THE LIFE AQUATIC : BEAUTIFUL DIVE SITES AROUND THE WORLD
COLLAGE BY MONICA BRAND
  Jacques Costeau said, “No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea.” To truly experience all the riches of the ocean, we must travel below the surface. And when we do, we discover each watery destination is as distinct in population, aesthetic, and vibe as different cities. Here are some of the most incredible places to visit beneath the waves, plus where to stay when you’re on dry land.
 
Kona Coast, Big Island
 
In the water:
The calm waters of the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island offer the unique chance for divers to get up close to manta rays.  With wingspans that can grow to over 20-feet, they’re among the largest fish in the ocean and, unlike stingrays or eagle rays, don’t have stingers (so it’s safe to swim within inches of them). Nighttime is best for viewing, when dive companies illuminate the dark water with lights placed along the ocean floor and the rays can be seen somersaulting through the water as they feed on plankton.
 
Out of the water:
The Four Seasons Hualalai offers plenty of other activities in addition to diving, like surf lessons, tennis, golf, and ziplining. For a mellower day, spend the morning lounging by the ocean front pool then visit the spa’s apothecary, where they’ll create a custom treatment from local, natural ingredients like sea salt and macadamia nuts.

Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea
 
In the water:
More than half of the world’s coral species decorate Kimbe Bay, with schools of over 900-different species of fish like barracuda, jacks, and tuna (plus the occasional hammerhead and silvertip shark) darting through the clear waters. Susan’s Reef, a picture-perfect coral garden, and Fathers Reef, where you’ll dive amongst the sunken remains of a volcanic caldera, are both just off the coast.
 
Out of the water:
New Britain’s Walindi Resort is located right on Kimbe Bay and has packages for scuba-enthusiasts ranging from two to ten dives. Never touched a tank before? The property also offers a range of dive courses, from basics to advanced open water certification. Or, skip ocean activities all together in favor of some extraordinary bird watching along the Bismark Archipelago. At sunset, pull up to the Planter’s Bar for a cocktail and fish-story swapping with fellow guests.  
 
Bonaire
 
In the water:
This island in the Lesser Antilles keeps divers busy with 86 official sites, more than half of which can be accessed from the shore (yellow stones along the side of the road make it easy for visitors to find them).  Favorite spots include Alice in Wonderland, where you’ll spot colorful creatures like parrot fish, snappers, sergeant-majors, and gorgonian coral, and the shipwreck of the Hilma Hooker.  
 
Out of the water:
Splurge on a suite at the Harbour Village Beach Club, where you can relax in a hammock or dip your feet into the ocean steps from your private lanai. This spot works particularly well for families—the club’s daily supervised programs for children mean you can dive or relax poolside while the kids spend the afternoon on at a scavenger hunt along the beach.
 
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
 
In the water:
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest at over 1,600 miles. Located off the North Queensland coast, Lizard Island is a 50-minute boat ride to the Outer reef, and offers a range of half day and full day trips including night dives. The resort also offers instruction and PADI certification for first-timers.
 
Out of the water:
Lizard Island’s ultra-private rooms and long list of a deux activities (from tandem kayaking to a private, 7-course meal on the beach) make it a great choice for couples. The resort’s Azure Spa also offers a long menu of treatments for two, while ultra-private rooms (some with hammocks, a plunge pool, or direct access to secluded beaches) make it easy to spend the day just lounging around together. 
 
Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
 
In the water: Art fans will appreciate Moliniere Bay, home to the first underwater sculpture park in the Caribbean. English artist Jason deCaires Taylor’s works beneath the waves include “Vicissitudes”, a haunting circle of figures holding hands five meters below the surface, and “The Un-Still Life”—a take on the classic tableaux of table, pitcher, and bowl of fruit—ever changing as coral accumulates on its surface.
 
Out of the water: Perfect for health and wellness focused travelers, Laluna offers daily classes in its open-air, beachfront yoga pavilion, as well as pilates, hiking, and tai chi. Relax at the resort’s Balinese-influenced spa—we like their “Ritual Massage” with a flower petal body scrub, followed by a lavender and ylang ylang rub. End the day with a sunset walk along the beach and soak in your cottage’s private plunge pool.

Richelieu Rock, Thailand
 
In the water:
One of Thailand’s top dive spots, visitors to this rock formation located in the middle of the Andaman Sea, in Surin National Marine Park, can expect to see manta rays and even whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea. Le Méridien Khao Lak Beach & Spa Resort is situated on the closest departure point for a daytrip to Richelieu Rock, and tours and rentals can be arranged through the property’s diving center.
 
Out of the water:
With seven miles of beach and rain forest bookending Le Méridien, guests here can choose from activities as far ranging as elephant trekking through Khaosok National Park to paddle boating across Rachaprabha Lake to taking a Thai boxing lesson. Post-activity, unwind with a thai massage or moisturizing coconut milk bath at Le Spa.   

Isla del Caño, Costa Rica
 
In the water:
This Drake Bay spot is a favorite for many Costa Rica divers, given its location two-hours from Manuel Antonio, which has kept it in pristine condition. Crystal clear water means visibility often exceeds 80-feet, and visitors here can anticipate spotting sea turtles, dolphins, and rays.  Outdoorsy types should try to spend at least in a week to experience all this country has to offer. Ecofriendly resort Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio is a convenient home base for activities like ziplining through the rainforest, white water rafting on the Savegre or Naranjo Rivers, surfing, kayaking, and horseback riding. Mellow out with a massage on the beach, then toast your productive day with a tico sour at the Mirador Bar.
 
Great Blue Hole, Belize
 
In the water:
This giant, midnight-blue sinkhole off the coast of Belize lies in near the center of Lighthouse Reef and was added to serious divers’ bucket lists after Jacques-Yves Cousteau declared it one of the top diving spots in the world during a trip there aboard his boat Calypso. The 1000-foot diameter is ringed with a breathtaking coral reef, with giant limestone stalactites scattered along its wall at deeper depths.
 
Out of the water: 
Stay in one of the colorful, thatched-roofed casitas set along the white-sand beach at Matachica. After a day out diving, hit the property’s Jade Spa for their “Aloe Sun Lover’s Treatment”, which helps soothe sunburned skin. The resort can also set up a helicopter tour to see the Great Blue Hole from the air.
  


 
2013


TAGS:     swim list dive