A diving tortoise in the Galapagos

Best Countries in Latin America for Diving

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Niarra Travel

Diving enables oneself to immerse into a world that it totally different to our own. From swimming with migratory schools of fish to staring awestruck at some of the most colourful scenery that nature has to offer, no two dives are ever the same.

While many would consider the tropical waters of Asia, idyllic islands of Africa or Oceania’s remote archipelagos to be the best diving spots in the world, there is much to be said for including Latin America on this list. From its tropical north to its Antarctic south, the diving opportunities here are as diverse as the region itself.

Here we cover some of the best countries in Latin America for diving experiences, each with its own spectacular characteristic to offer.

Snorkel galapagos

Costa Rica

Thanks to the country’s rich, awe-inspiring biodiversity being just as prominent under the water than it is above, diving in Costa Rica is an experience that you will never forget. The country offers a fascinating diversity of marine ecosystems and underwater scenery that will rival that of any dive site on the planet. Heading under the waves here, you can often feel as though you’ve been transported to another world.

No diving experience in Costa Rica would be complete without a trip to Cocos Island. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the national park is surrounded by nutrient-rich waters that not only help boost the local ecosystem but also welcome larger visitors. Diving here gives you the opportunity to swim with hammerheads, whale sharks and dolphins, as well as the occasional manta ray drifting effortlessly by.

Caño Island is another must-visit spot for keen divers, offering clear waters and reefs of a million vibrant hues, with eels, turtles and rays often gliding between the coral. Or alternatively, the Gulf of Papagayo, with its soothing warm waters and calm currents, makes for excellent diving. Both beginners and experienced divers alike will enjoy this spot, with tropical fish, octopuses and the occasional eagle ray gracing the waters.

snorkelling in Costa Rica

Ecuador

As a group of islands renowned for their unique biodiversity and unparalleled ecological significance, it is no surprise that diving in the Galapagos is an experience not to be missed.

From sharks to seals to the island’s iconic iguanas, diving here presents travellers with unparalleled marine diversity. Plus, thanks to the Galapagos’ isolated location, the area offers some of the greatest pelagic diving opportunities on the planet.

However, Ecuador’s famed archipelago is far from the only place that offers world class diving. Machalilla National Park, on the coast of the country’s Manabi Province, presents you with a myriad vibrant coral gardens to explore, as well as a premium selection of secluded beaches to relax on as the sun sets.

Also, just off the coast of Machalilla is Isla de la Plata, an idyllic remote island rife with corals that play host to shoals of tropical fish and sea turtles. Often referred to as “Little Galapagos”, the biodiversity here is exceptional and the nearby depths often play host to breeding humpbacks and migrating mantas.

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Brazil

World-renowned for the untamed wilds of the Amazon Rainforest and lively rhythm of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Atlantic coastline also plays host to an array of dazzling underwater spectacles for divers to enjoy.

The most famous of Brazil’s dive spots is Fernando de Noronha, located 350 km off the country’s northeastern coast. This paradisiacal archipelago plays host to pristine turquoise waters, sugar-white sand beaches and an enticing array of marine life. Reef sharks and moray eels can be found swimming is the region’s waters. The islands’ shallow lagoons and tidal pools also make this the ideal location for first time divers.

For those looking to experience diving closer to the mainland, Abrolhos Marine National Park just off the coast of Bahia boasts one of the largest coral reef systems in the South Atlantic. Expect underwater caves, coral gardens and even shipwrecks, all teeming with a rainbow of sealife.

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Belize

An intriguing Central American country with a jaw-dropping Caribbean coastline, Belize is both beautiful and seemingly undiscovered. And this extends to the diving opportunities that it presents.

No diving trip to Belize would be complete without venturing out to the natural wonder of The Great Blue Hole. Here the diving is less about the sea creatures that call it home and more about hovering over the mesmerising deep blue visage of this seemingly bottomless water formation. However, the surrounding Lighthouse Reef Atoll does play host to coral reefs frequented by tropical fish and sharks.

For diving diversity, look no further than Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The oldest marine protected area in Belize, this dive site combines undulating seagrass beds with dense mangrove forests that play host to groupers, snappers and even barracuda. Afterwards, dive into the depths of Shark Ray Alley for the chance to swim with nurse sharks and stingrays.

Diving in Shark Valley

Chile

Not conventionally known for its diving due to the colder waters of the Pacific, Chile offers unique scuba experiences that appeal to the more adventurous diver.

Venture out to Easter Island for some of the clearest Pacific waters in the world, where you can stare in the azure abyss for miles. The island’s remote nature sees it welcome larger schools of migratory fish on a regular basis and the opportunity to see a sunken Rapa Nui statue - a replica of those that sunk into the ocean’s depths - is not an opportunity to be missed.

For the truly hardy divers, Punta Arenas offers diving experiences in the nation’s southernmost tip. Here the freezing water bites at your skin as you explore shipwrecks and swim with whales, dolphins and sealions. Truly, a different kind of diving altogether.

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Mexico

No list of the best diving sites in Latin America would be complete without a mention of Mexico. Combining the Caribbean Sea with the utterly different experience of diving in a cenote, this is diving at its most intriguing.

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to the majority of the nation’s top diving spots, from swimming with hosts of sharks in Socorro to submerging yourself into the incredible colourscape of Cozumel’s marine life. Yucatan is also home to Mexico’s famous cenotes - such as the Riviera Maya Cenotes - which give you the opportunity to swim through flooded subterranean caves and encountering all sorts of weird and wonderful inhabitants that can be found within.

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If you are looking to don a wetsuit and immerse yourself in some of the best diving experiences in Latin America, get in touch with our expert travel team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US), or at explore@niarratravel.com and begin plotting your course for the diving adventure of a lifetime.

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