With numerous whales and dolphins, manta rays, sharks and Mola mola, Portugal diving is perfect for marine megafauna fans. Explore famous wrecks and thriving marine reserves, drift over a 12km-long reef or experience the thrill of blue water diving at the Azores. Portugal has it all and more.
The Algarve region of Portugal, also known as the Faro District, is famous for its crisp blue waters and meet fine-sand beaches tucked away in cozy coves, all set against stunning red sand cliffs. Scuba Diving in the Algarve is fantastic. The clear, calm water is perfect for diving any time of the year.
Lisbon is not only the capital of Portugal, but it is this magnificent country's cultural epicenter and full of natural and historical beauty. Although scuba diving in the Lisbon Region is not the first thing that comes to mind when visiting here, it is actually home to Portugal's diving mecca, Sesimbra, where you can explore everything from shipwrecks and deep rocky reefs to underwater caves.
The Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira is famous for its subtropical climate, crystal-clear waters and incredible scuba diving. Meet some of Madeira’s 20 or so whale and dolphin species, explore some of the world’s best wrecks in 40m viz, and dive colourful reefs surrounded by rays, sharks, turtles and more.
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by blue waters hosting over 3000 marine life species, the Azores is a true megafauna and pelagic diving hotspot. Meet blue sharks, mantas and schooling mobula rays, explore stunning offshore pinnacles or simply dive shallow wrecks and reefs all day long.
Diving in Portugal
With its endless Atlantic coastline, white sand beaches and stunning volcanic islands, Portugal is a diving mecca with an array of dive destinations throughout the country.
From Northern Portugal’s famous and numerous shipwrecks to Central Portugal’s Berlengas Islands, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve renowned for its numerous Mola mola, there is something for every dive preference.
Tucked away in a protected cove near Lisbon, Sesimbra is the place to go for diverse reef diving for all experience levels and to explore Portugal’s protected marine parks.
Surround yourself with colourful fish and vibrant corals as you dive Portugal’s longest reef, stretching 12km along the Algarve coastline, or spend your surface intervals strolling along some of the world’s best beaches in Southern Portugal.
No Portugal scuba diving trip would be complete without visiting the Azores and Madeira. Famed for abundant whales, dolphins and sharks, plus two of the world’s best wrecks, these picturesque islands are high on many divers' wish lists.
With numerous dive centers in Portugal, plus diving resorts in Southern Portugal and liveaboard diving off the Azores, scuba diving in Portugal couldn’t be easier or more rewarding.
Best time to dive
Whilst Portugal’s main dive season is from April to October, you can go scuba diving in Portugal all year.
Northern Portugal is best dived in summer for warm water and calm conditions, though visit in winter and you can watch the big wave surfers Portugal is famous for. Central Portugal has year-round diving, with April to October offering the warmest waters, 16 to 22 °C, and up to 15m visibility. The Algarve in Southern Portugal has fantastic diving all year, with endless sunshine and clear warm waters reaching up to 23 °C in summer.
Go Azores diving from April to October to experience water visibility up to 35m and to meet some of the islands’ 20 or so visiting whale species, plus dolphins, turtles and sharks. Madeira is consistently mild all year, with water temperatures of 18 to 23 °C. Visit from May to June and September to November to enjoy the numerous whale species found there.
Types of diving
Divers are spoilt for choice in Portugal, thanks to numerous shipwrecks, bustling marine reserves, reefs, dramatic underwater landscapes and blue water diving.
Keen wreck divers can choose from Portugal’s numerous wrecks, including Porto’s famous U1277, a WWII German submarine swathed in white anemones, and the River Gurara, a huge 170-meter-long Nigerian cargo ship near Lisbon.
The Algarve’s Ocean Revival Project, with its four wrecks representing a Navy Fleet, is the largest artificial reef structure in the world. Madeira’s impressive Cordeca and Madeirense wrecks, lying in waters with up to 40m visibility, are not to be missed.
Wherever you choose to go Portugal diving, you will find thriving rocky reefs busy with marine life. Go diving in the Algarve to explore swim-throughs, rock formations, caverns and walls suitable for new and experienced divers.
For adventurous drift diving, deep and blue water dives, plus diverse marine megafauna, don’t miss diving the Azores and Madeira.
What to see
If you want to dive with classic reef life, schools of pelagic fish, and meet some of the ocean’s most majestic animals, go scuba diving in Portugal.
Portugal’s rocky reefs support diverse corals, sponges, crustaceans and fish life, including wrasse, blennies, triggerfish, gobies, scorpionfish and seabream. Crevices and wrecks are popular hiding spots for conger eels, lobsters and octopi, whilst Portugal’s golden sands host catsharks, gurnard, flounder and sole.
Leatherback turtles migrate along the mainland coast during summer, as do around twenty species of whales and dolphins. For the best chance of seeing these charismatic animals, visit the Azores and Madeira.
The Azores host beaked, sperm, fin, blue, humpback and false killer whales, to name but a few of the whale species found there. Whale watching season typically runs from April to October, though you can see whales there all year. Visit in March to June for the chance to spot larger whales such as blue whales.
Madeira and the Azores’ rich offshore waters also host dolphins, turtles, mantas, devil rays and numerous sharks, including plenty of curious blue sharks and smooth hammerheads.
Best places to dive
The Azores and Madeira are rightly known for their whale watching opportunities, but these special islands offer even more for divers. Go manta ray diving at the Azores’ Central Islands, discover Pico Island’s deep pinnacles and dive with mobulas at the Occidental Islands.
Hop over to Madeira to experience Porto Santo Island’s famous wrecks, sea lions and exceptionally clean waters. This holiday hotspot also fulfils divers needs for some great diving.
The Berlengas Islands is one of mainland Portugal’s best diving destinations, thanks to being where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the islands have azure waters busy with fish life, including visiting Mola mola in summer, and colourful macro critters. With over 60 different dive sites, it’s a great destination for snorkellers and divers alike.
The quaint village of Sesimbra near Lisbon is a diving mecca, renowned for having calm, protected waters and access to Arrábida National Park, Cabo Espichel and the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park. As well as easy Atlantic reef dives and snorkelling from the beach, divers can explore walls, wrecks, underwater caves and healthy marine parks full of fish life.
For diverse Portugal diving opportunities and abundant macro life, don’t miss the Algarve. Drift along Portugal’s longest reef, snorkel with one of the highest concentrations of seahorses in the world at the Ria Formosa Lagoon, or explore one of Portugal’s largest nudibranch communities at Cela.
Open Water Diver prices range from €400-€525. See all Open Water Diver courses in Portugal.
You can obtain your Basic Diver in Lisbon.
You can obtain your Deep Diving in Lisbon.