There’s a reason places like Belize’s Great Blue Hole and Indonesia’s Liberty Shipwreck are known by divers around the world. They’re incredible sites that have earned their reputation. Visiting such well-known spots, however, can mean diving with masses that scare off wildlife and impede the view. If you’re a diver that—like me—prioritizes smaller crowds over name-brand sites, try straying off the beaten path at these overlooked getaways.
The Caribbean is known for its incredible visibility and year-round diving opportunities easily accessed from the mainland U.S. Curaçao delivers on all these promises with more than 80 dive spots, including wrecks, reefs and thriving marine life. The dive scene is established, so you won’t have a problem finding operators, but the sheer number of sites and reasonable flow of visitors means there’s a good chance you’ll find peace as the only divers on a reef.
2. Cape Ann, Massachusetts
This humble 25-mile stretch of coastline should not be overlooked as a domestic dive destination. This New England dive spot is perfect for divers of all levels, with beginner-friendly shore dives as well as sites that require more experience. Wreck divers can explore the Chester Poling and Nina T while permitted hunters can collect lobster and shellfish.
3. Aqaba, Jordan
If diving in the Red Sea is on your bucket list, you should have Aqaba on your radar. The region is particularly great for dive photography and videography as there is great visibility year-round. Divers will find a wide array of marine life, including sea turtles and eagle rays. Aqaba is also home to the world’s only Underwater Military Museum, where you can dive dozens of pieces of military equipment, including tanks and a combat helicopter.
4. St Eustatius, Dutch Caribbean
Statia—as it’s lovingly known by locals—enjoys some of the cleanest water in all of the Caribbean. The dive scene is less developed than some other Caribbean islands, but most sites are accessible from the shore. The rest are a short boat ride away over the volcanic oceanscape, where you can dive along seawalls and abundant reefs. Wreck sites here are both modern shipwrecks and centuries-old wrecks. Keep an eye out for antique blue beads scattered across the ocean floor—remnants of the only form of payment slaves on St Eustatius received. Many were symbolically thrown into the sea to celebrate freedom after emancipation was granted, and divers are allowed to carry them home if they find them underwater.
5. Tokai Maru and SMS Cormoran, Guam
Guam, the largest island in Micronesia, offers the unique opportunity to dive two eras of history at once. This site is the only place in the world where you’ll find shipwrecks from both World Wars resting against one another: the SMS Cormoran and the Tokai Maru. These wrecks are perfect for nitrox divers, as the depth averages between 80 and 110 feet. There are multiple points of entry on both ships, and you can even swim through the two meter gap near where the wrecks rest against one another.
6. Muscat, Oman
Oman is a star in the Middle East’s nascent dive industry, boasting a long coastline, pristine waters and dive environments that span reefs and kelp forests. Head offshore Muscat around Fahal Island, where you’ll have a chance to see coral gardens teeming with wildlife (including several shark species), wrecks and a swim-through cave. Daymaniyat Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage a 90-minute boat ride from the capital, is considered the best diving in Oman and a great place to encounter whale sharks.
7. Marshall Islands
This tiny nation of over 1,200 islands is like a dream come true for divers looking to fin off the beaten bath. It’s home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary, making it a great place to spot species like makos, whitetips and whale sharks. The most popular spot to dive in this region is Bikini Atoll, where you can explore wrecks leftover from the nuclear bomb testing conducted by the US in the 1940’s and 50’s, and the waters around the capital of Majuro have stellar visibility year-round.