A beach in Aruba with words "scuba diving Aruba" written over it.

The Ultimate Guide To Scuba Diving In Aruba

“Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…..” While there is great debate on the Beach Boys’ song Kokomo, there is no debating that scuba diving in Aruba is not to be missed.

Part of the ABC islands – including Bonaire and Curacao – Aruba’s hot dry climate all year round, makes it an attractive destination for all kinds of travelers. Being South of the hurricane belt and with remarkable intact reefs, scuba divers will find Aruba very appealing.

The coastline of Aruba.
Whether you like Kokomo or not, you’ll love Aruba.

Getting There

Aruba is just a little over a two hour flight from Florida. However, you don’t have to go to Florida for a direct flight. Other cities in the US that offer direct flights to Queen Beatrix International Airport include New York, Boston, Baltimore and Richmond.

Flying into Aruba you’ll notice the just how clear the water is and the relative flatness of the island.

You can also get to Aruba directly from Toronto Canada and Amsterdam.

Scuba Diving Aruba

With water temperature of between 80 to 85 degrees and normal visibility between 60ft to 100ft year round, divers will find much to offer in the Aruba scuba diving experience.

The water of Aruba.
Ahhh Aruba!

In addition to the water temperature and conditions, divers will marvel at the coral reefs and some of the ships that wrecked on them. And of course with the reefs and wrecks comes the beautifully diverse marine life in the waters of this island.

Dive Operations

No matter your level of dive experience, there are many various diving opportunities in Aruba and shops to fit your needs. Both beginner and advanced divers will find no shortage of dive sites to visit and dive boats to get them to their diving destination.

The majority of the dive shops can be found on the Northwest side of the Island. Dive operations such as Mermaid Dive Center, Nautilus Dive Center, Happy Divers Aruba, Pure Diving Aruba and – way down on the South side of the island – Jads Dive Center offer different diving opportunities from boat to shore diving.

Diving Sites of Aruba

The reef and wreck diving in Aruba are some of the best combined in the world. The various reef fish, moray eels, giant brain coral, sea turtles, manta rays, sea fans and mas bango fish are many a subject for underwater photographers.

Brain coral underwater, in Aruba.
The aptly named brain coral is just some of underwater beauty of Aruba.

The west side of Aruba has the most diving sites with names such as finger reef, malmok reef, jane sea wreck and airplane wrecks.

Reef Diving Sites

The Aruba scuba diving experience simply would not be complete without a visit to the island’s outstanding finger reef, but this is far from the only reef abundant with marine life in Aruba.

Finger reef/The Finger

This reef gets it name from its unique formation of looking like a finger pointing down to its depth of about 125ft. Despite the name, you definitely wont feel like you were given the finger diving this site!

Beautiful coral with plenty of sea fans makes this one of the most popular dives on the island. And in addition to the tropical fish you can see moray eels and the occasional sea turtle.

Eel underwater, in Aruba.
Plenty of moray eels make this reef their home.

The reef starts at about 40ft and is located on the middle Southwest side of the Island. Since there can be stronger current in this area, this is a dive site more for advanced divers.

Mas bango reef

A site that is good for all level of divers and one of the best snorkeling sites on the island is the Mas Bango reef.

Lying in more protected waters Southeast of the Finger Reef, this reef starts at a depth of just 5ft and slopes down to 130ft. In between its minimum and maximum depths there is much to be seen.

Divers will take in the beautiful cluster of coral formations with their brain corals popping out of the ocean floor. Marine life that can bee seen here include angelfish, and anemone fish.

At deeper depths lurk barracuda and large groups of mas bango fish…..hence the name for the reef. Keep an eye out for sea turtles and the elusive seahorses for some great photographic opportunities.

Eagle eye divers may be able to spy a seahorse.
Sponge Reef

I’ll give you one guess what you might see at this dive site…..yep sponges! Tube, vase, elephant ear and basket sponges are all here to be seen in vibrant color.

Elephant ear sponge underwater in Aruba.
You won’t see an elephant (unless narced) but you will see beautiful orange elephant ear sponges on sponge reef.

Sitting in 60ft of water in the middle Western side of the island, divers may also be able to see sea turtles that often hang out at this site. Simply a beautiful diving experience.

Malmok Reef

At the Northwest side of the island lies Malmok Reef, a perfect destination for beginner divers. It also is a great spot to practice underwater photography, check out new gear and conduct open water dives for scuba certification.

In the clear calm waters you will find beautiful coral formations with parrot and angelfish. you may also see some starfish as well as some turtles and stingrays looking for food down on the sea floor that bottoms out at about 40ft.

Red starfish sitting on a rock underwater in Aruba.
One of the stars of Malmok Reef is the starfish…which is actually not a fish at all.

Additionally, there are parts of a sunken Lockheed Lodestar in this area. All in all a nice diving experience that everyone can enjoy.

Blue Reef

Just a little Northeast of Malmok Reef is Blue Reef. With a depth of 40ft, this is another dive site everyone can enjoy.

As you go past the brain and leaf coral, you will have opportunity to see some rather large lobsters and perhaps stingrays lounging about. Large barrel sponges in various colors can also be seen here.

On blue reef large barrel sponges hundreds of years old can be seen in green, orange and purple.

Lying next to this reef is the Debbie II wreck (see below), which is another great diving opportunity.

Cabez Reef

At the Southeasterly side of the island is the secluded Cabez Reef. Mostly a well kept secret, you’ll need a boat charter to get you there. As a less traveled dive site, the reef is in great shape. However, with a depth of 60ft and strong currents, it a location more suited for advanced divers.

