The Best Scuba Diving in the World: 12 Must-Visit Destinations

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From California to Belize to Australia—at these spots you’ll experience thriving intact coral reefs, colorful (and big) fish, and the trip of a lifetime. I can never get enough of the sea life that comes out in the light of the moon, especially unfurling octopus and eels with glinting eyes. During my week there, not a night went by without a Caribbean reef squid encounter. One little guy that swam straight into my face, balled his tentacles into fists, and inked me in a fit of pique. To go with your electric MTB, why not purchase some mountain bike shorts? For our full range of garments, it’s all about our mountain bike clothessection.

Here, the vibrant hues of coral gardens rival any rainforest canopy. These healthy reefs —protected by the country’s unwavering commitment to conservation — teem with biodiversity. Silent giants like manta rays and whale sharks soar through technicolor depths. Reef sharks patrol their claim with quiet purpose, while more than 20 species of playful dolphins huffy cruiser weave between divers, their curiosity as boundless as the ocean itself. Layer turtles, eels, batfish, yellow snapper and another 1,000-or-so fish across this aquatic city, and you have more than enough beauty to last you a lifetime. Pelagic lovers will be delighted by the wide variety here, from tiger sharks to manta rays, mola molas to barracudas.

This immense archipelago is the epicenter of the Coral Triangle, a global hotspot of marine biodiversity, and home to some of the best scuba diving in the world. The world’s second-largest barrier reef is a riot of life—nearly 1,400 species call this UNESCO world heritage site home. Green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles all scuttle around here, as well as angelfish, blennies, seahorses, and parrotfish. They spend their days weaving in and out of a rich tapestry of hard and soft corals that stretches for 190-miles. Shark aficionados will be delighted with the chance to encounter several shark species, including lemon, nurse, and Caribbean reef sharks.

Disappointment is as rare as a bad day in paradise when you can spot more than 100 species on a single dive. This Dutch Caribbean island, the “Shore Diving Capital of the World,” lets you roll out of bed and into adventure. Vibrant reefs teeming with 470 fish species wait right off the shore—Salt Pier, Alice in Wonderland, Bari Reef, and 1000 Steps, to name a few sites. Rent a truck, go through the drive-through tank fill, and you’re ready to dive. There are more dives than islands in the Maldives—and that’s saying something in a country stitched together across more than 1,100 islands. Whether you crave drift dives through vibrant coral gardens, adrenaline-pumping pinnacles, or the eerie allure of wrecks, this scattered paradise caters to every diver’s whim.

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Local diving led Alexandra Gillespie to a globetrotting stint taking dozens of dives in cool places and writing about them afterward. Now a freelancer for Outside, she covers water and travel. Her writing has also appeared in NPR, National Geographic, Scuba Diving, and other national outlets. Krill, the lifeblood of the Southern Ocean, paints the water a cloudy red. This bounty draws colossal whales, their mournful songs echoing through the water column. Other great performance features include the easy-to-use 18-speed index shifters integrated with the Shimano rear derailleur for a smooth performance ride.

Dip below the waves and you’re instantly transported. Tarpon streak past, eels slither from their dens, stingrays glide like phantoms. Turtles—hawksbill and green—cruise serenely, while playful dolphins weave through the blue. Keep your eyes peeled, you might spot a frogfish camouflaged amongst the coral, a seahorse clinging to a swaying fan, or even a pygmy goby, smaller than your fingernail.

The slope starts at the shore of the Monterey Peninsula and quickly plummets more than a mile. This is why the Monterey Bay Aquarium constantly releases amazing deep sea footage so often—the deep is their backyard. Life was never the same after getting dive certified in the 54°F waters of a flooded Ohio quarry.

A whirlwind of teeth and scales, these fish frenzies hypnotize even the most seasoned scuba divers. It also means divers can access a unique underwater environment in the bay’s sheltered conditions. A swift ascent from the shallows delivers stunning encounters on a shore dive, from massive fried egg jellyfish to hulking mola-molas. Below you, California sea stars slouch in silence. The current drives opalescent and the Rainbow nudibranch to wiggle hello at the sea nettles drifting past. You can dance with playful sea lions and marvel at massive kelp—there’s a reason these are called the Sequoias of the Sea.