Scuba diving in Colombia is one of the best experiences any avid diver can have. With the amazing features that are provided by the two converging oceans – that Caribbean and the Pacific – there is no end to what you will be treated to here.
Planning the perfect vacation where you get in as many different dives as possible in limited time is a real challenge. Not to mention all it takes just to get to the country.
This guide is designed to help make the planning less stressful and more fun by providing answers to most of your questions, not only with where to dive, but information on how to get here, visa requirements and more.
Of course, listed here are some of our favorite places to dive, with enough of a description to give you an idea of what each is like. From there you can make plans and lay out the perfect vacation.
If you have more questions or need more assistance, please contact us and we will help you out. Above all else, enjoy the planning process, and then go have fun!
Where should you dive in Colombia?
This South American country is considered to be the best place in the world to dive by many of the most experienced divers, and for good reason.
Here are the top 9 recommendations for the best dive sites in Colombia.
Providencia, along with Santa Catalina, is where the world’s third longest barrier reef is located. Around this amazing reef there are a wide range of dive sites that include blue holes, caves, shipwrecks and so much more.
2. San Andrés
San Andrés is an island that is getting out closer to Nicaragua. It is close to six miles long and shaped roughly like a seahorse. The greatest feature for divers is the amazing Blue Wall.
While there are several other dive sites around this beautiful Caribbean island, including part of the barrier reef, this steep cliff is the most popular. You will be thoroughly entertained by such critters as butterly fish, snapper, parrot fish along with some macro species like frogfishes, pipehorse, spotfin gobies, shorttail snake eels, etc.
Malpelo Island is a more accurately a rock out in the Pacific Ocean. It is known as the best place in the world to dive with sharks. Hammerheads, whale sharks, silky sharks and even the occasional sunray shark can be found here, and in schools of up to 500 of them!
Taganga is located near the small fishing village of Santa Marta. With many dive shops in the village, you can earn more certifications here at a very affordable rate. Combine that with the many dive sites here, it is an ideal place for divers of all skill levels.
5. Gorgona Island
Gorgona is the best place where you can combine whale watching with your diving. Once used as a prison location, this isolated and uninhabited island has become a nature reserve and is a breeding ground for humpback whales. From July to October, you will be treated to an amazing show from these giants.
There are some awesome shipwrecks around the island that are home to many species of fish and spectacular coral. There are also some sheer cliffs on the island that drop off into the water, giving you some wonderful walls and canyons to explore. An ideal location to add to your itinerary.
6. San Bernardo Islands
San Bernardo Islands are a group of ten islands making up an archipelago out in the Caribbean Sea. It is a fantastic place to spend a couple days, as the area is chock-full of fish (over 215 different species!), as well as beautiful coral gardens and seagrass beds that provide a haven for them all.
With that many islands you know there are many beaches just waiting for you to sunbathe on them. The chain is only accessible by boat so does not have much tourist activity. This leaves the dive sites and the beaches very quiet and not crowded, so it is easy to find yourself all alone. For most, this creates an absolutely perfect vacation spot.
7. Bahia Solano
Bahia Solano is located in the Chocó province of Colombia, which is a sparsely populated region of the country. There are several fishing villages in the area, but not that much tourist traffic, so you will be able to enjoy more of the tranquility the country has to offer.
One of the best dive sites here is the wreck of the Sebastian de Belalcazar, which was a navy ship used during Pearl Harbor sunk on purpose to create a spectacular underwater museum and reef. Home to such characters as various sharks, groupers, trevalley, trumpets, lobsters and so much more, this is one terrific location.
From June to October, you can enjoy watching the magnificent humpback whales, and even on occasion you might spot some killer whales. Other notables are the turtles, dolphins, tuna, sea lions and sharks.
8. Capurgana and Sapzurro
Capurgana and Sapzurro are located along the border with Panama, and is where one of the most spectacular coral reefs you visit is located. With very little tourism in the area, the reef has been beautifully preserved.
There are more than 30 dive sites in this area where you can expect to see some amazing marine life. A wide array of colorful coral and sponges are teeming with macro species and larger critters looking to make them lunch.
Puffers, angelfish, lobsters, damselfish, surgeon fish, parrot fish, snappers, trumpet fish, groupers, hawksbill turtles and nurse sharks all provide for a great show.
Some of the dive sites feature terrific wall diving that is more suitable to the advanced diver, while many others are perfect for even the most novice diver. Divers of all skill levels will find many sites that are ideal for them.
9. Islas Rosarios
Islas Rosarios is another region that is ideal for divers of all skill levels. Not only does it have all of the marine life that anyone scuba diving Colombia has come to expect, but it is probably most known for the spectacular array of aquatic plant life that is here.
You will see some of the most amazing plants that you may not be able to see anywhere else, and very likely some unique fish that come here just to feed on them.
Common Questions about Colombia
Still undecided about where to visit? Let me help a little more. Here are some suggestions based on questions I’ve gotten from readers:
Where are the best shipwrecks?
Shipwrecks are always a favorite place to explore, and there are some great ones in Colombia. Possibly the best one would be the Sebastian de Belalcazar in Bahia Solano, an old navy ship purposely sunk to create an amazing reef.
Another ideal place is Providencia, where you will find some amazing sunken pirate ships. Taganga is also well known as having great shipwrecks to explore.
Where is the best cave diving?