On the Southeast side of the reef you will find the main attraction, the impressive Serito Pinnacle. Rising up form the ocean bottom, the pinnacle attracts much sea life including stingrays and barracuda.

Barracuda shown swimming in Aruba waters.
Look for barracuda on serito pinnacle…if you can find someone to acknowledge the reef exists.

Wreck Diving sites

Aruba scuba diving is not just for those divers that love reefs and aquatic life. There is plenty of wreck diving as well. In addition to the “natural” ship wrecks, several vessels have been sunk on purpose – including planes – to create artificial reefs and underwater playgrounds for divers.

SS Antilla

The Antilla wreck is perhaps the most dived site in all of Aruba. She was a German cargo ship that was launched in 1939 and scuttled by her crew in 1940 when Germany invaded the Netherlands.

The Antilla wreck underwater in Aruba.
A part of WW II history, divers will enjoy this “ghost ship.”

Known as the “ghost ship” she is one of the largest wrecks in the Caribbean at almost 400ft long. She lies on the Northwest side of the island in 60ft of water just South of Malmok Reef.

The wreck is broken in two and has seen some hurricane damage, but still has plenty to offer. The Antilla has become a spectacular artificial reef and a great spot for all level of divers and snorkelers.

Debbie iI

The Debbie II wreck is another of Aruba’s dive sites that is good for all level of divers. She was an oil tanker that was purposefully sunk in 1991.

The Debbie II lies South from the Antilla wreck in 70ft of water, just off of Blue Reef. She is 120ft long and offers much to be seen on her artificial reef including, sea fans, giant brain coral and various sponges. Also keep an eye out for sea turtles and the occasional sea horse.

Air planes (S-11 and DC-3)

Now for something a little different….diving on airplane wrecks. Located North of Sponge Reef and off of Renaissance Island lie a S-11 and DC-3. With depths between 45ft to 80ft beginner and advanced divers can get in on this popular dive site.

DC - 3 airplane in Aruba.
Divers can swim through a DC-3 like shown above…a truly unique experience.

Both of these planes were sunk on purpose to create artificial reefs and offer nice spots for underwater photography. They are accessible by boat or shore.

The DC-3 is broken up from a past hurricane, but divers can go through the fuselages of both of the planes and enjoy this unusual diving opportunity.

Jane sea

Another great dive site for underwater photography is the Jane Sea wreck. This large cement freighter was purposefully sunk in 1988 and was the first ship sunk in the waters of Aruba to create an artificial reef.

The Jane Sea can have some strong currents and the wreck bottoms out at about 90ft. So this is best suited for advanced divers.

In addition to this spectacular wreck, divers will enjoy the marine life the wreck attracts. Here you will see sponges and deep water gorgonians along with multiple reef fish and the occasional barracuda.

Deep water Gorgonians  underwater in Aruba.
Deep water gorgonians have made a home on the Jane Sea.
Star Gerren

Lying in 70ft of water off of the Northwest side of Aruba is the Star Gerren. This large German cargo ship was purposefully sunk in 2000, the last ship to be sunk off of Aruba to date.

The Star Gerren lies on her port side almost upside-down and is a great spot for advanced and beginner divers. One of the main attraction for photographers is her large propeller.

Also known as the “Cinderella wreck,” divers will feel like their fairy godmother transported them to this incredible wreck with schooling barracuda and vibrant reef fish.

Yellow goatfish underwater in Aruba.
Yellow goatfish are just some of the marine life to be seen on the “Cinderella wreck.”

Other Activities

Aruba is not a large island, being only about 20 miles long and 6 miles wide. However, there is much to do beyond diving that will keep divers and non-divers entertained.

Submarine Tours

Damn the torpedoes!! If you have some non-divers in your group, or just want to try something cool, you can catch a ride on the Atlantis Submarine.

Submarine tour in Aruba Waters.
Hop aboard the Atlantis and feel like Capt. Nemo for a day.

Your hour and 45 minute tour will take you to 130ft on Barcadera Reef off of the middle West side of the island. In addition to the beautiful marine life, travelers will be able to see some shipwrecks as well.

UTV Tours

A pretty exciting way of seeing Aruba is an UTV tour. Feel like a real explorer as you cruise on this safari-like vehicle over desert-like terrain.

UTV tours in Aruba.
Adventurers can explore the island on UTVs like shown above.

Various guided tours are available lasting from a few hours to half a day. Other activities like cliff jumping and snorkeling can be added for the extra thrill seeker.

Horseback Riding Tours

Perhaps you’d rather go old school, well how about a tour of the island on horseback?

Giddy up and get going! Many packages can be found to various spots of the island. Most tours range from between two to three hours.

For the hopeless romantics, there is even a tour that ends on a hilltop at sunset (For anyone that takes this opportunity to get engaged, scuba Jay says you’re welcome).

Catamaran Excursions

“Sailing, takes me away”…and so will a catamaran excursion. Like the land tours, catamaran outings can be booked for various times and can include snorkeling.

If you’d like you can book an excursion that includes breakfast, lunch or dinner. And if you’d like to get your pirate on, some excursions offer drinks as well.

Wrapping Things Up

Whether by fins, submarine or horseback, travelers will fall in love with Aruba and Aruba scuba diving is some of the best in the Caribbean. It’s no wonder that the Beach Boys put this tropical island first on their list of places they wanted to visit on their way to Kokomo.

“How boring would the world be if everywhere and everyone were the same. Safe travels and good adventures.” Scuba Jay

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