The Caribbean is a great part of the world for scuba diving. The Caribbean Sea is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by many islands.
First, it is bounded north by the Greater Antilles range, starting with Cuba. Then the Greater Antilles mix with the Lesser Antilles and form a curve that extends to the south.
This forms the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea. The northern coast of South America is the southern border of the Caribbean Sea. Besides, Mexico and Central America constitute the western limit of this sea of clear water.
The Caribbean Sea includes more than 700 small, medium, and large islands. It also includes coastal countries. There are about 30 different countries that together make up the Caribbean.
The most recognized scuba diving world is undoubtedly the Cayman Islands, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Belize, and Honduras. These feature the most beautiful dive sites in the Caribbean, as do several other countries we will showcase.
This article is a detailed guide to the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean.
Best Scuba diving and Snorkeling in the Caribbean
The best scuba diving sites
The Caribbean is a tropical paradise for divers throughout the year. The tourism industry has a strong presence in the Caribbean in general. This means that a large number of flights are going there every day. North Americans and Europeans mostly visit the Caribbean.
Here are the best diving destinations in the Caribbean:
The Cayman Islands:
The Caymans are an English overseas territory whose main islands are Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. A few years ago, a “Dive 365” project began on the Cayman Islands, aiming to set up mooring buoys for 365 scuba diving sites around the islands.
This project offers great visibility to the islands, offering divers a site to discover every day of the year. Finally, it should be mentioned that the Caymans have a nice variety of sites. Some are reachable by daily boat, others from the shore, and some only by cruise diving.
The east coast of Mexico follows the curve of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Scuba diving all along the Yucatan Peninsula is among the most popular diving destinations. Following the peninsula, we find the northern section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the MBRS for the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.
From the peninsula, the MBRS stretches for 1000 kilometers south, passing through Belize and Honduras. The Yucatan Peninsula is also known for diving in Cenotes. Cenotes are sinkholes. Thus pools of water are formed by underground rivers that erode rocks over time.
The cenotes are usually filled with fresh and saltwater and offer an extraordinary diving environment. Also, the MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), off the coast of Cancun, is another destination to put on your bucket list!
It is an underwater museum with more than 700 statues to explore. Some statues are at a depth that allows scuba divers and snorkelers to appreciate the whole.
Located in southern Mexico, Belize is also included in the extension of the Mesoamerican barrier system. In some places, the coral reef is barely 300 meters from the shore, while in others, it is further offshore. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Also, about 12% of the coral reef is included in a marine reserve, with 7 distinct protected places.
The Belize Barrier Reef has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Among the protected areas that allow scuba diving is Gladden Spit, which is also one of the meeting places for Whale Sharks.
This is where gentle giants are most predictable, passing by on their migration route every year! Finally, the waters of Belize have 3 atolls. The best known of which is undoubtedly the Great Belize Blue Hole.
The growing popularity of scuba diving in Mexico and then in Belize brought the development of the diving industry to Honduras. Tourism is not as impressive in this country as elsewhere in the Caribbean, allowing a more relaxed environment.
Because Americans are only allowed in Cuba under certain strict conditions, the country receives fewer tourists than other popular Caribbean destinations. The country’s beauty and the dive sites’ purity are incredible. So it’s perfect for Canadian and European divers, for example. Indeed, Cuba allows a diving experience on reefs full of life without hordes of tourists!
The Virgin Islands:
They are separated between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British BVI. There are 8 virgin islands, so four on each side. The islands are perfect for diving and snorkeling all year round.
The Lesser Antilles:
They begin with the Virgin Islands and form an arc that descends to South America. Not including the Virgin Islands, the Lesser Antilles include 8 sovereign countries and 13 non-sovereign states and territories.
Reviews of Caribbean Scuba Dives
The variety of options available for practicing the sport is superb in the Caribbean after diving! Indeed, everything is there, whether it dives on coral reefs, drop-offs, wrecks, cenotes, or drift dives.
