Diving Spots

If you are planning a Caribbean vacation and wish to scuba dive during your stay, you could do well to choose the Dominican Republic as your destination.

Due to its size and variety, the Dominican Republic offers both developed tourist areas, with top class hotels, and wild off-the-beaten-track areas for the more adventurous, independent traveler.

The good news is that, as far as the coastal areas of the Dominican Republic are concerned, you can scuba dive to your heart’s content almost everywhere you go. Offshore reefs with their colorful marine life and shipwrecks from the times when pirates and plunderers terrorized the Caribbean are the main attractions for scuba divers.

PADI certified scuba diving schools abound in all the tourist areas of the Dominican Republic. Some are independent; others may be attached to a particular hotel or resort. They cater for all levels of experience, so take your pick.

You can book specialist scuba diving vacation packages in advance, or decide once you are in your hotel. This depends on whether you want to scuba dive as part of all the other activities your resort has to offer, or spend much of your Dominican vacation under water.

The best conditions for scuba diving in the Dominican Republic are on the north and south coasts. Although there is scuba diving on offer on the east coast resorts, the Punta Cana area, the sea there can be rougher and more challenging, especially during the winter months. If scuba diving is the main focus of your stay in the Dominican Republic, do bear this in mind.

There are several resort complexes on the south coast. Going from east to west towards the capital, we have the Bayahibe – La Romana cluster of resorts and hotels. This area offers good diving around shallow offshore reefs, excursions to the almost deserted islands of Catalina and La Saona, and a number of shipwrecks. It is also possible to spot dolphins in this area.

Off Catalina Island, there is a spectacular wall dive consisting of a steep coral slope that runs from 15 feet (5 meters) to a sandy bottom at 90-100 feet (30-35 meters), with abundant fish activity and corals and sponges.

The much larger Saona Island has a dozen different dive sites, one of the best being Parguera, a large coral reef bordered by white sand bottom and a few isolated coral patches.

Just off the coast of Bayahibe is the wreck of the St. George, a 240-foot (80 meters) freighter sunk to form an artificial reef, which has already begun to accumulate marine life growth as well as attracting a resident fish population. The nearby Aquarium site is a shallower coral reef.

Continuing westward, we have the area around the beach town of Juan Dolio, which includes numerous hotels and resorts on the beaches of Juan Dolio itself, Playa Caribe and Guayacanes.

The wreck of the Tanya V. off Juan Dolio was also sunk as an artificial reef and diving attraction. Another wreck site is the Gabriela, which has attracted a large resident fish population.

As we approach the capital from the east, we arrive at Boca Chica, an established Dominican beach resort. Scuba diving highlights in Boca Chica include shipwrecks in the La Caleta Underwater National Park and La Sirena Cave.

La Caleta Underwater National Park is between Boca Chica and the capital, Santo Domingo. Divers can observe the wreck of the El Limon, about 70-foot (23 meters) of steel tugboat with triple screws, lying on a sand bottom, surrounded on three sides by steep coral reefs. This wreck attracts a symphony of small tropical reef fish.

In the same area, divers can swim inside the wreck of the Hickory, a 144-foot (43 meters) treasure salvage vessel that sunk in 1986. The Hickory is home to diverse marine life, with hundreds of Yellow Tube Sponge clusters covering its surfaces.

La Sirena, a freshwater cavern dive near Boca Chica is one of the top-rated dive sites in the Dominican Republic. Visibility under the water is dazzling. Divers can wind through a series of tunnels and chambers, emerging in air pockets to observe the intricate rock formations on the cave walls and ceilings.

On the north coast of the island, the main destination for divers is the Playa Dorada/Sosua area, east of Puerto Plata. The protected waters of Sosua Bay are the setting for some of the best diving experiences the country has to offer, like an ‘underwater garden’, wall and reef diving and wrecks, all with a diverse array of marine life.

Further to the west, the relatively unexplored beaches between Montecristi and La Isabela also offer interesting diving options.

On the east coast are the Punta Cana – Bavaro resort areas. As already mentioned above, conditions are rougher in this popular resort area, but diving is possible from several locations here as well.

Anchor Reef and Pepe Reef are typical Caribbean reef sites with healthy corals, and generous shoals of colorful tropical fish. There is also a freshwater cavern dive site at Laguna Pepe, located in the middle of a golf course.

For seasoned divers, the best option is to take an excursion to the above-mentioned islands of La Catalina or Saona off the south coast, which are relatively near to the resort areas.

The less touristy Samaná Peninsula is another option for scuba diving. There are over 18 different dive sites off the north coast of the Samana peninsula, a mix of both deep and shallow, with pinnacles, walls, caverns and coral reefs.

One site, off Cabo Cabron, offers wall diving and a spectacle known as “the Tower”, a pinnacle that rises from 150 feet (50 meters)  to just six feet (18 meters) below the surface.

Water temperatures in the Dominican Republic vary between the 70s F (21 C) in winter, rising to the mid 80s F (27-32 C) in summer, ideal for scuba diving. Visibility is usually between 60 to 100 feet (20 to 35 meters). Recompression chambers can be found on both sides of the island: Santo Domingo (south) and Puerto Plata (north).