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The Top 11 Liveaboard Diving Destinations in the World to Add to Your Bucket List

by Max
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The Top 11 Liveaboard Diving Destinations in the World to Add to Your Bucket List

Full of mystery and wonder, our underwater world is just waiting to be explored. The oceans make up around 96.5% of the water on Earth, and there is something magical about discovering all that lies beneath its surface. From the Bahamas to Indonesia, each body of water is unique and filled with a variety of beauty. If you’re wondering how to see it all, then a liveaboard trip could be the answer.

Liveaboard vacations offer a unique experience for the adventurous traveler. No matter your wants, needs, and budget – there is a liveaboard for you. But with so many incredible liveaboard diving destinations to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to go.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of some of the world’s top liveaboard destinations – you’ll definitely want to add these to your bucket list!

What Is a Liveaboard Trip?

Before deep diving into some of the best liveaboard destinations in the world, let’s first look at what liveaboards are. Simply put, a liveaboard trip is a type of holiday where you stay on board a boat for the duration of your vacation. Your chosen liveaboard will follow a set itinerary, taking you from dive site to dive site. These trips are well-loved in the diving community, thanks to its eat, sleep, dive, repeat mantra.

Liveaboards take the hassle out of planning a dive-based vacation. You won’t need to worry about transfers, apartments, or restaurants – because it is all taken care of on board.

Some of the best diving destinations in the world are only accessible by liveaboard. This means you can explore some remote reefs and discover hidden gems you wouldn’t be able to experience on a traditional vacation.

The 11 Best Liveaboard Destinations

Our world is full of incredible diving opportunities. What you may find in one destination can be entirely different in another – with the geographical landscape and type of marine life changing depending on location. Each liveaboard diving destination on our list offers amazing underwater experiences that you won’t want to miss.

Here are our top liveaboard diving destinations to add to your liveaboard bucket list.

The 11 Best Liveaboard Destinations for Your Bucket List
The 11 Best Liveaboard Destinations for Your Bucket List

1. The Maldives

Set in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a scuba diving paradise. The islands and atolls offer incredible visibility, pristine coral formations, and abundant marine life. Here you will find the world’s largest population of manta rays alongside whale sharks, turtles, and other species of reef fish.

The Maldives waters are warm and calm, with crystal clear visibility reaching up to 50 meters. If you want to embark on a liveaboard diving trip with a non-diving friend – you’ll be happy to know many liveaboards in this area offer snorkeling and non-diving activities. You must add The Maldives to your liveaboard bucket list for an all-around fantastic vacation!

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in the Maldives!

Diving Season: Year-round, with the dry season being November to April.

Average Trip Length: 8 days, 7 nights

Budget: $1400+ for an 8-day trip

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo Atolls, North and South Male

Best For: Traveling with a non-diving companion, macro photography, and manta rays

2. Indonesia

With over 17,500 islands, Indonesia is home to some incredible dive sites. From Komodo and Bali to Raja Ampat and beyond – Indonesia has something for every type of diver. No matter where you decide to explore, you’ll find dramatic walls and pinnacles lined with colorful coral formations and a plethora of marine life.

The tropical climate and warm water make Indonesia a great place to visit year-round. Depending on your location, you can expect to see manta rays, pygmy seahorses, and countless reef fish species. Indonesia is also located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so you can also look forward to some spectacular volcanic landscapes.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in Indonesia, or our dedicated guide on liveaboards in Raja Ampat!

Diving Season: Year-round, with the dry season differing between locations.

Average Trip Length: 11 days, 10 nights

Budget: $3000+ for an 11-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: Raja Ampat, Komodo National Park, and The Gili Islands

Best For: Muck diving to spot weird and wonderful marine life

3. The Bahamas

The Bahamas is a sight to behold both in and out of the water. From the clear waters to the idyllic white sand beaches – the Bahamas has to be on your liveaboard bucket list. The sub-tropical location is known for its vibrant coral gardens and endless marine life. Look forward to seeing everything from turtles, Mahi Mahi, and barracuda to bigger pelagics like reef, tiger, and hammerhead sharks.

The Bahamas is a great destination for divers at all levels of experience. Whether you want to check out the shallow wrecks or delve deep into the extensive underwater cave systems – you will soon understand why the Bahamas is a top liveaboard destination.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in the Bahamas!

