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Top 10 Scuba Diving Trips to Love

By Cara Sherman, Underwater Exposures

Nearly three-quarters of the planet is ocean. If you and your partner are certified scuba divers, you already know from previous trips that the ocean is a place of mystery, adventure, and perfection in liquid blue.

If you aren’t divers, three weeks of instruction at your local dive shop will earn you a certification, and the most memorable vacation can then be yours. Here is my pick of the best scuba diving trips for romantics.

1. La Paz, Baja California, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the biggest aquarium on earth.” Divers call it Land of the Giants. Surrounded by hauntingly beautiful desert and cacti-studded hills, La Paz is a short boat trip to encounters with mantas, stingrays, gray whales, orcas, and dolphins. At Los Islotes you cavort will sea lions. At El Bajo you may sight schooling hammerheads. And in the Bahia you can snorkel with a whale shark the size of a city bus.

2. Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

While the windward side gets 140 inches of rain a year, Kona, tucked against the leeward western shore, is dry and sunny year round. It has a rugged, volcanic seascape with the clearest, calmest waters of the island chain. One-third of the marine creatures are found nowhere else. Also endemic is the Manta Night Dive. Imagine a dozen giant mantas, some with 16-foot wingspans, pirouetting overhead in the beam of your dive light, mega mouths straining the plankton soup. It’s a magical trip.

3. Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

Celebrities and the world’s elite favor this pair of islands for its friendly people, pristine beaches, and postcard-perfect vistas. Provo is luxe resorts and electric nightlife. Grand Turk is mellow. Perched atop a big seamount separated by a channel where depths exceed 12,000 feet, the drop-offs are dramatic and wall diving exceptional. The walls are adorned with stands of black coral, oversized tube, barrel and vase sponges, massive gorgonians. Humpbacks make an appearance January to April.

4. Moorea, French Polynesia

Of the 118 French Polynesian islands, Moorea, of turquoise seas, verdant hillsides, and intimate over-the-water bungalows, is the most romantic. The star attraction for divers is sharks: lemon, blacktip, silvertip. Never fear, the encounters are carefully orchestrated, and you will revel in your interaction with these majestic and misunderstood creatures. The faint-hearted can thrill to the schools of damselfish, Moorish idols, butterflyfish, and bannerfish that will eat squid out of your hand.

5. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket (pronounced poo-ket), with its endless stretches of white beaches, emerald Andaman Sea, and varied nightlife, is the epicenter of tourism in southern Thailand. The west coast beaches of Patong, Kat, and Karon are gateways to the underwater world. Go day-tripping to Koh Phi Phi (where Leonardo DeCaprio’s The Beaches was filmed) or on multi-day trips to Similan Marine National Park, the Surin Islands, and Richelieu Rock, crowned “The Eighth Underwater Wonder of the World.”

6. St. Lucia

With its landmark twin peaks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, crested valley and verdant jungle, St. Lucia is an ultra romantic retreat and one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the Caribbean. Its appeal transcends its exotic beauty and resides in the reefs to explore. Beginners and experienced divers alike luxuriate in the warm, crystal waters and marvel at the stunning purple vase sponges, bountiful sea fans and corals, gangs of blue tangs and creole wrasse, golden spotted eels.

7. Beqa, Fiji Islands

Beqa (pronounced beng-ga), endowed with the natural beauty of a tropical rainforest, is unspoiled, a place where the time-honored rituals of firewalking defy logic and where kava (firewater made of pepper plant) is a joyful ceremony shared by young and old. Synonymous with Fiji are fantastical reefs of technicolor soft corals, profuse like no other dive spot. Competing for awe are golden gorgonians teeming with clouds of orange and purple anthias, lionfish, leaf fish, blue ribbon eels.

8. Palau, Micronesia

CEDAM International named Palau "One of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World." Its spectacular marine environment of caves, caverns, sheer walls and brilliant reefs nurtures more than 1500 species of fish, plus 700 species of corals and anemones. Blue Corner, the premier site, tops most divers' wish list. Here you will see patrolling gray reef sharks, hawksbill turtles, Napoleon wrasse, octopi, clownfish, schools of jacks and barracuda so dense they block the sun. This is no fish story.

9. Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel blends new first-class beach clubs with the timeless village charm that has made it one of the best-known scuba destinations for decades. The dive sites are nestled in the protected lee of the island’s west coast and are a cornucopia of walls, ridges, drop-offs, pinnacles, and towering plateaus. Visibility is reliably 100-foot plus, water temp is tepid, fish more bountiful than ever thanks to dive operator’s environmental efforts. Encounters with goliath groupers will make your day.

10. Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia

Far from the crowd, Mabul is an oasis of Malay chalets set over azure waters, a place of peace and quiet, where evening breezes soothe like a lover’s caress. Day is another story. Nearby Sipadan is renowned for adrenalin-pumping diving with legions of green and hawksbill turtles, barracudas, big-eye trevally, giant bumphead wrasses. The shallows surrounding Mabul is a universe of weird and wonderful critters, such as mandarinfish, pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, crocodile fish, frogfish.
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