere in the country and certainly warmer. This is due to warm sea currents coming from the China Sea. Here you will find a mix of tropical and temperate marine life. The dive sites of South Korea are varied. You will find both coral gardens and kelp forests. In both cases, abundant marine life!
Gangneung & Dong Hae: These two diving destinations are on the East Coast, close to each other. Indeed, it is possible to dive into both on the same day. You will find several dive centers in Seoul that organize excursions to Gangneung and Dong Hae on weekends. Besides, these are destinations preferred by diving centers for training during certifications, whether Open Water, Advanced or a specialization. Diving in Gangneung and Dong Hae is often compared to diving on the California coast in the USA. You will have good visibility, a selection of wrecks, and abundant marine life.
!!! // Please note: You will have to observe a rest period between the dives and your accommodation. Because the mountains through which the roads pass are high enough to be a concern. But, the rest time is often short. We talk about a few hours of waiting before taking the road, for example, to Seoul, a 3-hour drive away. Also, the new "bullet train" is a good option to make the road in just over 1 hour.
Namhae in Gyeongsangnam-do Province is a more remote diving destination on the south coast. It is the fifth largest island in South Korea and is located in the Dadohae region. This means “sea of islands” in Korea. There is a beautiful landscape with more than 76 islands, natural and uninhabited.
This destination includes Dadohaehaesang National Park, the largest national park in South Korea. As on Jeju, marine conditions are influenced by the currents of the China Sea. Divers will find dense and varied marine life as well as healthy corals. Then, some will meet the rare apterous porpoises.
Reviews of scuba diving in South Korea
Popular scuba diving destinations usually offer several resorts and dive centers. So, if your trip to South Korea is mainly for diving, the ideal is to choose accommodation in a dive resort.
But If it is a cultural tour of Korea to which you want to join some dives, it will be enough to find a weekend excursion that suits you.
Also, it should be noted that South Korea is not so much a live-aboard destination. No major liveaboard operator is operating there, to our knowledge.
Prices of dives in South
Rates for diving in South Korea vary depending on the region or island, especially the type of dive. Here is an overview of the average dive price for South Korea:
A snorkeling excursion: +/- 60€
Discovery dive: +/- 100€
2 Dives: +/- 100€
Price Course level 1 / Open Water: +/- 370€
Price Course Level 2 / Padi Open Water Advanced: +/- 300€
Price Course Level 3 / Rescue Diver: +/- 370€
We advise you not to look only for the lowest rate but choose your dive center according to where you feel best. Sometimes it makes sense to pay a little more and be in better conditions!
Best time to dive in South Korea
Scuba diving in South Korea is mainly a summer activity. Only a small number of people will dive all year round. The sea currents are sometimes very strong. The conditions on the surface are rather stormy in autumn and winter, so you have to be an experienced diver.
The exception to the rule is the Jeju region, which enjoys better conditions over a longer period. So, you will still need a drysuit to dive two-thirds of the year.
Dive centers in South Korea offer a full range of certifications from major agencies. Yet, what is important is to find one that offers the courses in your language, or English, unless you speak Korean!
Scuba diving conditions
The different destinations have a level of visibility and conditions specific to each. But, in general, some facts can be established.
First, during the summer, between June and August, the water temperature around Jeju and Namhae varies between 21ºC to 29ºC. As for destinations on the East Coast, it takes about 3 degrees less.
Then, in January, the water temperature for Jeju and Namhae is in the range of 13ºC to 16ºC. But, in winter, the sea is rough on the east coast, and the water temperature drops from 6ºc to 10ºc.
Snorkeling in South Korea
Jeju and Namhae offer several good snorkeling spots. You will often find them on an excursion with a diver boat. Just inquire with the operator.
Underwater fauna: Fish and Coral
Marine life is abundant, offering a mix of tropical and temperate fish. Destinations in the South of the country offer both kelp forests and coral gardens. On the east coast, the seascape is rockier.
If you are planning to go on a trip to South Korea, I advise you to invest in good travel insurance that also covers scuba diving. You never know what can happen, and good insurance can get you out of difficult situations.
Scuba diving in South Korea tends to become more and more popular, with the summer months as the high season. Many Korean divers venture to the world’s most beautiful diving destinations. But many are also exploring their country’s rich waters. One more destination on the list, then?