Whether it's diving in Belize or venturing on an eco-trek in Costa Rica, you'll find answers to your questions on Central America travel here.

SCUBA certification in Central America?


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: January 22nd, 2011

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Tags: central america, SCUBA certification, diving, panama, honduras
  • Added on: January 26th, 2011
I'd like an affordable, not-too-touristy place to get SCUBA certified, preferably in Central America. I like Roatan but would like something new, and Utila has very mixed reviews. Caye Caulker looks nice, but I'm always looking for other options and opinions.

Someone recommended Bocas Del Toro, Panama to me as a great place, and I was curious to know if anyone had been there. Good? Bad? Go somewhere else? Only at certain times of the year? Are courses taught in English? It's looking like my top choice thus far.

Any advice/price to spend is much appreciated!


Street Food Connoisseur
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Joined: May 24th, 2007

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  • Added on: January 26th, 2011
Bay Islands in Honduras and Corn Islands in Nicaragua are two of the cheaper options. I've been to the Corn Islands for snorkeling. There are two dive shops on Little Corn Island. The people I spoke with raved about the diving experiences there.
Follow my travels through Central and South America: www.talesofagringo.com


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Lost in Place
Posts: 87
Joined: October 28th, 2010
Location: Erbil, Iraq

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  • Added on: January 26th, 2011
If you're trying to avoid tourists, then Bocas is not the place to go. Of all the islands, it is by far the most touristy. Countless expats have purchased homes there and there's a neverending stream of backpackers and honeymooners. The diving is ordinary at best. Sadly you can't dive in the San Blas islands.

Costa Rica tends to be the most expensive.

To get to the corn islands, you pretty much have to fly (overland is possible) plus the cost of the courses is $50 more than Honduras or Belize.

So that leaves, Belize (Caye Caulker) Honduras (Bay Islands) or maybe as far as Taganga (Colombia)
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Deanna S

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Joined: February 14th, 2005

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  • Added on: January 27th, 2011
If you want away from tourists, take a look at Coiba Island in Panama. When I went a few years ago there was only one dive operator going there, Scuba Coiba, operating from Santa Catalina. Coiba is a small, mostly uninhabited island off the west coast that used to be a penal colony. It is now a "research station" which means not hotels, no resorts, no dynamiting fish. Just a couple of little buildings with rooms and a dining area - when I was there a few of the former inmates had stayed on to do the cooking and cleaning!
I didn't do a course, but the diving was fantastic! (Our dive master had worked previously in Bocas and said that the diving there was OK, if you didn't like fish)



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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: January 22nd, 2011

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  • Added on: January 27th, 2011
Wow, thanks guys. I didn't know most of this so it really helps. Guess I'll keep researching with all your recommendations in the back of my mind.

Felix the Hat

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Extra Pages in Passport
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Joined: June 17th, 2002
Location: itinerant

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  • Added on: January 28th, 2011
Scuba diver here (150+ dives).

Bocas del Toro do not have good visibility most of the year. Bay Islands, Honduras has the cheapest certification courses in the Americas. Utila is cheaper than Roatan. There's not much to do other than dive on Utila. Most of the people visiting that island are 20- and 30-something backpackers, doing dive courses and drinking. Roatan has a more diverse tourist scene, with some decent beaches. Belize is quite expensive, both for dive courses and topside life. Caribbean Mexico (Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum, Mahahual) has excellent diving and better value than Belize.


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Extra Pages in Passport
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Joined: September 11th, 2003

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  • Added on: January 29th, 2011
Cheapest and best cert in Ca is, and HANDS DOWN, Utila Honduras. There is nothing, really, to do on the island, other than drink beer and dive. But it's good and interesting diving and it's good beer.

Bocas Del Toro is really dull diving. I dived there on advice HERE. It blows. It's tourist diving. There really is nothing, that I've found, to see.

Belize is very good for diving...But expensive. The Blue Hole, though, is DOWN...Followed by UP. The only worth of it is to see the number on your gauge.

I dove Costa Rica both in the Caribbean and the Pacific....Neither had any real interest for me. The Pacific dives were VERY shallow, and the Caribbean was bland.
Good Luck Out There.


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: March 24th, 2010
Location: Earth

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  • Added on: January 30th, 2011
I just got back from my diving certification on Utila:
Learning to Scuba Dive on Utila

Sand flies are really bad (baby oil helps).

Food is amazing, and cheap.

Beaches on the main island are not worth it because of the sand flies.

There is other stuff to do if you're adventurous, but most people are lazy & get sucked into drinking every night.

For example: Searching for the Lost Colombian Drug Plane

You can spend a day walking the circumference of the island (not as easy as it sounds).
You can kayak mangrove swamps.
You can swim to nearby islands.
There are caves you can explore.



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Armchair Traveler
Posts: 28
Joined: January 30th, 2011

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  • Added on: January 31st, 2011
Am a PADI/NAUI intructor X 35 years have been diving A LOT there there are many options...

You may want to consider quality of instructors PADI approved operators are best at lowest cost.

You may also want to consider weather and water temps May begins the rainy season Carib warmest
so head there Jan-April for best beginner experience.

http://www.utiladivcentre.com or Altons Dive Shop your top 2 on Utila my personal favs best cost.
http://www.anthonyskey.com Roatan more upscale more expense but best arguably.

In CR best

Reefrunners in PV on the Carib side but more rain dodgier rasta vibe.
Coiba Panama remote great diving but not as great instructors.

Instructor Equipment Quality and PADI approval/certification
should be considered carefully for best experience...

Happy Hunting and safe diving!


Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: April 26th, 2008

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  • Added on: April 12th, 2011
The diving in Utila was fantastic, and if you do end up there I found Alton's to be an excellent dive shop.

However, it is relatively busy as there are lots of dive shops. If you want somewhere quieter, you could try Captain Morgan's, which has its dive shop a smaller, much quieter island just off Utila, so you get the same great diving with fewer tourists (they also claim to be on a part of the island with few sandflies too). I didn't visit them but heard great things from other divers.

I can also recommend Little Corn Island, it's a very quiet, very friendly island, with great diving, although more expensive and not quite as good as Utila.
Currently on a twelve month RTW trip. Read about my experiences at http://itinerantlondoner.wordpress.com

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