Jan 2020

Top 15 Places to Scuba Dive Over the Holiday Season

By Candace 

It’s the holiday season and many people are looking for an exotic place to escape to on vacation. Whether you live in a place that gets quite chilly over the holidays or you are just looking for a great place to relax with some extra time off, visiting a scuba diving destination can be a great option.

Here is a list of our Top 15 Places to scuba dive during the holiday season:

1) Indonesia

Indonesia is part of the coral triangle which is the most biodiverse habitat in the world’s oceans. One of the best places to scuba dive over the holiday season in Indonesia is Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is an archipelago of 1500 islands and is considered to have the highest marine biodiversity on Earth! Here you can spot wobbegong sharks, epaulette sharks, manta rays, bobtail squid, pygmy seahorses, and whale sharks. Of the world’s coral species, 80% can be found in Raja Ampat. At the nearby Island of Alor, hammerhead sharks can be spotted in schools.

2) Philippines

Photo Credit Hanna Norlin

Also part of the coral triangle, the Philippines has a great diversity of marine life. Malapascua is a tiny island off Cebu. Here, you are very likely to encounter thresher sharks as well as many species of coral, manta rays, and hammerhead sharks. Moreover, schools of thousands of barracuda and jackfish are often spotted. The infamous dugong is also native to the area. In addition to the abundant sea life, there are wrecks that offer spectacular views full of life. Year-round diving here is usually done in a 3mm shorty suit.

Boracay is the most popular diving location in the Philippines. With beautiful natural reef systems, eels, and many fish including the cute little clownfish, the diving here is a dream! The pristine, white sandy beaches also make your surface intervals very, very, very…relaxing.

3) Thailand


Thailand offers some of the most affordable places to learn how to scuba dive. With a variety of dive sites suitable for divers of all levels, Thailand is truly a top place to scuba dive over the holiday season. The Similan Islands are only open November to April and accessible by boat. You will be greeted with calm water and clear weather. The plankton blooms and cleaner wrasse are abundant which attract manta rays, whale sharks and black and white-tipped reef sharks at Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock. Of the many places to learn how to scuba dive in Thailand, Koh Tao and Koh Lipe are both beautiful and very cheap.

4) Palau

Photo credit pxfuel

With the best diving in Palau occurring from December to March, it makes the list of top places to scuba dive over the holiday. There can be very strong currents here so they say its best if you have some diving experience before venturing to here. However, these strong currents offer some amazing drift dives and bring out pelagics such as manta rays, reef sharks, and sea turtles. There are also wrecks and reefs to explore and shark dives to take part in. The Blue Hole offers an undersea cavern with transparent waters.

5) Federated States of Micronesia

Photo: LuxTonnerre

December falls within the peak diving months for exploring Micronesia in dry weather and warm water. In Chuuk Lagoon, arguably the best wreck diving location in the world, you will find more than 200 aircraft and 60 ships that were sunk during World War II. Much of the area is now a Japanese memorial, but many sites still allow scuba divers.

6) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Photo credit: Piqsels

As you may know, the Galapagos Islands are protected, which leads to an abundance of marine life. Besides being made famous by Charles Darwin, scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands offers some big and rare marine life. There are over 30 species of sharks here as well as whale sharks (June-November), penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, schooling hammerhead sharks, and mola mola. Scuba diving in December offers warmer waters making it great for a top place to scuba dive over the holiday.

7) Mexico

Photo credit: Flickr

In Riviera Maya, considered Mexico’s top holiday resort destination, scuba divers will find many cenotes (deep sinkholes), underwater cave systems, and caverns for non-technical divers. Bull sharks and sailfish are often spotted here as well.

8) Maldives

Photo credit: needpix

From December to March, you will find dry weather and calm seas. The Maldives offers pinnacles and channels which make for some good drift diving. Whale sharks and manta rays are among the top marine life expected to be seen.

9) Belize

Photo: Wiki media

The Blue Hole was once explored by Jacques Cousteau and is considered to be one of the best diving sites in the world. With crystal clear waters offered year-round, Belize is a top place to scuba dive over the holidays. Reef sharks, bull sharks, and hammerhead sharks are all a possibility to be seen here.

10) Malaysia

In Malaysia, Sipadan is a very popular diving location with over 300 species of fish and hundreds of species of coral. Turtles can be found everywhere on the island. The rangers even helps protect turtle eggs from predators until they can hatch. Sharks, dolphins, and stunning coral make Sipadan an amazing place to explore the underwater world over the holidays.

11) Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s longest reef. The reef is deteriorating over time due to climate change and other human impacts so make sure to get there soon! Away from tourists, head to Ribbon Reefs and you will really see what Australia has to offer. Here you will spot humpback whales, huge and small schooling fish, and humongous potato groupers that might give you a scare but they are very friendly.

12) The Red Sea

All of the Red Sea is diveable. You can find dive sites in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Sudan. Underwater you can expect to see nudibranchs, long-nosed hawkfish, oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, and whale sharks along with very vibrant, colourful coral. Dive sites to visit include Ras Mohamed and Tiran, St Johns, Daedelus, Elphinstone and the Brothers, Blue Hole in Dahab, Cedar Pride wreck in Aqaba, and SS Thistegorm. A brand new plane wreck includes the purposely sunken C130 Hercules which can be found in Aqaba.

13) Hawaii

In Hawaii, there is great diving all over the islands. You will see so many turtles, seals, and manta rays. Visiting December to May, there is also the possibility to see humpback whales and whale sharks.

14) Curacao, Bonaire, Saba

Once part of the Netherlands Antilles, these islands in the Caribbean are less expensive and less touristy than some of the other popular Caribbean islands. Here you will find mostly rich coral with walls and drifts and year-round great visibility.

15) Maltese Islands

In Malta, diving can be a little colder in the winter months with an average water temperature of 18°C in December, but the crowds are significantly decreased. The Blue Hole is the most popular dive site off Gozo. Off the coast of Comino, you will find wrecks to explore. The underwater arches and caves along with great visibility make diving in Malta an excellent top scuba diving destination over the holiday season.

So, there we have it our top 15 diving destinations for the holiday season. If you have any experiences diving elsewhere in the world during the holiday season, please let us know in the comments section below.

Happy diving and happy New year!

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Candace is an avid scuba diver and acclaimed writer, with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!