The most beautiful dive sites in the Caribbean are everywhere. There is something for everyone except for cold water diving enthusiasts!
Mexico and its cenotes allow some of the best cave dives in the world. Bonaire is an incredible destination for snorkeling and diving from the shore.
The Gladden Spit sites and the Silk Caves of Belize are recognized worldwide for the presence of whale sharks. You can explore a panoply of beautiful destinations by staying in resorts or taking a cruise-diving vacation.
Prices of dives in the Caribbean
Rates for diving in the Caribbean vary greatly on the different islands. So it is impossible to provide a general scale for the entire region.
Yet, when exploring Caribbean destinations, you will notice that the price of dives is neither high, as in the Australian example, nor the lowest, as seen in Thailand. The prices of scuba diving in the Caribbean are generally reasonable.
Besides, we advise you not to look only for the lowest rate but to choose your Caribbean island and 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 the Caribbean
The most classic answer to when to dive in the Caribbean is all year round! The only downside; is the hurricane season, between June and November, with the worst conditions being in September and October on most islands.
Since the Caribbean covers a large territory, it should be noted that the threat posed by hurricanes is not uniform throughout the region.
For example, the Southern Caribbean has a lower hurricane risk than the eastern part. Honduras and Belize are also spared since they are outside the hurricane zone.
Although it is a personal choice for everyone, many divers do not wear wetsuits in the summer. So, a rash guard or a thinner combination of dive skin types is enough.
During the winter months, a 3mm wetsuit is usually enough. Despite this, many divers in the southern Caribbean choose to dive without wet follows all year round.
Several types of diving can be practiced in the Caribbean. Thus, several pieces of training are available.
Besides, most Caribbean dive destinations have dive sites perfect for beginners who want to pass their Level 1, or Open Water Diver, and Level 2, the Advanced Open Water Diver.
The different types of diving are also offered in training, which varies depending on the location. Mexico, for example, is a good option to pass your cave diving certification.
Also, lionfish have invaded the ocean throughout the Caribbean and are now hunted by many divers. So, spearfishing training is recommended and offered in several Caribbean countries.
Underwater photography is superb throughout the Caribbean, given the excellent visibility. For example, Grand Cayman Island probably has one of the world’s best underwater photography training centers.
Scuba diving conditions
It is difficult to generalize the diving conditions over such a large territory. But, it’s fair to say that the Caribbean is known for warm waters and incredible year-round visibility.
So, during the summer months of June, July, and August, many divers do not wear any wetsuits. Instead, dive skins and rash guards are the most used among those who want minimal protection.
Snorkeling in the Caribbean
Snorkeling is a favorite pastime among those visiting the Caribbean. Indeed, most diving destinations also have several shallow sites perfect for snorkeling!
The sting ray site on the Cayman Islands is among the most beautiful snorkeling sites in the Caribbean. Cruise ships operating in the Caribbean offer snorkeling trips to almost every island.
Underwater fauna: Fish and Coral
There are books on the diversity of marine life found in the Caribbean. Indeed, there are between 500 and 600 species of coral fish in the different regions of the Caribbean.
More than 40 soft and 65 hard corals are home to more than 100 species of crustaceans!
Scientists have identified 34 species of marine mammals visiting the Caribbean. 20 species have permanent residents in the region. Also, 6 of the 7 known turtle species live in Caribbean waters.
If you are planning to go on a trip to the Caribbean, 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.
The Caribbean is, in the eyes of many, a perfect destination for recreational scuba diving. Cousteau introduced the underwater world to the land’s inhabitants in many ways (through books, television, movies, etc.). He was particularly fond of the Caribbean.
It contributed to the Caribbean being recognized as a tourist destination; the industry has grown greatly since then.
Divers then began to discover the Caribbean, and the diving industry quickly became dominant as we know it today. Finally, everything is possible in the Caribbean.
Whether a luxury holiday on a liveaboard or in a seaside resort on the coast, you will find your little diving paradise.
We hope the “Best Scuba diving and Snorkeling in the Caribbean” was helpful to you.