Diving Season: Year-round, with the dry season being November to May

Average Trip Length: 7 days, 6 nights

Budget: $1000+ for a 7-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: Tiger Beach, The Exumas, and Grand Bahama

Best For: Swimming with various wildlife, including sharks and pigs

4. The Red Sea

A trip to the Red Sea will have you marvel at its vibrant reef formations, sunken wrecks, and varied sea species. Most liveaboard trips focus on the areas surrounding Egypt. However, Sudan and Saudi Arabia also have some excellent dive sites.

What is unique about the Red Sea is that its current flows in the opposite direction to the rest of the world. This means the underwater environment is incredibly diverse, with a range of hard and soft coral, as well as over 1000 species of fish. To top it all off, the Red Sea waters are crystal clear with wonderful visibility – ranging from 20-40 meters.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in the Red Sea or our dedicated guide on liveaboards in Egypt!

Diving Season: Year-round, with the best seasons being March to May and September to November

Average Trip Length: 8 days, 7 nights

Budget: $1500+ for an 8-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location (Sudan requires an advanced open water certificate and 50+ logged dive hours)

Must-See Dive Sites: The SS Thistlegorm, Straits of Tiran, Farasan Banks, and Angarosh Reef

Best For: Spotting reef sharks and schooling barracuda

5. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

This UNESCO World Heritage site has to be one of the best liveaboard diving locations. Situated approximately 340 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island is known for its abundant marine life and breathtaking underwater drop-offs.

Cocos Island is only accessible by liveaboard due to its remoteness, making it a must-see for experienced divers. With visibility of up to 25 meters, you can expect to see large numbers of marine species, including bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, and several types of sharks.

Diving Season: Year-round, with the best seasons being March to May and September to November

Average Trip Length: 11 days, 10 nights

Budget: $6000+ for an 8-day trip.

Required Experience: Experienced divers only

Must-See Dive Sites: Dirty Rock, Manta Corner, Punta Maria, and Bajo Alcyone

Best For: Swimming with sharks

6. Truk Lagoon

Also known as Chuk Lagoon, Truk is a remote destination located in the central Pacific Ocean. It is home to over 60 wreck sites scattered across the lagoon during World War II – making Truk an excellent destination for tech divers and also those who want to explore historical wrecks.

The underwater photography opportunities here are endless! As well as wrecks, you can also expect to encounter a range of marine life, such as sharks, turtles, and plenty of colorful fish. With warm and clear waters, Truk Lagoon is one of the world’s most unique liveaboard diving destinations.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in Truk Lagoon!

Diving Season: Year-round, with the dry season being December to May

Average Trip Length: 8 days, 7 nights

Budget: $2500+ for an 8-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: San Francisco Maru, Fujikawa Maru, and Heian Maru

Best For: WWII wreck diving and photography.

7. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, the Galapagos Islands must be on your liveaboard bucket list. Made famous by Charles Darwin, this archipelago is full of unique wildlife – some of which are only found in this region. Whale sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles are regularly seen here, and you will also get the chance to dive with schools of hammerhead and white-tipped sharks.

Two renowned locations in the Galapagos, Darwin and Wolf Islands, are only accessible by liveaboard. This means you can experience world-class diving without hoards of other divers – making it the perfect destination for anyone looking for an intimate and exclusive diving adventure.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in the Galapagos!

Diving Season: Year-round, but the warmer season is December to May

Average Trip Length: 8 days, 7 nights

Budget: $4500+ for an 8-day trip.

Required Experience: Best for experienced divers with 50+ logged dive hours

Must-See Dive Sites: Darwin and Wolf Islands, Isabela Island, and Fernandina Island

Best For: Untouched dive sites, swimming with sharks, and unique wildlife

8. Fiji

The beautiful island nation of Fiji is a fantastic location to add to your liveaboard bucket list. Located in the South Pacific, Fiji has more than 300 islands and offers divers some of the best scenery in the world. From vibrant coral gardens to shipwrecks, Fiji has something for everyone.

Fiji is renowned for its abundance of sea life – you can expect to see reef fish, whales, and an array of different shark species. Considered the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World, ‘ it is also a great destination for macro lovers.

