The Caribbean has long seduced divers looking for calm, warm waters, white sandy beaches and world-class dive sites. But with 7,000 islands and 13 countries to explore, where's best to go? That's where we come in. Our diving experts have explored the breadth of the archipelago and hand-picked the top Caribbean diving destinations. From joining a shark frenzy or diving with the backing track of whale song, to thrilling drift dives and dramatic walls, read on to discover the best diving in the Caribbean.
Best for Shore Diving: Bonaire
Hailed as the shore diving capital of the world, the best sites in Bonaire are just a fin kick away. Whether snorkelling or diving, explore healthy coral formations in the shallows, along with shipwrecks, eagle rays, turtles and macro critters galore. The icing on the cake? Bonaire is located outside of the hurricane zone and protected from ocean currents, so can be dived year-round. For a cool Caribbean combo, neighbouring Curaçao is another shore diving mecca.
Best for Shark Diving: The Bahamas
For shark aficionados, the Bahamas easily takes the top spot for the best diving in the Caribbean. In New Providence, Stuart Cove's has built a cult following for its shark feeding dive (insider tip: opt for the night dive). Over in Grand Bahama, dive with tiger sharks in turquoise shallows; see great hammerheads in Bimini and oceanic whitetips around Cat Island. Aside from shark diving, Andros is a divers paradise, boasting secret blue holes and dramatic coral wall diving along the 2,000-metre-deep Tongue of the Ocean.
Best for Pelagics: Turks & Caicos
The Turks & Caicos archipelago comprises 40 islands and cays scattered across the 22-mile-wide Columbus Passage, otherwise known as the Turks & Caicos Channel. Reaching depths of 7,000 metres, this channel acts as an underwater highway for migratory species, including humpback whales, sharks, rays, turtles and dolphins.
Best for Wreck Diving: The British Virgin Islands
The wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone is regularly touted to be the best wreck dive in the Caribbean - and for good reason. Originally a UK Royal Mail Ship, the RMS Rhone met its watery demise during a hurricane in 1867. Today, divers can explore the coral-encrusted remains for giant green moray eels, octopuses and macro-life.
Best for Learning to Dive: Grenada
Grenada slides into the top spot for having the best diving in the Caribbean for beginners. Why? This quintessentially Caribbean island boasts calm, turquoise water and superb visibility, while advanced and newly certified divers alike can enjoy shallow coral gardens, colourful Caribbean reef fish and the world's first underwater sculpture park.
Best for Luxury Diving: Petit St Vincent
If luxury private island escapes are your jam, Petit St Vincent delivers. Home to 22 villas scattered across 115 acres, trips here feel like being gloriously castaway. Petit St Vincent's pièce de résistance lies in the Jean-Michel Cousteau dive centre. Hand-picked by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau, guests have unparalleled access to some of the best dive sites in the Caribbean.
Best for Humpback Whales: Dominican Republic
If big animals fall under your criteria for the best diving in the Caribbean, Silver Banks is just the ticket. Located 56 miles north of the Dominican Republic, Silver Banks is one of the few places in the world where you can get in the water with humpback whales (from December to March). Closer to shore, explore deep wrecks, healthy coral reefs, swim-throughs and mangrove forests.
Best for Wall Diving: The Cayman Islands
Comprising three distinct islands - Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac - the diving in the Cayman Islands is truly world-class. Little Cayman's Bloody Bay boasts the best wall diving in the Caribbean, with a dramatic drop-off plunging over 1,800 metres in crystal-clear visibility. Across the islands, spot stingrays burrowing in shallow sandbars, nurse sharks slinking past caverns and curious hawksbill turtles floating in the blue.
Best for Drift Diving: Cozumel, Mexico
Located off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Cozumel is a magnet for divers. Why? This small, sandy island is ringed by reefs and famed for having adrenaline-inducing drift dives. Forgo the fin kick and let the current carry you past coral-encrusted walls, flurries of Caribbean reef fish, eagle rays, turtles, nurse sharks and lobsters. Visit between November and March to dive with pregnant bull sharks off mainland Mexico.
Best for Variety: Belize
No round-up of the best diving in the Caribbean would be complete without the world-famous Great Blue Hole. But the pint-sized country of Belize has a lot more to offer, including the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Head to the remote southerly reefs and you'll likely have beautiful coral sites all to yourself. Insider tip: visit between October and November for grouper mating season and witness thousands of these fish descend on the reef to mate and give birth to their young.
Written by Lizzie Shipley