Best places to scuba dive in Ecuador Coastal mainland and the Galapagos

If you are a professional diver visiting Ecuador, this post will cover the best places to scuba dive in mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

You need a professional license or certification to dive in Ecuador.

However, if you don’t have a license but still want to discover the marine life in our oceans, you can find tour companies along the Ecuadorian coast that offer snorkeling trips or diving schools with professional certification.

We recommend you this website: PADI Ecuador

Where can you go scuba diving or snorkeling in Ecuador?

The following are the top snorkeling and diving locations along Ecuador’s mainland shore and the Galapagos Islands.

We will go into detail about the dive locations in Galapagos in another post. In the meantime, here is a list of the best places to dive in Ecuador.

Please get in touch with us if you know of a diving site in Ecuador that isn’t on the list; we’ll add it.

El Pelado Islet (Santa Elena)

A fifteen-minute boat ride will get you to El Pelado Islet (Islote El Pelado), which is located off the coast of Ayangue.

This diving site features both natural and artificial reefs, as well as a diverse flora and fauna that includes sea turtles, giant manta rays, and colorful fish.

The primary tourist attraction is the artificial reefs.

There are two in this area: the statue of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesus de las Aguas, which is located at a depth of 11 meters, and the ship “Rigel” of the Ecuadorian Navy, which was sunk by the Ministry of the Environment.

Additionally, there are a number of dive spots on El Pelado Islet.

In this guide, you can read about diving in Ayangue.

Bajo Cope (Santa Elena)

A one-hour boat ride from Ayangue will get you to Bajo de Cope, also known as “The capital of the giant manta rays,” because from July to October you can witness the presence of these marine giants.

It is unquestionably a popular scuba diving site in this area and is a part of the Bajo Cope Marine Reserve.

There are various dive sites nearby where you may appreciate the bubble reefs that erupt from the ground. These are: Las Agujas, La Cada del Sol, Seco, Antonio, and Las Mantas.

Only certified professional divers are allowed to visit these sites due to their extreme difficulty.

Isla de la Plata (Manabi)

The Ecuadorian diving community refers to Isla de la Plata as the “The Poor Man’s Galapagos,” because of the archipelago’s diversity of fauna, both terrestrial and marine, that can be seen on this island.

It is located within the Machalilla National Park and is regarded the best spot in continental Ecuador for SCUBA diving.

Salango Island (Manabi)

Isla Salango is also in the Machalilla National Park. It is 1 km from the coast and close to the town of Salango.

Los Frailes (Manabi)

Los Frailes is located within Machalilla National Park, around 10 kilometers from Puerto López.

For us, it is one of the best Ecuadorian beaches, and for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, it is an ideal site to appreciate the ecological richness beneath the water.

Diving takes place on nearby islets such as Islote Sucre and Horno de Pan, which are reached by boat from Machalilla Beach.

From Los Frailes’ main beach, you may snorkel as well.

Giuseppe Pignatelli-Los Frailes-Agosto 2008 (35)

Islote Horno de pan (Manabi)

It is located within Machalilla National Park, in front of Tortuguita beach in Los Frailes, and has stone walls and an abundance of soft coral.

Tours depart from the coastal town of Machalilla.

Islote Horno de Pan

Islote Sucre (Manabi)

Islote Sucre is also located within the Machalilla National Park and is another well known diving and fishing spot in Machalilla.

Because of the shallow waters and gentle current, it is ideal for novices.

People say that this islet was a place of worship and ceremonies for the pre-Columbian cultures that lived along the coast in this area.

It is also said that this location was once accessible on foot.

Islote Sucre Los Frailes

Islote Los Ahorcados (Manabi)

Los Ahorcados Islet is ten minutes by boat from Las Tunas, but it can also be seen from Puerto Rico and Ayampe beaches. It takes 40 minutes to get there from Ayampe.

This islet is a three-pronged rock formation that serves as a refuge for migratory birds.

It also features vast coral reefs and marine creatures such as crustaceans, mollusks, corals, and gorgonians.

Los Ahorcados is a great place for snorkeling and deep diving, with a medium level of difficulty.

People who live in Las Tunas and Ayampe say that people used to be sacrificed on this island in the past. The fact that we haven’t been able to confirm this tale does lend it a mystifying air, though.

Islote Pedernales (Manabi)

It is 10 minutes by boat away and situated in front of the Puerto Cayo beach.

You can scuba dive and snorkel, but you can also walk along its small, dark-sand beach and observe marine species such as boobies and frigatebirds.

Puerto Cayo, Manabí, Ecuador

Punta Piqueros (Manabi)

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.

Whale Shark at Darwin's Arch, Galapagos

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.
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