Whether you are an experienced diver or a beginner, you’ll find diving in the crystal clear waters of the Marine Nature Reserve surrounding St. Barts breathtaking — with colorful marine life, rock formations, and amazing shipwrecks.
This tiny French Overseas Territory offers 22 excellent scuba diving sites around its shores, including reefs, canyons and wrecks. In addition, St. Barts is famous for its excellent restaurants , unspoiled beaches, and French-Caribbean chic.
St. Barts has the good fortune to be a 12-month diving destination, with warm temperatures and underwater visibility of between 65 and 98 feet year round.
Excited to learn more? Let’s dive in! (Pun intended)
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With nearly two dozen dive sites, St. Barts is all about variety. In fact, with so many choices, it can get a little overwhelming. That's why we're sharing our top five favorite places for diving in St. Barts.
The most popular dive site on the island, Pain de Sucre (Sugar Loaf) is located off the western coast of St. Barts.
This large collection of rock formations is open to beginners and home to a variety of sea creatures and underwater scenery. The site is about 55 feet deep with a soft, sandy seabed.
One of the most accessible dive sites on the island, Gros Islet is located just off the coast of Gustavia, away from the port's shipping lanes.
The vibrant colors of the Caribbean sea and abundant sea life reside at 30-45 feet of clear water. Six sites around this small islet cater to all experience levels.
La Baleine is known for its giant sponges and vivid coral formations.
The site is located off the northwestern part of St. Barts, near the wreck of the "Nonstop," a 200-foot luxury motor yacht that sank during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. You can look at the wreck from afar, but it's not safe to visit.
Off the north shore of St. Barts, Anse de Colombier is home to colorful coral reefs and a reef wall teaming with sea turtles, large barracudas and rays. This dive site is suitable for all levels of divers.
Located near Colombier off the northwestern shore of St. Barts, Rockefeller Point is known for its coral reef habitat with abundant sea flora and fauna.
Most divers will tell you that there is something magical about exploring shipwrecks. Below are a few you'll find in the waters just offshore in St. Barts.
Located off of the north shore of St. Barts, the "Kayali" is a fishing trawler that sank in 100 feet of water in 1994. This fully-penetrable wreck is best suited for advanced divers and is home to sea turtles and large spotted eagle rays.
The "Marignan" sits in about 50 feet of water, just outside the port city of Gustavia. The wreck is in one of the port's primary shipping lanes, which means that your dive boat will have to anchor outside the lane, and you'll have to swim underwater to the wreck. Still, it's worth the effort.
The "Dakar" also sits just offshore from Gustavia in about 50 feet of water. The wreck sits upright, home to thousands of fish and a lone barracuda. Like the "Marignan," the "Dakar" is located in the port's shipping lane, so you'll have to swim underwater to the wreck to reach it.
Of course, any respectable dive destination has a couple of excellent dive centers. St. Barts is no different, with several dive shops around the island, most also offering snorkeling excursions and equipment.
Overview: Located in Gustavia, this popular dive shop offers everything from diving instruction to equipment rental and supplies for NITROX diving. The family-owned business has a 4.9/5 rating on Google after more than five dozen reviews.
Private trips offered: Yes
Affiliation: PADI, SDI/TDI and CMAS
Types of Training Offered: Introduction course, diving certification courses (SDI or PADI Open Diver Course), Advanced Adventure Diver Course, SDI Rescue Diver, SDI Master Scuba Diver, Enriched Air Diver, SDI or PADI Divemaster Course, SDI Assistant Instructor, SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Instructor, plus a variety of young diver programs
Non-Diving Activities: Snorkeling trips
Insider tip: Great selection of diver courses for kids
Minimum Diving Age: 10 years old
Location: St. Barthélémy, Gustavia Address: Quai de la Collectivité, Phone: +590 0 690 516 786
Overview: Island Diving is a family business, operating on St. Barts since 1993. The dive center, located in Gustavia, offers a variety of scuba dive excursions and courses for all skill levels, as well as snorkeling trips and yoga classes.
