Why do the Top 100 Readers Choice Awards, now in their 23rd year, still matter to divers? Because these are your picks, based on thousands of votes from the most experienced dive travelers on the planet. Why do they matter to us? Because every month you hear from our editors on what we think matters in the world of dive travel. For the January/February issue of Scuba Diving we get to listen to you, and we’re taking notes.
Here, we proudly present the No. 1 ranking destinations in the Best Shore Diving category of the awards. The full list of winning destinations is below.
Tweet using the hashtags #shoredivingcapital, #diversparadise and #walkinthepark — and never mention Bonaire — and even divers who have never been to the Dutch Caribbean island get the references. For 23 years, our readers have voted Bonaire tops in its region for shore diving. The dozens of yellow-painted stones indicating the dive sites (86 of them, and most on the island’s western, leeward coast) are scattered along the island’s coastal road like the markers along Boston’s Freedom Trail. If you prefer boat schedules and divemaster-led dives, you can do that. But the joy of the 365/24/7 experience on Bonaire is that you can go anytime, anywhere you want, in Caribbean waters that have been strictly protected since 1979. All we can say is #37yearsandcounting.
Best Shore Diving in North America
We may be a bit partial here at Scuba Diving — our offices are located in Florida — but we think some of the best shore diving in the U.S. is right here in the Sunshine State, where 1,350 miles of coastline, lots of warm weather and the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. combine to offer a hit parade of shore-diving sites. And our readers agreed, naming the state No. 1 for shore diving in its region. You may be surprised to learn that some of the best reefs in the world — the Florida Keys — are too far from land to be accessible from shore, but the Panhandle has some decent options (try Navarre Beach and Perdido Key), and, technically, the state’s numerous springs (Ginnie, Blue Grotto, Devil’s Den, etc.) are walk-in dives. Shore Diving Central in Florida, though, is the Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale area. Don’t miss at least one dive at the famed Blue Heron Bridge (aka as Phil Foster Park) in Riviera Beach. It’s worth all the hype (frogfish, seahorses, batfish, rays, octopuses!). Plan for a weekday visit to avoid the weekend crowds.
Best Shore Diving in the Pacific and Indian Oceans
Just a few fin kicks off the beaches of the Hawaiian Islands lie some of the state’s best dive sites — from Maui’s south coast to Kauai’s north shore and the Big Island’s west side. And because every inch of the white, gold, red and even green sand is legally accessible to the public, intrepid divers can always find a world-class reef to escape the masses.