I have been Scuba diving since 1993, and while I do not get to live near as much as I would like, I have been to a good selection of diving locations around the world. I love to share stories and experiences, so here is my take on some great dive locations I've been to. I have tried to highlight what I found most special about each site. Of course everyone has different expectations of a dive, but the things I liked at these sites are things that I have not found many other places.
San Carlos, Mexico – Sea of Cortez:
I did a dive trip here on a live aboard, and got in about 24 dives in five days. San Carlos was our departure point, located about half way down on the Mexico side of the Baja Gulf, or the Sea of Cortez. We dove this in March, so the water temp was a chilly 55 degrees, but an 11mm wetsuit solved that problem. We dove all over the place, basically within a straight line going west from San Carlos, all the way to the Baja side. There were a pretty good amount of fish around the "reefs", which really did not have much life, just rocks. But the real draw was the rare sealife you do not typically see elsewhere. We saw Black Tip Sharks, rays, Octopus, and lots and lots of Sealions. There were also some good man made reefs (ie wrecks) that were a pretty easy dive at around 80 to 100 feet.
In general, there was some great diving, but you have to end the cold water. Also, the reefs are not very spectacular, and the fish not abundant, but the stuff you see is really cool and hard to find anywhere else.
Roatan Island, Honduras:
Did two dives here, off of the Coral Cay Beach. I do not know the names of the spaces as I dove with a non-english speaking fisherman (not recommended). The water was great, 85 degrees year round, but visibility was only about 100 feet, but I think this was due to the rough water (about 6 foot swells).
This diving was the best "terrain diving" I have ever done. There was not a whole lot of fish life, but the walls and reefs were incredible. The first dive was on a wall going from 60 feet to 180 feet. There were some large eagle rays and schools of grouper, but what held my attention was the sheer magnitude of the walls. They were totally covered with reef life and there were beautiful colors everywhere. There were lots of ravines and caves to explore, and although the bottom of the wall was unreachable at 180 feet, you could see it at all times, which made the wall seem enthusiastic in perspective.
British Virgin Islands:
Did two dives in the BVI It is a gorgeous place even above the water, but below is spectacular. The water is warm enough to skin dive, and the visibility is at least 100 feet.
The first place I dove was called "Dead Man's Chest" on the tip of Peter Island. This was a tricky dive due to a very strong surge, even down to about 40 feet. The site is centered around five "finger" walls which go from the surface down to about 130 feet. It is great wall diving with lots of ledges and holes to explore, and has good stuff to see at any depth. The coral is less abundant here due to the surge, but there is quite a lot of tropical fish life poking around the walls. Of course there are the ever present barracuda, angel fish, parrot fish, etc. A very good wall dive location, but only accessible by boat.
The second location was the barrier reef just east of Virgin Gorda, referred to by many as "the bitter end". This was a great reef dive, providing easy shallow diving on the west, and deeper, but stronger surge, diving on the east. Here you get a fair amount of larger deep fish coming up the barrier reef to feed, and you often see sharks and eagle rays here. Be very aware of the Fire Coral though, I had a run in with it that caused a rash for a week.
This was the best diving I have ever done. The water was a balmy 85 degrees, and visibility was unlimited. Cozumel offers the highest combination of live reef and abundant fish I have ever encountered.
My first dive was at the San Fransisco Wall, which is the drop off going from 60 feet, straight down to 1800 feet. This of course provides the large deep fish coming up the wall, as well as the typical reef fish. The second dive was at Paradise Reef, which was 60 feet at it's deepest.
The reefs were 100 percent covered by every type of coral, sponge and fan I know of. Beautiful colors and life on an extremely healthy reef, and this was only 4 years after it was decimated by a hurricane. There were fish everywhere and we saw some very rare and interesting fish as well. There were sea snakes, eel, lobster, rock crab, and even a seahorse (the first I've ever seen), and we found a nurse shark hiding in a hole.
Cozumel was the only place I have dove that had spectacular reefs and abundant fish (usually I encounter one or the other). I highly recommend this as a must dive spot, and can not wait to get back to it.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico:
The diving here was what I consider "typical" Pacific Mexico diving. Not a whole lot to see, but what you do see is really cool. There were a few normal reef fish, and a reliably healthy reef, but mostly rock. We saw Moray Eel, Sea Turtles, sea snakes, and played around with an inflated puffer fish. The water was warm enough for a shorty wetsuit, but I would recommend a thin full suit. Visibility was great, and the good stuff to see was relatively shallow, 40 to 60 feet, making it an easy dive for beginners.