Best Scuba diving and Snorkeling in British Columbia, Western Canada

Jacques Cousteau would have said that British Columbia offers the best cold/temperate diving in the world! We are not going to contradict him! That said, the idea of scuba diving in Canada may seem strange to divers who are used to tropical diving.

Yet, for many divers, the most beautiful cold water dive sites are in Canada, both in Western and Eastern Canada and British Columbia.

As the crow flies, the distance from Canada’s west coast is approximately 966 kilometers (600 miles) between its borders, from north to south.

Most of the coast is called the Inside Passage, which is very popular with cruise ships in the summer.

It is a remarkable wilderness area with thousands of islands, deep fjords, and many sea passages.

If we count the coastal areas of this entire region, we add more than 27,000 kilometers… which corresponds to 2/3 of the earth’s diameter!

In other words, British Columbia is a real playground for cold-water divers. The places to explore are so many that you can choose a new one at each outing!

This page is a detailed guide to scuba diving and snorkeling in Western Canada (British Columbia).

Best Scuba diving and Snorkeling in British Columbia, Western Canada

The best scuba diving sites

The British Columbia Scuba Diving Association is organized into 6 distinct dive destinations along the coast. Here are the key things to know for each destination:


Vancouver is the largest city in British Columbia. The tourism industry plays a major role here. There are a few dive sites on the outskirts of town. But what makes it a favorite spot for scuba diving are all the sites around, a 20-40 minute drive away!

Whytecliff Park, located in West Vancouver, and Porteau Cove Provincial Park offer excellent shoreline diving. Beginners in diving will love Whytecliff Park since most dive sites will suit Level 1 divers, Open Water Diver. Experienced divers will prefer Porteau Cove.


Victoria, the provincial capital, is located on Vancouver Island and offers beautiful scuba diving sites. In Victoria, there are 32 dive sites accessible from the shore and twenty more by boat. Besides, the entire southern region of Vancouver Island has 400 dive sites. So you have to look around smaller municipalities like Sydney and Sooke to find some of the most beautiful dive sites to explore!

  • The northern part of Vancouver Island is dotted with small towns and villages. Among these, Port McNeil, Hornby Island, Port Hardy, and the Campbell River are great destinations for scuba divers!
  • The southern part of British Columbia’s coast is nicknamed the Sunshine Coast. It is the entire coastline between Desolation Sound in the northwest and Howe Sound in the southeast, north of the city of Vancouver. The Sunshine Coast is about 177 kilometers long and can be reached by ferry or car from Vancouver.
  • Inland and in the mountains of British Columbia, it is possible to dive into freshwater lakes.
  • The Gulf Islands are a nice diving option in British Columbia. It’s more remote than the above destinations. You’ll need to find a charter boat with a local club or dive center to get there.

The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia is very active in the region. For more than 25 years, this company has been ensuring the establishment of artificial reefs. It adds to the magnificent diving experience in British Columbia. Their efforts led to the creation of 8 artificial reefs and a site on a Boeing 474 that sank in 2018.

Opinions on Scuba Diving Western Canada (British Columbia)

Besides diving near Vancouver and Victoria, you may have to travel to more remote villages to dive in Canada. For example, some destinations are not accessible during certain winter months.

It takes good planning to dive into British Columbia and check road access. You will find dive centers in the towns and villages. Depending on their location, these offer shore diving and boat expeditions.

There are no liveaboards in the area. If you were looking for an adventure cruise ship on the Inner Passage and landed on this page, you should know that this is the part of the passage in Alaska. If so, this website has many adventure cruises on Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Prices of dives in Eastern Canada

Rates for diving in Western Canada vary by region but mostly by the type of dive. Here’s a look at the average dive price for British Columbia:

2 dives with equipment: +/- 80€

Specialization PADI – drysuit diving: +/- 150€

Price Course level 1 / Open Water: +/- 450€

Price Course Level 2 / Padi Open Water Advanced: +/- 300€

Price Course Level 3 / Rescue Diver: +/- 300€

Emergency First Response at +/- 100€

Divemaster: on request from the various diving centers but about 700 € and more.

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 Western Canada (British Columbia)

Scuba diving conditions in British Columbia are fairly stable throughout the year.

Since most dives are not done offshore in the Pacific, the stormy conditions of the sea are not to be considered.

Yet, some areas in ports and crossings are frozen in winter. So, again, good preparation and due diligence of the conditions are required for a trip to Canada.

Diving courses

Dry suit diving is the norm in Canada, so now is the perfect time to take your drysuit diving certification. Otherwise, the different dive centers in Canada offer a variety of courses and specializations depending on their affiliate agency.

Scuba diving conditions

The water temperature at the surface and up to a certain depth is usually around 7°C to 10.5°C (45°-51°F) in winter. Then, during the summer season, the water warms up a little, around 9°C to 15°C (49°-59°F).

Also, deeper dives see the water temperature drop to only 8°C or 9°C. The visibility is generally very good, about 30 meters, with the only exception being the flowering of plankton in the spring.

Snorkeling in Western Canada, British Columbia

Canada is not a snorkeling destination in the Caribbean, but it is possible to limit yourself to this type of diving if necessary. But, the need to wear a dry suit does not make snorkeling a popular activity.

That said, a few places are out of the ordinary… we think of Tobermory in Eastern Canada. Indeed, some diving centers promote snorkeling and offer snorkeling excursions.

Underwater fauna: Fish and Coral

Marine life abounds in British Columbia and varies with the seasons and migrations.

Divers will see large sponges, soft corals, gorgonians, giant Pacific octopuses, and several others. Besides, several species of whales and sharks pass through the region according to their respective migratory cycles.

Diving Safety

If you plan to go on a trip to Western Canada (British Columbia), We 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.

We hope the “Best Scuba diving and Snorkeling in British Columbia, Western Canada” was helpful to you.


Alfred is the author behind the Travelvibe travel blog and is always searching for the quieter, less-visited corners of the world.

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