Spectacular destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling
Whether you're looking for the perfect spot to take in the wonders of nature, to swim with the sharks, squid or other marine life, or explore the calming darkness of caves and shipwrecks, there's a scuba diving or snorkeling spot for you!
Looking for the perfect place to take your scuba diving or snorkeling vacation? We reached out to Mike Bustamante, co-owner of Scuba Sonics, creative mind behind the popular diving safety devices AquaSonic and Aqua Maraca, and 30-year diving veteran to find the best locations to get your swim on.
Turks and Caicos
Bustamante tells us the Turks and Caicos have some of the best diving and snorkeling around. The hotels are excellent, and the best part is it's just a hop, skip and a short flight from the East Coast of the US. According to Bustamante, "Grace Bay is really nice and all types of ocean-side services are available... " Another bonus: The beaches aren't too crowded.
With calm, crystal-blue waters that are warm year-round, shallow reefs and colorful marine life, Grace Bay is a favorite destination for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
It might be a little more touristy than Turks and Caicos, but Cozumel does have good diving and snorkeling spots, and is also close (easy to get to in Mexico). Bustamante tells us it's a good deal for the price. One drawback is that the hotels have limited beach access, but a little inconvenience is the price of underwater beauty in this case.
There are a variety of reef types in Cozumel, from shallow to deep, and diving destinations are available for novices and well-trained divers alike. The Palancar Caves can be explored by newbies.
Not well known for its snorkeling, Bonaire is nonetheless an amazing place for diving. It's a great place to go if your significant other isn't as into diving as you are. He can stay back at one of their gorgeous hotels or treat himself to lunch at a popular restaurant.
While they have plenty of dive sites (86, to be exact), most marked by yellow stones visible from the road, the saying goes that if you haven't explored the Hilma Hooker, you've never been to Bonaire. Hilma Hooker is the most popular of the wreck diving sites. Previous to its deliberate sinking, it was a drug-smuggling boat that was found carrying 12 tons of marijuana.
The wreck is covered with orange coral, and many species of marine animals, including barracudas, green moray eels and tarpons, now call the Hooker home.
Bustamante recommends the Grand Cayman because they have everything. There are 7 miles of beautiful sandy beaches great for snorkeling, and dive services everywhere on the island. He advises staying at north-end hotels, which are less crowded and have quieter beaches.
A fun snorkeling or diving trip for families or novices is the novice-level stingray trip. Having been on one of these trips myself, I can tell you that they're beautiful creatures, both to watch and in spirit. The kiddos go nuts when the rays come up and eat right out of their hands (check the ages allowed with the company you choose before you go).
Mike Bustamante of Scuba Sonics says that some of the best diving and snorkeling for the price is right here in the U.S. of A. He says a lot of divers avoid the Keys, and that's a big mistake. They have the amenities one would expect in a Florida tourist destination.
While you're there, check out the wreck diving, which Bustamante notes is one of the highlights of this area.
Advice from a pro
He also points out other top picks: the Bahamas, Australia, Palau Islands, Truk Lagoon, the Red Sea and Thailand, but they're really expensive — to get to, to dive and for accommodations.
He also offers advice for those unfamiliar with a diving area. "Many of these destinations can be found on the web, and packages are available for each. Your local dive shops know the best hotels and dive operators, and get group rates, so it’s a good idea to ask them for advice."