Thailand coral

5 Cheap Places to Scuba Dive

By PADI Staff | March 27, 2020
Diving on a shoestring? Consider these 5 affordable dive destinations to get the most bang for your buck.

Looking for a cinematic experience on an indie film budget?

Search no further. These five spots take your breath away - not your wallet. 

1. Cozumel, Mexico

Bargain-basement prices are not the only reason cost-conscious divers flock to Cozumel. Mexico’s largest Caribbean island offers eye-popping reefs and drop-offs, laid-back drift diving, plenty of options for accommodations and dive operator options. It’s hard to top Cozumel’s vacation value: Seven nights’ accommodations, five days’ diving, daily buffet breakfast and airfare start from about $800 per person at many hotels and resorts. Look for buy one, get second booking at half price deals.

2. Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

Thanks to affordable accommodations and cheap eats, funky Utila in Honduras’s Bay Islands is popular among backpackers and budget travelers trying to stretch their lempiras. Prices are lower here than elsewhere in the Bay Islands - for about $25 a day, budget travelers can get three meals a day and sleep in a clean room. Bonus: the dive sites off Utila, from the west side’s shallow coral reefs to the southeast end’s walls and caves to the submerged mountains whose summits are in recreational diving depths, get less dive traffic than the sites off other Bay Islands.

3. Bonaire

Deals abound in Bonaire, a mecca for shore divers. For under $500, you can spend seven nights in a comfortable apartment or room and get six days of unlimited shore diving. Look for drive and dive packages offered by most resorts and operators that also include a rental truck, so it's easy to blow bubbles 365/24/7 on any of the island's 60-plus named sites. Plus, the diving off resort house reefs is stellar. On most sites on the island, the beaches continue under water in a sandy plain that gradually drops off to about 130 feet, and every site enjoys marine park protection.

4. Thailand

For roughly $1,100, liveaboards offer weeklong itineraries to the Andaman Sea’s Similan Islands, Burma Banks and Mergui Archipelago. It’s possible to stay in a nice hotel in Phuket, (an island connected by a bridge to the heel of Thailand’s boot-shaped peninsula), for about $65 a night. Phuket is the hub of land-based diving. Two-tank dive trips to reefs housing some of the world’s most exotic and rare creatures, including tiger-tail seahorses, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp and cuttlefish, cost about $100. Look for backpacker room and dive packages offered by a number of Phuket dive operators.

5. Southeast Florida

Divers familiar with the southeast coast of Florida—from the northern edge of Palm Beach County to Miami at the southern tip of the mainland—appreciate the lush reefs and dramatic wrecks. If you’re not a daytripping local, you’ll find a number of comfortable and clean budget hotels along the I-95 corridor. And a fleet of dive boats deliver divers to the best sites for about $65 for two-tank trips.

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