Scuba diving doesn’t have to be expensive.
This statement might sound a bit surreal to some people as scuba diving is widely considered a rather expensive hobby. However, despite being a somewhat prestige activity, scuba diving is and always should be an activity that’s possible for anyone interested in exploring the underwater world.
While budget diving has a lot to do with your mindset and the way you pursue this hobby, going to budget-friendly dive destinations is probably the easiest way to cut down unnecessary dive expenses.
And just because you choose to go to a cheap dive destinations doesn’t mean that your scuba experience will be dull.
In fact, the following countries are not only some of the cheapest dive destinations in the world but also absolutely stunning locations that will give you bucket list-worthy dive experiences.
For this post, I asked a bunch of fellow travel writers to share their favorite budget-friendly dive destinations and, seriously, I’ve already found A LOT of dive inspiration for my next scuba trips!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Aqaba, Jordan
- 2 Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
- 3 Sao Miguel, Azores
- 4 Bay Of Pigs, Cuba
- 5 Playas Del Coco, Costa Rica
- 6 Roatan, Honduras
- 7 Corn Islands, Nicaragua
- 8 Cancun, Mexico
- 9 Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
- 10 Komodo, Indonesia
- 11 Palau Weh, Indonesia
- 12 Bali, Indonesia
- 13 Sipadan Island, Malaysia
- 14 Koh Tao, Thailand
- 15 Phuket, Thailand
- 16 Malapascua, Philippines
- 17 Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
By Emma from Witrag Travel
It may not be the most famous Red Sea diving destination, but Jordan is home to some of the best dive sites in the area. Beyond the tourist hot spots of the ancient “Rose City” of Petra and Mars-like Wadi Rum, divers in Jordan can expect crystal clear waters, healthy coral and a variety of mind-blowing wrecks to explore – all for next-to-nothing prices.
Even with a Red Sea coastline of only 15 miles, there are around 23 dive sites in Jordan, with the majority of them found within the protected Aqaba Marine Park in the southernmost part of the country. The majority of these sites are accessible from the shore and suit divers of every level (no pun intended). Water temperature and visibility are generally good all year round, and relaxed and unpretentious Aqaba is home to numerous dive schools, such as the extremely reasonably priced Aqaba Bedouin Dive.
The wonderful Japanese Gardens host an incredible amount of colorful fish and vibrant coral. The lopsided Wreck of Cedar is an incredible 80m long and if you’re lucky you’ll spot turtles and frogfish. If you’re learning to dive, The Tank & 7 Sisters at 5m below sea level is a unique dive site and the perfect one to begin with.
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
By Rosie from Flying Fluskey
A few years ago, the value of the Egyptian Pound plummeted, meaning the country became an overnight wonderland for the budget traveller. As well as magnificent pyramids and fascinating temples, Egypt has some of the world’s most beautiful diving spots located in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba. These stretches of water stay warm and calm, making it ideal for scuba divers from beginners to experts.
There are a few big diving centers located along the coast. Dahab has traditionally been the backpackers favorite with its excellent value diving and low key vibe. It makes a welcome easy-going break from the dust and hassle elsewhere in the country.
However, for the best mix of diving in the day time and relaxation (or even some partying) at night, Sharm El Sheikh is the perfect spot. Happily, the prices here are such that even budget travellers can enjoy a higher-end option.
Numerous dive shops run excellent trips from shallow shore dives to deep-sea dives. A three dive package costs well under $100!
Top dive spots around Sharm El Sheikh include a lovely wall dive at Ras Za’atar and cool shipwreck at Yolanda reef. There is a wonderful mix of hard and soft coral, with plenty of fish and even sharks if that’s what you are after. You can also reach the world-famous Tiran and Ras Mohamed sites, although these take some time to get to.
All in all, Egypt really is a great place to enjoy the underwater world on a budget.
Sao Miguel, Azores
By Megan from Megan Starr
One of the best diving spots in the world happens to be in the very middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the Azores, a group of islands that are technically part of Portugal but are considered independent.
These islands are situated where the Eurasian and North American plates collide, and there is a heavy volcanic history in the Azores, making it a unique area for diving.
In the Azores, travelers and dive enthusiasts will quickly realize that they will get a lot of value for their money as the islands are extremely affordable, and the opportunities are unmatched. If you’re interested in Azores diving opportunities, there are several options to choose from, and you can participate in a different dive on different islands throughout your trip to the Azores.
Sao Miguel island is the most popular one to travel to, and you can head to Vila Franca do Campo, an islet off of a historically significant town where you can do either some diving or snorkeling in a very picturesque setting with an abundance of underwater life.