Private trips offered: Yes
Types of Training Offered: PADI DSD (Discover Scuba Diving), PADI Scuba Review, Open Water Certification Course, Advanced Open Water Diver Certification Course, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver, Divemaster, Open Water Scuba Instructor
Non-Diving Activities: Snorkeling trips and yoga classes
Insider tip: There are public showers and restrooms near the parking lot adjacent to the diving center
Minimum Diving Age: 9 years
Location: 97133 St. Barthélémy, Gustavia Phone: +590 690 41 96 66
Overview: Ouanalao Dive Center, located at Grand Cul-de-Sac Beach, offers dive trips, instruction, and equipment rental. The dive center, named after the Carib word for the island, also offers private, customized dive trips as well as private boat excursions around the island.
Ouanalao Dive © www.ouanalaodive.com
Private trips offered: Yes
Affiliation: PADI and CMAS
Types of Training Offered: Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver, Divemaster, Open Water Scuba Instructor
Non-Diving Activities: Parasailing, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, boat excursions around the island
Insider tip: Next to the dive center, the beach restaurant O'Corail is a wonderful spot for breakfast, lunch, or cocktails
Minimum Diving Age: 9 years old
Location: St. Barthélémy, Grand Cul-de-Sac Beach Address: Plage de Grand Cul-de-Sac Phone: +590 690 637 434
Overview: La Bulle Diving Center is the oldest commercial dive operator on St. Barts, in the business for a half-century or so. Its long-standing existence and experience help explain its rock-solid reputation. La Bulle sits right along Gustavia Harbor and provides a range of excursions, rentals, and classes.
Private Trips Offered: Yes
Affiliation: PADI and CMAS
Types of Training Offered: Introduction to Scuba Diving, Refresher Courses, Divemaster Certification
Non-Diving Activities: Snorkeling
Insider Tip: La Bulle does an excellent job customizing its group and private dives to customer preferences
Minimum Diving Age: Not provided
Location: St. Barthélémy, Gustavia Address: Marina Ocean Must Phone: +590 690 77 76 55
St. Barts dive operators provide safe, well-supported introductory classes for beginner/aspiring divers. Such courses overlap with refresher courses for those who haven’t dived in a while or aren’t certified anymore.
Even those who are completely new to scuba can take these classes (provided they meet the minimum age cutoff).
Those with the proper Open Water (or higher) certification can enjoy all manner of recreational dives around St. Barts. Incorporating a morning or afternoon of diving into your day is a great way to enhance your experience in the Jewel of the Caribbean. While some dive sites are best left to experts, many here make great destinations for recreational divers.
It’s hard to beat the one-on-one tutelage and customized guidance offered by a private dive instructor. Such an instructor can cater completely to your skill level and interests. This is a great route to take if there’s a particular dive site — or particular marine critters — you’d like to see.
Renting a dive boat, complete with certified instructors/guides, is a wonderful way to explore Saint Barthélemy’s underwater world with luxurious freedom. Here again, chartering a private dive boat gives you a great opportunity to visit specific dive sites or have a specific kind of diving experience under expert supervision.
Group dives allow you to tap into the expertise of certified scuba instructors and guides, taking in top dive sites around the island. These are very accessible options for those with the proper certification and serve as fun social experiences to boot.
Shipwrecks function as underwater hotspots for sea life. Their enigmatic appearance — and the throngs of reef fish, rays, turtles, and sharks they attract — make them top-draw dive sites.
Several interesting wrecks are found in St. Barts, and dive operators target them regularly. For instance, the famed Kayali trawler, under 100 feet of water, is known for sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.
Close to Gustavia, meanwhile, divers commonly explore the Nonstop luxury yacht (foundered during Hurricane Hugo) as well as the Marignon and Dakar wrecks.
Free-diving is utterly enticing, offering more intimate communion with the underwater world than is possible in clunkier scuba gear. A number of St. Barts dive operators offer various levels of free-diving instruction, well worth trying out.
One of the joys of St. Barts diving is that it can be pursued year-round. The trade-wind climate in St. Barts establishes pleasant and relatively stable weather all year.
Water temperatures average from about 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) in the winter to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) in the summer.
Good visibility, often in the 65- to 100-foot range is the rule. Every month, even during the rainy season, there’s plenty of sunshine: an average of 250 hours or so.
That said, the threat of hurricanes peaks in September and October, so those months aren’t top choices for St. Barts diving vacations.