What comes to mind when you think of Spain? Is it the food, like tapas and paella? Or the major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona? Perhaps soccer or even flamenco dancing? Or maybe the incredible architectural works of Gaudi?
Spain certainly has plenty to see and do, but visitor’s shouldn’t get too caught up in the sites and attractions on the surface, because there is also plenty going on underneath this country’s waves. Spain is a great destination for scuba diving.
What can you expect from this guide?
We recognize that although everyone would love to visit a great dive destination like Spain, it can be a little daunting finding first-hand information online, that gives you enough of that ease of mind to make you comfortable enough to plan your trip.
Planning and organizing a big dive trip, far from home, and finding accurate information on where to dive, where to stay, what dive shops to use, what seasons to visit, costs, attractions you should see on land, and more makes it a bit stressful.
But it doesn’t have to be.
As fellow scuba travelers, we feel your pain when it comes to getting reliable information to organize our dive trips, so we have put together this guide to help with any information you will need!
If you still have questions about scuba diving in Spain, feel free to ask them in the comments below, or shoot us an email!
The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving Spain
Spain’s coastline is teeming with wildlife. From whales and sharks to macro critters and colourful corals. The country is also known to have many dive sites with spectacular visibility, and the majority of dive sites in Spain are ideal for divers of all levels.
For each location we will tell you what they are best known for, and if decide you want to check it out, click the link and you will be directed to a more thorough guide about that specific location, with all the information you will need.
Costa Brava has plenty of both shore and boat dive sites. It’s one of the most popular areas for scuba diving because of its proximity to Barcelona, making it easy to have a city and sea holiday. The area is home to 4 natural reserves, of these, 3 are open to scuba diving.
Water temperature varies here from 14C- 26C and diving is possible year round. Liveaboards are possible in this area. Don’t miss the Cap de Crea reserve; plenty of marine life here, including the occasional whale.
It may seem weird to see a mountain range on this list, but during the winter months the Catalan Pyrenees offer some pretty awesome ice diving opportunists in the surrounding lakes.
As you can see from the map above, you can either take a ferry to the islands and check out Nusa Penida Beach, or your dive center on the main land will take you.
Five islands with seven marine reserves surrounding them- the Balearic Islands are a scuba diver’s paradise. There are over 8 dive sites here full of schools of fish, and loads of macro critters making it a popular spot for underwater photography.
If you are lucky, you may also see Mola Mola here. The Balearic Islands are also home to the largest underwater cave in Europe called Sa Gleda Cave (tek divers only). Liveaboards are also possible in this area.
An archipelago of seven islands off the coast of Africa. The Canary Islands are a popular spot for nature enthusiasts and have no shortage of amazing sea life. From tiny seahorses and colourful nudibranchs, to common reef fish, bright corals, and even whales.
The water here is vibrant blue and there is great visibility making is a popular dive destination. There are some great wreck dives to be found around the islands, as well as reefs and caves. Water temperatures here usually average at around 20C.
Northern Spain (Cantabric Sea)
If you don’t mind colder water diving, then definitely consider diving in Northern Spain.
It’s your best bet to see sharks in Spain and moonfish.
Scuba diving in the north of Spain isn’t as popular as other places, so make sure you find an operator that knows the area.
Cabo de Palos
A natural marine reserve best known for it’ impressive wrecks.
Two of the most popular wrecks here are ‘El Carbonero’ and ‘Naranjito’.
You will also find plenty of healthy corals and typical reef fish species.
This group of islands can be tricky to get to, but are worth it for animal and nature enthusiasts.
Located 50km off the coast of Spain between Europe and Africa, this reserve is on the migration path of many birds and some sea life. The waters here are teeming with schools of fish and macro critters.
A great spot for underwater photography enthusiasts.
Cabo de Gata
In the south of Spain (off of Andalusia), this area is reputed to be one of the most untouched places in the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s a natural marine reserve, with sandy and rocky bottoms that are home to plenty of critters, and a few wrecks.
The reserve spans 63km along the Spanish coastline and visibility here is usually crystal clear.
