As an increasingly popular form of travel, liveaboard diving is considered by many to be the best way to enjoy a dive-centric holiday. Occasionally, a dive safari is the only way to reach a remote destination. This is certainly the case for Cocos Island in Costa Rica or the Revillagigedo Islands in Mexico.

On other occasions, a liveaboard cruise allows divers to explore a wide variety of dive sites in a short time or hard-to-reach sites in a traditionally land-based scuba destination. This occurs in countries like the Maldives and Indonesia.

With so many awesome destinations, it can be an overwhelming task to book the perfect liveaboard vacation. Check out these 10 destinations for some of the best diving in the world.

1. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Alison Perkins

Famed for its hammerhead shark encounters, Cocos Island is a part of Costa Rica although it lies 36 hours from its Pacific coast. This dramatic volcanic island rises from the deep sea and is surrounded by heavy current. This same current both reserves the area to advanced divers and attracts plenty of pelagics including huge schools of scalloped hammerheads, mobula rays, manta rays and the occasional whale shark. Because of its distance from shore, Cocos Island is only reachable by liveaboard.

Must-Dive Sites: Alcyone, Dirty Rock, Manuelita, Bajo Dos Amigos and Pyramid
Departure Port: Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Typical Liveaboard Length: 8 to 10 Nights
Featured Creatures: Scalloped Hammerheads
When to Go: June to December

2. Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Joost van Uffelen

Also known as the Socorro Islands, the Revillagigedo Islands are a must for any pelagic-lover. This series of four islands lies 240 miles (390 kilometers) off the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. Because of their prime location in the Pacific Ocean, Roca Partida, San Benedicto and Socorro Island regularly attract large numbers of manta rays as well as hammerheads, humpback whales and whale sharks. In fact, many consider this one of the best places in the world to swim with whales. Others deem this one of the top manta ray destinations. Either way, you can count it among the best liveaboard destinations in the world.

Must-Dive Sites: Roca Partida, The Boiler, The Canyon, Cabo Pearce and Punta Tosca
Departure Port: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Typical Liveaboard Length: 8 to 10 Nights
Featured Creatures: Manta Rays, Humpback Whales, Whale Sharks and Hammerheads
When to Go: November to May

3. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Mona Dienhart &Chris Lebas

Probably one of the most popular liveaboard destinations at the moment, Raja Ampat offers the highest marine biodiversity in the world. This new scuba destination holds the record for the most species recorded in a single dive, and you can expect to experience a similar density of fish on most dives. Because the region is spread out along a series of islands, Raja Ampat is most easily explored by liveaboard. You’ll not only be able to dive a variety of sites, but you’ll also be able to see the most pristine reefs which are found further from shore. If you love pristine corals and colorful fish, Raja Ampat is the liveaboard destination for you.

Must-Dive Sites: Black Rock, Melissa’s Garden, Manta Sandy, Kaleidoscope and Muck Bay
Departure Port: Sorong, West Papua, Indonesia
Typical Liveaboard Length: 6 to 11 Nights
Featured Creatures: Manta Rays, Sea Turtles, High Diversity of Tropical Fish Species
When to Go: October to April

4. Similan Islands, Thailand

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Jannik Pedersen

Only reachable by liveaboard, the Similan Islands boast the best diving in Thailand. These 9 islands are located in the Andaman Sea approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) west of Khao Lak. Here you’ll find Koh Tachai and Koh Bon which are famous as magnets for manta rays from February through April. Whale sharks also make the occasional appearance. Through crystal-clear water, you’ll enjoy boulder scapes and soft coral reefs teeming with tropical life. Don’t forget your camera. You’re going to want to photograph these picture-perfect islands both above and below the water!

Must-Dive Sites: Christmas Point, Elephant Head Rock, Richelieu Rock, West of Eden and Shark Fin Reef
Departure Port: Phuket, Ranong or Khao Lak, Thailand
Typical Liveaboard Length: 1 to 4 Nights
Featured Creatures: Manta Rays and Whale Sharks
When to Go: November to mid-May

5. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Steffen Binke

Perhaps the most famous liveaboard destination in the entire world, the Great Barrier Reef is far more enjoyable by dive safari than by land-based resort. Most of the reefs lie a hundred or more miles offshore and reach out for hundreds of miles beyond that. The most popular destination for liveaboards in the Great Barrier Reef is Ribbon Reef, a wavy line of north-south reefs. Here you’ll find friendly cod, colorful bommies and legions of tropical fish at a plethora of famous dive sites.

