Choosing a Dive Vacation

Now that you have your Open Water certification, it’s time to go out and use it! No doubt there are local places to dive near your dive center of choice, even if just a flooded quarry with discarded household appliances to explore. Although great places to practice, I’d venture to say that most people live near water that is vastly different from the pictures you are shown in your dive manual, or the barrage of digital advertising you receive after mentioning the word “Scuba” in the same room as ALEXA.


For most, like myself who lived and learned to dive in the chilly waters of Washington State, the idea of scuba travel becomes almost a “given” as long as a warm, clear, bikini-clad ocean is the destination. It is still a big world, with literally thousands of destinations and providers available to divers of every certification level and wallet thickness. So, with that in mind, let’s explore some dive vacation options.

The first decision to make would have to be “where?” A quick look at a globe or map will usually show two dotted lines running horizontally through the central portion labeled “Tropic of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn”. I am personally of the opinion that all dive travel destinations be between these lines. Fear not, this is a huge portion of the planet with just gobs of ocean and coastlines, and endless opportunities for experiences of a scuba nature. The Caribbean, the Red Sea, Asia, Indonesia, Hawaii, and Mexico are certainly enough for a lifetime of adventure, and there is more! Picking a geographic area, the Caribbean or Red Sea as examples, get out your Internet device and Google (Bing, whatever…) something like “Top 10 Places to Scuba Dive in The Caribbean”, I am admittedly biased. In the lesser half of a second you will have a kazillion options of information to peruse. Scroll past the ads, the maps, the ratings, the questions, the videos, and the “people also ask” section to the actual search engine results (I highly recommend running an Ad-Blocker application). Ignore TripAdvisor postings (future blog), and do a little reading about the Scuba diving opportunities in the area. Narrow your search to a specific location, perhaps an island or town, and simply search “(‘island of choice” scuba diving) scroll past the stuff mentioned above, and explore the many possibilities of people, and businesses willing to make your dive holiday complete.

Having chosen our destination (I highly suggest a coastline or island) and checked for flight availability and cost, there are three main types of Scuba vacations to consider;  Live-Aboard, All Inclusive Resort, or Independent Travel. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of each.

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Live-Aboards are just as the name implies; you live aboard a large boat, usually with high-end accommodations and amenities, which travels about and you dive from it. These vacations can be amazing and can reach remote areas, and cover greater distances than our other two vacation options. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, or perhaps the wrecks at Truk Lagoon are a couple of great examples of live-aboard diving that I hope one day to experience. On live-aboards you can literally dive your brains out, with some offering round-the-clock diving, and your vacation is scheduled around your nitrogen levels as you wait for your computer to allow you in the water again.

The cons of live-aboard diving in my opinion are mostly boat related. The boats no matter how large, are still small, especially after a week on board. Close quarters and lessened privacy are almost a given, generally meals will be scheduled, and although diving is the reason for being there, it is one of the few distractions.

All Inclusive Dive Resorts, do indeed include everything, and for many dive locations this is a very viable, and enjoyable way to spend a scuba diving holiday. All inclusive dive resorts exist most anywhere but come into their own by  allowing land based dive holidays in areas which are remote, lack infrastructure, other lodging possibilities, or have security problems.

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At All-inclusive dive resorts literally everything is included or available. Rooms or small cabins are provided as lodging. Meals are taken in common dining areas, with bar(s) for post dive relaxing. Diving and boats are close by,  and designed for convenience, with some locations fortunate enough to have shore diving on-site. Along with food (sometimes amazing…) and drink, local entertainment may be available with possibilities of other resort based distractions to fill the evenings.

All-inclusive cons actually exist! They are in my opinion, much like big live-aboards, where the boat becomes a parcel of real estate, and you are insulated from the local area and culture. Spectacular resorts, resort sites and amenities exist, but still there are boundaries. Another aspect to consider with all inclusive resorts and usually live-aboards is that you will be eating outta the same kitchen/galley for the duration of your stay. When it comes to dining choices, although great food is the norm, there are still no choices.

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Independent Dive Travel is my favorite type of dive holiday (the author admits blatant personal bias), when it can apply to my destination. This sort of holiday takes a bit more effort, but when you are looking to maximize your Scuba diving experience at a new location, this is the place to start. Having chosen a destination, usually between the tropical lines mentioned, merely bring up Google, type in your destination of choice followed by the words “scuba diving” scroll past all the ads, questions etc. and check out the websites of Dive Centers in the area. Granted, for some locations the list can be quite large, for instance in the town of Cozumel PADI alone lists over 40 dive centers, excluding the rest of the alphabet soup of training agencies! Fear not, explore the websites of the top three or four selections, and see which appeal to you. These are the people you are planning to spend time and dive with, and you can get the feel of a dive center by its website. Pick one or two, and contact them via their website, expect timely detailed response, and make your decision. All quality dive centers will have accommodation suggestions, with many offering packages that include diving in the price.

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The pros of booking with a dive center firstly and mostly, are that the business’s focus is on scuba diving! They are usually owned, operated and staffed by divers who are enthusiastic about what they do, and are ready and able to show off the local underwater wonders. These businesses are not distracted by hotel rates, staffing, restaurant operation, and overall corporate profit margins of multiple departments. Diving with  a local dive center, and staying in a local hotel has the added benefit of actually being on the ground and experiencing the local culture and dining. Living the unscripted life of independent dive travel will expose you to the food, drink, and local people you will never enjoy aboard a boat, or sequestered in an all inclusive resort.

The cons of independent dive travel are that you will have a bit of responsibility when it comes to your own existence. You will have to forage the local eateries for sustenance, rather than have it buffeted to you from the same kitchen over twenty times ( 3 meals X 7 days). You may have to stroll the street (often white sand) for beverages and entertainment of your choosing, and there is a chance that you will meet new friends that won’t be diving with you the next day.

You may realize by the website you find yourself on, that we enthusiastically endorse independent dive travel, because we are an independent dive travel destination! Contact us, contact independent dive centers in your fantasy dive location, and plan to enjoy dining, entertainment, and local culture along with incredible diving.