Scuba divers, strap on your gear! From Costa Rica's Pacific coast to Belize's Caribbean cayes, Central America is an underwater extravaganza. Central America Scuba diving can be challenging enough for experienced Scuba divers; yet beginning Scuba divers are drawn to the inexpensive Scuba diving courses, and the chance to behold National Geographic-worthy sights on one's very first dive.
Some of the most recommended dive spots in te region are dive Honduras, dive Costa Rica, dive Belize, dive Panama, dive Nicaragua, dive Bonaire and dive Curaçao (dive in Dutch Antilles).
Diving in Honduras, in any of Caribbean Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja) is a world class Scuba diving destination in its own right. The Bay Islands run alongside the second-largest barrier reef in the world, and the diversity of the islands undersea species is staggering. Besides dolphins, sea turtles, nurse sharks and manta rays, whale sharks are frequent visitors. While scuba diving here is some of the world's best, the prices are some of the world's cheapest.
Diving in Costa Rica has much to offer, from diving in Coco Island, the largest uninhabited island in the world, over 300 miles offshore, it takes a day and a half on a live-aboard dive boat just to reach it. But for hardcore divers, the voyage is worth it - Central America scuba diving truly doesn't get any better than this. Undisputed dive expert Jacques Cousteau famously called diving at Isla del Coco the best in the world. As added attraction, Jurassic Parkwas set in Coco National Park (though it was filmed in Hawaii). Venture inland for a truly wild experience - minus the dinosaurs, of course.
Just 12 miles offshore, Isla del Caño is like Isla del Coco's closer - and cheaper - little sister. Having pretty much the same underwater life as Isla de Coco, here you will encounter both pelagic (open ocean) and reef fish, large schools of jacks and barracudas, sting rays and manta rays, and sharks.
To Playa de Coco: not to be confused with Isla del Coco, Playas del Coco is a popular beach in the Guanacaste region of northern Costa Rica. It is a great launch pad to explore the nearby Catalina Islands (manta ray territory) and the Bat Islands (bull sharks galore), while the curvy Coco Bay offers low-key Costa Rica Scuba diving.
Forty percent of Belize’s land mass is protected — more than any country in the world. Because of this, diving in Belize’s natural attractions is superlative, from the dense inland forest abundant with wildlife, to the translucent Caribbean waters scattered with islands (called “cayes”) .
Ambergris Caye shares the same Caribbean coral reef as the Bay Islands in Honduras, and its most popular dive site is Hol Chan Marine Reserve, occupying three square miles off Ambergris Caye's southern tip. Intrepid scuba divers shouldn't miss the experience to visit the Great Blue Hole, a circular sinkhole 1000 feet across and nearly 500 feet deep.
On the other hand, Belize's Turneffe Atoll, the largest atoll in the Caribbean, is comprised of over 200 islands, sheltering innumerable tropical species from rough waves. The atoll is ringed by sixty Belize dive sites, boasting an extraordinary variety of underwater landscapes and marine life: here you can find all of the Caribbean tropicals, eagle rays, sharks, turtles, dolphins, moray eels, and occasionally whale sharks in addition to large schools of permit, horse eye jacks and dog snapper.
Diving in Panama is so much more than its famed canal. The country’s curvy, narrow land mass serves as a physical—and cultural—land bridge between North and South America. While Panama is more expensive than other Central American countries, its natural beauty is unsurpassed. Imagine hundreds of idyllic, deserted islands scattered through warm seas, densely forested wilderness... Panama’s skinny isthmus holds all this, and much more.
Panama’s most striking and popular archipelagos are Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean, and the Pearl Islands in the Pacific, place where a season of the reality TV show Survivor was featured.
For excellent Central America Scuba diving year-round, the Bocas del Toro islands offer some of the country's best diving, from popular dive sites Hospital Point and Coral Cay to the nearby Zapatillas Cays. Bocas del Toro boasts some the best-preserved hard and soft coral in the world.
When it comes to tourism, Nicaragua is still in an early stage of discovery, yet it is a country with as much to offer as any country in Latin America: sweeping rainforests busy with wildlife, top surfing beaches, active volcanoes, and misty, jaw-dropping vistas over one of the strangest and most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Nicaragua.
The scuba diving in Nicaragua, off both coasts is enjoyable, especially diving the Corn Islands. Nicaragua's Little Corn Island is largely unspoiled, absent of cars or high-rise resorts. As a result, Scuba diving remains sensational - rated a 9 out of 10 by National Geographic. The island's reef offers a variety of unique diving adventures, from caves and caverns to shark encounters, and virtually every reef fish is classified as Tropical Caribbean.
The inland also offers diving possibilities: the Lago de Nicaragua is home to a unique variety of freshwater bull shark that swims up the San Juan River from the Caribbean.
Diving in Bonaire: If you love to go scuba diving, but don't want to spend hours on a dive boat (especially in rough water) to reach the best coral, Bonaire, has more than 80 markers indicating places where you can walk off the shore and be in a coral garden within a few hundred feet. Bonaire is actually the peak of a submerged mountain, so deep sloping reefs surround much of the island. There are 86 divesites marked along the shoreline that indicate where divers can just walk off the shore and find spectacular coral within a few hundred yards. Image just walking off the shore swimming for three or four minutes and being in the middle of an underwater art museum, filled with colorful coral and surrounded by fish.
The reefs are in such good shape because Bonaire’s Marine Park was created more than 25 years ago to protect the environment from the high water mark to a depth of 200 feet. (Spearfishing, collecting coral and reef anchoring are prohibited.)
Curaçao is one of the so-called ABC Islands (Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba) that are part of the Netherlands Antilles, is an autonomous region of the Netherlands. Diving in Curaçao, surrounded by reefs, walls, has some sunken ships and even an airplane wreck. The island has more than 60 marked dive sites. To reach many of the sites you simply have to walk offshore from the beach of some resorts or into the water on some secluded beaches, to see multi-hued corals, barracuda and other fish.