Must-Dive Sites: Steve’s Bommie, Cod Hole, Three Sisters, Pixie Pinnacle and Milln Reef
Departure Port: Cairns, Australia
Typical Liveaboard Length: 2 to 4 Nights
Featured Creatures: Cod, Rays and Barracuda
When to Go: August to January

6. Red Sea, Egypt

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Werner Böhm

Divers travel to the Red Sea for two reasons: colorful coral reefs and fascinating wrecks. The former are filled with a variety of life and occasionally attract larger species of shark, dolphins and even dugong. The latter (the wrecks) are plentiful. Tec divers rejoice in the number of ships that lie just below recreational limits, but almost everyone with an advanced certification will want to dive the Thistlegorm Wreck whose automotive cargo can easily be seen. While many of the area’s sites are accessible through land-based resorts, seeing the best wrecks and most pelagics will require a liveaboard journey to remote dive sites.

Must-Dive Sites: Thistlegorm Wreck, Elphinstone Reef and Fury Shoals
Departure Port: Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada or Marsa Alam, Egypt
Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 Nights
Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Oceanic Whitetips, Thresher Shark, Dolphins and Dugong
When to Go: Year-round

7. Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: James Scott

A protected archipelago off the largest island in the Caribbean, the Jardines de la Reina have become a wonderland for shark-lovers. In this remote destination, you’ll be guaranteed sightings of Caribbean reef sharks and silky sharks. Many of these creatures have become brazen without the threat of human predators and will curiously approach divers. Adventurous guests will also have the opportunity to snorkel with mighty Cuban crocodiles. At present, the only way to visit the Gardens of the Queen is by liveaboard.

Must-Dive Sites: Farallón, Vicente, Pipín, Black Coral I, and Five Seas
Departure Port: Jucaro, Cuba
Typical Liveaboard Length: 6 Nights
Featured Creatures: Caribbean Reef Sharks, Silky Sharks and Cuban Crocodiles
When to Go: Year-round

8. Ari Atoll, Maldives

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Lea Lee

Imagine finding yourself standing on a thin strip of white sand surrounded by crystal clear water reflecting in every shade of blue. You walk 100 meters out in the ankle-deep sea and are met by a curious blacktip reef shark. To get here, you sailed with a luxurious liveaboard full of amenities like hot tubs, swimming pools and spa facilities. This is the Ari Atoll, and below the surface, the adventure continues. With a series of channels and pinnacles, the Ari Atoll has become a magnet for pelagic species, resulting in frequent sightings of manta rays and whale sharks. If you like luxury mixed with great diving, the Ari Atoll is the perfect choice for your liveaboard holiday.

Must-Dive Sites: Fish Head, Maaya Thila, Broken Rock, Five Rocks and Holiday Beyru
Departure Port: Male, Maldives
Typical Liveaboard Length: 7 Nights
Featured Creatures: Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and Hammerheads
When to Go: December to April

9. Tubbataha, Philippines

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Felipe Barrio

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is located in the Sulu Sea, far from any substantial landmass. In 1993, UNESCO declared the natural park to be a World Heritage site due to its unique atoll reef formations and biodiversity. Because of its isolated position, divers can only experience Tubbataha’s dramatic reefs through the use of a liveaboard. Sharks, turtles and manta rays along with 600 species of fish and 350 species of coral await the diver willing to make the journey.

Must-Dive Sites: Wall Street, Black Rock, Shark Airport, Amos Rock and Southwest Wall
Departure Port: Puerto Princesa, Philippines
Typical Liveaboard Length: 6 Nights
Featured Creatures: 13 Species of Shark, Manta Rays and Sea Turtles
When to Go: Mid-March to Mid-June

10. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

best liveaboard destinations in the world

Flickr Credit: Lori Haskell

Made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands are a dream both above and below the water. The many endemic species make scuba diving around these island unlike anywhere else in the world. In just one week, you can dive with schools of hammerheads, watch as penguins slip into the water and see marine iguanas feeding on the seafloor. Above the water, dramatic scenery is dotted with blue-footed boobies and sea lions. To make the most of the Galapagos Islands as a scuba diver, you’ll want to visit Wolf and Darwin Islands, reachable only by liveaboard.

Must-Dive Sites: Darwin Island, Wolf Island, Shark Point, Gordon Rocks and Cape Marshall
Departure Port: San Cristobal, Ecuador
Typical Liveaboard Length:  7 to 10 Nights
Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Galapagos Sharks, Manta Rays, Marine Iguanas and Whale Sharks
When to Go: June to December

Have you been to any of these liveaboard destinations? Or did we miss your favorite dive spot? Let us know if the comments below!

Here is an honorable mention: The Ikan Baru livaboard in Komodo, Indonesia!

Justin Carmack

Justin Carmack

Wanderer and diver at Art of SCUBA Diving
I've been on the road for 5.5 years now, visiting 80 countries, 6 continents and endless adventures. Divemaster and SCUBA addict. Travel junkie. World roamer.
Justin Carmack

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