10 of the Best Coral Reefs in the World.

by    DiveSSI    28th June 2021
The top 10 best coral reefs are havens for underwater life. The image shows an atoll on the Maldives.

When it comes to diving, there is nothing like drifting over light-filled coral reefs or along coral-encrusted walls that are busy with marine life. The world's most pristine reefs are havens for underwater life, where coral is blooming and aquatic life is flourishing. As one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, the health of these reefs is essential to the preservation of Earth’s biodiversity. Read on to discover 10 of the best coral reefs in the world and dive into these incredible destinations while you can.


Discover 10 of the best coral reefs to dive.

1. Palau.

This ocean paradise and Polynesian island has a coastline measuring 930 miles (1,500 km) and consists of 94 coral islands, containing an abundance of tropical fish and marine mammals. With minimal human impact, Palau has some of the best coral reefs imaginable.

The Sea of Palau and its surrounding waters are renowned for their outstanding marine life, from rare tropical coral reef fish to white and brown albino sharks, all of which live together in harmony.

This country is home to a spectacular array of marine life and its waters are clean and clear, with luxurious blue hues. Palau has become a thriving destination for scuba diving since being first discovered by Jacques Cousteau.

2. The Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is a classic ‘must-see’ attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It runs along Australia’s northeast coast and is more than 2,000 km long.

This is the most well-known of the top 10 best coral reefs in the world, boasting a complex and colorful coral and fish community. The Great Barrier Reef was named one of the 10 most iconic marine experiences for 2020 by The Lonely Planet Guide, due to its beauty and value.

3. Raja Ampat.

Most people who go to Indonesia for a holiday end up Diving in Bali. While Bali is beautiful, the marine life there is blemished by overcrowding, polluted water, and overfishing. However, you can experience a different side of Indonesia by visiting Raja Ampat – a string of coral reefs along the country’s western coast.

Raja Ampat is unspoiled by human pollution and industrial activity. This province located in the eastern part of Indonesia is known for its pristine reefs.

Some of the coral reefs have a high level of resilience to climate change and hosts numerous fish and manta rays. It has a little-known wildlife sanctuary that is one of the most biodiverse places on earth with more than 1,500 species of fish and 300 species of coral.

You can see everything from sharks to whales to sea turtles to giant clams when you go diving in Raja Ampat.


4. The Belize Barrier Reef.

The Belize Barrier Reef is the second-largest reef system in the world, stretching across 3,600 miles. The reef system has abundant corals which provide colorful blooms at different times of the year. This incredible reef system also hosts diverse marine life and a wealth of tropical fish.

To experience one of the best coral reefs in Belize, go diving in Belize. This beautiful country is one of the most diverse coral destinations and hosts the critically endangered western humphead wrasse.

Scuba divers, scientists, and conservationists work with the Belize Barrier Reef Alliance to improve and protect the reef’s health. Reefs are also part of the Belize tourism industry, with thousands of people each year visiting the underwater paradise.

5. The Maldives.

The Maldives is home to around 70 idyllic coral atolls, which host around 1,000 species of fish, 700 types of sponges, and several hundred types of invertebrates.

It is no surprise that these islands are considered to have some of the best coral reefs for divers and snorkelers alike and that diving in the Maldives is high on the wish list for many divers.

The warm azure waters of the Maldives host numerous manta rays and whale sharks, and an abundance of other marine life.

Having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, these islands are a haven for shore and boat diving, with something for every dive experience level and preference.


6. Fiji's Rainbow Reef.

Fiji is renowned for its vibrant reefs and is the 'soft coral capital of the world'. One of the few remaining reefs to offer a diverse range of ecosystems, Fiji's Rainbow Reef spans 7500 hectares of ocean and is unmissable.

This special reef is home to diverse marine life including colorful reef fish and rainbow-hued corals. These lush corals stretch through the entire area of the reef, along with millions of sea fans, and host butterflyfish, deep-sea fish, turtles, and dolphins.

The Fiji Rainbow Reef is truly one of the best coral reefs in Fiji and a place to visit when planning a dive trip to Fiji.

7. The Red Sea.

The Red Sea is teaming with marine life that attracts divers from around the world to this classic coral reef destination. Both the Northern and Southern Red Sea provides some excellent diving spots with colorful corals and incredible marine life, including sharks, dolphins, rays, and plenty of reef fish.

Whilst many people go diving in Sharm el Sheikh, the South Red Sea is particularly pristine and beautiful. It is a lot quieter and offers exciting reef dives far from any crowds.

The coral reefs in the Southern Red Sea are clear, clean, and offer jaw-dropping landscapes washed by strong currents. You have a great chance of encountering sea turtles, grey reef sharks, oceanic whitetips, and hammerhead sharks as you dive there.


8. Cozumel, México.

An excellent diving location all year round, Cozumel is renowned for its clear visibility and countless marine life species.

The Marine Park of Cozumel has meant that this section of the Mexican coast has been protected for years and remained full of marine life, including over 500 species of tropical fish, along with rays, nurse sharks, reef sharks, and turtles.

This diving hub offers some of the most incredible diving locations on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world.

9. The Philippines.

With thousands of islands forming a huge archipelago in the central part of the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines has a vast network of pristine marine ecosystems teeming with life.

The coral reefs there feature some of the largest hard and soft corals in the world. The islands also boast the second-largest contiguous coral reef system in the world and host over 300 marine species.

This popular destination is well-known for its stunning beaches and beautiful coastal scenery. It hosts some of the best coral reefs in the world, including the UNESCO-listed Tubbataha Reef Natural Park. Sitting in the heart of the coral triangle, diving in Tubbataha is extraordinary.

10. Mauritius.

Mauritius is well known for its gin-clear waters and for being one of the most underpopulated nations on the planet - not to mention being one of the harder locations to get to.

As such, the underwater life on the island is incredibly diverse and the country is known for having some of the best dive sites in the world. It is the pristine reefs that make this small island so remarkable.

A single reef on the island can support more than 10,000 reef fish. Over the years, the reefs of Mauritius have become a global symbol of the importance of marine protection and sustainably managed fisheries.


More top coral reefs to dive.

We love hearing about your top dive destinations, so where do you think the best coral reefs are?

Your top places to go coral reef diving have so far included:

Written by
28th June 2021
DiveSSI on Aug 13th 2021
Thank you Peter for your feedback. We have a lot of wonderful places to dive worldwide so it's hard to name everyone without making the blog post too long. Your suggestions are great. We will use them for furture diving tips!
Peter McNulty on Aug 12th 2021
This is an interesting list. Maybe I'm misreading the word pristine, but I wonder about some of these locations. The Great Barrier Reef is suffering cataclysmic coral death (common news). The reef along Cozumel is about 85% dead and covered with algae (dove there in March 22021). The Philippines is seriously overfished (dover there in 2019). Etc. No Marshall Islands? No New Caledonia?
DiveSSI on Jun 30th 2021
Hello Karl, it is so hard to choose the top 10 and there are so many beautiful places around the world.
DiveSSI on Jun 30th 2021
thanks, happy to hear your positive feedback!
Kenny Yates on Jun 29th 2021
Nice Info on great places to go!
Karl on Jun 29th 2021
I just wonder why Sipadan Island was not in the list.

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