Malpelo is where to head first for some amazing cave diving if you are an experienced diver. It is a beautiful UNESCO site with some of the best caves in the world. And don’t forget the sharks you can dive with!
Taganga also has some great caves to explore with a wide variety of fish to greet you there.
Providencia is not to be ignored either when it comes to great cave diving. All three of these sites are ideal for this as well as many other reasons to dive them.
Is scuba diving Colombia safe?
As it is with many countries, you need to be aware of possible scams. Be sure to get reliable references for all guides you use, and use normal precautions to protect yourself and property.
Diving is safe when you are with a reliable guide that will ensure you of the conditions. Many sites are for divers with advanced certifications only due to currents or other situations. Be sure to ask plenty of questions and you will be fine.
The country has had the unfortunate reputation as being a haven for drug traffickers. However, massive effort has been made to rid the country of the violence associated with this trade, and it is now a very safe and pleasant place to spend your vacation.
Colombia Travel Information
Colombia is located on the northern edge of South America and is bounded by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It also has several islands offshore that make for some incredible diving and beaches to enjoy.
With almost 2,000 miles of shoreline, this country boasts some of the best beaches in the world. There is no end to the places to visit in Colombia where you can enjoy the sun, sand and surf. Inland you will find some amazing and magical places to see as well.
The rugged Andes mountains provide a breath-taking backdrop for much of the country. The snow-capped peaks and volcanoes drop down into beautiful and lush valleys which are dotted with fabulous alpine lakes. The contrast between this and the tropical beaches is awe-inspiring.
The culture of the country is a wonderful mixture of old and new, native, colonial, African, and European and everything in between. 300 year old churches and 16th-century castles are surrounded by modern architecture while maintaining the same friendly and colorful atmosphere.
Not only does the country boast some of the best scuba diving in the world, but you will want to allot enough time to explore much of the interior of the country.
There are possibly more things to see in Colombia’s underwater world than anywhere else in the world. You will be fascinated and amazed by the myriad of creatures waiting to give you a show.
Here are just a few critters you’ll see:
- A plethora of sharks, including the amazing hammerhead sharks plus whale sharks,silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white-tip and nurse sharks and even the rare sunray shark.
- Gigantic whales, including humpback whales, blue whales and occasionally killer whales.
- A wide variety of ray species such as the giant Manta ray and sting rays.
- R fish including: puffers, moray eels, angelfish, surgeonfish, butterfly fish, and scorpion fish. Seahorses, trumpets, damselfish and lobsters too.
- Parrot fish, snapper, black grouper, giant grouper, barracudas, Creole wrasse, giant trevalley and trumpet fish are common.
- Macros like frogfishes, pipehorse, spotfin gobies, shorttail snake eels, etc. are also great entertainment.
- Dolphins, tuna, sea lions and turtles, including the hawksbill and green turtles, are still others that you can expect to see here.
- All-in-all, there is no place like it, so be sure to have your dive camera ready!
How to get to Colombia:
As the capital, Bogota is the most common place to fly in to. However, Cartagena, Medellin, Pereira, Cali, and Barranquilla all have an international airport, so you just need to choose the one closest to your starting point.
Once in the country you can take short flights to your destination. Public transportation, such as the bus or taxi, is a good and inexpensive alternative.
There are ferries, pangas, catamarans and other choices of watercraft that will take you to the more remote islands. Check with your guide or hotel for the best methods for you.
Visa info for Americans:
Citizens of the US are not required to obtain a VISA. Only a valid passport that is good for the entire stay is necessary. While there are no requirements for vaccinations, it is recommended to take anti malaria drugs and Yellow Fever vaccine.
If you stay more than 60 days, you can expect to pay a small departure tax at the airport – typically around $38USD.
Best times to visit:
With having coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea, scuba diving in Colombia can be enjoyed all year round.
The dry season is January to March and June through August on the Pacific side, and from April to November on the Caribbean side. Visibility during these times is much better.
If you want to dive with the hammerhead sharks, January to May is your best bet. Whale-watching is at its prime from June to October, while the mating season for green turtles is from February to May.
No matter what time of year you visit, you will have plenty to see and will have the time of your life!
Colombia is located in South America, 26th largest country in the world has a total area of 1,138,910 of which the land area is 1,038,700 sq km and water is 100,210 sq km. The population is approximately 48,829,027. If you want to go on an outdoor adventure, Andes is the best place to trek. If you want to go scuba diving, you’d love Providencia’s world-class reef. If you just want to roam around, there’s Cartagena’s with its cobblestoned towns and villages.
Capital city of Colombia: Bogotá
Best times to visit Colombia: Highest season of Colombia is from December to February where the sky is sunny and the day is warm. However, the prices are high.
How to get to Colombia: Colombia has 5 international airports on big cities of Bogota, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena and Medellin. Direct flights from USA to Cali, Medellin or Cartagena are available.
Visa requirements for Colombia: All US citizens don’t need a visa to travel to Colombia but they need to have a passport valid for 90 days.
Currency of Colombia: Colombian Peso (COP).
Official Language of Colombia: Spanish is the official language of Colombia.
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Colombia
There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Colombia and 18 on their tentative list.
- Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia (2011)
- Historic Centre of Santa Cruz de Mompox (1995)
- National Archeological Park of Tierradentro (1995)
- Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena (1984)
- Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System (2014)
- San Agustín Archaeological Park (1995)
- Los Katíos National Park (1994)
- Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (2006)
More Colombia travel and scuba resources: