If you are a professional diver and are visiting our country, in this post we will be listing the best dive sites in mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Diving is a professional practice that requires a license or certification to do it without the help of a guide.
But if you do not have a license and still want to know the biodiversity of our oceans, you can find tour operators that offer snorkeling tours, or diving schools with professional certification along the Ecuadorian coast.
We recommend you this website: PADI Ecuador
Where to dive or snorkel in Ecuador?
The following are the best known dive and snorkeling sites on the mainland coast of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands.
In another post we will focus fully on the dive sites in Galapagos. Until then here is a summary of the best beaches to dive in Ecuador.
If you know of a dive site in Ecuador that is not on the list, please contact us and we will add it.
El Pelado Islet (Santa Elena)
El Pelado Islet is off the coast of Ayangue about fifteen minutes by boat.
This dive site has natural and artificial reefs, as well as a variety of fauna including sea turtles, giant manta rays and colorful fish.
The artificial reefs are the main attraction for tourists. There are two in this area: the statue of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús de las Aguas, located at a depth of 11 meters; and the ship “Rigel” of the Ecuadorian Navy, which was sunk by the authorities of the Ministry of the Environment.
Moreover, El Pelado Islet has several dive sites. Here you can learn about diving in Ayangue.
Bajo Copé (Santa Elena)
An hour’s sea trip from Ayangue is Bajo de Copé, also known as “The capital of the giant manta rays”, because from July to October you can enjoy the presence of these giants of the sea.
It is undoubtedly one of the favorite dive sites in this province and is part of the Bajo Copé Marine Reserve.
Here you will find several dive sites where you can appreciate the bubble reefs that sprout from the ground: Las Agujas, La Caída del Sol, Seco, Antonio, Las Mantas.
These sites have a very high level of difficulty, so only licensed professional divers can go there. In addition, this point is reached using GPS and marine SONDA.
Isla de la Plata (Manabí)
Isla de la Plata is known in the Ecuadorian diving community as the “Galapagos Chiquito” due to the diversity of wildlife of the archipelago, both terrestrial and marine, that can be seen on this island.
It is located within the Machalilla National Park, and is considered the best place for SCUBA diving in continental Ecuador.
Salango Island (Manabí)
Isla Salango is also located in the Machalilla National Park, 1 km from the coast near the town of Salango.
Los Frailes (Manabí)
Los Frailes is located within Machalilla National Park, 10 kilometers from Puerto López. For us it is one of the best Ecuadorian beaches and for diving and snorkeling lovers it is an excellent spot to enjoy the ecological diversity under the sea.
Actually, diving is done in islets near the beach such as Islote Sucre and Horno de Pan, arriving there by boat from Machalilla beach.
To snorkel, on the other hand, just enter the main beach of Los Frailes and a few meters away you will find the reef.
Islote Horno de pan (Manabí)
It is located within the PNA, in front of Tortuguita beach in Los Frailes, and has walls of detached stones and a large amount of soft coral.
Tours depart from Machalilla beach town.
Islote Sucre (Manabí)
Islote Sucre is also located within the Machalilla National Park and is another well known diving and fishing spot in Machalilla.
It is perfect for beginners because of its shallow waters and the current is not very strong.
But this islet holds more history, as people say that it was a sacred and ceremonial center of the pre-Columbian cultures of the coast that settled in this area. In addition, years ago, it was possible to walk there.
Islote Los Ahorcados (Manabí)
Los Ahorcados Islet is 10 minutes by boat from Las Tunas, although it can also be seen from Puerto Rico and Ayampe beaches. It is 40 minutes from Ayampe.
This islet is a three-pronged rock formation and is a habitat for migratory birds. It also has large coral reefs and marine species such as invertebrates, mollusks, corals and gorgonians can be seen.
Los Ahorcados is an ideal site for snorkeling and deep diving, and its level of difficulty is medium.
The inhabitants of Las Tunas and Ayampe often say that human sacrifices used to be made on this islet in the past. The truth is that we have not been able to verify this myth, but it does give it a mysterious touch to visit.
Islote Pedernales (Manabí)
Located in front of Puerto Cayo beach, 10 minutes away by boat, you can dive and snorkel, but you can also take walks on its small dark sand beach or see a diversity of marine birds such as boobies and frigate birds.
Punta Piqueros (Manabí)
Punta Piqueros Beach is located between Puerto Piquero and Punta Mala, and is an ideal place to see blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, octopus, lobsters, among other species.
To carry out this activity, boats leave from Salango beach town on a trip that takes about 20 minutes.
Punta Mala (Manabí)
Punta Mala is a small beach located across the cliffs of Punta Piqueros, about 15 minutes from Puerto Lopez.
Similar to the other dive sites in this province, in Punta Mala you can appreciate a diversity of marine fauna with unique conditions for the growth of corals, mollusks, among other species.
Isla Wolf (Galapagos)
Isla Darwin (Galapagos)
Islas Daphne (Galapagos)
Isla Bartolomé y Rocas Cousins (Galapagos)
León Dormido (Galapagos)
Rocas Gordon (Galapagos)
Santa Clara (El Oro)
Santa Clara Island is considered one of the most economical places to dive in the Ecuadorian coast. In addition, experts consider it to be of “high difficulty” due to its strong currents.
The island is considered a protected area due to the large amount of marine life. It also has a great marine productivity, considered one of the highest in the continental coast of Ecuador.
Underwater you can also see a sunken galleon.
How much does it cost to snorkel or dive in Ecuador?
Snorkeling off the mainland coast of Ecuador costs around $25 – $35 per person and includes the equipment if you don’t have it, the guide and the boat.
On the other hand, the cost of diving is much higher because it involves more logistics and time, especially if you are going to practice it in the Galapagos Islands.
On the mainland coast, prices range from $120 – $145 per person; while in Galapagos, diving tours range from $400 – $600 per person.
These prices include transportation to the dive site, snacks, all diving equipment, guides and other activities included by the tour operator.
Diving in Galapagos costs more because it is a National Park and has certain rules and restrictions.
Recommendations for scuba diving in Ecuador
We have compiled tips for diving in the Ecuadorian coasts and the Galapagos from several professional divers.
These recommendations are aimed at both experts and beginners in this practice.
- Never dive alone. You always need to be accompanied by someone.
- You must have a life insurance policy.
- If you are one of those who get seasick on the way to the dive sites, try to take an anti-seasickness pill one hour before setting sail.
- Always seek advice from an expert in the area.
- Hire guides with professional credentials if you are going to an unfamiliar place.