Frequently asked questions about Spain
We get asked a lot of questions about diving Spain, so we put together a bunch of those questions and answers, to help you get all the information you need to plan your dream trip to paradise.
We try to cover everything in this guide, even it has nothing to do with scuba, but of course I am sure we missed some topics and questions people might have. So if you have a question, just pop it in the comments and we will answer it right away!
What Critters Should I Look For?
You may be interested to learn that Spain is home to a variety of marine life.
This is due to the fact the scuba divers visiting Spain have the ability to dive in three different bodies of water: The Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Cantabrian Sea.
What you see will depend on the dive site and its location, but here are a few of the more exciting things that you can find while scuba diving in Spain.
- Turtles: Especially around the Canary Islands, you can find six different species in this area.
- Whales: A rare but special occurrence. Keep your eyes peeled especially around Costa Brava and the Canary Islands.
- Rays: Eagle Rays and Sting Rays, mostly around Costa Brava and in the south.
- Sharks: Angel and blue sharks are the most common species that can be found around Spain.
- Mola Mola: If you are really lucky you may spot some when diving around the Balearic Islands.
- Moonfish: Especially in the colder waters around Northern Spain.
What does it cost do dive in Spain?
Scuba diving costs in Spain aren’t going to be as cheap as in some other destinations (such as those in Southeast Asia). However, it is affordable.
Prices will differ depending on your location, and depending on the dive shop. Please don’t let cost be the only reason you choose a dive shop, we highly recommend you read reviews about each dive operator and look for things like quality of rental equipment, instructors, boats, safety, etc.
Using a trust worthy shop is absolutely worth spending a little more money on your diving experience.
Estimated average costs for diving in Spain are:
- 2 Fun Dives: 60-80 euro (depends on shore dive or boat dive)
- PADI Open Water Course: 400- 500 Euro
- PADI Advanced Open Water Course: 350- 450 euro
- PADI Rescue and EFR Course: 450-500 euro
They also do Divemaster internships if you’re interested in a awesome experience, as well as instructor development. Prices for diving and courses vary, but you get the idea of what to expect.
How Do You Get to Spain?
Spain is a popular travel destination in Europe and therefore quite easily accessible to travellers. For travellers coming from the United States, you will likely be able to find direct flights to Madrid or Barcelona from major American cities.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Europe, flying, training, bussing, or driving are all options from the surrounding countries.
How Do You Get Around in Spain?
Once you arrive in Spain, you have several options for getting around. Depending on where you want to start, catching a domestic flight to another city in Spain is an option.
Or, you can use Spain’s train or bus network. For the most freedom, travellers may want to consider renting a vehicle for the duration of their stay.
Once in a city, public transit and taxis are both viable options. Of course, exploring by foot is always fun too.
What is the Visa Situation for Americans?
American and Canadian passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Spain. Travellers from both countries can stay in Spain for a maximum of 90 days without a visa*.
However, you may be asked to show proof of departure upon arrival.
If you are from another country, please check with the Spanish Embassy to verify your entry requirements.
*Spain is part of the Schengen area, which means that the 90-day maximum isn’t just for Spain, but for all 26 countries that are part of the Schengen agreement. Please keep this in mind if you plan on travelling extensively before or after your visit to Spain.
Is the Language Barrier Difficult in Spain?
Spanish is the official language of Spain, but English is widely spoken in the major cities and the tourist areas.
That being said, it never hurts to pick up some simple Spanish phrases to help you along the way. Plus, it will make the locals happy to see you trying.
Best Times to Visit Spain
Spain can be visited year round, however there are a few things you may want to take into consideration including weather, crowds, where you will be visiting, and your travel style.
The warmest months in Spain are July and August, and while this is also considered to be high season as it is the summer months and popular time for vacation, it can be too hot in some areas.
That being said, if you are diving, the warmer water is definitely a benefit.
If you are hoping to escape the extreme heat (and the crowds) September and into October are also some of the best times to visit, for both diving and touring.
The spring months of May and June are also good for escaping crowds but still experiencing warm weather.
Scuba diving in Spain can generally be done year round, however the typical season runs from April til November.
What Else is There to See and Do in Spain?