Another great thing about diving in the Azores is that you can do self-dives or take tours and many are already set up and easy to sign up for. There are also different PADI certifications available in the Azores and all at a fraction of the price you’d pay in several other places around the world. If you’re a dive enthusiast, you should definitely check out the Azores.
Bay Of Pigs, Cuba
By Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
Salsa, cocktails and communism! A couple of things that probably come to mind when you think about Cuba but did you know you can dive there too?
There are quite a few benefits of choosing Cuba as your diving location. Firstly, there are crystal clear blue waters so you can see marine life very clearly. Secondly, diving trips are very reasonably priced, especially outside of the tourist traps like Varadero.
Some of the downsides are that the diving instructors speak Spanish, you really do need survival level to travel around the island.
The Bay of Pigs is a landmark in Cuba as this is where the Cubans fought off the US-backed attack. Also, it is a perfect spot for scuba diving. However, it is a little out of the way, but the local company will pick you up from your accommodation in the area.
There is no way, or need, to book a dive trip in advance, you can just book it once you’re there. You’ll be kitted out at the dive center at Playa Larga. A bus will then drop you off at the dive site.
Diving costs at $25 USD per person per dive are kept down when there is no boat involved.
Playas Del Coco, Costa Rica
By Ashley from Two Scots Abroad
Costa Rica is well-known for its incredible biodiversity – an astonishing 5% of the entire planet. That’s quite a bit considering the relatively small size of the country. While it is famous for its rainforests and jungles, Costa Rica is also known for scuba diving, and due to the wide variety of marine life, it is definitely a bucket list item for most divers.
A great area to consider for scuba diving is Playas del Coco in Guanacaste which sits on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
Two Scots Abroad is a fantastic and affordable diving shop located in Playas del Coco, and they’ll take you to several incredible dive sites and also make trips out to Bat Islands to see the bull sharks and Catalina Islands to see manta rays. Aside from these two spectacular species, scuba divers are likely to spot turtles, octopus, pufferfish, eagle rays, southern stingrays, nudibranch and way more.
By Carly from Fearless Female Travels
Just off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, you will find the three Bay Islands: Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. The three islands are situated along the Meso-American reef, which is the second-largest reef in the world, and offer world-class diving opportunities along with an authentic Caribbean culture.
Of the three islands, Roatan is the best for inexpensive scuba diving. The most affordable home base is the small town of West End, Roatan, where the best dive shops are sandwiched between quaint guesthouses, Caribbean restaurants, and locally-owned boutiques, all facing out onto turquoise waters and white sand beaches.
The town is also home to the Roatan Marine Park office, where locals and foreigners work together to protect the pristine reef and its underwater inhabitants. In fact, West End is situated only a few meters from the reef itself, so dive shops can do more trips each day with fewer staff and shorter boat trips. This helps keep costs low, meaning you stay longer and dive more compared to other Caribbean dive destinations.
Corn Islands, Nicaragua
By Rob from Stop Having A Boring Life
Nicaragua is a hot spot for diving, especially off the Caribbean coast on the Corn Islands.
That said, Nicaragua is blessed by having the sea on both sides. The Pacific is a popular spot mainly for surfing, but there are still plenty of scuba diving schools. If you’re looking to do scuba diving on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, you might as well head to San Juan Del Sur.
If you’re looking for an out of this world scuba diving experience, head to the Corn Islands. Both Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island have access to amazing dive spots.
The very best dive spot in the area is called Blowing Rock. It’s several miles off the coast of Big Corn Island. If you’re going to be heading to Blowing Rock, I recommend you leave from Big Corn Island as the trip is half the distance.
If you’re coming to the Corn Islands, Dolphin Dive is a great dive center. It’s a fun mix of local and foreign instructors.
By Alejandra from Universo Viajero
When people think of Cancun and the Riviera Maya in Mexico, images of beautiful white sand beaches and calm waters immediately come to mind, as well as a lively nightlife and lots of fun.
However, one of the best things about this area is hidden several feet underwater; the marine life and the dive sites are just amazing.
There are several dive centers in the city, but Squalo Divers is one of the most recommended for its trajectory and level of safety with which they work. Also, they use only equipment that is practically new and in excellent conditions.
There are so many spots to dive that is hard to choose the best ones. One of the most popular is “MUSA”, a Museum of Underwater Art where you can see sculptures populated by fish and corals, exploring them while kicking and floating around. Also, you dive with sharks and whales around the area, of course, if you are lucky enough to spot them!
Another favorite is out of the sea in the famous “cenotes” of the Riviera Maya. These underground rock formations are full of caverns and filled with water, allowing the more adventurous divers to enter a world that seems taken from another planet.
Want to learn how to dive the world on a budget?
Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
By Jenn & Ed from Coleman Concierge
Sri Lanka is known as an up and coming budget travel destination above and below the water.
Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka is one of the countries easiest to reach beaches. Sri Lanka’s most modern train runs from Colombo to Hikkaduwa, and it’s a short walk from the station to the beach.
The town is renowned for turtles and a near-shore coral reef just off the sandy beaches. It’s also home some of the cheapest dive destinations in the world. You can make a single dive for around $30 US including equipment and even less if you make multiple dives.
If you’re looking for a great dive shop, check out Dive For You located at the luxurious Hikka Tranz Hotel. They are a PADI 5-Star dive center that offers top-notch equipment along with a friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Hikkaduwa Coral Reef also claimed her fair share of ships, which now make for fantastic dive sites. Historic sailing ships with their masts intact and large freighters rest at open water depths attracting divers and fish alike.
By Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads
Komodo National Park encompassing the three larger islands Komodo, Padar and Rinca, and 26 smaller ones is home to some of the most spectacular diving in the world.
Most diving is done from Flores Island on day trips or on liveaboard boats. The reef host millions of reef fish of all shapes, colors, and sizes, plenty of massive pelagic fish and sharks hunting in warm, crystal clear water.
In the Central part of Komodo most divers visit Manta Point, a shallow drift dive floating over a manta cleaning station, this is the most famous dive and being surrounded by plenty of large manta rays in season is a fantastic experience.
Castle Rock and The Cauldron in North Komodo is more unreal diving with plenty of sharks, turtles, and massive Giant trevallies and manta rays are sometimes found at these sites.
Batu Bolong in the Central part of the park is another location for great diving with giant Napoleon wrasse, big green turtles, barracudas and plenty of colorful marine life, making this site feel like a spectacular aquarium.
The Komodo dragons on Komodo and Rinca island are an added bonus to go and visit on a diving day.
Palau Weh, Indonesia
By Erik from DIY Travel HQ
Pulau Weh is tucked away at the very northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Most tourists venture to the island for world-class diving where the Indian Ocean merges with the Andaman Sea.
The nutrient-rich water supports massive schools of fish both in the reef and open ocean. Depending on the currents, there may be larger fish, rays, sharks, and unwanted jellyfish present while you are descending to the reefs.
The reef fish commonly seen are boxfish, lionfish, shrimp fish, clownfish, angelfish, frogfish, and many more. There are heaps of moray eels to spot hiding in the crevices too. The other highlight of Pulau Weh diving is spotting elegant gorgonian sea fans mixed in among both soft and hard corals.
Despite the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the reefs are in good condition. The locals also work together to help prevent overfishing. If you are an intermediate or better diver, the best dive site at Pulau Weh is Batee Tokong. There are also several calm reef dives for beginners.
Expect to pay around $23 (330,000 IDR) for a single dive with prices getting incrementally cheaper with each additional dive. Pulau Weh is reached by boat from Banda Aceh, and the diving makes the trip worth the effort. Time to dive on in!
By Andrius from Katrippin
USS Liberty dive site near Tulamben on Bali island, Indonesia has been consistently named as one of the top dive destinations in the world.
Although the wreck is only about 30 meters away from the shore, it is an amazing site. The ship is 130 meters long, and parts of it can be found as shallow as 5m deep. Maximum depth of this site is 25m+, so there is plenty to explore.
Marine life around the site is abundant, and conditions are usually suitable for divers of all levels of experience. The usual suspects in this dive site are surgeonfish, sweetlips, and angelfish. If you are lucky, you might also spot a napoleon fish or mantis shrimp hiding in crevices of USS Liberty.
Diving this site is very affordable too. Due to the proximity to the coast (no boat ride needed), gear can be rented, and guides hired cheaply right on the beach. A single fun dive should not cost more than 250k INR ($18) per person. For a dive site which is known worldwide, it is excellent value for money!
Evolution Diver in Amed offers great service (in French and English) and affordable prices. Feel free to check them out once you are in the area.
Sipadan Island, Malaysia
By Lora from Explore With Lora
Malaysia is a great country to explore the underwater world for both new and experienced divers. With ample shallow dive locations, it is a great place to learn scuba diving. But for the advanced diver, it’s home to one of the best diving spots in the world.
Sipadan Island, formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano, is one of the richest marine habitats in the world. While Diving Sipadan Island, you can expect to see giant green sea turtles and hawksbills all over the place, tornadoes of barracudas, parrotfish, sharks, and morays. All in one dive!
Sipadan Island has twelve dive sites, and each has its unique views of coral and aquatic life, but Barracuda point is the highlight. This dive site has a great barracuda shoal where you can see thousands in a tornado-like formation.
