If you love to go scuba diving, but don't necessarily like to spend hours on a dive boat just to reach the best coral reefs and shipwrecks, than perhaps a shore diving excursion is the perfect alternative. It offers many of the same advantages of a usual dive trip, with some upsides that are tough to beat.
Shore diving allows you to skip long boat rides in rough water, making it a much better option for those who get sea sick. Shore diving also gives you the opportunity to get into the water much more quickly, and is usually less costly too. You can also dive on your own schedule, rather than when a boat comes and goes. But, you might not get access to some of the more scenic coral reefs or shipwrecks, as many aren't located close to shore.
That said, there are some great places to go shore diving all around the world, with great things to see just off the beach. These are our absolute favorite destinations where great scuba diving can be found just offshore.
Bonaire is a beautiful island that sits just off the coast of Venezuela. In fact, the island is actually the peak of a submerged mountain that happens to have deep sloping reefs surrounding most of its shores. There are 86 markers along those beaches that indicate where divers can simply walk off into the water and find spectacular coral within a few hundred meters. Imagine just wading out into the water, swimming for three or four minutes, and being in the middle of an underwater art museum in pristine condition. That's exactly what travelers can expect when they visit this incredibly beautiful place, which is often ranked as the best shore diving experience found anywhere in the world.
Lady Elliot Island (Australia)
Humans wearing scuba gear are in the minority during shore dives, but they can be spotted as part of the parade of sea life cruising along the multi-hued coral canyons just off Lady Elliot Island in Australia. This fragile coral cay is the southernmost in a line of interconnecting set of reefs that make up The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Found just off the coast of Queensland, this island is well known for its incredibly clear water, abundance of sea turtles, and excellent whale watching, which takes place from June to October each year.
The Cayman Islands are famous for spectacular dive sites that are easily accessible by boat, but they also have some terrific shore dives that are available 24 hours a day too. You can do night dives around the pier in George Town for instance or visit "Babylon," an East End shore dive on the North Shore that is a favorite with the locals. Stingrays are amongst the most popular sea life in the Islands, with many visitors opting to swim with the curious creatures which can often be found not far from shore.
Another member of the ABC islands in the southwestern Caribbean, Curacao, is also surrounded by reefs, walls, and even easily-accessible shipwrecks. Divers can walk off the beach of some resorts or directly into the water on some secluded beaches and find multi-hued corals, sunken ships and even the wreckage of old aircraft. Spotting brightly colored fish and large barracuda are some of the most impressive draws, but don't miss the island's famed "Blue Edge," which is a dramatic drop off of the nearby sea shelf. It is an impressive and imposing sight to behold even for the most experienced diver, and it is completely accessible from the beach.
Hawaii has always been seen as great destination for divers, but not everyone knows that it is good for shore diving too. Head to Oahu for calm waters and easy shore dives along the island's southern side. Experienced divers can head to the north shore as well, where they'll find some amazing caves to explore at Shark's Cove. Only attempt those dives during the summer months however, as that is when the swells are much calmer and easier to navigate. This is a dive experience that is tough to top, and one that can only be found just off shore.
East Bali (Indonesia)
The wreckage of the USS Liberty is just one of the great sites that can be reached by shore divers on East Bali island in Indonesia. Found just 25 meters from shore, and resting just 5-30 meters deep in the water, the sunken vessel is easily approachable at all times, including at night. There is great shore diving to be found elsewhere in Indonesia too, with hundreds of small islands for travelers to explore and plenty of natural wonders to discover along the way.
When most people think of diving in the Central American country of Belize, the Blue Hole is the first thing that comes to mind. But, Belize has much more to offer than just that, including some of the best shore diving in the world. Nearby barrier reefs offer excellent options for beginning and experienced divers alike, with visibility as deep as 100 feet in good weather conditions. That means that the hundreds of species of fish found along the coastline are easy to spot and fun to swim with. The Ambergris Caye is a world famous dive site that is located within swimming distance of the beach in many places.
The Philippines are a diver's paradise, whether you're exploring by boat or just wandering in from the shore. The entire country offers great options, but one of the best is can be found at Sabang Beach on Mindoro Island, where the Coral Garden can be found a short distance from the beach, where numerous species of marine life can be spotted, including reef sharks, surgeonfish, and moray eels. If you're staying in a resort while in the Philippines, many of them offer access to their own private reefs as well, making it surprisingly easy to dive without going anywhere.
Bay Islands (Honduras)
Another spectacular shore diving site can be found in the Bay Islands of Honduras, where the fringe-reefs are just a short swim from land. As you would expect, there is plenty of sea life to spot, but there are also some completely unexpected places to explore too. For instance, the Prince Albert is a 140-foot long sunken ship that is easily accessible and the "Spooky Channel" is a massive tunnel that cuts straight through the reef as well. These items alone are enough to keep most divers enthralled, but the natural beauty found here is mesmerizing too.
The Red Sea
Shore divers looking for a unique experience shouldn't sleep on the Red Sea. The body of water has a lot to offer, including massive reefs teeming with sea life, shipwrecks that are entirely close, and an inordinate number of colorful corals and sponges to float past. The best shore diving is found in Egypt, where resorts allow visitors to wander out from the beach and into the clear waters, where a surprising diversity of life can be found. While not quite as popular and well known as some of the other destinations on this list, the Red Sea is no less spectacular.