Diving in Central America

Central America is the place to go for divers looking for healthy coral reefs, crystal-clear cenotes and offshore islands busy with pelagic action. Discover everything from colourful reef fish at ‘the world’s aquarium’ and numerous critters to Guadalupe’s great white sharks and more marine megafauna than you can imagine.

Belize

Ancient Mayan ruins and rainforests, lush mangroves and endless coral reefs attract divers from around the world to Belize. Discover a whale shark hotspot, dive with thousands of spawning Nassau groupers, plunge into the famous Blue Hole or simply marvel at the sharks, rays and even saltwater crocodiles found there.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s rich waters are a paradise for marine megafauna fans;  Cocos Island offers bull shark dives, schooling hammerheads, numerous mantas, whale sharks, saltwater crocodiles and the longest humpback whale season in the world. Go in search of these giants or simply enjoy colourful coral reefs and seagrass beds teeming with life.

Honduras

Dive the second largest reef system in the world and discover the stunning Bay Islands; famous for their visiting whale sharks. From entry-level dives to Tec adventures, this affordable Caribbean destination has something for all, with beautiful thriving reefs, seamounts surrounded by pelagics and a 130-foot vertical volcanic reef crack.

 

Diving in Central America

Central America is the best dive area in the western hemisphere. Its equatorial waters teem with diverse fish species and big marine megafauna like sharks, rays, whales, and dolphins. The Central American continent gives divers access to two mighty water bodies: the Caribbean Sea on the east coast and the great Pacific Ocean on the west coast. These wildly different environments make Central America a place where you can find any kind of diving. In the Caribbean, clear, blue water illuminates the beauty of colorful coral reefs, populated by shimmering reef fish, along with whale sharks, reef sharks, and manta rays in special locations. Along the Pacific coast, nutrient-rich waters and long-distance currents attract the giants of the ocean, from humpback whales to hammerheads.
 
Central American diving boasts unique and invaluable natural treasures, such as Costa Rica’s Pacific seamount Cocos Island, and the limestone cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Spanish language can be used to move around the entire region, which has plenty of international and domestic airports conveniently located for diving. There are abundant dive centers and resorts in all Central American dive spots, and rates are competitive for all kinds of diving, from fun dives to tec instructor courses. For divers who want beginner or advanced training, the Central America dive scene offers lots of choices, including specialty courses tailored for the local dive area. Liveaboard diving plays an essential role in getting divers to some of the top-tier dive spots in Central America, such as Socorro, Guadalupe, Cocos, and the Sea of Cortez.

Best places to dive

Mexico is a huge country, and its range of diving opportunities is also huge. On the Caribbean side, the Yucatan Peninsula is a dive paradise, from the reefs and walls of Cozumel, to the whale sharks of Isla Mujeres, to the bull sharks of Playa del Carmen, to the one-of-a-kind cenotes (submerged limestone caverns and caves in the jungle). In Mexico’s Pacific waters, Socorro Island delivers mantas, whale sharks, humpback whales, and hammerheads, while Guadalupe offers cage diving with great white sharks. Visit the Sea of Cortez to add sea lions to the mix; the Sea of Cortez also sees whale sharks at La Paz, and an ancient coral reef at Cabo Pulmo.
 
Belize diving centers on the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Belize is also proud to claim three of the four atolls in the eastern hemisphere, and both liveaboards and day trip boats can access their incredible dive sites. Whale sharks gather at Gladden Spit every April for a plankton feast, while deep divers gather at the Great Blue Hole dive site to test their limits. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are conveniently located dive hubs for reef dives with diverse critters, sharks, and rays.
 
Costa Rica is famous for big animal diving, especially along its Pacific Coast. Its offshore Cocos Island is one of the best dive destinations in the world, full of schooling scalloped hammerheads, whale sharks, mantas, galapagos sharks, silky sharks, and even a tiger shark or two. Closer to the mainland, the Bat Islands offer thrilling natural encounters with large bull sharks, while the Catalina Islands and Herradura are great for sighting manta rays. Costa Rica’s Pacific waters are full of whales and dolphins, both resident and migratory. Costa Rica diving in the Caribbean is totally different; here, coral reefs and colorful reef fish can be enjoyed. With luck, divers might see the turtles, crocodiles, or even manatees who live in the area.
 
Honduras diving offers incredibly affordable packages for taking the plunge in the Caribbean Sea. Its Bay Islands of Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja are conveniently placed for easy access via ferry or air (only Guanaja doesn’t have a ferry connection). The islands are dedicated to diving, especially Utila, where beginners and aspiring professionals gather to sign up for dive courses. There are dive sites literally surrounding the islands, offering a range of walls, pinnacles, wrecks, tunnels, caverns, and coral flats. Whale sharks are reliable visitors to Utila from mid-February through April. Just south of the Bay Islands, the protected reserve around Cayos Cochinos offers the most pristine diving in Honduras.
 
Panama is an up-and-coming dive destination, so divers here get the rare chance to enjoy world-class dive sites which are still relatively undervisited. Coiba National Park on the Pacific coast sees migratory animals like humpback whales and whale sharks, especially in August and September. Bocas del Toro Islands are an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea with colorful reefs and fish, as well as wrecks. Back on the Pacific side, in the Bay of Panama, is the Archipelago de las Perlas, or Pearl Islands. These ninety islands and one hundred thirty islets are a diver’s paradise, with sites ranging from calm and sheltered to exposed with current, drawing in pelagic species.