There are two islands near Sipadan which also have excellent diving conditions, Mabul and Kapalai Islands. Be sure to book your dives at Sipadan in advance, as dive permits are limited to 120 a day and space can fill up quickly.
Koh Tao, Thailand
By Carine & Derek from We Did It Our Way
When searching for the cheapest places to learn how to scuba dive, Koh Tao is sure to pop up in the answers. It’s no surprise as Thailand is probably one of the cheapest places to travel to.
Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, is mainly known for two things: its nightlife and scuba diving. In fact, you’ll find a scuba diving school on every street corner, and most of the visitors who come here are either learning to scuba dive or are becoming divemasters.
Koh Tao is also home to a ton of different dive sites, which is great because no one likes to dive when there are tons of other divers around.
One of the most popular places to dive is Sail Rock. There, you can expect to see tons of fish, schools of thousands of barracuda, and even a whale shark or two, if you’re lucky! The Japanese Gardens and Twins also have tons of fish to see, but if corals are more your thing, then head there instead. Those spots are also great for new divers as there is no current.
If you’re looking for a great school, with fun but very professional staff and high standards, be sure to head to Roctopus.
By Laura from The Travelling Stomach
One of the best places to learn to dive in the world both for the excellent value dive shops and amazing underwater scenery, Thailand has to be on any diver’s bucket list.
While the more advanced divers head to the Similan Islands to explore the memorizing colors of Richelieu Rock and marvel at majestic manta rays gliding past in Koh Bon, beginners should head to Phuket for calmer, warmer seas.
Hit the water with Aussie Divers for an underwater experience you’ll never forget. Taking divers to Racha Yai, Racha Noi and some of Phi Phi’s most famous sites there’s something new to see each time. Top sites include Racha Yai Bay where divers can swim through giant hollow concrete cubes whilst looking out for insanely large schools of barracuda and Koh Bida Nok where black-tipped reef sharks can often be spotted cruising around the shallows.
You can also catch a glimpse of the famous Maya Beach (filming location of Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach) that is currently off-limits to tourists in order to let nature recover and some of Thailand’s incredible limestone cliffs during your surface interval.
By Gigi from Beach Addicted
Malapascua Island is located just northeast of the Filipino island of Cebu. According to PADI, it is one of the world’s ten best dive sites to dive with sharks.
Around Malapascua island, the water is warm, clean, and has excellent visibility.
Many travelers come to Malapascua for its amazing dive sites. The most famous diving sites are Monad Shoal, Gato Island, and Kemod Shoal.
But many divers come here for one particular reason; to see one of the most beautiful creatures: sharks.
But that’s not all of course, besides stunning coral walls, you can see reef sharks, barracudas, manta rays, tuna, octopus, colorful cuttlefish and much more.
However, If you like to see thresher sharks, you need to go deep as 30 meters.
It is also a very affordable place to dive. Many dive sites offer one dive to see thresher sharks for less than 100$, including the deep-dive certificate. If you only have the Open Padi water certificate to 18 meters, there are a couple of dive sites where you can complete your advance deep dive, try Dive shop Evolution, they have great instructors and equipment.
Monad Shoal is the place where thresher sharks have a natural cleaning station. Your dive will be very early in the morning, so be ready to jump into the water around 6 AM. As thresher sharks are of course wild, it’s is not 100% guaranteed to see them. However, the chances are pretty high: 75%.
The reason why you can see thresher sharks is that they come very early in the morning for their breakfast to 30 meters, where a lot of fish is around. Once you have decent to 30 meters, you will need to hoover and wait for the sharks to come by. It’s so amazing to see them just a few meters next to you suddenly. Enjoy one of the best dive sites in the world.
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
By Mar from Once In A Lifetime Journey
The country is one of the least visited and also one of the youngest countries in the world and is unknown to non-divers.
However, experienced divers are probably aware that it is considered one of the mecca destinations for wreck diving on account of the WWII Operation Hailstone which resulted in the US attack on the Japanese Pacific Fleet and the consequent sinking of several dozen planes, ships and other military equipment, which are all now found at the bottom of the ocean in this quiet lagoon.
There are many dive sites and wrecks in the lagoon. Some of them are famous for various reasons, and some are so deep they require very advanced skills or professional diving qualifications, which is why the majority of the divers that visit Chuuk are very experienced divers.
The largest wreck is the Heian Maru, a submarine tender measuring 155m. It has become famous by Jacques Cousteau in the 70s. The Shinkoku Maru is a tanker that has interesting bits on the deck, which lies at 18m, including the bones of some of the Japanese soldiers.
Another remarkable wreck is the San Francisco Maru, a cargo ship that is still filled with valuable military stuff such as tanks and bombs.
Do you know of any other budget-friendly dive destionations around the world? Let me know in the comments below!
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