Diving Season: Year-round, with the best season being April to October

Average Trip Length: 8 days, 7 nights

Budget: $1700+ for an 8-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: Namena Marine Reserve, Wakaya Island, Makongi Island

Best For: Soft corals, colorful reef fish, and whale watching

9. The Philippines

With its diverse underwater terrain, pristine coral reefs, and thousands of fish species, the Philippines is a liveaboard dream. There are over 7000 islands in the archipelago, so there is no shortage of spots to explore. And while the Philippines may not be as popular when compared to other liveaboard diving destinations on this list – you don’t want to miss out.

Due to the size of the Philippines, the only way to discover its many dive sites is to go by liveaboard. Sitting at the apex of the Coral Triangle, you can expect the Philippines to have some of the world’s best macro-diving. Here, you can see an array of nudibranchs, frogfish, and even pygmy seahorses.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in the Philippines!

Diving Season: Year-round, with the warm, dry season being March to May and the cool, dry season being December to February

Average Trip Length: 7 days, 6 nights

Budget: $2500+ for a 7-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, Apo Island, and Malapascua

Best For: Diverse dive sites and beautiful coral formations

10. Mexico

Mexico is a great liveaboard destination for divers of all levels. From its crystal clear waters and endless dive sites, Mexico truly has so much to offer. Some of the highlights include giant manta rays, sea turtles, and an array of colorful reef fish.

The best part of a Mexican liveaboard trip is that it combines adventure with relaxation. After an action-packed day diving and exploring, you can relax on the deck of your boat and enjoy spectacular views of Mexico’s picturesque coastline. Some of the best liveaboard diving destinations in Mexico are the Socorro Islands, the Sea of Cortez, and Guadalupe.

Diving Season: Year-round, with November to May offering the best conditions

Average Trip Length: 9 days, 8 nights

Budget: $3000+ for a 9-day trip

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: San Benedicto, Socorro Islands, and Roca Partida

Best For: Big animal encounters, crystal clear waters, and relaxed liveaboard experience

11. Thailand

Thailand is a good option for liveaboard divers who are looking for an affordable diving experience. The archipelago is split into two distinct dive locations, the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with most liveaboards concentrating on the sites in the Andaman Sea. The Similan Islands, in particular, offer incredible diving opportunities for both novice and more advanced divers.

For those who are looking for an even bigger thrill – the Richelieu Rock is a must-see dive site in Thailand. This pinnacle is known for being the best spot to see whale sharks and manta rays. With ideal water conditions and plenty of marine life, Thailand is a must-see liveaboard destination.

Check out our in-depth guide on liveaboard diving in Thailand!

Diving Season: October to April for the Andaman Sea and May to September for the Gulf of Thailand

Average Trip Length: 5 days, 4 nights

Budget: $700+ for a 5-day trip.

Required Experience: Beginner to advanced, depending on location

Must-See Dive Sites: Similan and Surin Islands, Phuket, Koh Tao Island, and Richelieu Rock

Best For: Short trips, whale shark spotting, and budget-friendly liveaboard experiences.

How to Prepare for a Liveaboard Vacation

Like any other vacation, it’s essential to come prepared if you want to make the most of your liveaboard experience.

Each liveaboard will offer different amenities and services, such as rental diving gear. For the most part, your chosen liveaboard will provide all the necessary gear and facilities you need. But every liveaboard will have different rules regarding what you can bring on board, so double-check before you pack.

Aside from what you need to bring with you, there are certain considerations you should make, such as:

  • Season: Some locations provide year-round diving opportunities, while others are seasonal. It is crucial to research what time of year is best for the destination you are visiting.
  • Length: Depending on your liveaboard diving destination, the length of your trip can vary greatly. Be sure to check how long each itinerary is before booking.
  • Budget: Liveaboard trips aren’t known for being overly cheap, so keep your budget in mind when selecting your destination and liveaboard.
  • Local Regulations: When visiting a new location, it is vital to be considerate of local customs and regulations. Check to see the local laws regarding diving and tourism, so you can make sure to stay on the right side of the rules.
  • Dive Requirements: Certain locations are better suited for experienced divers, whereas others cater to beginners. Make sure you check the dive requirements before booking your liveaboard trip.

Final Thoughts on These Top Liveaboard Diving Destinations

Liveaboard diving is an unforgettable experience, no matter where you go. Each of the destinations on this list offers something unique and special, so it really comes down to personal preference.

Whether you’re a fan of macro diving, looking for large animal encounters, or just want to try something new – you’re sure to find a liveaboard destination that fits your needs and budget.

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