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Top Diving Places in Latin America

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For many people scuba diving is one of the most rewarding activities they can engage in during a seaside vacation. As a result, the diving industry has grown commensurately and now encompasses locations in pretty much every corner of the globe. Armed with only a PADI certificate, intrepid divers can explore the world’s waters to their heart’s desire, upping the difficulty as they gain more experience. In order to select the best destination for such an adventure, it helps to narrow down your search a bit. For instance, if your interest lies in exploring the waters of Latin America, here are nine excellent diving locations that should definitely figure high on your list:

Ambergris Caye, Belize

  1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

A true bucket list destination if there ever was one, the Galapagos Islands are internationally famous for the vast number of endemic species that can be found here. Diving in the Galapagos is absolutely awe-inspiring, with the likes of sea lions and marine iguanas being just some of the creatures you’re likely to encounter. When it comes to amazing locations such as this one, you’ll definitely want to bring your camera along and create some superb underwater videos to add to your collection. Keep in mind, however, that the area around the Galapagos Islands tends to feature strong currents and chilly waters, thereby making this diving experience more challenging than average.

  1. Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau once called Mexico’s Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium“, and for good reason too. Featuring no less than 850 species of reef fish, orcas, whales and dolphins, this body of water off the Baja Peninsula has acquired an almost legendary status among divers. Visibility is incredible, with divers able to see up to 80-90 feet in every direction. Additionally, witnessing rare creatures here is the norm rather than the exception. All of these things and more have helped make the Sea of Cortez an absolute must-visit destination for all divers, regardless of experience.

  1. Little Corn, Nicaragua

This small island off the coast of Nicaragua is home to numerous underwater species, including Nicaraguan sharks, corals and sponges. There are approximately 20 dive sites around the island, including the famous “Blowing Rock”, one of the most renowned diving spots in the world. What’s more, the waters around Little Corn tend to be fairly calm, thereby making this an ideal place for newbie divers as well as more advanced ones.

  1. Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

If you truly want to experience nature at its most unspoilt, the Cayos Cuchinos archipelago will astound you with its easily accessible reefs and tiny caves. The area’s waters are heavily protected by the government and are off-limits to fishermen, thus ensuring that this environment remains one of the least disturbed in all of Latin America. Even on land, the only accommodation offered comes courtesy of the Turtle Bay Eco Resort, located on Cayo Grande. As far as diving experiences go, this is one of the most eco-friendly ones you can participate in.

  1. San Andres, Columbia

Thanks to its expansive coastline and diverse aquamarine environments, Columbia has become one of South America’s most popular diving destinations, with some of its best spots being located around San Andres and Providencia. The former is especially known for Morgan’s Cave, a mysterious cave formation that’s said to contain the treasure of a 17th century pirate. Many operators in the area also offer nighttime diving, an experience that should definitely be tried by all seasoned divers at least once.

  1. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Unlike other entries on our list, Cocos Island is actually located a fair bit of distance away from the coastline, in this case around 300 miles. Tourists have to get a permit from the Costa Rica Park Rangers in order to explore the area, but it’s worth overcoming this bureaucratic hassle just to bask in the sheer diversity and breadth of the aquamarine life. From white tip reef sharks to hammerheads to manta rays and even the occasional whale shark, the animal species found here stand as a testament to the incredible richness of the world’s oceans.

  1. Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

Situated about 50 miles from the Cuban mainland, the name of Jardines de la Reina can be translated as “The Queen’s Garden”. This place has developed quite a reputation for offering an unparalleled diving experience due to the prevalence of large creatures such as jewfish and several species of sharks. Jardines de la Reina is also known for its exclusivity, with only 300 divers being granted entrance per year in order to ensure the long-term viability of the area. Due to these efforts, the eco-system of this most prized location has hardly changed in the past several decades, thus making it one of the last virgin reefs known to man.

  1. Ambergris Caye, Belize

This marvelous island functions like a gateway to the Belize Barrier Reef, a huge 185 mile-long beauty that features plenty of excellent dive spots alongside places like the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The entire northern stretch of the area is ideal for macrophotography, with clear waters and plenty of critters such as nudibranchs, tube worms and tunicates of every color to be witnessed at every step of the way.

  1. Utila, Honduras

For years on end, this charming island had enjoyed a reputation for being one of the cheapest places in the world when it came to getting diving certificates. However, while new taxes levied on this sort of activity may have lessened its bargain appeal, Utila remains a paradise for backpackers and the diving-obsessed. Some of the area’s top draws include manatees and dolphins, but the elusive whale shark has also been spotted here from time to time.

That concludes our countdown of the nine must-visit diving locations in Latin America. Perhaps more than any other diving region in the world, Latin America strikes the perfect balance between quality and cost, boasting both plentiful underwater species and fairly affordable prices. If you should ever find yourself in this region, be sure to pay the aforementioned spots a visit for a diving experience you won’t soon forget.

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