Divers always want the best of both worlds. We want to be wowed underwater and we want to be back at the resort in time for happy hour. The easiest way to take it all in is to choose resorts that offer mind-blowing experiences right from the properties (or just offshore).
Here are our picks for the best spots to stay and dive:
Thirteen tiger sharks show up regularly at the house shark dive at Beqa Lagoon Resort in Fiji. Unlike many other shark dives in the world, this one is renowned for the variety of apex species that show up: lemon, reef, and bull sharks are all frequently in the mix at this site 100-feet deep.
The resort itself is located on the island of Beqa, just a 45-minute boat ride from the main island of Viti Levu.
Trippy Biolume Light Show
Timing is everything when it comes to seeing this bioluminescent wonder off the coast of Roatan, Honduras. Seen only a few days before and after the new moon, a deep-water crustacean rises to the shallows, around 45 feet, where divers can kneel in the sand and witness the magic.
Anthony’s Key Resort takes guests on a night dive just in front of the resort at a site called Overheat, where they can watch what appears to be underwater fireflies. These orbs of light show up one at a time in perfectly vertical chains, appearing to form little underwater cities of light.
Corals Doing the Deed
You could say corals have an out of body experience when they mate: to breed, coral polyps release eggs—that look like a tiny, pink ping-pong balls—into the water column. The result is thousands of these orbs floating around until a mess of sperm clouds the water.
Because the nighttime event happens every year, dive operators such as Ocean Frontiers on Grand Cayman time it right down to the week it will occur—typically at the end of September. This dive center is the in-house operator for Compass Point Dive Resort, where you can roll out of bed and walk right onto the dive boat.
WWII Cargo Ship
The USS Liberty shipwreck, found off the Indonesian island of Bali, is famous for being the biggest wreck dive reachable from shore. Torpedoed in 1942, the 427-foot, very-much-intact ship lies on its side off the beach of Tulamben on the north coast.
The best part: Puri Madha Dive Resort Bali is so close to the wreck, enough so that you can dive the ship then come back and have a cold one and go for a swim in the pool.
The Great Blue Hole
We love Turneffe Island Resort in Belize because it’s located just 1.5 hours from one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world: The Great Blue Hole. Whereas most resorts on the mainland require a three-hour trip each way to visit this site that Jacques-Yves Cousteau made famous, Turneffe sits 35 miles off the coast of Belize, so you’re already halfway there.
So, just what is inside a blue hole? Stalactites as big around as divers, and sharks sometimes circling down at 90 feet. The craziest part: the sandy bottom is 410-feet down, covered in lost snorkels.
The Maya believed that the underwater caves throughout their lands were a direct link to the underworld—dive in, and you’ll see why. These caves, called cenotes, can be found by the dozens around the cities of Playa del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras, both south of Cancun.
Hotel Catalonia Riviera Maya offers an onsite dive shop, Pro Dive Mexico, that runs day trips to these otherworldly realms, known for 150-feet of visibility and ceilings full of stalactites. On some cenote dives, swim through tunnels and then pop up in a pond surrounded by a canopy of trees.
Pearl Havaiki Lodge on the French Polynesian island of Fakarava is unique for so many reasons, including that it has an onsite pearl farm. Not only do the farmed oysters, living among the patch coral reefs, spit out regular pearls, they also produce a black variety as well. Resort owners and staff will teach you how to harvest the goods, starting with an in-water dive.
Sculpture Art Installation
Musha Cay, David Copperfield’s private island resort, commissioned an underwater sculpture from artist Jason deCaires Taylor. This piece, “The Musician,” sits just 12-feet deep, making it available to snorkelers and divers alike.
Constructed of stainless steel and an ocean-safe cement, the life-size piano, kept company by the figure of a young mermaid, comes with a twist—it plays music when divers approach.
Nowhere else on Earth do reef manta rays, known for wingspans of 18 feet, show up regularly just yards from shore. On Hawaii’s Big Island, find them most nights in the front yard of the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay. Yes, you can see them after sunset from the hotel’s observation platform, but the once-in-a-lifetime experience is to book a night snorkel or dive and be in the water as anywhere from three to more than a dozen come in to feed on the plankton attracted to high-power lights that dive operators bring.
These animals swoop, dive, loop, and perform acrobatics, all over your head. As for booking, the hotel concierge can set you up on a tour with a variety of operators; they recommend booking at least a month in advance.
Who doesn’t have a secret fantasy to go for a submarine ride? On the island of Roatan, Honduras, Half Moon Resort’s Captain Karl Stanley offers submarine rides down to 3,000-feet, giving you the chance to see the anemones, black corals and wiggly, wobbly weirdies living down deep.
Over the years, Stanley has also piloted the sub while encountering mantas at 1,350-feet, sharks feeding on dinner, and mystery animals still awaiting classification.