Scuba diving in Spain is a must, but while you are in the county you should do a little bit of sight-seeing as well. Whether you are interested in the food, culture, history, or just want to enjoy the beaches, here are a few ideas for places you may want to visit.
Barcelona: Located on the coast, Barcelona combines the best of beaches and city life to create an alluring travel destination. The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is a popular tourist destination and known for the stunning Gaudi architecture including Parc Guell and the Sagrada Familia.
Madrid: The capital and largest city in Spain, Madrid is the perfect place for a Spanish city break. Historic neighbourhoods and plenty of sites and attractions which make it perfect for exploring. Madrid is also home to Spain’s famous bull fighting.
Ibiza: An island off the coast of Mediterranean Spain, Ibiza is known for its beach party scene. The island is full of clubs with famous DJs and headliners and is a huge hot-spot for music lovers during the summer months.
Seville: A beautiful city in the Andalusia region of Spain, Seville is best known for its flamenco dancing which can be experienced in tablaos (places to see flamenco) around the city. Or, if you are ambitious, you can take lessons to learn yourself.
Granada: Another gorgeous city in the Andalusia region, Granada’s main draw is its stunning architecture. The Moorish architecture, dating back to medieval times, has fascinated visitors for years. The most prominent attraction here is the Alhambra; a sprawling fortress.
San Sebastian: If you are a foodie than San Sebastian is an absolute must. The specialty here is the pintxo which is their version of tapas. Make sure to also spend some time at the beautiful Concha Beach and, if you love surfing, head to the nearby Zurriola Beach.
Canary Islands: The Canary Islands are an archipelago off the coast of Africa. If you are planning on spending most of your dive time in the Canary Islands, it’s probably a good idea to just stick to the area and explore. There are a total of seven islands and all offer unique and dramatic landscapes with plenty of hiking and outdoor activities. Perfect for nature lovers.
What is the Food Like in Spain?
Food lovers rejoice because Spain is definitely a foodie country, especially if you like seafood and meat.
You’ve probably heard of (and maybe even had) tapas before, which is one of the foods that Spain is known for. Tapas are basically appetizers or snacks that can be served hot or cold.
They are often enjoyed with a group of friends with wine of sangria.
Paella is another popular favourite when it comes to Spain. It’s a Valencian rice dish that can be made with meat or seafood, spices, and some vegetables. Paella is usually made in large batches so most restaurants require at least two people to order it in order to make it.
A must try for meat eaters is Iberico ham; a cured ham that is famous in Spain and parts of Portugal. There are different ‘levels’ of Iberico ham quality which means it can get pricey. However, it is delicious.
Of course, Spain has many more types of cuisine that differ depending on the region you are visiting. If you are a true foodie, consider taking food tours or cooking classes during your visit.
What Areas Should I Stay in?
Spain is a large enough country that you may need to stay in multiple places during your stay, especially if you want to combine diving with city breaks. When it comes to diving, your best bet is to stay close to the dive resort you wish to use. This will save you plenty of travel time.
After diving, I recommend you pick a couple of different cities depending on what interests you the most. Spain’s cities have plenty to offer to keep you busy and occupied for at least 2-3 days each. It’s better to spend longer in a couple and really explore them, than to spend all your time jumping around from one city to another.
More Spain Information
Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain, but it is not the capital city. That title belongs to Madrid.
The region of Catalonia (where Barcelona is located) wants to separate from Spain and become their own. Catalonia has its own language, laws, and customs.
Spanish (Castilian) is the official first language of Spain, however there are three other Spanish languages: Catalan (or Valencian), Galician, and Basque.
The official currency in Spain is the Euro.
Spain is home to 46 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Forty of these are cultural, 4 are natural, and two are mixed. The Alhambra is probably the most popular of these.
As you travel through Spain you may notice that many shops and restaurants close for 2-3 hours after lunch, usually during the hottest part of the day. This is called siesta which is essentially, nap time. While Spaniards may not actually nap during this time, it’s common for them to close down their shop or business for a break.
Spain is home to one of the top performing international soccer teams in the world. Their clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, are also very successful and have fans around the world.